|Home > ADHD Articles 2000 > July 2000 Newsletter|
Here it is the middle of July. I hope this newsletter finds everyone safe and well during the hectic weeks of Summer vacations and family fun.
I'd like to remind those who have children with IEP's that even though our kids are not yet in school, it's not to early to start giving some thought and consideration as to what services and issues you would like to see addressed this year in your childs IEP.
Now is the perfect time to start doing research and gathering ideas as to what types of services to ask for and how to ensure that you receive these services for your child.
Each year I monitor my child's progress very carefully. If it appears that his IEP is not doing the proper job, I call an IEP meeting at the end of September to make the appropriate changes. I don't like to wait until the end of the first quarter or semester to adjust an inappropriate IEP. If you are not sure whether or not your child's IEP is working as it should, ask for a teacher conference. If you both agree that things are working well that is great, if you notice that there could be some changes made, then call an IEP meeting to make the necessary changes.
Be sure to check out www.specialedlaw.net for the latest information regarding Rights and Responsibilities conveniently arranged by state.
The Parent Coach: The Column For Proactive Parents
Dr. Steven Richfield www.parentcoachcards.com
A parent writes: Each time overnight camp season rolls around, my kids express much excitement about the fun that awaits them. Although I am glad they see camp in a positive light I worry that some of the problems that have cropped up in past years might be repeated.
Teasing by their bunkmates, conflicts with counselors, and trouble accepting their performance on the sports field, have made for difficult times. How can I prepare them to handle these difficulties without making them feel like I am trying to spoil their fun? Camp offers children a rich variety of skill building experiences, but it also opens the door to social and emotional challenges.
The same factors that lead kids to yearn for camp life also contribute to the hurdles to their enjoyment: independence from parents and sustained, intensive contact with peers. Add to these factors the presence of perceived arbitrary rules, self-critical attitudes, and personality conflicts with less-than-sensitive counselors, and the camp mixture can quickly stretch our children in ways they don't often experience all at once.
Parents who wish to coach camp coping skills to their departing campers may want to start not by reminding them of the past but by suggesting they try to predict the future. Another idea is to ask them to verbally list the best and worst things about camp life, and then offer your own list from the perspective of a camper's parent. Gently steer the conversation to the importance of having realistic expectations and tools to take as "insurance" that they will have as good a time as possible. Once you open the door to a coaching discussion, try to touch on the following points:
*Emphasize how overnight camp life resembles a temporary family living arrangement but without the built-in adjustment time and stabilizing presence of parents. While this situation can quickly build bonds of friendship it can also stir up family type feelings and situations: comparing, teasing, practical joking, playing favorites, rule breaking, etc. Point out that it's easy to take this stuff too personally and feel touchy and annoyed. But a lot of this is normal for camp and kids are expected to just take it in stride. Those kids who can let it pass without allowing it to be that bothersome won't become frequent targets. Point out that they can achieve that state of tough skin by reminding themselves of your discussion together.
* Explain how the absence of parents presents a unique opportunity to learn greater self-sufficiency. Refer back to those times when they have urged you to allow them more freedom but you've expressed reluctance. Emphasize how counselors are available for help but may not have the best suggestions to offer.
It's important for them to use their camp experience to practice giving themselves good advice. Suggest that they imagine asking for help from someone they trust and admire, such as a parent, coach, or teacher, as a means to problem solve tough situations they will face. Walk them through such an imaginary dialogue by referring to typical camp challenges that allow them to hear how it might sound in their own mind.
* Ask permission to explain to them what your inner dialogue sounds like when you think about them leaving for camp. If it's granted, be sure to start out by mentioning the pride you feel and the hope that camp will help build the confidence in them that is so vital to growing up. Weave in your view that even something fun can be challenging. When meeting a challenge it's always a good idea to prepare ahead of time.
Talk with them about the ways you prepare for challenges, whether it be meeting new people, dealing with competition, facing criticism, feeling left out, or other social hurdles. Offer concrete steps they can take when these situations come up at camp, emphasizing the "good inner advice" that you are confident that they can give to themselves.
Dr. Steven Richfield's column appears monthly.
** Patterns - Moving Mountains **
Patterns of negative response can form in incredibly subtle ways and can become significant factors of family life before parents have a chance to figure out just what hit them. The parents who seek help because of a difficult child are truly caught between a rock and a hard place. They are almost always doing some-thing truly amazing: They are invariably doing the very best job they can with the tools they have.
It may not appear that way to an outsider and it certainly may not feel that way to them. However, without a doubt, when examined closely, most parents of difficult children are actually using very conventional and acceptable methods of parenting that would have an excellent chance of working well with a child with an easier temperament. The problem is that traditional and conventional forms of parent-ing-the kinds that we are surrounded by on television, in film, books and magazines, as well as in our extended families of relatives, friends and acquaintances-invariably fall short of the mark when applied to children with strong needs and stronger manifestations of temperament.
It's also virtually impossible to avoid the influence of the most formidable part of our personal parenting training: having been a child in an environment where parenting took place and having been liberally exposed to conventional techniques and philosophy. Despite the best of intentions, attempts to apply conventional parenting or teaching techniques to the difficult child are doomed to failure. Most frequently, the situation worsens because conventional methods have the "payoffs" upside down.
Conventional methods of parenting, unlike video games, have a low-key response to everyday events that are going well. These methods evoke much more energetic and emotional responses when things are not going the desired way.
** Imagine **
Imagine your child playing a video game that had upside-down payoffs, where they scored more points and got bigger rewards for doing the wrong things but received minimal recognition when they were avoiding obstacles and achieving the goals of the game. If scoring and level of excitement were the most important thing, which to children's perceptions they most often are, you'd probably see players become very adept at "doing the wrong things."
The parents and the teachers we meet are, without a doubt, trying as hard as they can with the tools they have. If we were asked to knock down a brick wall and given a rubber mallet to perform the job, we could be whaling away for an eternity and not accomplish the task. No matter how hard we tried, we would not get the job done. Pretty soon, we would begin to feel self-conscious. People might walk by and roll their eyes and look at us as if we were dysfunctional. We might even begin to doubt ourselves and wonder if it were true.
** Not the right tool for the job.**
However, if we were then given tools with more power, such as a sledgehammer or a jackhammer or a bulldozer, we'd have the job done in a flash. Feeling pumped up from our accomplishment, we'd say: "What's next?"
** The Right Tools For the Job **
The job of parenting a difficult child is exactly the same. The more intense the child, the more intense the intervention needed and the more conventional methods fall short of the mark. The same applies to teaching methods. We can't tell you how many times we've heard teachers say they're overwhelmed because they have a handful of difficult kids in a class. They are absolutely trying as hard as they can with the tools they have. When these same teachers are given stronger strategies and a new slant on how to proceed, things change quickly and dramatically.
Have you ever noticed how technology has evolved in virtually every area of our lives, with many generations of change occurring in a relatively short period of time? Look at computers and the information industry or think about all the advances in the areas of transportation and communications. The progress is phenomenal. Quantum leaps in tech-nology unfold in orchestrated response to the heightening needs and intensities of our ever-expanding lives.
This has distinctly not occurred in the field of working with children. Without doubt, there are certainly new and interesting approaches to working with kids. However, on a level of structural properties-the components of approaches relevant to working with children who are more intense-the existing approaches are more or less the same as in years past. A rubber mallet knocking down a brick wall. It just will not work.
** Balloons… Balloons For Sale **
It's very similar to putting air into a balloon. It's pretty much a perfect fit and a perfect container. You can tie a knot and bat it around the room and it will essentially hold up. If you substitute water in the balloon, the fit is compromised. The structural properties of the water exceed those of the balloon in a precarious manner. A balloon usually will hold water under non-stressful conditions, but if the container is bumped, bruised or dropped, it's likely to explode.
If you substitute a substance like liquid metal or another denser substance for the air, the container will quickly show itself to be flawed, even though it may hold small amounts at a time. It really doesn't matter if the balloon is red, yellow, green or blue. The more intense substances will inevitably not be contained. The very same is true for parenting methods.
Even though numerous approaches have been developed that all work to varying degrees with easier children, they are unable to deal with the intensity of the more challenging child. Hailed as fancy new approaches, they are structurally the same yellow, green or blue balloons. So many parents we have met have gone the extra mile to study this, that and the other thing in attempts to help their child.
They sense that their children are stuck in a pattern that they cannot get out of on their own and desperately search for new methods in books, magazines and through taking classes. Many parents of difficult children have other easier children and see for themselves that the familiar approaches seem to have validity with a less demanding child. However, frustration grows when yet another method fails with their intense child.
** Structure **
Intense children need to perceive that the container that is each new environment they encounter can hold them safely, competently and fearlessly. In a child's eyes, every new milieu is orchestrated by the adult in charge, whether or not the adult is present. A difficult child, in particular, must test every new adult they meet to see if that person can handle him or her. If it is determined that the adult can adequately create a positive structure and therefore a suitable container, the child settles down fairly quickly.
If not, the testing continues. Any consequent acting-out is a way of saying, "I need more structure. I need more structure!" Children cannot conceptualize or verbalize what is going on inside them, but they certainly can sense their own needs. Acting-out is their way of expressing this. If additional structure is not forthcoming in positive ways, then the acting-out typically increases into escalating attempts by the child to have his need met. Unfortunately, what many parents worry about is true.
Children with a high need for structure will continue their quest, finding themselves attracted to the alternative forms of structure available in the community. There are numerous forms of positively structured experiences available in most towns and cities-like team sports, scouting and various interest groups.
Unfortunately, children with high needs for structure and tendencies to get attention in negative ways more often seek out the menu of negative types of structure that seem to be found everywhere. What drugs, alcohol, gangs, involvement with the juvenile justice system and getting pregnant as a teen have in common is that they are all highly structured experiences.
They take over one's life and dictate the course of the day. They all distinctly limit one's freedom. However, when we intervene with structure in a positive way, the new behaviors from the difficult child begin to fall into new patterns of successful endeavors. Success can become second nature, like breathing, and can take over one's life as well… in expansive and healthy ways.
** Across The Great Divide **
All parenting can roughly be divided into two general categories: *All that we do in the way of being positive: all the acknowledgement, recognition, affection, loving remarks and gestures, as well as all the support, encouragement, modeling and education we do day in and day out. *All that we do in the way of setting limits: coaching, instructing, warning, admonishing, redirecting and administering consequences. Every parenting paradigm that we have come across-from the formal approaches to the very informal approaches-have these two elements in common.
Even families that appear to have no approach whatsoever, when examined by way of these categories, will almost certainly be making at least rudimentary attempts to provide positives and to set limits. One predominant reason why conventional parenting and teaching approaches consistently fail with the difficult child is that efforts to provide positives and set limits are not well enough coordinated. Nor do they possess the intensity required for the job. Most parenting and teaching approaches also have the payoffs in the wrong places.
While excitement may be generated by high-level events like great grades or special achievement, most everyday responses to positives are low-key and infrequent. Even parents and teachers who are under the impression that they take a strong view on limit setting typically let things go by giving warnings or ignoring incidents. When the limits continue to be pushed, dramatically stronger emotional reactions to problem behaviors occur, either verbally or non-verbally.
These are the straws that break the camel's back, because a child who senses she can get more out of negativity will perceive these bigger reactions as rewards, the very opposite of what was intended. Some children even think that the only time they receive focused, quality time is when they've broken a rule and they get a lecture or a reprimand. In many ways, typical parenting wisdom is upside down. We try to teach delicious qualities like good attitude, responsibility and self-control when those qualities are not being used.
An example is having a strong emotional reaction to a child's bad attitude. Energy given to the bad attitude actually reinforces the very thing we want to see happening less often. In effect, as a culture, we try to teach the rules and limits when they are being broken. Our energy given to the broken rules actually reinforces the undesirable behavior. Not only is the time when transgressions have just happened one of poor receptivity to learning, but the structure also is inverted.
With conventional methods of parenting, there's no way to apply any corrective pressure without making things worse by making the payoffs for problem behaviors bigger than they already are. Imagine being a chiropractor, ushering a new client into your office. Your first glance was shocking. You noticed that his hips were where the shoulders should be and vice versa.
You might quickly conclude that this inversion of structure couldn't possibly work. You first need to get things in their right order structurally. A great degree of basic successful functioning will fall into place right away when this occurs. Some "enlightened" approaches recommend explicitly telling your children how you feel when they act-out. "It hurts my feelings when you annoy your sister." "It makes me sad when your teacher tells me you were not paying attention in school."
These approaches, although potentially effective for the average child, backfire with the intense child. Not only are you explicitly displaying where the buttons are for future use by the difficult child, but you wind up giving payoff: your energy and attention to the problem behavior. Other approaches call for other kinds of lengthy discussions or discourses in relation to the problem behaviors. Any way you slice it, it adds up to more energetic payoffs for exactly the behaviors that you least want to reinforce.
Why water weeds? ** Patterns, Patterns, Patterns…**
Inadvertent patterns form all too easily. Children figure out where the greatest available parental energies exist and gravitate toward whatever it takes to obtain the highest volume of response. This pattern is hard to prevent unless we are extremely skillful, careful and in possession of techniques that work in the right direction. If, for example, your child is under the impression that the only time he sees you animated, emotional and excited is when he is being demanding, rude or interrupting your phone calls, he will dial this excitement up when he desires a connection or some refueling. Although this is far from a subversive plot, patterns can easily form around such a perception.
The pattern has nothing to do with a particular problem behavior. Its essence has to do with obtaining a connection with you and your intense reactions. Although the pattern may make you feel that your child is out to make your life miserable, the attraction is simply to your energy; the behaviors that follow are mostly subconscious. This is actually excellent news in that what may appear to be a deep-seated psychological problem is far more likely to be simply a habit. Habits can be changed. For intense, high-energy children, the tendency to stumble into a pattern of pulling for negative attention is significantly stronger than for children with an even temperament. Their need for attention and reactions is profound.
At various times during the day, it becomes their be-all, end-all, driving force. If adults are available, it typically is then that their energies are in highest demand. Reactions of other children also can figure importantly in the equation. It's almost as if these children were desperately seeking a million-dollar check. It is far more captivating than a one-dollar check. They don't quite register that it has a negative sign in front of it. They are just riveted on what they perceive to be a big payoff.
** Fuzzy: Was He? **
Our children cannot live their lives with clear knowledge of who they are unless we construct their environments in clearer ways. The more complex and confusing the world gets, the more evident it is that we require a clear inner guiding voice to keep us sane in an often insane world. Intense children, who have a proclivity for impulsiveness and lack of inhibition, have a strong tendency to lead confusing lives because they often get more out of the world by acting out than by using good control. What could be more confusing?
They very well know that we want them to be well behaved. They see and feel the resulting distress in the lives of everyone concerned. We give them strong messages along those lines. In effect, however, we pay them more for the very opposite of what we want. Children who lead confusing lives proliferate confusion wherever they go. They do not stop when childhood ends. Adults who emerge from childhood with this pattern have to work extremely hard to pull them-selves out of this constant tailspin.
They lead guarded lives, forever regretting their intensity and forever fighting their tendency to be drawn to chaotic situations, thereby subconsciously sabotaging potential successes. If we use new technology to reverse the confusion, we effectively make these children's lives clearer. Then, their energies get realigned in new habits of success and they emerge from childhood with a clear inner compass. They consequently can be drawn to clearer relationships with other people, career and endeavors.
They possess the ability to give themselves attention and recognition for both the small and large successes in their lives. This minimizes their need to attract attention and gain a reaction for extraneous matters such as doing poorly, acting out, arguing, getting sick or having an outrageous appearance. They become invested in not pushing the limits. They can then also apply control and bring themselves to a halt before they cross the line, despite their intense feelings and intense energies. Rather, they can apply their intense energies to healthy endeavors.
If difficult children experience and integrate clarity early in their lives, they undoubtedly will be better able to provide the same for their own children later on. This in itself is worth the parenting work required now. It certainly beats dreading that our difficult children will bring us difficult grandchildren. Clarity now makes all the difference in the world later.
** Junk Food **
As you read the rest of this first section describing our thinking behind our techniques, keep the following in mind: A difficult child can be getting a tremendous amount of negative attention throughout the course of a day and still be literally starving to be noticed. Some children actually remain restless at bedtime or have poor sleeping patterns because their intense hunger for psychological nutrition remains unmet, despite having had an amazing amount of negative attention.
Just as it's hard to fall asleep when you're hungry for food, it's hard to fall asleep when you're hungry for emotional nutrition. We know this from working with hundreds of children who had sleep issues among their presenting problems and who spontaneously and remarkably changed for the better when their parents were able to deliver a higher grade of nurturing attention. The salient feature here is that negative attention is like junk food. You can get it all day long and still be hungry. It has no nutritional value. Even worse than the low level of nutrition, however, is the fact that negative attention gets encoded by the child as failure.
Children do not necessarily know how to decipher their experiences, just as a letter entering the post office doesn't know which bin to go into to get to its destination. It is by observing the way we value an experience that our children sort experiences in their memory banks. If we observe our challenging child testing a limit and we blurt out some version of "Cut it out," "Stop it," or "Quit it," or anything else that is tinged with a tone of criticism, it is very likely the experience will be sorted psychologically into the bin intuited as "FAILURE."
Of course, this is far from the intention of the parent, who is trying to do good parenting. Every parent wants to create a successful child. However, as "FAILURE" continues to occur, the critical mass of messages downloaded as representing it begin to have a life of their own. The child's feelings of worth falter because his or her sense of self-esteem is centered around and tied to the experiences for which he or she is noticed most intently.
For the challenging child, unfortunately, these are experiences connected with poor behaviors. Poor behaviors thus lead to poor self-esteem. Experience has taught the child that he or she is most worthy of a parent's time and energy when using poor behaviors.
** Ordinary Compliments Fall Short **
And so, what happens when we try to tell these children that they are really wonderful or tell them that they have done a good job? Often at these moments we can discern the effects of poor self-esteem and poor self-worth. All too often, these children may reject ordinary positive comments because inside they are doubtful at their very core that anything positive could possibly be true.
They are basing this on their primary experiences of themselves, which are their frequent actual experiences and confirmations of negativity and failure. Inside, these children are combating the attempted nurturing with an inner, subconscious dialogue along the lines of "I am not a good kid. I'm always getting in trouble." Their cumulative experience of themselves becomes hinged on their perceived experiences of failure. Ordinary positive remarks like "Good job!" or "Thank you" thus often backfire and play right into the child's self-confirmation that everything is "not good."
This is a major source of frustration for the parent of a difficult child, who is often desperately trying to be positive but who cannot quite get under the child's radar of low self-esteem. We cannot make that "FAILURE" tape magically disappear. However, we can loosen its hold and create a new and healthier tape of substantially more power.
** Flying Under the Radar **
Digestible Emotional Nutrition: If you were working with a person who had had a stroke and lost the ability to swallow, you would have to evaluate whether you were going to attempt to feed her solid food and weigh the serious side-effects you might encounter. Most likely you would arrive at any number of solutions that involve advances in technology, from simply introducing nutrition through a feeding tube into the bloodstream, to more complex but advantageous methods of pumping nutrition directly into the stomach.
In any case, you would be able to circumnavigate the problem. The same is true for our work with the difficult child. Is there a version of technology that will allow us to deliver powerful and nutritious emotional attention such that the child cannot block, defend against or "choke" on it? What will follow in subsequent chapters is just that technology. For now, though, a bit more explanation will provide the necessary jumping off point.
** Finding the Right Blend of Structure **
If you asked a difficult child to be both kind to himself and to set limits on his impulses when necessary, he probably would have little or no idea what you meant because he lacks the internal experiences and reference points through which to make the vital connections. Any attempt to comply would without doubt be short-lived. Challenging children need a level of structure that gets past the defenses-a blend of recognition and limits that matches their level of intensity and consistently envelops the child's life.
Over time, the child integrates the process: becomes able to give himself recognition and appreciation and at the same time to set inner limits. How many adults can do that? If they could, the self-help books that line the shelves of every bookstore would quickly become obsolete.
** Therapeutic Tension **
Imagine having a nagging back problem that brings you to the point of needing help. A friend points you to the orthopedic section of your local drug store. For starters, you get one of those banded elastic braces that the folks in lumberyards use. After a few days you decide that you need added support. So you bite the bullet and visit your doctor, who recommends a more sophisticated orthopedic support.
It turns out to be a brace that comes in two sections. It has two molded sides that fit the contours of your sides. It hooks together in the back and is then cinched up in the front by a series of connectors from the top to the bottom. The more you cinch in just the right places, the more the dynamic tension. When you get the tension just right, your back feels some blessed relief.
One morning, you wake up and cannot find one side of the brace. The dog dragged it somewhere and hid it. At some point you realize that it can't be found and that you're running late for work, so you start getting ready for the day. Your back hurts. Out of frustration, you put the one remaining side up to your back and try to attach it. No matter which way you try, half of the brace lends no support.
This is very similar to attempts to parent by either being positive or by setting limits. It also is all too easy to flip-flop from one approach to the other without ever working the two elements in combination. You can truly be the world's best limit setter and not achieve the necessary level of dynamic tension or "therapeutic physics" unless the limits are used in combination with strong positives.
Or you can be the world's best person at being positive and still be compromised in working with a difficult child unless the positives are used in conjunction with excellent limit setting. It is only through working both sides of the bracing, in union, that the right "therapeutic physics" occurs. By combining limit setting and positives interactively, and turning up the dial, the required dynamic tension is achieved.
** Taking the Necessary Stands **
If we are going to produce a strong structure based on the components of limit setting and being positive in a new and effective way, then it is absolutely imperative that we take two very distinct stands. For our purposes, the definition of a stand is a consistent, resolved and committed position based on specific and targeted strategies. Taking a stand also involves elements of being immovable, relentless and unflappable. The two stands are as follows:
** Stand I: ** *
I refuse to get drawn into giving my child greater responses, more animation and other unintended "payoffs" for negative behaviors. I won't accidentally foster failures and reward problems with my energy. * I am going to pull my child strategically into a new pattern of success.
** Stand II: ** *
I have clear rules for my child and clear and consistent consequences when he or she breaks the rules.
** The Big Mistake **
A tremendous mistake that many well-intentioned people make when viewing the family of a difficult child is to walk in and declare that what needs to happen to get things back in order is really very simple. Typically, the family feature that jumps out for the observer is that something is very wrong here. "How can you let that child get away with murder? If only you had stronger rules and stronger consequences. That would fix him." In reality, the family had already intuitively sensed that and had already been trying as many versions of stronger consequences as they could think of.
The reason this is a mistake is: If a child has a pre-existing perception that she gets more out of life for acting negatively, and we take only the stand of intensifying the rules or the harshness of the consequences, we will actually make things worse. A child in this situation will size up the new circumstances and conclude that, by breaking the new rules, she can now get a new array of reactions and payoffs. This can pique her interest and she will often surmise that she and her parents now are simply playing for bigger and more interesting stakes.
She will not be doing this on purpose, but the addictive side of the habit will draw her toward the prospect of a larger response. The tougher rules and consequences will only add incentive to act out further. No matter how good the rules and no matter how substantial the consequences, the child's intensity will continue to be centered on pushing the limits. It will simply be a new video game. That is, unless the other stand is taken first.
Many experienced and inexperienced family therapists make this same mistake. We ourselves have certainly have had this experience until we woke up, smelled the coffee, and took note of the damaging effects of first intervening with stronger limit setting. It's much akin to conducting individual treatment with difficult children by dealing directly with the problems.
These are children who are already out of control in connection with getting much too much secondary gain and too many benefits from their negative actions and here we are giving their negativity additional response! It is not an accident that these children do not readily progress in individual treatment or that they progress temporarily and then slide back. They quickly assess that all the special attention they desperately seek would cease if they were to do more than give lip service to improvements.
More typically, they keep up a steady stream of juicy incidents to fuel the engaging nature of the therapy. It's not that they don't wish to change, but they cannot as long as we accidentally play into the very addiction that we wish to alter. Before we can effectively take a stand with limits and introduce consequences in a way that will finally have the desired result of breaking the child's habit of pushing the limits, we must first establish, to the satisfaction of the child's perceptions, that there are indeed viable alternatives to getting responses in negative ways.
We must establish trust that there are indeed a multitude of ways to get nutritious attention and gratifying responses for their successes. In fact, there is a mine field of potential successes out there and it is virtually impossible to avoid the excitement for all the things that are going right. Starting with a stronger version of limit setting would be like trying to put the second story on a house before the first floor is in place.
It simply wouldn't work, no matter how desperately one wanted the new limits in place. However, the more carefully we prepare the ground-work and the first essential steps, the better the second phase will proceed.
** The Nature of Healing **
There are two aspects of healing that apply to our methods that we want to call to your attention. Have you ever noticed how a wound heals? Although we are not medical experts, it appears to us that the healing of a wound occurs when new tissue forms and attaches to existing healthy tissue, eventually expanding to the point that the damaged tissue is minimized or dissolved.
This is, in effect, comparable to our view of the healing of the damaged sensibilities of the difficult child. Week by week, as the parents of the child expand their new repertoire of tools and strategies, they in effect become the child's therapist. The healthy aspects of the child's behavior that have always existed but resided in the shadows of negativity become increasingly prominent and override the problem areas.
Far fetched? Wait until you see the results. The approach is crucial. It is also not unlike another aspect of healing shared by holistic approaches. Instead of dealing directly with the symptom as is common in allopathic western medicine, many alternative medicine practices respect the connected, systemic and miraculous nature of the human being and conduct treatments that strengthen the inner sanctums of the body-the spirit and the heart, the mind, natural resilience, and the immune system.
When these vital energies are restored or bolstered, many health issues are resolved and the person frequently resumes life at a higher level of functioning. This is nothing less than the path that you are embarking on in this journey to transform your difficult child. As the child's energy is shifted from failure to success externally, via your efforts, his inner world takes on a new and healthier focus and behavioral issues disappear.
Difficult children simply are stuck in patterns from which they cannot extricate themselves without skillful help. Parent as therapist is not entirely a new concept. Therapist simply means agent of change. Change occurs simply and smoothly with a new set of tools that fit the task and a new approach that makes the process doable and understandable.
No one else is as well suited for the job of therapist as the primary caregivers, who spend infinitely more time with the child than anyone whose office might be visited now and then for help. Your child will always seek the domain of your relatedness anyway. We might as well take full benefit of its healing advantages. Caregivers are optimally influential because they exist in context with the child, and their roles in this context have purpose and meaning.
The child relies on caregivers for his or her basic needs. Parents and teachers and other important adults are the central figures in the child's life. They have the most power to make crucial changes toward inner strengthening occur in the quickest and most decisive manner. With your strategic help, your child's intensity will move to a higher level of functioning and acquire new and welcome patterns of success.
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