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Taking Control

We’ve come to realize that almost all of the recent craziness stems from our son’s obsessive need to control every piece of his own life.

Unfortunately, he’s too young.

We give him as much control as possible, whenever possible. Even when there isn’t technically a choice (as in, “get ready for bed”), he decides the order of operation.

He always chooses his own clothes (although I sometimes send him back with the directive “pick something that can be seen in public” when he tries to don a dirty, worn t-shirt for a trip to our favorite coffee shop, or to wear torn jeans to church).

“But these are my holey jeans. HOLY jeans.”

Sorry, no.

His in-home counselor (yep, she’s here about 10 hours a week) asked him what he wanted to control.

“What I eat” was at the top of the list.

This utterly confused me.

He orders his own food at restaurants off the kids’ menu. He makes his sandwich for lunch any way he likes. He chooses what to eat for breakfast. After he made his “what I want to control” list, I handed him a list of available food and gave him the opportunity to plan what the whole family would eat for a week.

He didn’t complete it, because…

What he really wants is to eat whatever he wants whenever he wants without anyone telling him “no.”

A few weeks ago, Hubby and I confronted him about his habit of taking or doing whatever he wanted without asking. He told us the reason he does this is his aversion to hearing the word

NO.

“If I don’t ask, you can’t say no.”

He’d prefer to experience a major consequence after the fact rather than hear “no.”

Being one of those individuals who tends to ask for forgiveness instead of permission, I understand a little. However, when I use this strategy, I’m looking for the quickest route to what I need, not for a reprimand. If there’s even a chance of a consequence, I check first. This kid just doesn’t care.

He’d also rather lie than tell the truth.

We’re not big on spanking, but sometimes, let’s be honest, we’re in a hurry and there isn’t latitude for a long discussion.

Right now, things are pretty crazy thanks to a move and an eviction (not our own, thank goodness; we kept our first little house as a rental and ended up with some tenants who were unbelievably inept at paying rent). On top of everything, Hubby ended up having a work trip the week of the move, so we decided to move everything a week early.

During the “quick, let’s get the stuff moved” effort, around 10 pm and on the third trip taking trailer loads to the new house, Hubby and I walked toward the truck and heard a banging noise. Really sounded like something hitting the side of my truck (yes, I drive a truck and no, I’m not a hillbilly).

We got to the other side of the truck in about 15 seconds. The boy was sitting, angel-like, in the back seat of the truck.

Hubby:  What was that?

Boy (smirking): What was what?

Hubby: The noise.

(Knowing his propensity for word games, we provide a minimum of information in our questioning, as he considers saying “no” to “did you take a cookie?” to be completely honest if the question we should have asked is, “did you take THREE cookies?”)

Boy (more smirking): I didn’t hear anything.

Hubby: I’m sure you heard it. Mama and I heard banging.

Boy: Maybe it was the hose?

Hubby: The hose?

Boy: Yes. You know…sometimes it bangs on things. Were you near the hose?

Hubby: *eyes narrow*

Me: The hose did not make the sound.

Boy: Oh, the banging sound…I think it came from over there. (Motions vaguely off behind the truck.)

Hubby: We don’t have time for games. It’s two hours to midnight and we’ve got two more loads to go. We’re exhausted. Just tell us. What were you banging on?

Boy: I wasn’t banging on anything.  (Emphasis on “banging” indicated we were involuntary participants in the Word Games game show, and the boy was our host.)

Hubby: Okay. I will count to ten. Tell me what made the noise, or I will spank you.

For those of you who gasp at corporal punishment, let me tell you…these spanks are not abuse; they’re few and far between and are just a swat on the behind. Maybe because they’re rare, immediately afterward he often acts as though we’ve pushed a reset button on his Behavioral Operating System, which was Hubby’s intended result. Honestly, I wonder sometimes if we should spank more often. My brother participated in at least one good spank session a day for years, and he’s turned out to be a fairly cool dude…but I digress.  

Hubby counted to ten, then popped him on the behind. The reset button was apparently not working that night, as the boy continued to smirk.

And then began to wail as though we’d thrashed him.

This kid has perfected the art of crying on command (the kind of cry that sounds like he’s broken a bone) and can turn it on and off at will. He knew the neighbors could hear. He thought we’d back down.

The counselor told us not to make allowances or remove him from a situation for a reprimand. He’ll think we’re too weak to give him a consequence in front of others, which leads to sometimes-uncomfortable scenes (sorry, mom). So, we let him scream.

Hubby suggested that maybe the boy should tell the truth. The boy insisted he had no idea what we meant by “noise.”

Hubby gave him another ten seconds. No dice. He gave another swat.

We went through this SEVEN TIMES.

This kid is determined. So are we. (And to be clear, it’s not about “winning” the argument. If we don’t find resolution to this ongoing battle, this kid is going to grow up into a lying, manipulating adult…and I refuse to do that to my future daughter-in-law.)

Finally, with an immediate and somewhat creepy change in demeanor (from screaming banshee to calm and collected), the boy said, “The noise was me. I was banging my shoes to get the dirt off.”

Um, what?

Now, to be clear, he never said what he was banging them ON (it sounded like my truck), so in his mind he was still in control of that piece of the truth, but whatever. At that point, we were so tired, we didn’t have the energy to pursue it.

We asked why he didn’t just say so in the first place.

He shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

This has been an ongoing battle, once again for control.

He is determined to have control of everything, including the truth.

He believes we can’t MAKE him tell the truth.

It’s true. We can’t.

For the last year, we’ve tried everything we can think of to help him realize that telling the truth is best, including giving him NO consequence when he tells the truth about something he’s done.

We started this mind-bending and counter-intuitive technique because he constantly says he lies to stay out of trouble. However, he’s only in trouble if he lies, so this reason no longer makes sense.

Literally. NO consequence.

(Of course, if he did something really awful, we’d have to make an exception, but we’ve stuck with this so far.)

Me: “Did you eat the entire package of cookies and stuff the trash behind the refrigerator?”

Boy: “Yep.”

Me: “Since you told the truth, I won’t give you a consequence. However, don’t do it again.”

Ridiculous? You bet.

And yet.

He STILL lies compulsively about almost everything.

This year has been exhausting on both mental and emotional planes. We spend hours every day trying to train character.

Popular parenting advice says, “pick your battles!” but popular parenting doesn’t have this kid. We can’t pick battles, because if he wins one, he’s twenty times worse the next time.

Counselors say, “give control of everything you can!” and so we have. But for him, it’s not good enough until he can do ANYTHING he wants. I’m not even kidding; this is an open conversation we have at regular intervals, and he consistently states he does not want anyone else telling him what to do AT ALL.

Recently, he’s upped the ante; he wants to control where he lives and WHETHER he lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suicide Rates are Higher in Autistic Adults.

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Photo Credit: Helen Harrop, Suicide Survivor

One of my blogging buddies wrote the article below. When I wrote my Suicide post, she mentioned that the original title could be misinterpreted by adults on the Autism spectrum. I reworked a couple areas of the post for clarity, then asked if she’d be willing to write a piece about suicide and Autism.

If you’ve been reading Hypervigilant for a while, you know I have strong feelings about the need to understand those with Autism. Her writing definitely supports that goal. Every sentence of this post is worth your time. And if you don’t already follow her blog, you should. She’s phenomenal.

**********

Another blogger asked me to write this. After a misunderstood blog post title apeared that they posted. With all the noise about vaccines and Autism in children, a very serious matter is being over…

Source: Suicide rates higher is Autistic adults.

Suicide is Not a Solution

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credit: steve hanna

 

He is eight years old. Skinny and awkward and adorable. We sit at the kitchen table, coloring.

His dad is one of my favorite college professors, fascinating and intelligent. His mom is the woman everyone in the girls’ dorm wants to be when we grow up: wise, soft-spoken, graceful.

Sometimes I babysit. Today, I dropped by to see his mother and play with my little buddy.

“Draw Toby again,” he pleads.

Toby, the multicolored, furry creature I created just for him. Toby is talented, musical, always smiling. Also, he has a chronic habit of leaving his high-top sneakers untied.

I pick up a marker and begin to draw.

***

He is nine years old. We sprawl on the floor, watching monochromatic terror and insanity crescendo on the screen. The original Frankenstein. I listen for his little sister, napping in the next room.

I am a little shocked that this movie, his favorite, will not give him nightmares. Pretty sure I’ll have one.

I glance at him as the monster comes to life.

His smile is wider than the sun and twice as bright.

***

He is ten.

I sit in the Florida autumn sun, absorbed in test preparation. I ignore the tiny berries sailing by my head.

Sauntering past my chair, he tosses my notebook into the bushes and takes off running.

He’s fast, but I’m still faster.

I catch up and toss him over my shoulder.

I carry him toward the pond, fabled to be frequented by a large alligator. He screams with laughter, pleading for his life. I agree to give him one more chance.

***

He is eleven.

He rides a large pony. I walk with him, showing him how to keep heels down, how to communicate gently through the reins.

He’s brilliant.

I grin at his parents, thrilled with his quick success.

I snap a picture of his adorable little sister sitting on a Shetland.

***

The family moves out West. I leave Florida. My life moves on, as does theirs. Other than intermittent communication, we lose touch.

The picture of his sister remains on my dresser through grad school and three moves. I love those two kids with all my heart. The distance devastates me.

***

He is twenty-something. He writes a beautiful letter, thanking me for the time I spent with him during his childhood. He writes about Toby. I had forgotten.

We lose touch again, until he mails a picture. He’s married a beautiful girl.

I am happy, so happy for my boy.

***

He is thirty.

I read his sister’s message, stunned.

Depression.

He’s gone.

None of us knew how deeply he was hurting.

We are so thankful that he trusted in Jesus to give him eternal life, and now he isn’t hurting anymore.

-S

***

We never saw this coming. I’m heartbroken.

***

I imagine his parents’ devastation. His family’s deep loss. They were close. Having practically lived with them for several years, I can vouch his parents were some of the best in the business. Not perfect, of course, but amazing. And still, this unexpected tragedy.

Once, I heard a slogan, something along the lines of “Suicide is Not the Solution!” Unfortunately, for many teens and young adults seems to be a solution. And in some cases, the solution.

They think it’s the final solution to a life too overwhelming to comprehend, too hopeless to navigate.

Over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year and there are many more who attempt suicide. Hence, many millions of people are affected or experience suicide bereavement every year. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally in 2012.

-World Health Organization (bold mine)

http://www.who.int/mental_health/

And I think of our two children, with their insane start to life. The neglect, abuse and resulting depression they’ve both experienced. Hubby and I were naive and fully untrained when they arrived. We made tons of mistakes. We still do. Although we do our best to learn and grow, both of us are far from perfect.

Children who’ve survived the foster care system are at even higher risk for suicide.

• Adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly two and a half times more likely to seriously consider suicide than other youth (Pilowsky & Wu, 2006).
• Adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly four times more likely to have attempted suicide than other youth (Pilowsky & Wu, 2006).
• Experiencing childhood abuse or trauma increased the risk of attempted suicide 2- to 5-fold (Dube et al., 2001).
• Among 8-year-olds who were maltreated or at risk for maltreatment, nearly 10% reported wanting to kill themselves (Thompson, 2005).
• Adverse childhood experiences play a major role in suicide attempts. One study found that approximately two thirds of suicide attempts may be attributable to abusive or traumatic childhood experiences (Dube et al., 2001).

-Helen Ramaglia, Suicide and the Foster Child

https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/

If this tragedy can happen in my friends’ family, it can happen to anyone. There’s no way to guarantee our world’s children will discount this solution, be willing to consider other avenues, when it seems so easy to simply fall asleep. Forever.

I’ve experienced depression. Desperation. Futility. Bleak future. No chance things will improve. No way out.

One way out, it seems.

There is no single cause to suicide. It most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition.

– American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

http://afsp.org/about-suicide/

And just as someone who is depressed may believe the untruth that suicide is the only door to relief, we have some myths of our own.

Common Misconceptions

The following are common misconceptions about suicide:

“People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.”

Not True. Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “you’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

“Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.”

Not True. Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They may be upset, grief-stricken,depressed or despairing. Extreme distress and emotional pain are always signs of mental illness but are not signs of psychosis.

“If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop him/her.”

Not True. Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and most waiver until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to end their pain. Most suicidal people do not want to die; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

“People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.”

Not True. Studies of adult suicide victims have shown that more then half had sought medical help within six month before their deaths and a majority had seen a medical professional within 1 month of their death.

“Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”

Not True. You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

-Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)

http://www.save.org

That last point is important. Ignoring the problem or the symptoms will not “make it go away.” We have to talk about it. We must. Below are suggestions for beginning the conversation.

Ways to start a conversation about suicide:

  • I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
  • Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
  • I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.

Questions you can ask:

  • When did you begin feeling like this?
  • Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
  • How can I best support you right now?
  • Have you thought about getting help?

What you can say that helps:

  • You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
  • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
  • When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.

Preventing Suicide, Helpguide

http://www.helpguide.org

 

In my deepest depression as a teen, suicide crossed my mind. It never became an option because I had too many nosy adults in my life. And that was a great thing.

In the minds of the hopeless, suicide seems to be a solution. We need to help them see that although suicide may appear to end the problem, it doesn’t solve anything.

Be the nosy adult,

especially if you’re in the life of a child who has been in the foster system or experienced some kind of abuse.

Kids are dying for someone to care. Literally.

***

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or visit their website: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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