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!


Tesha Papik said...

I was curious how this program was going! One thing that really stood out to me was to ask them how they could respond next time. I do not do this every time because most of my discipline is with my 3 year old and he does not communicate well. But I can totally see it helping my 5 and 9 year old! most of the discipling for my 13 and 16 year old is done by my husband. Well at 16 it really turns into discipleship! I love books on character, like Shepherding Your Childs Heart because it focus on heart issues. I have always wondered what the program teaches after hearing the adds thanks so much for the review!

Christine said...

I think books on character are enough to train up the average child, but not for a child who's behavior has turned dysfunctional, unless mom or dad are already qualified therapists! Dysfunction is a mystery that isn't unlocked easily, I've found. It never occurred to me that my child didn't know how to solve problems, or how to take responsibility for his behavior. When you are in the middle of all the stress, there is so much that you just don't see. Ongoing behavior problems are very painful for a family. said...

Very interesting. I think some of this may be applicable with autism, too.