Positive thoughts about difficult child

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Allan-Matlem, May 10, 2011.

  1. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member

    One of the things I try to do as a parent is to give the kid the benefit of the doubt, find excuses for the behavior, attribute the best possible motives to behavior according to the facts of the situation.

    My gain - when things go wrong - I am emotionally in control and free . Why should I double the suffering - is it not enough that the kid screws that I also need to get upset and suffer. In any case my ability to deal with the situation and be responsive and creative will be limitted by being upset.

    Now a days I take things further - think of the kid as somebody special , doing the best they can

    Giving a person the benefit of the doubt , not being judgemental is for US , our ability to stay calm.

  2. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    This is a good policy, to a point...

    It's very hard to reconcile when a person's (not just a child) track record is not very good.

    IOW - when the same problems arise over and over....how does one continue to give the benefit of the doubt?

    For example, a child comes home with money and a suspicious story. OK - first time, benefit of the doubt....we trust that the child really did find $5 on the bus.
    Second time, the story is a little harder to believe. We discuss, but are having trouble believing that the child found another $5.
    Third time, I do NOT believe the child simply found another $5 on the bus -

    so then what?
  3. Jena

    Jena New Member

    it is in essence mind control what you are stating............ kind of similar to someone does wrong onto you, you forgive them NOT for them for YOU. am i getting it?

    I agree also, and mind control is awesome, yet reality is reality. One cannot be too laxed......... If i catch beer bottles in my house behind couches as I did two mos ago, and my dog is now in custody of police because my daughter let it run free. i think awww she'd doing best seh can, she's special??

    yea b.s. to be honest. she isnt' doing the best she can, yes ofcourse all our children are special. shes' making mistakes, do i fall apart? no. yet it's our job as parents to say hey your messing up, etc. have a mental breakdown, no. yet guide them, enforce and view it was such?? yes.
  4. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    This may be appropriate with younger children, but with adult children, particularly ones with a track record of manipulative behavior, I think it's a slippery slope (and perhaps that falls into the "according to the facts of the situation"). I have to say that the phrase "find excuses for the behavior" hits an especially sore spot for me.... because "excuses for the behavior" is exactly what drives me NUTS about my adult difficult children ... they tend to have all kind of excuses for their behavior, and want to blame everyone but themselves. I will make no excuses for them. I will take into account their mental disorders as a *reason* for their behavior.. but never an "excuse."

    I would agree with this... this is detachment. Their mistakes are their own, not mine. It's something I struggle with.. not to take their mistakes personally and let myself suffer because of them. For me, however, this doesn't come from giving them the benefit of the doubt, it comes from letting them own their own problems and consequences of their behaviors.
  5. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    I think I know what Allan means.

    My kids are not adults and not stealing, so I might have a different perspective then.

    I think of their mistakes as their struggles, not as manipulation which would make me feel irritated.

    If I found out my 15 yo had been drinking or having sex, I would feel sad and concerned, but I understand the pressure out there to do those things. It's not that I think it is ok and that I wouldn't make her stay home for a while, but I wouldn't think of her as "bad" or even "irresponsible". I would think of her as a kid who needed to learn self-control, withstand peer pressure, or worst case, manage an addiction.

    If I found out she was stealing, I'm not sure I could come up with an explanation. I would be horrified, disappointed, and concerned about her future. I would be wondering what her problem was, but I would still think of it as a problem she had. Maybe one she would only learn to control by spending some time in jail. I wouldn't excuse her stealing to anyone who confronted her or me about it.

    Putting negative terms on it would just make me feel worse than thinking of her as a kid with a problem.

    My perception is probably heavily influenced by the fact that A has a food allergy that turns her into a difficult child. It is clear when she eats it, that her behavior is not really the person she is inside, but a problem in her thinking brought about by not complying with her restrictions. If I never got to see her as a easy child, I might have more trouble understanding it as a problem.
  6. Jena

    Jena New Member

    lol i'm reading the responses we're all soo funny and soo opinionated :)
  7. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    I think what Allan says makes sense with younger children and even adult kids who make general mistakes. However it is a very slippery slope when you are talking about an adult kid who is outright breaking the law, being very verbally or physically abusive to you and/or who has a serious drug problem.

    In that case as a parent you have to get past the making excuses, giving them the benefit of the doubt, looking only at the positive motivation because those things will enable the kid to keep on doing what they are doing!!! One of the key things in a situation like this is to get very realistic and get past the natural tendancy as a parent to rescue and enable the kid. It can be a fine line.

    Maybe your kids have not manipulated you... but I can tell you my son has learned the art of manipulation well and it is important for me to recognize it for what it is otherwise i fall into its trap.

    I am very willing to support and help my son out BUT I have to be very careful to not enable him, because that will just send him into further and worse drug use.
  8. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    For a typicl child, reasoning and discussing may work. The benefit of the doubt was finished in kindergarden...like in September of kindergarden. Parenting a child with ODD required me to be very firm and very strict, that was the only way he would learn anything and honestly, that didn't even work. Even if the child has no ill will or malice toward anyone or anything, they still need to be TAUGHT the right way and natural consequences were the only thing that worked ( for me) better than anything else. These kids can't go out in the real world thinking," I have a problem, I can get away with anything....my dad even says I'm special". There are so many atypical ways of teaching our kids how can anyone say,..."Here is the answer."? You have to judge, because the world will judge, you have to teach him the right way. The child has a "struggle"? Help difficult child the best way you can, by not accepting what he's doing, correct it. Correct it a million times until he learns, they learn quick when you don't accept or enable.
  9. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    Since I am one who said I think of them as struggling, I will add that doesn't mean I think they should get away with it. I think they might need some help with overcoming their problem but part of the help is letting them feel the consequences of whatever bad choice they made. Sometimes there might not be any other help and they just have to figure it out on their own. That doesn't mean I am not sympathetic to their problems.

    I still think of them as struggling with a problem rather than having a character flaw. It might just be semantics and maybe it is a character flaw. LOL And it is hard to feel sympathy when I am in the moment.
  10. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member

    I lost my post , so in a sentence - children do well if they can - the collaborative problem solving mantra enables one to start the problem solving process . children or people do well if they want to puts one into the confrontational one - you have to make them wanna to act ...... or as Byron Katie puts it - don't fight reality , if you accept reality , you will be in a better position to connect to the other and work with them for change . Thoughts like - he shouldn't , he mustn't , he should are all negative

    if you do an intellectual trick and say - he should do .... what he is doing ( not that he should ) - we will ask why ? and then try to help the kid come up with a better plan knowing the underlying reasons.

  11. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    I certainly see them as struggling and I can be sympathetic with their problems....

    Allan I am just wondering how old your kids are? You may have said in another forum.

    I think one of the hard things about transitioning to being a parent of a young adult or older teen is that it is a time as parent where you need to let go. I think this is especially hard with a difficult child. Part of it really is to let them solve their own problems and to step back a lot.

    Right now I have stepped back and am only helping or giving advice when asked for it.... and it does seem to be helping.

    But really uour comments about should being negative - I can see that.

    But really how would your approach work with a kid who is actively using drugs, who is getting arrested over and over again, who is stealing from you etc? I mean basically going against all of your values. How do you approach that as he should do that? I just can't see it. I think sometimes as a parent you really have to take a stand. Any other PEs have thoughts on this?
  12. ThreeShadows

    ThreeShadows Quid me anxia?

    Honestly, Mr Matlem, I don't mean to sound rude but I think you and I live on different planets.
  13. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member

    I have been around on this planet here since 1999 , so my kids are young adults , responsible , successful -very pcs - so there is hope

    I have always tried to let go and not be controlling , supporting their autonomy and collaboratively problem solving.

    teenagers and above need to find the mentor , the older brother or sister, buddy-tutor that they trust , admire , can guide and inspire him. They need friends , positive peers etc - we can be the best parents , the fact is today kids form their outlooks more than their friends than parents.

    A parent needs to protect themselves and their property and if this means a kid needs another place to be , the kid will be out.

    Taking a stand is to do something which contributes to solving a problem. A kid with a drug problem and stealing is likely to have a pile of unsolved problems from many years back. Sometimes getting involved with the law is the only route to treatment , but if their heart is not there , it won't work.

    The art is to be supportive and have a good relationship from a distance. I think kids grow fom experiencing life out of the home.

    Being critical and negative , just makes people defensive - we first need to help them have a vision of the future , where they would like to be -. Forget about the present - this helps one to dream , see a different life . then see what one needs to get there , small steps , what skills do we need and what is getting in the way.

    These kids would rather be successful and adaptive , that is their first choice , that is what their inner beings want.

  14. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    While I can see this philosophy working to a point...............I can also see for many (and perhaps the bulk) difficult children it would not work.

    I'm probably one of the worse at giving someone the benefit of the doubt to the nth degree. And yet I can see where this can trip a parent up in a big way. Yes, on some level we need to be positive with a difficult child......and sometimes that can mean seeking out something positive, no matter how insignificant it may be to someone who doesn't understand life with a difficult child........just to be able to keep going and trying, not to mention hoping.

    Yet, to blindly tell ourselves to always think their motives to be good and positive ect is just downright foolish.

    I adored my mother in law with all my heart and soul. She always gave my husband the benefit of the doubt, always told herself his motives were pure..........and he bled her over a lifetime until I drew a line in the sand and said enough. If he wanted to stay married he had no choice but to tell her that for 40 some years he'd been lying non stop to get money from her while he blew money he made on heaven knows what.

    Some of our kids would rather be successful and adaptive, some of them just plain don't give a flying fig and never will. I had 2 difficult children that did and 1 the jury is still out on.

    I can be supportive as all get out and still remain firm that certain behavior is completely unacceptable both by me and society at large. I can give the benefit of the doubt........and still watch for signs, such as repeated behavior, that tells me nothing has changed and act accordingly.

    A person relies on both positive and negative feedback to inform them what behaviors are appropriate and acceptable and which ones are not. With no negative feedback........it's out of balance and does not work effectively, as it tends to send mixed messages.

    My kids have been taught from the get go that I will always love them, but that doesn't mean that I will always like what they do. I can object/dislike ect a behavior that warrants it, yet still love them regardless. The two are not intermingled.

    I may have misunderstood what you were trying to say, but what I got out of it was that we should excuse their behavior simply because they are difficult children with a mental diagnosis. in my opinion that is about as wrong as a parent can get. A difficult child has to have motivation to want to change behavior. If there are no consequences for their actions, there is no reason to change those behaviors via medications, therapy, or other means. Without any negative feedback at all.......honestly? I would still be a difficult child. No reason not to be.

    Our jobs as parents is to prepare them for the real world outside the home, and the real world is not going to care what their diagnosis is, what their past was like, and is most certainly not going to be careful to use only positive feedback with them.

    So while I do think if we see something positive our kids are doing it's a good idea to pat them on the back for it and say good job...........we also need to be realistic so that our behavior toward them is not sending mixed messages or reinforcing inappropriate, harmful, or even dangerous behavior.......which could actually impede their learning to cope with a mental disorder, addiction, or what have you.
  15. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member


    my explanation for behaviors won't be poor choices but rather lacking skills, insight , competence, support , foresight etc.
    This type of explanation will generate interventions which will go a long way to solve problems - working with kids
    explanations like - poor motivation, bad choices leads to ' doing to kids ' - to make them wanna ....

    and in the real world - people don't have the power to control people as they used to - in the real world you need good social skills to problem solve and collaborate

    Personal life coaching , managing people is all about first moving forward , finding a vision and then dealing with the past.

    2/3 of inmates are at least in the 2nd prison terms , so consequences don't motivate people , maybe in the short term

    you need to get to the person so he changes from the inside.

    the carrot and stick wont do that for you

    here is a you tube - i mentioned the idea earlier

  16. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Allan - I am going to be really honest here.... A lot of what you say is very true and also obvious. I think we all know our kids have issues and struggles. I would also agree that kids want to be successful and for some reason their struggles get in their way and if we can help them navigate those that will help them. I think what bothers me is that you give this general advice without necessarily understanding what our individual difficult children are sturggling with... kind of there is this one answer, this is it, and if you do this collaborative problem solving then all will be well and your difficult child will turn into a easy child.

    If there is one thing I have learned is there is no one answer, one way of child rearing. I sometimes feel from your posts that you are saying that if I had only done it right then my difficult child would be ok now.... or if I start doing this now, all will be well. I know that this makes me feel pretty defensive.

    Fact is over the years I have done a lot of what you suggest. I have also made mistakes as we all do. My son certainly has some big issues and now at the age of 19 it is really up to him to figure out. I can be there to help him but only if he wants and asks for my help. It really is not up to me any longer.

    I think drug use is a big issue in and of itself. Drugs are a powerful master... and no amount of collaborative problem solving is going to deal with a drug problem, unless the addict wants help. If they are using all bets are off in my opinion.

    You clearly have some good experience and some good ideas. I think it would be more helpful to this group if you gave concrete suggestions to particular situations rather than generalizations about kids or children in general. Often those don't feel applicable to kids over 18 who may be hardly communicating with their parents at that point. The generalizations don't always sound like they make sense when talking about a young adult... and yet in one of your posts about keeping your distance when the kid has a drug problem and doesn't want help makes sense.... but you certainly don't get that from your look for the positives generalization.

    Right now with my son I have gotten very clear about my goals which are not to enable his drug use, and to show him I love him and will support him in his recovery. We are taking small steps to build a better relationship. I am also really working on taking care of myself in this process.
  17. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think it bothers me because it goes against every coping skill I've been taught .. namely, detachment... to deal with my difficult children. "Accept the things I cannot change." An adult with an untreated personality disorder cannot be taught to problem solve and collaborate. An adult with a untreated drug problem cannot be taught that, either. Not when each of those adults are in full blown denial of their problems, are refusing help, and have indicated no desire to change their behavior. That is what many of us here in PE are dealing with. We've learned to cope by detaching with love ... we do want to think positively about our kids, but we've also learned to "hope for the best, but plan for the worst." We offer support when the choices they are making are healthy ones, but we maintain strong boundaries when their choices are ones that hurt us, manipulate us, cause us extreme emotional distress, or even put us in danger. It's not just a matter of consequences for our difficult children.... it's a matter of survival for us.
  18. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member

    if a 3yo can be taught to problem solve , adults with problems will believe me , get there too. CPS is not a quick fix , but the fact is ' problems in living' with yourself and others revolves around your ability to express your concerns , take perspectives and problem solve - it is a basic life skill which can be taught. I mentioned in post #13 , that I believe parents of teens and above , have a more limited role and it is really the person that the difficult child can trust, relate and admire that reach the difficult child and get under the defensive shield of denial. I recommended a certain type of detachment - see my post. with the boundaries to protect our property and the right to a normal life , we can try have a relationship , chatting, perspective taking - a great way to learn problem solving is to talk about other peoples problems. Take a kid out for lunch and just chat about non-emotive stuff . May we cannot be the agents of change , but at least not contribute to making things worse. Keeping a distance = if stealing from you or destroying your property , making you unsafe

    I can really only give general guidelines - and be specifc when a specific question relating to an incident or problem with the underst.
    anding that i don't know you or your kid.

    For some kids - they need to be stabilized on medications , others = need to find a different environment , one spouse can be negative which makes it very hard for the other spouse to have a relationship with the kid.

    it is not easy , but there are success stories here - kids mature , find the right person who can inspire and offer them some stability

  19. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Allen that is very good and I totally agree with that. I can also agree that always thinking of a difficult child in negative terms can "taint" your attitude toward them to some extent, which is why I try to find something positive to focus on. That I learned way back when Travis was little and constantly into things, taking things apart ect......in other words he was in trouble all day long. I had realized that his day consisted of punishment and very little, if any, praise. Which of course is not good for a child. (notice I said child not adult) After noticing that with him, I've been careful not to do that with my other kids too.

    I've said I can see where this works with a young child, especially a easy child child, with a ton of patience perhaps a difficult child child......but you are going to have to balance it out.

    The root of Travis' dxes is brain injury. Easy to accept from the get go that his amount of improvement and function will be limited even after years of hard work. The whole you shouldn't think the "he won't" but "he can't" thing does apply to a certain extent. However if he had not been held to the same standards as his sibs? Had he not had both positive and negative reinforcement? phht. His level of functioning would still be hovering around a 6 yr old level. I held the bar high for him and expected him to reach it to the best of his ability. And he has far exceeded even the best projections of how he could function as an adult. Without both the negative and positive he would have had no desire to leave the security of his "own world".

    Katie? I tried the whole positive thing with to a certain degree. She's a manipulator.......she takes it and runs with it. As she does with everyone she meets. She svcks them dry and then moves on once they've figured her out and she's about to feel the natural consequences of her actions. Katie has stated she wants to change. Maybe so. But her behavior is not changing. Now that she is off the street, she continues to manipulate to get what she wants from well intentioned people and organizations. If you don't give Katie negative feedback........she'll svck you dry in 24 hrs. I expect her to behave as a responsible adult and the mother to 3 kids. I can find normal activities to include her into so that she sees what "normal" is.........but without any negative feedback and only support? Uh, no. This is one who will not even consider change until she is made so utterly uncomfortable and miserable she can't stand it......but the moment she is comfortable, she goes right back to old behavior. Why? Because no one demands that she work for what she gets. Sociopaths feed on support systems. It won't work with her.

    Bff who was an addict, alcoholic, and mentally ill? She had the support of her whole family. They always gave her the benefit of the doubt, always only saw the positive and refused to see the negative. They supported and enabled her right into the grave.

    As for those sitting in prison.........I have my own opinions about that one. It's not the consequence it used to be years ago by far. I have 2 nephews serving life terms. And for years the goal has not been to "punish" a prisoner but to rehabilitate them. Which is why now they're allowed computer access, tvs, radios, work out rooms, ect. Obviously, it's not working. Many have it far cushier inside than out and will tell you that. Doesn't phase them.

    Extreme in any direction is not a good thing. A balance has to be struck. And with an adult difficult child boundaries have to be set.
  20. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Allen, could Ted Bundy have been cured with CPS? I dont think so. He was born bad.