You bring your child into your family and your dream is for a kind of Waltons or Brady Bunch kind of scenario. Happy children, laughing and playing together. Time for bed…..Yes okay mummy, shall I help you with the dishes before I go?
Yeh whatever. Hmmm, not likely.
Instead what you have to tolerate in your home is rudeness, opposition and belligerence.
Why? Where did you go wrong? What did you do to deserve this? You would never have spoken to your parents in this way…
I think there are three elements to this:
1. Our children are exposed more than any generation to adult themes, social media and online gaming. These have conspired to give our children vocabulary and behaviours that often are beyond their years.
2. Your child may be reacting in usual teenage behaviour. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish what is part of his neurological condition and what is usual angst for any teenager. I really recommend to read ‘Get Out My Life…But First Take Me and Alex Into Town’ which is a no nonsense book what it’s like to live with a teenager and why their behaviour suddenly becomes unrecognisable.
3. The third reason why I think our children are rude, is that they are unhappy and trying to communicate to us that they need help with something….
So it is this final reason that I am focussing on.
All behaviour is communication. What is your child trying to say when they are rude, disgusting and aggressive? Should you ignore or punish?
Let’s take particular scenarios:
These are shiny new objects that hold wonder, excitement and hours of pleasure for your child. You are the wicked goblin who is entering the world to destroy the fun.
It is bloody difficult to get your child off their phone, tablet, x-box. The genie is out the bottle and we cannot go back. So how on earth do we negotiate, so that screens are not in the way of everything else.
Get off your phone! will only be met with rudeness and opposition.
I think the key is to give your child an opportunity to decide how long, how often and where they are on their screen. Agree together what is reasonable. Sign a contract. Put in sanctions and rewards if you think that will help. Keep lines of communication open so that you have conversations about keeping safe online, appropriate behaviour and online bullying.
Give visual time warnings so that your child can see how long they have left. Play a computer game with your child so you know the language and why your child is enticed.
Technology is part of your day but when it’s time to switch off, be a good role model and switch off too. Put your phone in a drawer and play a game, help with homework, make up silly things to do together – anything to have fun and engage.
You ask your child to do their homework. And the answer is no, you can’t make me, I’m not doing it f*** off!
Your child is right. You cannot force him or make him.
The answer is to find out why he is reluctant. Is is too hard? He may need routine, structure, support. Does he need help with homework, a clear space with no distractions. Help to actually make a start, less instructions on a page. Sit nearby and read a magazine so you’re available.
Maybe something motivating to do together when it’s finished. Have a set time that homework is done. After a run and a snack and before he starts on x-box.
Remember, for primary school homework should be about 20 mins work consolidating or practicing what he’s done at school. It shouldn’t be something he hasn’t finished at school nor should it be you teaching. It’s not part of the National Curriculum so if you don’t think it’s suitable and causing stress, stop, don’t do it and write a note to teacher to explain why.
The bane of many of our lives. This simple routine that should be full of special bonding time, but instead could be hours spent screaming, avoidance, shouting, threatening and rudeness.
My advice would be to decide on a routine with your child. If you make him part of the decision process he’ll be more likely to stick to the plan.
An hour before bed, switch off all screens. Use that time to start to relax and chill down. Maybe together have a set game or activity you do together. Listen to any concerns he may have and take them seriously. Find out what he wants you to do about it. Get him to offer solutions so he feels in control.
Then bathtime, listen to an audio book, calm music, low lights, story, puppets, share a favourite story. Listen to a meditation app. Cuddle and stroke with a soft brush. Give your child your time. Getting out of bed and demanding things is just him demanding your attention. So if you give plenty of opportunities before bed (with promises of more tomorrow) then this shouldn’t be an issue.
HELP AROUND THE HOUSE
Again decide together reasonable jobs your child can help with. It may help to have these written or drawn on a list or a whiteboard to act as reminders. Don’t ask him to empty the bins when he’s in the middle of watching something on Youtube because you’ll get defiance. Choose your moments or have a set time or routine. You can reward if you think this would help – although personally I feel reward of hugs and smiles and calm household may be enough. But you know what motivates your child best.
We have to be so careful with siblings. Although your child may have additional needs you will need to mindful of how the siblings feel. Often there are feelings of unfairness and that you treat them differently. Well actually yes. We have to treat them differently. Just as if your child was in a wheelchair you would need to make certain concessions and adaptations. That is not to say you ignore the siblings or don’t give them a deserved amount of attention and focus. They can feel left out and unnoticed. So put dates in the diary, spend quality time and make time to listen and hear what the siblings are saying.
Finally, be the parent your child needs. Not the parent you think you ought to be.
Hope that helps. Let me know how you get on.
Join me on Saturday 3rd November at 9.30am in Hertfordshire for a morning of impassioned learning, understanding and to completely rethink ADHD.