Friday, July 25, 2014

Discipline Makeover: The Total Transformation

Back in February of this year I purchased The Total Transformation Program by James Lehman. Having heard about it on the radio for a couple of years, advertised for ADHD kids and others, I decided: what did we have to lose?

Husband was skeptical. He's away from 7 am to 7 pm so he doesn't deal with much discipline. He sees how it is for two and a half hours every night and during the weekends (he works 5 hours on Sat. too), but that's far from living my reality. I'm the one who needed to own the problem and looking ahead to the teenage years, I knew we needed help. A high percentage of prison inmates have ADHD and I wasn't about to add my child to the statistics.

James Lehman, incidentally, was in and out of prison for seven years before being ordered to an accountability workshop by a judge, which turned his life around and led to 30+ years as a therapist. I'm grateful, because his work on this program has changed things dramatically for our family. I'm a parent with tools and knowledge and my child is on his way to true maturity.

Before purchasing, I learned from their website that the $300 charge was fully refundable if parents filled out a survey about their experience with the program, returned within 180 day of purchase. The program was ours to keep; only the survey had to be returned. You can purchase this program used on e-bay far cheaper, but not with the perk of having telephone conferencing with their counselors for one month, for an extra $10. Also, if you purchase from e-bay, you get no money back by doing a survey.

Let me say at this point that this is a personal blog, not a business-oriented blog, and I'm doing a review of this product entirely because I want to help people discover strategies and resources. I don't generally do product overviews or reviews. This write-up has nothing to do with the company from whom I bought the product; they are unaware I'm reviewing it and no compensation will be offered.

Why Do Kids Misbehave?

Normal kids misbehave when they're tired, or when the family is unduly stressed, or when they're hungry, or when we, the parents or teachers, have created a developmentally inappropriate schedule or expectations. Later, when hormones are an issue, there could be an increase in misbehavior.

Some kids develop serious and on-going behavior problems because they are not taught to solve problems effectively. Parents never take on the role of coach/trainer, so kids are lost in terms of dealing with their anger, handling problems at school, with siblings, with parents, with all aspects of life. They are lost and because of that, they are very frustrated, very angry. 

Children with challenges are more likely to need direct, explicit teaching and coaching to learn problem-solving techniques.

Some kids have challenges that make them feel different, or unique. These differences could be learning disabilities, physical handicaps, or things like ADHD, depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, Tourette's Syndrome, Oppositional Defiant Disorder--anything that makes them stand out in their minds.

This feeling of being unique makes them think the regular rules of life don't apply to them--that somehow they are going to get a pass on all expectations.

Some begin to think everything is unfair, and they will almost always blame someone for their misbehavior (teachers, siblings, parents, police, etc.). If you watch closely and take notes, you'll see that they have devised strategies for taking the focus off their behavior, and putting it on others.

James Lehman has identified 16 characteristics and practices of children with disrespectful, obnoxious, abusive behavior, after 30 years of working as a counselor. Simply listing the 16 characteristics and practices here won't help, as an explanation is necessary for each. I don't want to copy too much of his personal work here, but I will name several that my own child displayed.

1. Injustice - I noticed that Peter would often argue over a discipline consequence, stating that it wasn't fair. He had no reason for it being unfair. There was no logical reason, but in his mind, it wasn't fair. It was a cognitive distortion--a faulty thinking on his part.

2. Victim Stance - Peter would reject that he was responsible for his misbehavior, seeing himself as a victim of circumstance or whatever. Again, this was a cognitive distortion, not grounded in reality. It was a strategy, like number one above, to avoid the mature act of taking responsibility for behavior and accepting a consequence without incident.

3. Anger With An Angle - Peter would display anger with the intention of escalating it until he saw fear or confusion or panic in a parent. His hope was that the parental fear or confusion would help him negotiate a lesser punishment, or gain him another advantage. This rarely resulted in a dangerous situation, but in reading about it in the workbook and hearing about it on the tapes, I did recognize it as one of Peter's strategies.

4. Wishing - Peter, when asked what he would do differently next time, would always come up with vague answers: "I'll just try better...get it right next time." This indicates that a child does not understand how to plan for a different response or outcome. They think that magically, next time the outcome will be better, without any planning or problem solving on their part. They don't mean to lie here, they just have no clue.

5. Put offs - From James: "The youth will repeatedly put off any activity, task, or responsibility that interferes with what he wants to do at that moment. Pressure to get him to respond is met with abusive, obnoxious behavior, or inattention and silence.

Peter is/was never as bad as some of the kids characterized in the program, but I knew that if we didn't change things, he would become so. Your child doesn't have to be a delinquent for this program to help you. The program is more geared toward teens, but very applicable to any child 7 or older, especially if the behaviors are already serious. Basically, if the issues are ongoing with no improvement, you need help, either from a therapist trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy, or through a program like James Lehman's, which is a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach.

I really like that I can listen to the audio CD's over and over again, and read the workbook multiple times over the years as needed as I raise my family, whereas with a therapist, once the sessions are done, I have to try to remember all that I learned. And the cost? No comparison.

Parents can contribute to behavior problems, or create behavior problems, by using ineffective parenting styles:

 ~ Bottomless Pockets (overindulging kids, being manipulated into giving kids things, using material things to placate a child, not knowing how to differentiate wants and needs, give money and luxuries instead of having kids earn them)

~ Over-Negotiator (negotiates already established rules because a child got upset, allows child to negotiate endlessly, re-negotiates contracts when child can't meet commitments)

~ The Screamer (gets drawn into screaming matches with child, ends up making excuses for own behavior instead of focusing on child's, winds up giving in out of remorse over own behavior)

~ The Ticket Puncher (makes excuses for their child's behavior, blames teachers, neighbors, and other kids for their child's misbehavior, perceives their child as a victim and feels they need to defend their child, minimizes their child's hurtful or irresponsible behavior)

~ The Savior (thinks he or she is the only one who understands their child's behavior, protects child from school discipline or legal problems, sides with child, despite the facts, as form of unconditional love, predicts child will not turn out okay if people don't listen to parent's views)

~ The Martyr (takes responsibility for child's getting up in morning and personal hygiene, lowers expectations so child can feel successful, protects child from feelings of unhappiness or distress)

~ The Perfectionist (sets higher standards for child than his teachers set for him, suspicious of child for unknown reasons, reads child's mind to detect negative attitudes, fears child will get cocky if he is successful, compares child to idealized child in parent's imagination)

Behavior Management

James gives the parents tools for behavior management, including age-appropriate and time-appropriate consequences. There are many (27+) tools, and again I can't copy too much of his work, but I will list those tools that helped me the most:

1. Accept No Excuse for Abuse: State this firmly and clearly whenever an excuse is offered for abusive behavior. Do not negotiate this axiom. This applies to abuse of any family member, friend or guest. Although self-defense is not abuse, self-defense that abuses other people (that goes too far) is abuse. I stated this daily at first "There's no excuse for abuse" whenever Peter called a sibling a name, whenever he spoke harshly to a parent, etc. It didn't take long before abuse became rarer.

2. Direct Statements: When you want something to happen, or to stop, be firm and clear. State: "Don't talk to me that way. I don't like it." If it is bedtime or homework time, say it firmly. "Go to bed now." Or shut off the computer screen, etc. and say, "Do your homework." Some kids don't respond to cutesy bedtime requests or vague non-commands. Be unemotional in your direct statements. Don't give lectures or reasons, just give the command.

3. Disconnect: Cut off communication and contact immediately if a child is being disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive. Turn around and walk away. Communication should end until the child takes responsibility for his behavior. In other words, don't get into it with your child. Never productive.

4. Stop the Show: If the inappropriate behavior occurs in the car, pull over at a safe spot and order the adolescent outside for a minimum of five minutes to regroup. If the teen refuses, turn the car around and go home. If this occurs in a public place or someone's home, tell the teen to come out to the car to talk about this. If he refuses, go home (modify for younger kids who can't be left somewhere).

Peter, despite knowing our tight budget, tends to beg for gardening tools and other hobby things in Walmart and other stores, as though I can rob a bank whenever he wants something. He is impulsive and the idea of waiting until he has his own income drives him insane. I don't give in, but that doesn't stop the begging. I only take him to the store a couple times a month, and I am prepared now to stop everything and take him home the next time he doesn't heed the no-begging rule, after one reminder. He doesn't have public fits, mind you. I just can't stand begging. It's rude, disrespectful, and he needs to gain control over his impulsivity so that when he has his own money, there's enough to actually make his rent and bills, and it's not all wasted on payday, which can happen to untrained ADHD kids. They need explicit, systematic life-skills training.

Peter has expressed during the course of this training that it's very difficult to take responsibility for his behavior. He's even asked how other people do it so easily. Growing up is painful in some ways, I told him. You have to choose to do hard things. That's how you grow up. By choosing to. I want him to be able to take responsibility, someday, for his family's well-being, financially and spiritually. I want him to lead his wife and take responsibility for mistakes in his marriage, at his job, with his children. I want him to be a man. 

That all starts with taking responsibility for his mistakes now, as a tween. It starts with accepting punishments quietly, without argument and serving them faithfully, without trying to negotiate. Merely saying I'm sorry is not taking responsibility for wrong behavior. It goes beyond that, to faithfully serving out all the consequences, both imposed and natural, if applicable.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask away. There is more to the program, such as how to walk your child through alternative responses to triggering situations, but this has gotten long. All the best to you in your behavior management!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up 7/25

If you read here with any regularity, you know that Mary, my seven-year-old daughter, has suffered from anxiety this summer over thunder/lightning storms. Finally, I can say she is much improved. While she no longer sleeps through the night and that has complicated things--like my writing life!--the daytime stress has improved around here; there have been fewer incidences of high anxiety. She did become very agitated about going to church on a cloudy day last Sunday, but we forced the issue and it went fine.

She wakes every night thinking she sees spider webs or daddy longlegs in her bed. Sometimes the wakings occur more than once. If phobias are beginning to show up in her, I suppose it could be a spider phobia, or just a symptom of anxiety. At any rate, I've tried several times in the last 8 days to write a post, to no avail.

Writing while the kids are awake always means a large number of grammar and other errors, as well as some incoherence. I always end up embarrassed as I read and reread and go back in and correct and then correct some more, wondering how the errors escaped me before I hit publish.

It's a wonder I can think straight enough to sort laundry or measure ingredients for cooking! I love these children wildly and they brighten my world so much, but they do make it so hard to think!

Is it the Topamax I've been on for migraines for 60 days (that isn't even working)?

But no, I've had this problem for a long time. Tell me it's not just me?

Homeschool News

Our 2014-15 school year will start in September. We're still continuing with our 2013-14 school year, which will end right before my August 20 portfolio review appointment.

Since I last wrote about school, Peter has read The Cay by Theodore Taylor, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, and The Borrowers by Mary Norton. Yesterday he started on the first sequel, The Borrowers Afield.  He's also read numerous, short, non-fiction space books checked out from the library, including two about black holes. Black holes are fascinating both my boys right now. Paul is following Peter's path in books this summer, only slower and in a different order.

Space has never fascinated me, perhaps because what's right here in front of me seems so amazing and keeps me so busy, but I'm glad my boys see so much wonder in space. My husband doesn't agree with allocating massive amounts of money to space exploration (too many starving people), but my boys don't quite agree. They're getting their feet wet now with how it feels to disagree with a parent's political ideas. I found myself giving Peter permission to disagree because he felt guilty for doing so. I told him that adopting his parents' views without thinking them through for himself is never a good idea for a youth his age, but this "thinking challenge" doesn't include challenging our house or family rules. Ahem.

I told him, too, to filter everything through a Christian worldview to see if that helps clear the matter up, and if it doesn't, then it's probably an area we are free in. For example, are there enough resources to explore space and feed the poor? Who is in control of resources? Who is responsible for feeding the poor? Where does money for space come from? Is government the only source for both? If not, what are the other sources? Are there enough of them? How do we access them?

On to the literature:

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Synopsis: Read Theodore Taylor’s classic bestseller and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award winner The Cay.
   Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of CuraƧao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.
   When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.”
    But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy.

“Mr. Taylor has provided an exciting story…The idea that all humanity would benefit from this special form of color blindness permeates the whole book…The result is a story with a high ethical purpose but no sermon.”—New York Times Book Review

My Comments: This is an exciting, moving book, excellent for challenging a child's views on race and equality. The symbolism is not lost on an adult, but some children will need help fully grasping the author's intent. I agree that while it teaches a moral, it's not a sermon and will provide much meat for journal and paper topics.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

SynopsisThirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle is excited to return home from her school in England to her family in Rhode Island in the summer of 1832.

But when the two families she was supposed to travel with mysteriously cancel their trips, Charlotte finds herself the lone passenger on a long sea voyage with a cruel captain and a mutinous crew. Worse yet, soon after stepping aboard the ship, she becomes enmeshed in a conflict between them! What begins as an eagerly anticipated ocean crossing turns into a harrowing journey, where Charlotte gains a villainous enemy . . . and is put on trial for murder!

My comments: Peter and I both read this. It's more about class and challenging the rigidness of one's place in society than it is about gender. It has a wonderful message and we were quite mesmerized by the adventure of it, although the ending is not quite satisfying (too unrealistic). Still, it's worthy of a Newbery Honor.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Synopsis: (for 4th grade through 7th grade) The Borrowers—the Clock family: Homily, Pod, and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Arrietty, to be precise—are tiny people who live underneath the kitchen floor of an old English country manor. All their minuscule home furnishings, from postage stamp paintings to champagne cork chairs, are “borrowed” from the “human beans” who tromp around loudly above them. All is well until Pod is spotted upstairs by a human boy! Can the Clocks stay nested safely in their beloved hidden home, or will they be forced to flee? The British author Mary Norton won the Carnegie Medal for The Borrowers in 1952, the year it was first published in England. 
Awards: 1952 Carnegie Medal, a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award Book
Don’t miss the other classics in the Borrowers series: The Borrowers AfieldThe Borrowers AfloatThe Borrowers Aloft, and The Borrowers Avenged.

If you search sites that include literary reviews, you can usually come up with some very good journal questions, teaching your children to respond readily to literature. Sometimes I come up with my own, and other times I'm just too tired or swamped. Also, when your child chooses a novel that is somewhat below his reading level, you can still use it for some challenging writing projects so the experience still teaches. 

From on The Borrowers:

What parents need to know:
Positive messages The relationship between Arriety and the human boy is an inspiring one that encourages readers to look past differences. Those who are able to do so grow and develop into more mature characters that don’t live their lives guided by prejudices.
Positive role models Arriety’s natural curiosity and hunger for freedom are often considered negative characteristics in a Borrower’s eyes – especially for her father. Trapped in a world that is seemingly too small for Arriety, her fearless character dares to dream and think outside the box. Her father, Pod, is a lot more skeptical when it comes to the idea of freedom but it is revealed that this fear of uninhibited exploration is for good measure. Pod makes risky sacrifices every day to provide for his family. Homily, Arriety’s mother, makes similar sacrifices but her fixation on material things often puts her family in precarious positions.
Violence & scariness When the Borrower’s presence is made known, Mrs. Driver calls the rat catcher to exterminate them. She also tells the boy to watch as Arriety and her parents are about to be forced out of their home by smoke.
Language Not applicable

First Grade News

Mary's first-grade school days were for several weeks affected by her anxiety, but I tried to press on. We did continue to make progress. I have considered her year critically this past month, coming to some not-so-wonderful conclusions. I believe she has some dyslexia, which has revealed itself more with numbers than with reading, but it would also explain some inconsistencies in her reading progress, and the sheer effort it takes for her to read a book. She is exhausted afterward! 

Her brother Peter had similar issues with math and still does. His issues affected his reading at first too, then he shot ahead. He just needed more time as a beginning reader, and I think Mary does too. She is a low-average first grade reader. Not too far behind, but definitely not an A or B student either, which, because we homeschool, doesn't matter. If she were in school, she would have labeled herself already, I presume. Dyslexia that only affects math/numbers primarily is called dyscalculia. She learned her letters and sounds with no problem, so not all symbols are an issue.

All year long and even before, I have worked with her on the numbers to 100 in various ways, starting small and then working toward seeing patterns, and picking out individual numbers in a group, either in order or out of order. It continues to be a struggle for her and there are inconsistencies from day to day, which usually points to a learning disability. Peter never received any special help, but just needed more time and the right materials. What's ahead is lots of patience, above all. Anyone with a learning disability needs to have their dignity preserved to have motivation to overcome. They need to know, too, that a difficulty with learning something does not necessarily speak to intelligence. There are many geniuses with learning disabilities. 

I haven't spoken to Mary about any of this, but her brothers are wondering why her progress is slow compared to theirs (Peter obviously doesn't remember the problem sight words gave him). I need to teach them to stay quiet and let their sisters develop at their own paces, reminding them that everyone has their strengths, and doesn't Mary narrate a story better than anyone in the family? That girl remembers everything about a story she's heard, right down to the intonation of voices. She can retell it as though she's got the book right there in her lap! Obviously an auditory learner, like Peter and my husband. (Mary thankfully hasn't heard what her brothers commented.)

The homeschooling mother/credentialed teacher I will meet with on August 20 to show our portfolios to, as per my state's policies, also has a child with learning disabilities, so she will be a valuable resource for me. 

Trade Books to Share:

First two are new in 2014:

One Hen: How a Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway

Synopsis: Inspired by true events, One Hen tells the story of Kojo, a boy from Ghana who turns a small loan into a thriving farm and a livelihood for many. After his father died, Kojo had to quit school to help his mother collect firewood to sell at the market. When his mother receives a loan from some village families, she gives a little money to her son. With this tiny loan, Kojo buys a hen. A year later, Kojo has built up a flock of 25 hens. With his earnings Kojo is able to return to school. Soon Kojo's farm grows to become the largest in the region. Kojo's story is inspired by the life of Kwabena Darko, who as a boy started a tiny poultry farm just like Kojo's, which later grew to be the largest in Ghana, and one of the largest in west Africa. Kwabena also started a trust that gives out small loans to people who cannot get a loan from a bank. One Hen shows what happens when a little help makes a big difference. The final pages of One Hen explain the microloan system and include a list of relevant organizations for children to explore. One Hen is part of CitizenKid: A collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.

My Comments: This will take two sittings for younger ones, but it's an excellent living social studies book for older K or 1st grade - 5th. 

It's a Gift! by Gabriela Keselman

Synopsis: Everyone who lives around Duckling’s pool is in a tizzy: Beaver hasn’t put on his hat, and now the sun’s burning his head; Squirrel has lost her nuts, and now she’s hungry; and Bear has knocked over his jar of water, and now he’s thirsty. So it’s just as well that Duckling’s around, ready to help out the rest of the animals with his gifts!

It’s a Gift! is a tender tale about the solidarity and generosity that’s so necessary in modern life. This moving story will encourage the youngest members of the family to share without expecting anything in return.

Henry Aaron's Dream by Matt Tavares

SynopsisBefore he was Hammerin’ Hank, Henry Aaron was a young boy growing up in Mobile, Alabama, with what seemed like a foolhardy dream: to be a big-league baseball player. He didn’t have a bat. He didn’t have a ball. And there wasn’t a single black ball player in the major leagues. But none of this could stop Henry Aaron. In a captivating biography of Henry Aaron’s young life – from his sandlot days through his time in the Negro Leagues to the day he played his first spring training game for the Braves – Matt Tavares offers an inspiring homage to one of baseball’s all-time greats.

Who Says Woman Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone

Synopsis: In the 1830s, when a brave and curious girl named Elizabeth Blackwell was growing up, women were supposed to be wives and mothers. Some women could be teachers or seamstresses, but career options were few. Certainly no women were doctors.

But Elizabeth refused to accept the common beliefs that women weren’t smart enough to be doctors, or that they were too weak for such hard work. And she would not take no for an answer. Although she faced much opposition, she worked hard and finally—when she graduated from medical school and went on to have a brilliant career—proved her detractors wrong. This inspiring story of the first female doctor shows how one strong-willed woman opened the doors for all the female doctors to come.

An NPR Best Book of 2013

My Comments: Elizabeth Blackwell was a determined young woman. Against many odds and suffering cruel people, she graduated top in her class, but no one would hire her. She ended up helping poor women and children in New York City, who had no other option. Her sister also became a doctor and helped Elizabeth help the poor. From there, the story continues to inspire. Elizabeth never married but she did adopt an orphan. The story itself is appropriate for kindergarten up, and is short and engaging, with a more detailed account of her life in an author's note at the end.

Marriage is not for every girl. God has other plans sometimes. Not usually, but sometimes, so we can't give our girls the impression that there is only one option. Motherhood gives us a strong sense of purpose, but others things can do that too. It's not that I think we can do both well. There are choices and hopefully our children will come first.

I, for one, am grateful for women doctors because I'd much rather see them. More than once I've been made uncomfortable during exams with male doctors, who don't always maintain the highest professionalism. Rather than hope for the best, I just don't see them anymore for anything other than headaches and such.

That's all for now, friends. How was your week?

Weekly Wrap-Up

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook 7/13

Outside my window:

It's cloudy and ugly with rain and a morning thundershower expected any minute, hence I'm home from church with my storm-phobia 7-year-old daughter, who is watching a Wild Kratt's library DVD to get her mind off the "dark skies".

Wild Kratt's library DVDs mesmerize my kids. That show came out after we got rid of cable but one of you actually told me about it. I think Teri from PA? A couple years later the DVDs appeared at our library and my kids have been hooked ever since. You would smile if you heard them all sing that theme song together, to which they've learned every word. Once, when we were all in the emergency room for an ailing Paul, the staff put Wild Kratts on the ceiling TV, and my kids proceeded to sing their hearts out without shame, and none too softly either.

It was our plan to force Mary to church, because a forecasted thunderstorm doesn't mean we actually get them. Much emotional energy on the parents' part is required to force the issue, and we've had that energy several times, but not this morning and not usually for church. It would mean drawing attention to ourselves as she cried or possibly screamed going into the building, depending on how menacing the skies looked. And of course, there was that time she did throw up at church because of panic over the rain and thunder/lightning.

And the excitement doesn't end there. Peter has had two instances of heat exhaustion because we recently increased his Prozac for OCD from 10 mg to 20 mg, which decreased his body's ability to sweat to cool off, but improved his OCD. Antihistamines will also decrease the body's ability to sweat, and without Peter's allergy medicine he gets asthma so the two medicines together are a problem (at this higher Prozac dose), at least in the summer humidity.

So last night he threw up after being at the park, but he's fine today. He drinks enough; it's about the sweating to cool off. It just doesn't happen like it should. This week we may go back to the doctor and have it decreased down to 10 mg for the duration of the summer, or rely on water mist bottles to cool him off. Low doses don't usually work for OCD, but for Peter they do, thank goodness. The usual dose for OCD in teens is 10 to 80 mg. It's lower when Prozac is used for depression.

Each time someone throws up Paul's OCD goes crazy because his comes with a vomit phobia; he does rituals to prevent a vomiting incident. He watches his sugar and his fat and does other things to prevent the possibility, drawing from all his knowledge about the various causes of vomiting. There are 3 causes of vomit phobia, one being OCD, another being agoraphobia, and the other being associated with social phobia. Go here if your child excessively fears vomiting.

Yes, I live in an insane asylum. Thus, no energy today to force Mary to church.

I am thinking very grateful I am for having joined an OCD online support group. Through the group I have found the boys a very good psychologist working out of Cleveland, over an hour away, who takes our insurance through a hospital program. He is excellent and specializes in Scrupulosity, which is a subset of OCD dealing with a distortion of religious and/or moral views. He is Jewish, and when a therapist has different spiritual views than the patient, they are trained to bring in the patient's Pastor or other faith "expert" to help the patient experience complete comfort with all aspects of the therapy.

This therapist uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Exposure Response Prevention therapy, which are the only therapies proven to beat OCD. There is no cure, but these therapies are the closet thing there is to being free.

Exposure Response Prevention therapy, or ERP, is exposing the patient to his or her worst fears, through graduated exposures, until the patient has habituated the mind to the thoughts or fears, so they become mere background noise to be ignored. Mindfulness training is included, so the patient can allow thoughts to come and go, not reacting to them. It is the reaction to the fearful thoughts that is the problem, not the thoughts themselves.

This is the same therapy (CBT and ERP) that is used for most anxiety disorders, and the same therapy Mary will need for her storm phobia, and for agoraphobia if it turns out she has that.

It is boot camp for sure and things will get worse for the boys (and consequently for us) before they get better, but being free is worth the sacrifice, to be sure. The boys will need every once of spiritual and mental strength they've got to persevere and succeed. They start in August and I have an initial meeting with the therapist at the end of July. It is not unusual for therapy to last up to a year but it depends on the patient. It is usually once a week.

If you or your children or a member of your extended family has OCD, please visit this support group. Many people do not know about ERP because not all therapists are trained in it. Some people suffer for years unnecessarily. There may be a period of denial and/or fear over the treatment because it's a scary concept to be exposed to your fears, especially for those with anxiety disorders, but be patient and have your relative lurk around the support group. I think eventually they will gather the courage to say, "I want to be well."

Another problem is that OCD can be horribly embarrassing because sufferers sometimes spend hours on their rituals. Many people keep it a secret for years. My son Paul has contamination OCD and spends 20 minutes brushing his teeth. That's mild compared to some of the behaviors one encounters, including compulsive checking, compulsive asking for reassurance, compulsive cleaning and arranging and counting, compulsive religious rituals or distorted religious beliefs, irrationals fears of harming others (Peter also has this type), irrational fears of being gay or being a child molester, etc. OCD people are the last individuals to do any of the things they imagine or fear. OCD attacks what is most dear to a person and is a horrible thing to suffer.

If you know someone who needs help and who has severe OCD, here is a list of intensive treatment centers in the United States (and a couple in the UK).

I am grateful for...

~ Peter's corn is finally growing, though not as high as the local farmers' yet. We have quite a few corn farms around us.

~ We had more sun this week and Mary was mostly happy, until the evenings and until this morning. The clouds tended to get organized just as it was time for me to make dinner. But still, these last 5 days there was a big improvement and she went in the van twice voluntarily with only some tears.

~ the tiny toad Peter brought back from the park. He gave it to Mary this morning and that was the only thing that coaxed Mary out of bed at all. I loved Peter so powerfully at that moment.

~ that Sheila, our Compassion child from Uganda, was able to get roofing and housing repair supplies. She is such a dear girl and writes her own letters in English, at age 15.

~ lo and behold, we saw a small fawn in the neighbor's yard two days ago. That's never happened before. It got lost apparently, having come into the neighborhood from the surrounding woods. Paul tried to get a picture for the library photo contest but I'm not sure the focus is good enough. It was sure thrilling though.

~ that God holds us together in the palm of his hands, and that his mercies are new everyday.

~ That at long last, my boys will get the help they need. Our pediatrician was not helpful in knowing what therapy is needed for OCD. It took me finding the right connections and I thank the Lord to have finally found them.

Have a good week, friends!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Boy and His Frogs (Or My Insanity Post)

The funny thing that happened on the way to insanity. That's what this blog post is about. Cause there's not much funny about this summer and Mary's off-the-charts anxiety that is encompassing new things every week. Suddenly, spiders are not okay. Deep breath, Momma. Deep breath.

Critter photos courtesy of Peter, who is trying to get a winning photo for the annual kids' library photo contest. He won the fishing derby this year, but a photo prize has eluded him for two other years now.

A funny-to-me story about Peter's backyard escapades:

Peter was out in the backyard playing with the neighbor boy who comes to our Bible study--a boy more than slightly frog-obsessed. They conjured up a notion about catching a ton of frogs and selling them to the local pet store. Now, Peter has heard from me that you probably need a license to sell live animals to pet stores...but whatever. Apparently the ten-year-old neighbor boy's story about once selling a tree frog to the pet store for real money held more weight than anything I ever said on the subject.

On my way to the grocery store I stopped by our backyard and encountered their container of twenty-one frogs! 

Um, did I just step into one of Pharaoh's plagues?

Those were proud boys!

Only in Ohio, folks.

Don't ever tell me we made a mistake moving our two tiny boys from the California desert to Ohio back in 2005. This is a great place to raise kids; in this yard my children have cuddled with or marveled at a turtle, several snakes, squirrels, fireflies, yearly robins' nests, a bluebird nest, caterpillars and butterflies and moths and metamorphosis, sparrows' nests, hundreds of frogs and dozens of toads, yearly praying mantises, grasshoppers and katydids, a hawk, bunnies, moles, and the list goes on. It's a veritable jungle out there and not a single toy is ever needed.

I call that a perfect backyard and an ideal childhood...being one with nature and learning about the glory of God early.

So then, Peter, explaining the twenty-one frogs, takes me aside and whispers the tale about Landon's tree frog going to the pet store for real cash money, see, to which I could only shake my head, not wanting to burst his bubble with Landon right there. I did say they should let their brood go soon, though, so as not to terrorize the frogs.

At dinner that night, Peter waxed remorseful about where he let them go. Instead of going around the yard and letting the frogs go in their various and assorted hiding places, he let them all go next to one fence, shared with a neighbor. So the frogs, many of them, went to the neighbor's yard, though that isn't what Peter intended. He rather likes having a large amphibian population in his own yard, thank you very much.

An hour or so later he could hear the neighbors, over the privacy fence, talking to their guests about the bazillion frogs that suddenly appeared in their yard (like it was a huge animal-control crisis). Oops.

Their guests apparently tried to tell the ladies that it wasn't a big deal and the frogs would disappear soon--a sentiment Peter, silently listening, shared. He very much feared the ladies peering over the fence and possibly questioning him or his siblings, or worse yet, telling his parents about it.

So at dinner Peter told us guiltily what happened, thinking any minute the ladies would knock on our door, asking his parents "what the heck is up with these frogs all the sudden?"

I will not say the obvious here. ("What will the librarians think?") I didn't say it to Peter, who asked me, "Isn't this so cute, Mommy?"

I'm sitting here typing this in stitches of laughter. It just really tickled my funny bone, though no one else at dinner thought it particularly funny that night. I was the only one worried about shooting my milk across the table from uncontrolled laughter.

Peter is not used to me laughing at his mishaps. He didn't quite know what to think of his Momma, nor did his siblings, who only stared at me before finally giggling at my lack of control. Secretly, I think Peter suspected Mary's anxiety disorder had done me in.

I told him there was no problem because he didn't mean to do it and frogs are no respecter of fences and property lines anyway.

And I told my husband if the ladies next store do come over and ask about the bazillion frogs, he'd have to talk to them because I personally would not be able to stop laughing, and what if, in my hysterical state, I joked about Pharaoh and the ten plagues or something weird like that?

Because that's just like what a mother would say, who earlier that day helped get her kicking and screaming, ultra-terrified daughter into the van to go to the library on a cloudy day. I hate to think it or say it, but my grandfather had severe agoraphobia and my little girl no longer wants to leave the house. Ever. I won't know until the fall, when thunder storms go away, if it's related closely to the weather or if it really is agoraphobia, but life has gotten very complicated.

The good news is that therapy for phobias is successful 90% of the time. Fear of storms is one type of phobia.

The secret to enduring very intense times of life is...find something to laugh about. (Like Peter's sorta-like mating photos and I don't think I should be standing there when the librarians download them.)

And count your blessings.

I will write soon on part 2 of cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety, and how to integrate it with your Christian faith.

Friday, July 4, 2014

When Parents Enable Children's Mental Disorders & Weaknesses

Parenting: Yikes, no instruction manual!

Any blog writer has to guess as to who might be out there reading, and what their interests and concerns might be. When limited time is an issue, as it is for me, often the blog writer has to stick to writing what they know, and what their life reveals day by day. Increasingly, I'm having to learn about mental disorders, so you are seeing more of that content. Some of you are skipping it, while others are grateful because maybe you're just beginning to suspect issues with your own children.

One thing I'm learning is that diagnosing mental disorders early gives children and families the opportunity to conquer them before they become ugly monsters. These issues don't have to devastating. Keep in mind that parents can make things worse by unknowingly aiding the disorders and reinforcing dysfunctional patterns that will be hard to break later.

You may recall me providing the testimony of an OCD sufferer who was an actor/producer who'd become so impaired he couldn't go anywhere without his parents, even past age 30. His parents participated in his OCD rituals. I don't even have to read more background to know that. His parents made their son completely dependent on them.

Parents make OCD worse, and any anxiety disorder worse, by feeding it--giving reassurances to lessen a child's immediate anxiety. Providing these constant reassurances and lessening a child's anxiety makes the whole family breath easier, but to conquer these disorders we can't give in to the tyranny of the present. That's the easy way out, just as giving the alcoholic another drink is taking the easy way out.

Ultimately, once proper therapy is explained to children and they are trained in it, they have to make the decision to get better. The other choice is to remain a victim of the disorder. We can't force our children to do their therapies; it's an act of their will, requiring their courage.

We can offer them our prayers, the best information and training, and we can be an escort to the Throne of Grace. But we can't make them do any of it on their own, and that's what it takes to get well. If they choose to be a victim of the disorder, we can't cover for them or pick up the slack. That only makes it easier for them to continue on the same cowardly road. We can't pity them or feel responsible for them. We can't say "this isn't their fault". Actually, if they won't do what it takes to get well, it is their fault.

There are times my seven-year-old daughter refuses to do anything but stay in bed because of cloudy weather and fear of thunder, and ultimately, fear of lightning striking the house. I have to walk away during these times, knowing that I've done everything I can for her.

She still has to finish her school work. She still has to do her share of the chores. I can't force food down her throat, and I won't carry her away from her bed, but I can enforce consequences for when she chooses to let her fears stop her from fulfilling her responsibilities.

I'm sensitive to her when it's actually thundering or lightning, but when that happens it's just five minutes at a time; more often the sky might look menacing but nothing happens. This seems harsh, I know, but there are only so many things I can do before she becomes a manipulator and uses her anxiety for her advantage. Kids are like that; they were born sinners and we can expect them to sin pretty often.

Even the child with a simple case of ADHD without any comorbid conditions, can be enabled by a parent if he is not required to wake up on his own with an alarm clock. Don't continually go in there and try to get a child out of bed. The alarm clock is all that's required. Let the child take the natural consequences of failing to get out of bed on time. Each time you cover for a child's negligence, you keep him a child, dependent on you.

Similarly, ADHD children need schedules. Once you train them in the use of schedules, they should be writing their own (depending on age) and sticking to them. Give consequences when they don't, but don't nag throughout the day about where they are on the schedule. Have one accountability time before lunch and one after, not several throughout the day.

It takes courage for us to avoid enabling them, and it takes courage for them to take charge of their disorder.

So in these issues, as in everything else, parenting is a prayer. 

Mental disorders can be devastating, but they don't have to be.

Prayer Time:

Dear Lord, we thank you for your love, for your faithfulness, for your wisdom. We ask for courage. We ask that Your glory will shine through the courage you provide to us. We ask that our children will give this over to you, and give up any anger, resentment, self-pity, and any special status they're harboring, and choose to fight for good health, giving you all the glory for their victory. 

In Jesus's Name I pray, Amen.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Part 2 Children and Anxiety: Cognitive Behavior Therapy

In my last post, Escorting Children Through Anxiety, I mentioned the importance of educating ourselves about anxiety disorders in children. Today I'd like to discuss Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which is the go-to therapy for anxiety disorders. Traditional talk therapy will only worsen anxiety, so we want to make sure we are choosing therapists who are experienced with CBT, or Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

I need to explain three principles to you: containment, externalization, and competing demands

Today we will have time for the first two only.

We want to contain anxiety, much like we contain anything--ketchup in the ketchup container, for example. We cannot let children talk or think about their worries all day long. Neither can we constantly assure them when they bring up their worries. This only makes things worse, giving the worries too much power.

The book What To Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner uses the analogy that if you keep tending your garden and pulling the weeds and watering it faithfully, you'll yield a huge crop of tomatoes. Anxiety is the same. If you keep tending and feeding it, it just grows bigger, until you've got more yield than you know what to do with.

Containment, so things won't overgrow. We set aside a time each day, say for 15 minutes, and call it worry time. Children pretend all day to put their anxieties in a worry box, only to be taken out at worry time. Mom and Dad, when approached for the usual assurance during the day, can only say..."Sounds like that should go in the worry box." No matter how much your child wants your assurance right now, try hard to only remind her about the "worry time".

Worry Time: Choose a 15-minute time segment during the day when she is not exhibiting bodily signs of anxiety, and when there are no other distractions (not from siblings, TV, computers, etc.). After she unloads everything she's worried about, help her learn to use logic. She must stop the worst-case scenario self-talk. Discuss the improbability of the worst thing happening, and leave it at that. Logic is also knowing that even if something bad does happen, she can get through it. Don't argue these thoughts with her, just present them, and tell her she must learn to use logic on her own with time.

The anxious child needs to learn that he is not his anxiety. The anxiety is an outside entity that your child is hosting, and in order to exert control over it, he needs to externalize it.

Teach the following ideas when your child is calm.

~ The worry is a BULLY. Have your child use his imagination to picture what the worry bully looks like, perched on your child's shoulder all day. Have him draw a picture of what his worry bully looks like.

~ Right now, the worry bully is stronger than the child, but that will change and the child will learn to boss the worry bully and gain the upper hand. Teach these truths about the worry bully: Worries lie. They trick you. They exaggerate.

~ Teach your child to talk back to the worry bully whenever it bothers her during the day, especially when it refuses to go in the worry box for later.

"I don't believe you!"
"That's a bunch of GARBAGE!"
"Leave me alone!"
"Get lost."

Next time we will talk about competing demands, which are forms of distraction, some targeted toward reversing the bodily signs of stress, once they've already started.