Ignoring a neglected child is total crap.

So I talked recently about my son's behavior disorder, and how it's diagnosis has changed the way I look at our relationship. So how exactly does one discipline a child with such a disorder? A child who has no interest in avoiding natural consequences, staying out of trouble or pleasing authority figures?

The short answer is I don't really know. There are a lot of theories, and some of them work quite well for other people. We've tried lots of different techniques from ignoring attention seeking behavior to prevention with a sensory diet. Neither were particularly successful.

So I was reading last week about what happens to a child's neural development when he fails to attach to a primary care giver as an infant and I had an "ah ha" kind of a moment. Over the last 10 months little Max has been desperately seeking opportunities to bond and attach with me as his mother, and there are times that he's been so desperate for attachment time that he'll do just about whatever it takes in order to get it. Like throwing monsterous 2 hour temper tantrums because he wants to be put in a safe hold and doesn't know how to communicate that information with me.

So the million dollar question is, if he really really wants to be held securely by his mommy, why am I using that as punishment instead of to my advantage?

That question has completely revolutionized the way I respond to my child. I had to completely throw out all my notions about how to work with Max as a difficult child. All the training I've received, all the doctors and other professionals that have advised me to ignore him were wrong. Ignoring him is what is causing the problems. He's a neglected child. He knows how to escalate his behavior to get the attention he's craving. My ignoring him has just been adding fuel to his little fire. I feel like such a dunce.

So we have a completely new tactic in dealing with his behavior. As soon as the attention seeking behavior starts I go and pick him up. Then I carry him around like a toddler until he quiets down. If while I'm carrying him around he is aggressive towards me in any way he can sit in a kitchen chair by himself until he's ready to be held again.

Works. Like. A. Charm.


accidentaldevotional said...

I think that this past week my attitude toward our God has been exactly what you are talking about with sweet Max. I have been screaming and crying and telling God I am mad that he is doing this or that. Today I have been calling out "hold me!" and he is. And that is what I need.

Susan White said...

Das whut I been asayin' Glad you are reading up on the neural development. If they lived in chaos, needs not being met, then that is what seems normal. and they seek it out to feel normal because no matter how calm you work to make it, they cannot trust it until they learn a new normal.

Anonymous said...

I'm not up on all of the things going on in your relationship with Max. I feel like sharing what has worked for us. You can take it or leave it. It sounds like Max is lucky to have a mom so willing to search for solutions and find what works best for him. It's hard to be flexible and open to new approaches. Kudos. I'm a bit long winded, so apologies in advance. I have a daughter, age 4.5 now (home at 2.5). We've had our moments. I discovered pretty early that time-outs are not effective. Things escalated into chaos pretty quickly. I do time-ins. I work hard on not talking things over and over either. I find a lot of brief, practical advice at ahaparenting.com She's all about connecting with your child. The more connected the child feels the more desire they have to cooperate. As you've discovered first hand with your 'attachment homeschooling'. I've found that more active play is helpful too. I notice a direct relationship between being tired and hungry and misbehavior. If I remember to keep her fed and rested (in addition to our bonding time), we're all much happier. I've also read something about 'singing' and 'music' for bonding -- remember he missed a lot of that in his early development -- and I do this with Ella. If she's completely out of control (she's a screamer too), I remove her from the situation (we go to her room together). I hold her if she allows it or I sit near her. I don't talk to her, but I'll start singing (not even directly to her). And she starts to calm herself pretty quickly. I sometimes 'sing' what I want to say to her too 'Mama's here and all is well. I see you're mad and that's OK, but we don't hit to get our way...' You get the point. I usually ask "what can I do to help you? Sing more, rock you, read a book?" Stuff like that. At first, of course, she didn't know what to make of it, but as time went on she learned to work with me and learned to get more self control. Things got better. She just wants to be heard and understood. And, of course, have her needs met. I play a lot of silly games or use silly voices to distract her or engage her in what we are doing. I involve her in all household activities -- cleaning, cooking, laundry -- we call it 'family contributions' and we are a 'team'. She loves to play on my iPhone -- youtube cartoons and games -- I have to watch how much time she spends on there because if she's on too long, she can be pretty whiny and uncooperative. Again, active play works much better for us both. It pains me a bit as I'm an online addict too. But better behavior is a much better for both of us.


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