20,000 cuts to the heart

May 7, 2018

 

 

 20,000 negative comments.

I recently saw a quote that said that children with ADHD will have 20,000 more negative comments aimed at them, than a neuro typical peer by the time they’re 12. I read it, tried to dismiss it… then just shook my head and knew it was true.

You can insert autistic, developmentally delayed, high spirited, or any number of other words where ADHD is.

20,000 (more) negative comments. I saw my children. I saw myself in it. Ours is a world where nothing is “ready, set, go.” We live in a world so distracted that I have to remind my children how to breathe, how to walk. Toe walking is common in Autism and other sensory disorders. I have spent the last seven years of my life singing little songs, “heel, toe, heel toe, boom boom heels!” to various melodies. I have a child that will get so distracted while eating that the food will fall from their mouth. When a child gets so distracted doing activities they like, you can only imagine what happens when it comes to “non-preferred activities.”

“Non-preferred activities” can be classified as eating anything besides potato chips or chocolate, or going to Disneyland and having screen time.  

“Non-preferred activities = life.”

 

I have to constantly redirect. It is exhausting. It is emotionally and mentally draining. It is soul sucking, and at the same time you want to scream, and cry, and give up, you have to go on. They say that for children to be emotionally healthy, they need to hear five positive messages for every critical one. How do I do what I need to? How do I keep my children safe without ruining their self-worth? How do I do it and stay sane? (I’m not claiming a high level of sanity by the way. All I’m claiming is the men in white coats haven’t shown up yet.)

I’m not going to go into all of my coping skills, but one thing that I like to do is use charts.

Charts

Take the “you versus the child” out of the situation. Make a chart for any darn reason.  We have church charts, school charts, cleaning charts, summer charts, eating charts... For my kids who can’t read, I use picture charts.


I like to have a box next to each step that my child can check off. This gives them a sense of accomplishment when they do it, and aware of what else needs to be done


If it is a daily struggle to get out of the door, (it is) break it down into the steps needed for it to happen. This probably seems very basic, and it really is, but it can change the dynamic of getting things done.

If I come out of my room and see my child watching cartoons without permission, (it happens…) I can say, “Oh, let’s look at your chart, did you get it all done?” instead of “Stop watching TV, you’re not even dressed!”

There will usually be a groan, and some mumbling, but it isn’t mom vs. child, it’s a chart that needs to be checked off. I can calmly show them the chart and ask them to let me know when we can put a check, smiley face, or heart in the box.

“Mom, can I play the Wii?”
“Is your chart filled out?”

When I’m taking deep breaths and want to yell, “For the tenth time put on your freaking socks!” I can say, “Oh, it looks like the chart says you still need to get your socks!”

A chart can work as a visual schedule. It gives boundaries. It is a measurement of their success. It is also a pain in the butt to make a bunch of charts, but it is worth it for me in the end. I have a laminator that I love, because that way we can reuse the same ones over and over again.

There was plenty of pushback when I first started using them. When I get lazy and don’t use them the stress level in the home goes up. Having a chart tends to keep me from reacting, and more on the positive, directing side of things. There are stages in any child’s development where you will be co-living their life with them. Some kids don’t need that help for as long as other, but taking the, me vs. them out of it and becoming a “team” working together to get their charts crossed off has really helped our family.

20,000 more negative messages by the age of 12.

This is so, sobering. I consider myself a kind person, but when I think about my tone and words, there is so much room for improvement. The redirection and correction of behavior has to be there, but I can choose if it is constructive, or destructive.

A couple weeks ago I was having a rough day. My chronic health problems were really flaring and I was lying down in bed after giving the girls (6 & 3) lunch. My door was open so I could hear them. I’d turned on a cartoon and was hoping for about twenty minutes of rest.

After thirty minutes I went out. It was quiet, too quiet. Catherine (6) was still watching the cartoon, but Maddie (3) was not. My house is childproofed; I wasn’t worried for her safety. There are high latches on all the doors. She couldn’t get out. She wasn’t downstairs.

“Maddie, Maddie! Where are you?”

I heard a muffled sound and followed it into my craft room. I reacted.

“MADDIE! What the heck?! Why would you even do this?!!!”

My voice wasn’t calm, my tone wasn’t soft.

Every surface had been sprayed with a thick layer of leave-in hair conditioner. It had been glittered. Then, it had been smeared with a duster.

Maddie’s eyes welled up with tears, her little body was shaking and she cried out,
“I help you. I clean. I make pretty for you.”

She ran from the room crying. I stood in the room crying.

I quickly wiped off the surfaces that would get ruined if I left the conditioner on them, and ran after Maddie. I sat down with her and we cried together for a little bit. I told her how sorry I was for yelling and scaring her. I told her she needed to ask me before she helped next time. I told her she was a wonderful girl with a big heart. I made a mental note to not forget to lock the craft room door.

20,000 cuts to their self-esteem.

Christian (7) has high functioning autism, ADHD, and an impulse disorder. He is my tender hearted genius, and the most easily distracted mind I’ve ever known. His curiosity about everything drives him to distraction. He feels deep and internalizes everything.

“Mom, I don’t want autism. I want to be a normal boy.”

“I’m the worst. I do everything wrong. I never listen.”

“I want to die.”

These are heartbreaking, gut wrenching phrases that I’ve heard from my angel. I’m crying as I type it out. I have never said those things to him, but I have said many negative and critical things to him. I stop him as soon as I hear something like that. I tell him how wonderful he is. I point out strengths. I show him how much progress he’s made. We talk about the future and how he’s working towards it. One morning that was going sideways, I stopped him and we wrote out a paper together.


It is his mantra now. He has to say it out loud when he wakes up in the morning. We say it together at night, after his lullaby. If he starts saying something negative about himself, I stop him and say, “No, you are Christian. Who is Christian?” Then he will say it with me.

I am Christian.
I am kind.
I am loved.
I am good.
I work hard.
I am worthy.
I move forward.

I think everyone needs a mantra. Everyone needs positive affirmations. The other day I was having my own meltdown. Kasper asked me if I needed a sign like that for me. I said that it was easier to get kids to do it. He wasn’t wrong though.

I’m working on making a sign for all of my kids. They may think that it is lame, or that their mom is weird, but with all the negative darts messages out there, we need as much inner strength as we can have.

 

 



 

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