Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"More"

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I've received some emails recently due to several comments I left on Her Bad Mother's site regarding Spirited Children. People have been asking me how to know if they have a Spirited Child and what can they do about it?

First keep in mind that Spiritedness is not a diagnosis, but a classification. There is no medication. There is no therapy, per se, though sometimes a child is Spirited to the degree that the involvement of a behavioral therapist is beneficial. Also keep in mind that all children have some Spirited traits, and some children have all Spirited traits. This does not make them Spirited. It makes them kids.


Mary Kurcinka says:
"The word that distinguishes Spirited children from other children is 'more'. They are normal children who are "more" intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive and uncomfortable with change than other children."

I can't recommend her book "Raising Your Spirited Child" enough. If you suspect you have a Spirited Child, do yourself a favor, and buy it. It's not a magic wand. But it is a valuable tool. And you will feel, for the first time perhaps, that somebody gets your kid.

That said, the best way that I know to paint a clear picture for you, is to share a slice of my own life, in all it's unflattering reality, with you. I have written about it before, but it was really about his behavior as an infant and toddler, and why I first began to suspect something about his behavior was "different".

My purpose is not to scare those of you with possibly Spirited Kids, but to help you understand what Spirited is. And...more importantly, to let you know that losing your cool sometimes is okay. And being human is okay. In fact, I think our Spirited kids need to know how their behaviors affect people. That it makes Mommy feel angry or sad, that it makes big brother feel frustrated, that it makes teacher feel disappointed.

With that in mind, I will share with you one of the recent crazy making conversations with Diminutive One.

Tuesday Night at the Ball Park, after having played his game in the pouring rain, now watching his brother's game, in the pouring rain. Mom is sitting in the bleachers. Enter, Diminutive One...

D.O. (after having already eaten a burger, fries and a Sprite): "Mom, can I have some peanut butter cups?"

B.A.: "No, Diminutive One, I only have a few dollars left and poor Dad hasn't had anything to eat yet.
"


(Husband was coaching back to back games that night, one 6-8, one 8-10

D.O.: "Don't you even have some quarters so I can get some bubble gum?"

B.A.: "No, I don't. I used all my change to pay for parking at my eye appointment the other day."

D.O.: "Yeah, but I bet you got some more."

B.A.: "No, I haven't."

D.O.: "Could you just look in your purse?"


At this point, nothing will appease him except to see for himself. I emptied out the change compartment of my wallet, which yielded one nickel, one dime, and 7 pennies.

B.A.: "See, no quarters. Not even enough to equal a quarter."

D.O.(suspiciously):"Let me count it."


He counted. He frowned. Then he brightened as an idea occured to him.

D.O.: "What about the change tray in the van? You always have change there!"

B.A.: "No, I told you, I used change to pay for parking. I took all the change from there."

D.O: "Can I go see?"

B.A.: "No."

D.O.: "Why?"

B.A.: "Because the parking lot is a dangerous. And now that it's dark, a driver might not see you."

D.O.: "Will you go with me?"

B.A.: "No. I know it's empty. I don't need to go look. And I'm trying to watch your brother's game."

D.O.: "Mom, I KNOW there is a quarter in there! Just let me go see!"

I was starting to get frustrated. I was trying to watch the game, and I had already missed a good deal of it arguing with him. But, I tried to stay calm and use all my "tools".

B.A.: "Diminutive One, if you don't stop pestering, I'm going to have no choice but to move you down the ladder. That means you will be in the bottom green, and you will lose your computer privileges. Neither of us wants that to happen, so I don't want to hear any more about it."

Pestering is on our behavior ladder because it is a HUGE problem. He knows this, and he knows what the consequences are. But even with my reminder, he can't help himself. He really can't. He was silent for a moment, wrestling with his demons. He lost.

D.O.: "Mom, I'll be careful. Just PUH-LEEZ let me have your keys so I can go look."

I had no choice. I didn't want to do it. But I had to.

B.A.: "Dimiunutive One, I warned you. That's two spaces for pestering, buddy."

D.O.: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! I'm SSSSSSOOOOOOOORRRRRYYYY!!!! Don't move me DOOOOWWWWWWWWWWNN!!! PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE MOM!!!!"


A temper tantrum ensued in full view of parents and onlookers. One grandmotherly looking lady commented under her breath that he needed his butt whupped. Her companion replied that "You just can't' do that kinda thing in public no more. You got ta wait til you git home to give 'me what fer." Gee, thanks, ladies.

I attempted to calm him down by grasping his arm firmly (okay, I squeezed some) and looking him in the eye. I forced him to look at me as I spoke to him.

B.A.: "Diminutive One, I will not tolerate this kind of behavior. You are not a baby, you are an eight year old boy. I warned you what would happen and you chose to ignore my warning. You made bad choices. Calm down now, or I will have to move you down FOUR spaces for having a tantrum, AND, we will have to leave the game."

He calmed down, but he remained very angry with me. He sat sullenly, kicking the bleachers until all the parents were completely fed up with him. I told him were were leaving and we did. When we got in the van he said,

D.O.: "So, Mom, will you check the change tray now. I know there's a quarter in there."

I snapped. I did. I'll admit right here for the benefit of everyone.

"FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WILL YOU SHUT UP ABOUT THE GODDAMNED QUARTERS!!"

Yes, I said shut up. Yes, I said goddamn. I'm not proud of it.

The reality of it is that I had kept my cool and dealt with him constructively all day. That conversation was but one in a series throughout. Imagine having ten conversations like that every day. More, even. From brushing teeth to doing homework to getting dressed for baseball...all of it is a struggle. And all of it involves much arguing, negotiating, and pestering.

If he doesn't go into politics or law, I don't think there's much hope for him to make an honest living.

I was tired. Damned. Tired. And beaten down. It had been a busy day, and we had been at the ballpark in the cold and pouring rain for hours. Neither of us was in the right frame of mind to be dealing with conflict constructively. Circumstances were ripe with potential for a "spill-over" tantrum. From both of us.

He cried then, and of course, I felt like dirt. I issued an apology, something at which I've become incredibly adept. We hugged one another when I tucked him in bed, but there was still resentment seething in both of us. We went to bed demoralized.

The following day, at the grocery store, he was drawn to the vending machines filled with bubble gum, jawbreakers and plastic bubbles with cheap but eye-catching trinkets within. I knew before he even opened his mouth what was going to come out.

D.O.: "Mom......"

B.A. (wearily, steeling herself for battle) "Diminutive One, don't even start with me. I have no quarters. I have not been to the bank. I have not been to the store. No quarters have magically materialized in my wallet overnight. DO NOT ASK ME FOR QUARTERS."


He, wisely, zipped it. But as we are approaching the checkout he had an epiphany.

D.O.: "Hey, you have a credit card, right?"

I knew where he was going and I tried to head him off before things got ugly again.

BB.A.: "I have a debit card, not a credit card. You can't get quarters with a debit card."


Well, you can, if you really want to, but I think that's a precedent best left unestablished. He sighed heavily.

DO: "But...."

B.A.: "Diminutive One, I'm asking you nicely, just don't do it.

D.O.: "MOM, there has GOT to be a way to get some quarters! Can't you just ASK the cashier?"

I could have. I probably should have. But I had chosen to die on that hill and by God I was going to stick it out to the bitter end. He ended up moving down four spaces during that grocery trip as he almost always does when we go to the grocery store. I avoid bringing him with me whenever possible, but sometimes, I just have to.

During the course of that same evening, he moved all the way to the bottom of the ladder, resulting in a loss of nearly all privileges. Which is really punishment for me too, but....he has to be accountable for his behavior in some way. All because of his persistence. He has the tenacity of a bulldog, and once he has sunken his teeth into something, he will not let go until he has worried and gnawed it to pieces.

Persistence is his most troublesome Spirited trait. He just won't give up. In some ways, it is a remarkably useful and powerful trait to have. It has served him well in many ways and will continue to serve him well during his life. But it can be incredibly destructive as well.

I try to remember the positive when I want to strangle him.

So there you have it. A slice of life with a Spirited Child. It has not been exaggerated, or sugar coated. What I recounted here is reality. And it is a daily reality. Maybe this is your child. Maybe it is a child you know. If so, please be kind to yourself or that other parent. Parenting this kind of child is incredibly challenging, incredibly frustrating, incredibly disheartening. And parents who beat themselves up for losing their temper now and then are really holding themselves to an unrealistic standard that will only leave them disheartened and unnecessarily angry with themselves.

You're human. Give yourself a break. Ignore the kindly advice givers. Do what works and what gets you through the day.

And you know what? He has great days too. And underneath the behaviors that make me want to pound my head against the wall, is a good kid with a kind heart, a great sense of humor, and a keen intellect. The biggest thing I have learned, and the hardest thing to convey to others who must deal with him, is to separate the kid from the behavior. He sometimes has bad behavior. He is not a bad kid.

I hope that helped someone out there. You are not alone.

FOOTNOTE:For those who have asked about the ladder...I cannot take credit for this idea. I got it from Becky Dilley, after watching a news program about them. I was so impressed with her creative and constructive approach to discipline that I decided to try her "ladder" idea. We did adapt it a little bit to our own needs, but the basic principle came from her.

How it works is this....We assign problematic behaviors a space value depending upon their severity. Lying, a biggie, is 4 spaces, for example, while a less consequential offense such as not hanging up jacket and backpack is 1 space. Each segment of the ladder is made up of six spaces, and each segment has privileges. At the top level, the child has all privileges. He moves down based on behavior. When he leaves a level, he loses the privileges associated with it. Computer, television and video game privileges are the first to go, and it goes on down. At the bottom, there are no privileges. Basically all they can do when they are at the bottom or, red, level, is read, draw, and play quietly by themselves.

If the child has not moved down in a given day, he is allowed to move UP two spaces. If they remain at the top for an entire week, they are given a small reward. A trip to get ice cream, a video game rental, meal at their favorite fast food restaurant, etc....

Becky also uses "Dilley Dollars" and while it is a great idea, it proved ineffectual for us and I felt it complicated matters to a degree that I was not motivated to keep up with it. I simplified things to make us more inclined to be consistent and follow through.

Here is a link to her ladder. As I said, ours is a little different, and the wonderful thing about this concept is that it is easily adapted the individual needs of a family.

It has worked well for us when we are CONSISTENT with it.

21 Comments:

  • At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Momish said…

    You have a wonderful attitude and I am sure D.O. benifits from this on a daily basis. My friend has a spirited child and I know how utterly exhausting it can be for her. Everytime I read one of your posts about this, I am just in awe and completely admire your insight and optimism!

     
  • At 3:51 PM, Blogger jen said…

    ah...wonder woman.

    the patience it requires is immense..the humor you write about it with is lovely.

    yet another tool for the basket - of which i am visiting more and more. thanks

     
  • At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Flybunny said…

    This sounds exactly like a conversation with my spirited child. I want to know more about this ladder - was it in the book? I think that is one of the few I haven't read.

    Thanks BA for always making me feel like I am not alone in my world with my spirited child.

     
  • At 5:59 PM, Blogger Mom101 said…

    The more I read of your interactions with your kids and how you handle them, the more impressed I am. I always stop and wonder if I'd behave as thoughtfully or say just the right things in the same situation and I'm not really sure if I would. I learn a lot from you.

     
  • At 6:39 PM, Blogger Natalie said…

    nicely done. as a former spirited child, sometimes we just won't stop no matter what. The laddar seemed like a good one. I used to get send to the bathroom because if I was sent anywhere else I had too much fun playing. Too bad they forgot about tub toys.

     
  • At 6:18 AM, Anonymous Kvetch said…

    I do not have a spirited child but I think that being educated to some different behavior patterns or ways is a great thing. I do have a child who has some spirited tendencies in the form of being very intense, which has bordered on depressed at times. You are educated, you are doing great and you have a firm grasp not only on his arm, when need be, but on the situation. You told his story, and yours, perfectly. I'm sure you will really strike a chord with some readers.

     
  • At 7:27 AM, Blogger CPA Mom said…

    Thanks for addressing this topic (new reader here-I LOVE your blog).

    I went to a 2 hour conference put on locally by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and got both of her books (below) autographed. I'm in the middle of the first one. It's very enlightening - experiencing a lot of AHA moments. Since I haven't finished it, was the ladder idea in there? Can you tell me more about it? I think that will be a great tool for later. My children are 4 and 2 and both are speech delayed with helps oh.so.much.more.

    Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

    Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

     
  • At 7:34 AM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Mom101: PLEASE, don't be impressed! I have plenty of "Because I said so!" days. But he doesn't really accept "Because I said so.", which has forced me to re-examine and redefine my parenting and my perspective. That is why he has taught me so much. I can't be lazy with him as I could my older child, who was very laid back.

    About the ladder for those who have asked...No, the ladder was not in the book. We do use many of the techniques in the book, but the ladder was something I adapted to our needs after seeing it on a Dateline program featuring the Dilly's. I was so impressed with her creative, constructive discipline tactics. I would buy a parenting book by her over Rosemund any day!

    I will ammend the post to include info about the ladder.

     
  • At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Andrea said…

    I've only been reading your blog for a few weeks, and already I've learned a ton from you about parenting. My son's still a toddler, but I'm definitely taking notes for when he gets older. Some days, which I mentioned to Her Bad Mother, my son seems spirited, (like last night) but like you said, all kids display some spirited traits. I know he leaves me utterly exhausted, but there are times when he's not super difficult, so maybe he's just energetic, climbing and running and shouting, but can calm himself if he needs to. I'll be looking into the book recommendation to get hints anyway. Sounds like a good tool for any parent, not just for parents of spirited kids.

     
  • At 11:32 AM, Blogger Her Bad Mother said…

    This is tremendously helpful, BA. Even at barely 11 months old, WonderBaby hints at what you describe (she HAS to figure things out for herself, has to see for herself, has to do it herself.) In addition to being unstoppably turbo-charged.

    Can I can link to this when I pull together my resource page? (Cuz, um, I'm going to.)

     
  • At 7:21 PM, Anonymous jodisattva said…

    When did you steal my child? Your stories always sound to me like Kass-light, and this one takes the "Oh-my-gosh-she's-talking-about-my-kid" cake!

    Honestly, I'm in awe of you and your parenting style. My daughter is 8 and diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and ADHD. I've never really head the term "Spirited Child" and honestly thought you were just using a clever euphamism the first few times I read your blog. I will have to spend some time doing some reading on it (and appropriate parenting responses TO it), as my daughter and I are currently at an impass when it comes to all things behavioral.

    Thank you for your candid honesty - I find that reading your archives immeasurably comforting when I am having a terrible mom moment.

    Keep up the good work and thank you again.

    jodi

     
  • At 7:29 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    HBM: Please feel free to take or link to my blog whatever you find useful. However, there are those out there who are FAR more knowledgeable than me about the issue.

    Jodi: The possibility of Asperger's has been discussed in regard to my son, so I bet they do have similar issues. If something I have said has made a difference to you, I am sincerely glad.

    Please don't be in awe of me though. I'm a bumbling fool just trying to make sense of this amazingly complex kid that I was given. There are days when Joan Crawford would look like Mother Theresa in comparison to me!

     
  • At 8:40 PM, Blogger crazymumma said…

    No way! This can't be your story...were you behind us in the supermarket? Cause it sure sounds like the conversations I have with my girls.

    Great post, I am going to be channelling some of you when we next go on an outing. Damn they can bring us to our knees aye?

     
  • At 11:05 PM, Anonymous slackermommy said…

    I have had similar situations with my spirited eight year old. Like you we joke that she is going to be a lawyer or senator when she grows up. She is very persistent and tries to negotiate everything her way which has led me to losing my cool with her. Often my blowing up at her leads to great communication between us. I apologize for yelling, she apologizes back and then we discuss what happened and how to avoid it in the future. It is very difficult for her to control some of her behaviors. Once she broke down because she felt like something is wrong with her brain that makes her misbehave. It broke my heart.

    Raising Your Spirited Child has also been a great resource for us. Consistency is key with these kids. Thanks for the ladder info. I'm going to give it a try.

     
  • At 9:00 AM, Blogger Karyn said…

    Too bad you live so far from me - it sounds like J. & Diminutive One would have loads in common. Loads.

    Originally, I thought he was merely "Spirited" but turns out he has Asperger's Syndrome which carries the Spirited traits with it. The 2 year old really IS spirited and I can't tell you how reassuring and relieving and generally wonderful it is to read a post like this reminding me that It's Not Just Me.

    Thanks. And I LOVE the ladder thing. Totally going to get this book. Totally. Right now I'm reading Freaks, Geeks & Asperger Syndrome, but this one is next.

     
  • At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Tina said…

    That's spirited? I thought that was NORMAL for an eight year old boy!? lol...well then, apparently I have TWO spirited children. Lovely, lol.

    My daughter, the one I all along thought was spirted, wow...now she's a trip. Non stop, go go go...has brought me to tears with her playing in her poo and smearing it everywhere, ripping wallpaper, peeling paint off of the wall, eating any lil thing off of the floor, persistence, yelling constantly about anything good...bad...or neutral, lol...oh man, the list is endless. Nothing seems to phase her, no form of punishment deters her, a constant battle of wills and frankly she has more energy, lol, but persistence is now my first name...Point being, I need that BOOK! I ordered it off of ebay when I saw your comment on the other blog and am currently awaiting it's arrival, thank you! :o)

     
  • At 1:57 AM, Blogger margalit said…

    I have 14 year old twins. Both of them are spirited, one is HIGHLY HUGELY RIDICULOUSLY spirited. I starting using the Raising your Spirited Child when they were three, and my kids were SOOOOO more. More about everything. The kids people looked at in shock in the grocery store. The kids that screamed like banshees. The kids that never wound down. The funny thing is, I was on a listserve for several years with other parents of spirited kids, all about the same age as mine. We had met on a Usenet newsgroup.

    As the kids got older, one by one they were tested for giftedness and neurological issues. Of the 17 kids on the list, every fricking one of them was either gifted, gifted/LD, or had a neuro issue. The neuro issues ranged from ADHD to SIDs to bipolar to Aspergers. 5 of the kids were profoundly gifted (IQ's over 180) including my VERY spirited son.

    The dialog about the quarter is my life. My son is exactly like this, persistant to the point of insanity. We use a different system of consequences, but similar in punishment. Loss of video games, guitar, tv, computer. Sometimes he just cannot stop. For people who don't have kids like this, they just do not get it. I say he's gonna make a great scientist because once he gets an idea into his head, he will not ever let it go. Tonight he was acting up and I took away his fruit cobbler. He begged for it for at least a half hour before I just couldn't take it anymore and poured it down the disposal.

    I say shut up too. And a lot worse.

    Just so you know you're not alone. :-)

     
  • At 2:14 AM, Blogger Karyn said…

    "The dialog about the quarter is my life."

    I couldn't have found a better way to say it. Thanks, you.

     
  • At 12:14 PM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    That is an amazing tool. Thanks for the link!

     
  • At 1:25 PM, Anonymous mothergoosemouse said…

    Thanks for your honesty; I lose my shit in a similar manner at times. Frankly I think you handle yourself and your children admirably, which is another reason I love reading about your interactions with them.

     
  • At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Sandy said…

    OMG this is one of my kids... It has to be! Thanks for sharing and providing links back to further information. Off to read...

     

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