Author Topic: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?  (Read 3515 times)

milliemchi

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Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« on: February 17, 2018, 11:54:34 PM »
My 12-year (girl) old is wearing me down. I have my own issues to deal with, I take medication, need regular sleep, and a stress-free life to be well. I was doing great until the drama started. I know it's just the age, and the hormones, and the stress at school, etc. I could just put my foot down and send her to her room at 10pm and not care, but she seems to have some struggles of her own, and I feel responsibility for guiding her through her own feelings, and make things a bit easier for her than they were for me.  School is hard, and I feel that there may be some ADD involved (she's seeing a doctor in two weeks), so I have compassion. I don't take her abuse personally, even when I'm told that she doesn't consider me her parent (she apologizes when she calms down), but it still hurts and is still stressful enough that I can't sleep from the adrenaline. It's now 1am and I haven't even started getting ready for bed, the sheets are not on the bed either (laundry day). So it will likely be no shower tonight and sleeping on an unmade bed, and I hate that. My usual bedtime is ~11pm, but she stretches the fighting forever, even when I don'r respond, and then it takes even longer to calm down and re-establish the fact that we love each other despite all the drama. This is having a bad effect on my health, and my work, but if I draw some lines that are reasonable for me, she could end up with a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering, for years to come, and I'm not willing (yet) to throw her and/or our relationship under the bus. Also, I will not be able to help in that case because she won't be getting support from me, and IMO a have a lot of helpul stuff to share. Also, I don't think a 12-year old can be fully responsible for the consequences of her actions, so I can't just punt the responsibility to her.

The details are not important, I am not asking for advice here, but for stories and experiences from people who have been in a similar situation. Did you put your own mask first? What were the consequences? Did you not? What happened? I just need some perspective.

Thanks
« Last Edit: February 18, 2018, 12:00:32 AM by milliemchi »

Plugging Along

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2018, 08:56:14 AM »
I also have a 12 year girl, and another 9 year old.   I can tell you the girl drama is awful.  My oldest and I were arguing ALOT last November.  I have found a recommended booked called ĎUntangled, Guiding teenage girls through the seven transitions in to adulthoodí by Lisa Damour.

I have found it helpful as does explain what is normal and when to get more help.  Itís been a good perspective as it has been helping me figure out what I am doing to add to the situation.

pdxbator

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2018, 09:24:42 AM »
I'm a middle child, my sister is 2 years older, my brother 2 years younger. From growing up I recall pretty much horrible years from my sister being 13 till she finally moved out for college. They were so stressful for the whole family. It was actually a huge relief when she finally went away. Now she's fine of course. She has 3 children. A boy and twin girls. This shall be interesting! The funniest thing is when the family brings up the years that were always so much drama for her she doesn't think it was that bad. The whole family will reminisce about just how awful it was.

Best of luck!

lhamo

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2018, 09:33:55 AM »
My DD is 13 and luckily so far (knock wood) we haven't had to deal with much drama.   She mostly gets into it with her dad, who has a very different personality than me, and I mostly try to let them work through their own issues.

Can you just pre-empt the late night fighting by saying something to the effect of "I'm sorry you're upset.  Regardless of our differences, I love you very much and I hope we can learn to understand each other better.   I'm concerned that if we keep going in this way we are both going to end up extremely agitated and it will effect our sleep, which is unhealthy for both of us.  I am open to hearing what you have to say, but would prefer to discuss this again after we both have had a chance to cool down and get some rest."   Essentially offer a healthier re-direct of the situation and cut off the pattern of late-night outbursts (which may themselves be linked to both of you being over tired).


SilveradoBojangles

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2018, 09:43:46 AM »
You might consider putting your foot down on the late night fighting. She's tired and irrational, and you're tired, and that is the worst time to have those big feelings-fueled drama sessions. You might consider (when she's in a calm state and relatively good mood) asking her to help you come up with a strategy that can help you two communicate. Say something like, "I know we've been fighting a lot, and sometimes it goes late into the night, and I'm not my best self at that time of day. And the adrenaline then makes it hard for me to wind down, so then I'm tired the next day, which makes it hard for me to have a good day and make good choices. How have you felt about it? Have you noticed anything similar? What can we do to change that?" Essentially, brainstorm/guide her to agreeing to have a pause button on the fights. You can pick them up the next day. Of course, in the moment, she'll be all riled up and not want to stop, but you can remind her about what you two agreed to, and then use the lovely script lhamo gave you to shut it down.

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2018, 09:56:14 AM »
...I am not asking for advice here, but for stories and experiences from people who have been in a similar situation. Did you put your own mask first? What were the consequences? Did you not? What happened? I just need some perspective.

God, yes. My kid is very mellow most of the time, but when he's not, he's wildly dramatic. 12 was one of the two hardest years in parenting for me. I also parent 24/7, with no support. HHAHAHAAHAHAHHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHA

Oxygen mask? Hell yes. Because otherwise we'd be dead or something by now.
My oxygen mask looks like this:

1. Unless exceptional circumstance (e.g., vomiting with flu), no contact 9pm to 8am. Otherwise he will visit and chat throughout the night. I need a break. After nine he reads or listens to his meditation for 1-4 hours before falling asleep.

2. My rec activities (singing, math, etc). I have no child care, and for different reasons, he can't always stay home alone, so he has to come. He reads nearby. These are the equivalent of nutrition to me. Because I had to miss several this past week, I told him last night we'll be going to one today. He doesn't love that, but I remind him it's so I can "refill my bucket."

3. Counselling for me. Sometimes it's 1x week, sometimes none for a few months. But if I need it, I book it and go. It's not for us, it's not for him, it's not about him. It's counselling for me, so I can be restored and guided and replenished.

4. Scheduling. I will take him to x number of rec things in a week. If Group Y adds an activity one week, and he chooses that, we skip something else.

5. A coffee shop. I consider this a sanity cost, not luxury. Sometimes I just take my math or books to a coffee shop solo, and just breathe and look at adults. If my kid isn't regulated enough at that time to be home solo, I put him in the community swimming pool and do likewise. (The pool also happens to regulate him, so this is way effective.)

6. Once in a blue moon (a.k.a. last weekend!) I say screw everything and we go on a nice trip. We go somewhere we'll be with other people, I can take my vigilance down a notch, he's happy and peaceful because he's with people and doing novel things.

The results? All of this makes my life -and his life- way better.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2018, 11:07:27 AM by jooniFLORisploo »

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2018, 10:07:37 AM »
...but if I draw some lines that are reasonable for me, she could end up with a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering, for years to come...

I'm curious about this piece. I don't want to ask you to share details you don't want to (so I won't). But I want to say that generally, when we set reasonable boundaries, a number of counterintuitive things happen:

1. The child (first has a fit then) feels calmer and safer.

2. The child gets more of what she needs (e.g., sleep, nutrition).

3. The child's long term ends up better, because she learned with her parent how to notice and respect boundaries. This means much better relationships overall, short term and long term.

4. The child learns some critical self-reliance. i.e., Starts practicing things like self-soothing instead of a fight response to stress.

Around boundary-setting there are some great resources:

1. Parenting books - Several turned my world around when my kid when through his experience of Age 12. I just read them, did what they said, and so much changed.

2. Parenting support courses - There are a bunch like Triple P Parenting, other ones around tweens, etc. My community offers four different ones. (Unfortunately, none of them provide child care or even a waiting room, so I can't go. Luckily for me, I went Triple P for kids with disabilities years ago, when I did have child care.)

3. Personal counselling. Support for YOU when you are going through the scary task of learning to set boundaries.

4. Boundaries books and boundaries groups. i.e., Not specific to parenting, but just building up our personal ability to implement these for the wellness of us and those we interact with.

5. Behavioural consultants for kids who are struggling with emotional regulation, etc. They help work out agreements, a family plan, etc.

Cranky

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2018, 01:28:58 PM »
I've raised 3 girls, some of whom were more challenging teens than others, and I teach 7/8 grade in a setting where I'm able to get to know the kids really well over a 2 year period. I know that this is a challenging age to parent.

I do not think that setting reasonable rules is going to scar anyone for life, and I highly recommend that kids are in bed by 9:30, lights out by 10:00 and you have control of their devices. Kids that age need their sleep and very easily don't get enough.

Also, if you are really fighting a lot, family counseling is extremely helpful.

milliemchi

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2018, 05:06:10 PM »
...but if I draw some lines that are reasonable for me, she could end up with a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering, for years to come...
I'm curious about this piece. I don't want to ask you to share details you don't want to (so I won't). But I want to say that generally, when we set reasonable boundaries, a number of counterintuitive things happen:

One issue is that she might flunk out of the good school she is in (where she tested into at the top of the class). We put the foot down on bedtime (10p), and the grades went down considerably, which I didn't actually expect. I expected her to pick up the pace with the homework and stay more or less where she was. She has two Fs now, where she had mostly As when we let her stay up till midnight or worse - unsustainable going into high school and on. We are putting the foot down (limiting homework hours) in order to prepare the ground for addressing the underlying whatever (ADD?), and to get some rest.

The other issue is that I was similarly unmanageable to my parents, and I am afraid that she might have inherited my mood disorder. I was on my own with that, nobody knew anything about it then, and she doesn't need to be. But if we get to the point where she shuts me out, then I'm no help. She's seeing a doctor in a couple of weeks, and is very negative about that, of course.

I will not let her flunk out, if she needs to study late, I will cave in. But, I am tempted to let important grades suffer that count toward high school GPA, and let her suffer with her moods so that I don't suffer with mine (I need to bring the paycheck in, she doesn't). I'm having a guilt trip about that and I'm not clear on how far my responsibility lies, and when it's OK to say "sorry kiddo, it's your life, figure it out like I did".

There's much more going on, as there usually is, and it's very close to being too much. But I want to thank you for sharing stories and advice. I will check the books out, we will all be getting counseling, and I will definitely try the "no arguing after 8p" rule.

Please keep adding to the conversation if you can.

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2018, 05:27:40 PM »
I think it's awesome that you're getting her assessed. So good! Less so a diagnosis, the other information a skilled, proper assessor can provide can make a world of difference, including to our understanding and patience as the parent.

On that count, I would definitely recommend a full assessment (e.g., neuropsychologist) rather than a doctor's quickie diagnosis. I carry around my son's 13 pages like the lifesaving documents they are.

I'll admit that I'm willing for my kid to flunk out. Hear me out ;)  I was a really good kid with serious, undiagnosed problems that manifested mostly at school. My mom let me flunk out, and I consider that one of the greatest gifts she gave me. I consider it a gift because I couldn't maintain grades while also dealing with basic life (getting food into my body, sleeping a normal amount, navigating social stuff, coping with my symptoms). I could do one or the other. "Success" in school was the least of our concerns -I was really trying to survive. It was such a relief when my mom proposed (yes) that I leave school altogether. I actually said no and stayed for a couple more years, but did ultimately leave early and my life got infinitely better.

The rest of her kids all finished school -some just fine, some with problems severely exacerbated by the effort. Each one's success in life doesn't seem to correlate to how they did in high school.

I'm not saying "just let her flunk out." I'm trying to reassure you that there are other options and paths, ways to navigate life that can ease things now and still result in success. It was teachers that actually set me (in my late teens) on the path of unschooling, based on books by other teachers.

Yes, we definitely need to stay connected with our kids, work hard to understand, and empathize. Really, that was the primary advice of the parenting books I read over the last year that helped us! While I was a good person, no one had time to "understand" me or help me, and that resulted in a lot of shit. It's very much why I prioritize supporting my son in these other ways.

I'll try to remember what those books were that helped me so much. The ones I liked most differentiated between "normal teen angst" and the symptoms of a child with a biological difference affecting their perception, self-regulation, etc. They talked about our guilt, our fears, how to help while supporting the child to develop self-care skills, etc.

milliemchi

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2018, 11:12:59 PM »
I'm not going to let her flunk out of school in 7th grade.  I spoke to her about the doctor's appointment today, and she said she will report me if I "forcefully drug her against her will".  There's no need for flunking though, she just needs help with focusing. She will be seeing the best child psychiatrist I could track down. I just can't deal anymore with every. step. taking. so. much. effort. It's life-sucking. I have my own problems to deal with.

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2018, 11:48:55 PM »
She will be seeing the best child psychiatrist I could track down.

Great! Hopefully she'll refer your DD to the neuropsych.

I just can't deal anymore with every. step. taking. so. much. effort. It's life-sucking.

I know this well! I've had to simplify our lives quite dramatically so that we could keep being alive and well.

Really sorry you're going through this. I know how outrageously hard it is. Things will come around, and you'll find periods of respite along the way.

Hadilly

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2018, 12:44:39 AM »
Sounds tough and you have gotten some good suggestions. I would recommend reading Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child by Robert Mackenzie. Really excellent book. It is transforming our parenting now.

Cranky

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2018, 05:43:49 AM »
She's 12yo. She's not going to flunk 7th grade because you don't let her stay up to midnight to do homework, she's going to flunk because she's decided to fight you on this and sees your weak spot.

Laura33

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2018, 08:21:24 AM »
...but if I draw some lines that are reasonable for me, she could end up with a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering, for years to come...

I'm curious about this piece. I don't want to ask you to share details you don't want to (so I won't). But I want to say that generally, when we set reasonable boundaries, a number of counterintuitive things happen:

1. The child (first has a fit then) feels calmer and safer.

2. The child gets more of what she needs (e.g., sleep, nutrition).

3. The child's long term ends up better, because she learned with her parent how to notice and respect boundaries. This means much better relationships overall, short term and long term.

4. The child learns some critical self-reliance. i.e., Starts practicing things like self-soothing instead of a fight response to stress.

So much this!!

milliemchi, I so know what you are going through -- my DD was sort of ridiculously similar, and at 11.5, there were days I wondered whether she'd live to 12, because I was so ready to throttle her.  It was just exhausting, when every. little. thing. is a battle.

First, you are doing the right thing with the assessment and the doctors.  Hormones at that age are outrageous, especially when you have a kid who tends toward the dramatic, and undiagnosed ADHD basically multiplies those effects.  Getting professional help is the first place to start.

Second, I can tell you from experience that jooniFLORisploo is 100% correct.  When you have one of those sensitive/emotional kids, they feed off the engagement.  You cannot talk to them or reason with them in an argument, because their emotions literally won't let them process and understand (and the fact that part of them knows you're right just pisses them off more). 

I was always an explainer -- I have a knee-jerk hatred of stupid rules, so it was really important for me to make sure my kids understood why the rules were what they are.  But the thing is, in the heat of the moment, all of that talking and negotiating actually makes them feel less secure.  Kids this age are starting to separate themselves from their family, but to do that successfully, they need to know with 100% certainty that home is still there and as solid as ever -- so when they push and test their boundaries, they actually need you to hold firm to make them feel safe.  It's sort of like they are a big rubber band, and you are the post it is attached to -- the more they push away, the more firmly they need you anchored in the ground.  This is where I recommend 1-2-3 Magic, both for that explanation and for the calm, unemotional reaction needed.

So I know it sounds completely counterintuitive, but engaging when they are in that mood is actually worse for the kid than simply enforcing the line and sending her to her room -- when you get emotional, she reads that and it ramps up the intensity; when you engage and don't enforce the boundary, then she feels forced to keep pushing until she finds out where the line really is, and keep pushing and keep pushing until you finally lose it and yell or whatever, and then everything blows up and you both feel stressed and miserable. 

What we did was have a talk in a quiet time, where we laid out the rules, the privileges, and the consequences, based around the things our DD valued.  For ours, it was independence -- she wanted to be recognized as a competent adult more than anything in the world.  So our talk was along the lines of:  you are growing up, and so you deserve more independence.  But with greater freedom comes greater responsibility -- you want to be treated like an adult, you have to act like an adult and do what you need to do without me nagging.  That means managing your homework and keeping your grades up (and for your DD, getting herself in bed at the proper time).  You do that, you can do it your way; but if you miss assignments or the grades drop, then you do it our way. 

And of course the grades dropped -- funny, it is hard to study effectively while listening to music, watching TV, AND texting friends all at the same time.  :-)  So then we just calmly said, ok, you know the deal:  now you can sit at the kitchen table, and we will check your work, and check online to make sure you have submitted everything, etc.  Note:  none of that was angry on our part* -- that was absolutely key.  It was just, well, you had two paths, you chose path B, so I will implement path B.  She, of course, had huge fits over it, but we just ignored all the drama and implemented our rules until the grades went back up -- at which point, she earned the right to do it herself again.  Rinse, repeat, for 3-4 years.

Obviously, yours would be different -- the key is to find whatever matters to her the most, and use that as both a carrot and a stick.  I won't say it was remotely easy -- every year, we'd drop back into the failure cycle, and the arguments, and all that, and I'd think two steps forward, three steps back, will we ever get out of this??  You just have to expect her to cross the lines periodically -- really, that's her job!  But I realized that if I looked over the longer term, every year the crash got a little bit later -- from December, to February, to March, to April, to May, and then finally this past year, no crash at all!  And that got me through -- just seeing that incremental process over the longer term.

Finally, I am sorry.  Those preteen years were incredibly difficult, and the stress of managing a high-strung kid feels like you are living on a powder keg.  And she will blow -- trust me, once you start implementing boundaries, she will escalate (because you gave in before, so she thinks if you push more, you'll do it again).  And she will keep escalating, because she has these overwhelming emotions, and you are the one safe place where she can blow and know you will still love her.  But the thing it took me forever to realize is that sending her to her room and ignoring that sort of crap is helping her, not hurting her!  You are her safety valve; she doesn't actually mean what she says, it's not personal at all -- you're just the pressure relief valve where she dumps all the emotion and anger and frustration and hurt.  So don't feel bad about sending her to her room at XX o'clock, no arguments, no extensions -- no matter how loudly she yells, no matter how many doors she slams, she actually needs you to do that -- it is reassuring to know that as far as she spins out of control, as much as she tries to push you away, you are still her solid anchor.  Think about it this way:  you job is to set the rules, her job is to try to break them -- so when you send her to her room, and she yells and screams, you are actually both doing your jobs very well!  :-)  Her throwing big fits is not a sign of failure, it is what she has to do to work through her overwhelming emotions.  And then, in calmer times, you can help her learn how to self-calm and manage those emotions.

*Don't get me wrong:  I was absolutely livid most of the time!  But I had to learn to react unemotionally to her -- she was looking for the fight, and only by staying calm and refusing to engage could I control the situation.

TrMama

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2018, 01:11:21 PM »
Yes, we definitely need to stay connected with our kids, work hard to understand, and empathize. Really, that was the primary advice of the parenting books I read over the last year that helped us! While I was a good person, no one had time to "understand" me or help me, and that resulted in a lot of shit. It's very much why I prioritize supporting my son in these other ways.

So much this. Empathy is so, so important. Frankly, it probably saved my DD's life. My 11 DD's story is very similar to the others here. DH and I used to parent in a very authoritative manner. "Follow the rules or else!" It was totally the wrong approach. Now that we're much more chill and understanding things are 1000% better.

When she was 9, things got really bad and I finally clued in that she was probably dyslexic and that was why she was so miserable at school. Sent her for a pyschoeducational assessment with a neuropsychologist and it came back with both dyslexia and ADD. Psych Eds also tell you what the person is good at, which is so, so important. Both for the person's self esteem and for helping them learn coping strategies. Like Joon, I refer to DD's report often and frequently summarize it for her teachers and doctors.

We told DD that the testing was to help her (and her parents and teachers) figure out what exactly she was having trouble with and what things she was great at so we could all work together to make her life better. I also took her to her favorite restaurant for lunch during her lunch break on testing day. I'm not above using food as motivation ;-) Whenever we try a new program, or a different med, it's always with the express intent to make DD's life better. We explain why we want to try X and get her buy in. We never force her to do anything and she always has a say in what's going on in her life.

After we had a diagnosis I started reading more about ADHD and asking her school for help. The best advice I got from the special ed coordinator was to make sure DD and I built and maintained a really strong relationship. This gives the two of you a foundation to build on so you can help her. Honestly, the best thing you can do for her right now, while you're waiting for a diagnosis, is to have fun with her. Don't nag, don't enforce rules. Spend time with her doing something she enjoys. Could be going to the mall, baking cookies, whatever. Have some pleasant interactions with her.

The other thing that really helped was therapy with a psychologist. Although the therapy was for her, I attended too. We even has a session devoted strictly to whether DD should continue taking meds or not. The therapist very patiently walked her through all the pros and cons of meds vs no meds and helped DD come to her own conclusion. Your DD is correct that you can't force her to do anything. Your job is to help her see that these scary changes will lead to a better life for her.

lhamo

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2018, 04:07:19 PM »
A question about the school she is currently in:  Is this something she wanted, or something you wanted for her?   If you are so concerned about her flunking classes that will show up on high school transcripts, is there a way for her to slow down/step back to a less accelerated curriculum.

My son went through a special program and started university at age 15.   He was in the equivalent of academic bootcamp for a year.   It was stressful, but he thrived.  If he had been having the kind of adjustment issues your DD seems to be having, I would probably have pulled him out.   Even if that meant going back to China/going back to work (both things I really did not want to do).   Academic acceleration can be a great option for some kids, not so much for others.  Look closely at whether this is really the right program for your kid.  It may not be, and that's ok.

milliemchi

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #17 on: February 19, 2018, 08:33:15 PM »
A question about the school she is currently in:  Is this something she wanted, or something you wanted for her?   If you are so concerned about her flunking classes that will show up on high school transcripts, is there a way for her to slow down/step back to a less accelerated curriculum.

Ahhh... The question I've struggled with for years. Unfortunately, it's the current program or the neighborhood ghetto school. The stuff in between would be private $$-$$$$, without a guarantee that she would get in, or that she would do any better. First, in the current program, she tested in at the top of the class, not at the bottom.  Second, I know for sure that she spends a lot of time staring through the computer screen instead of getting work done. She had asked me many times to just be in the room with her because it helps her focus. When she practices math, without me, she does 6 skills in 2 hours. When I just sit in the same room, she does 10 in 1 hour. But I have my own work to do.

Otherwise, yes, it is something I set her up with, not something she wanted (although she absolutely loved it once she started), with the biggest benefit being avoiding the cutthroat  competition for 9th grade entry spots. This way, we have some time to let her fail a bit, so that there is incentive to either get her act together (which did not happen), or get treated for ADD, which we're initiating with the evaluation, etc. If she stayed at her old school, she would have had to keep her grades up to AAA to get into any kind of OK public school. Where she is now, she's guaranteed a spot in a good school, as long as she doesn't flunk out. She knows she doesn't have to have all As (or even all As and Bs). But she can't flunk out.

Also, I've been known to catastrophise a bit. I received an email from one of her 'F-class' teachers today and she didn't sound alarmed, just concerned.  In the other F-class she is only one assignment behind and fixing that today.

Regarding the struggle and strife, which is what prompted the OP, I know not to take the anger bait, and it's not even an effort for me. But I did not think of not rationally conversing with an agitated child. Of course, if it's past 9p and we're having a big emotional showdown, work will not get done that night, so she may as well go to bed and I may go to my other obligations. Thanks forum. Otherwise, we have already been through some boundary setting, agreement drafting, etc. Surrendering the phone at night took two nights of absolute drama, but we're done with that step. It's just that  e v e r y t h i n g  is drama.

milliemchi

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #18 on: February 19, 2018, 09:14:37 PM »
Sounds tough and you have gotten some good suggestions. I would recommend reading Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child by Robert Mackenzie. Really excellent book. It is transforming our parenting now.

ETA: The following one paragraph refers to "The New Strong-Willed Child" by James Dobson. I mixed up the books. "Setting Limits..." actually looks promising and I'm waiting for the library hold to come through.

[I am confused by this. I have already read (or at least attempted to read) that book, and didn't see how it could be useful. For those who do not know the book, it opens with the author recounting how he beat his dog into submission by beating him with a belt during an extended battle of wills - this is to illustrate the point that kids have different personalities, because his other dog was much more mellow. Then it proceeds to discuss the power of prayer, etc. It also put me off that the book discussed children as static beings that are either good or bad, and that have to be straightened out if necessary. There's either got to be some very different stuff in the rest of the book, or it must apply to some very different families from mine.]

The book I did like a lot was "The Everything Parent's Guide to the Strong-Willed Child" by Ellen Bowers, which opens with the explanation that "will" is power that some children simply discover earlier than other, and that it is a gift that will serve your child well in adulthood - if only you can survive until then. It is the parent's job to try to channel the will into something constructive, and also, "it is not a mistake to be fixed, it is a reality to be accepted". I was reading the book because of my son, who is the one with strong will. My daughter is actually very compliant, except for the drama. After having my perspective switched regarding my son, we have solved most of the behavior issues. It was important to learn that willful kids do not care about consequences. If they don't do X, and lose a privilege, they still won, because they got out of doing what they didn't want to do. So the trick is to stop imposing consequences and instead keep pressing and pressing on until they do what they were asked to do. To my absolute amazement, this worked, and he is a very nice and pleasant child now. Contrary to "Setting Limits..." , this book describes the child in the continuous process of developing into an independent adult, and the "will" as the force that gets him there.

Another book I liked was "Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The clinically proven five-week program for parents of two- to six-year olds" by Rex Forehand and Nicholas Long. The basis of the program are five techniques that I've known about before, but they give a good description of how exactly to put it all together and why. This book is more of a universal parenting resource, though, which can and should be used with any child, and be very useful for the run-of-the mill stubborn children. My son is in a category of his own, and the perspective-shifting "Everything... Guide..." was necessary.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2018, 08:16:45 AM by milliemchi »

lhamo

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #19 on: February 19, 2018, 09:20:21 PM »
Sounds tough and you have gotten some good suggestions. I would recommend reading Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child by Robert Mackenzie. Really excellent book. It is transforming our parenting now.

I am confused by this. I have already read (or at least attempted to read) that book, and didn't see how it could be useful. For those who do not know the book, it opens with the author recounting how he beat his dog into submission by beating him with a belt during an extended battle of wills - this is to illustrate the point that kids have different personalities, because his other dog was much more mellow. Then it proceeds to discuss the power of prayer, etc. It also put me off that the book discussed children as static beings that are either good or bad, and that have to be straightened out if necessary. There's either got to be some very different stuff in the rest of the book, or it must apply to some very different families from mine.

Oh my -- that sounds suspiciously like the Dr. James Dobson/Focus on the Family approach to parenting.   I was always glad that my parents seemed to just listen to that stuff rather than actually try to apply it.  I did get my mouth washed out with soap once (after my brother tricked me into saying the F word with the old firetruck gag).  And spanked once.   I gave my parents some trouble as a teen, especially my mom after my dad died, but thankfully she never thought the solution was to "break my will."

milliemchi

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #20 on: February 19, 2018, 09:20:36 PM »
Thanks, Laura33 and everyone...
« Last Edit: February 19, 2018, 09:25:14 PM by milliemchi »

milliemchi

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #21 on: February 19, 2018, 09:23:22 PM »
Sounds tough and you have gotten some good suggestions. I would recommend reading Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child by Robert Mackenzie. Really excellent book. It is transforming our parenting now.

I am confused by this. I have already read (or at least attempted to read) that book, and didn't see how it could be useful. For those who do not know the book, it opens with the author recounting how he beat his dog into submission by beating him with a belt during an extended battle of wills - this is to illustrate the point that kids have different personalities, because his other dog was much more mellow. Then it proceeds to discuss the power of prayer, etc. It also put me off that the book discussed children as static beings that are either good or bad, and that have to be straightened out if necessary. There's either got to be some very different stuff in the rest of the book, or it must apply to some very different families from mine.

Oh my -- that sounds suspiciously like the Dr. James Dobson/Focus on the Family approach to parenting.   I was always glad that my parents seemed to just listen to that stuff rather than actually try to apply it.  I did get my mouth washed out with soap once (after my brother tricked me into saying the F word with the old firetruck gag).  And spanked once.   I gave my parents some trouble as a teen, especially my mom after my dad died, but thankfully she never thought the solution was to "break my will."

Yes, there was another book by Dobson along the same lines, or they wrote forewords for each other, or something...

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #22 on: February 19, 2018, 10:14:54 PM »
..."will" is power that some children simply discover earlier than other, and that it is a gift that will serve your child well in adulthood - if only you can survive until then. It is the parent's job to try to channel the will into something constructive, and also, "it is not a mistake to be fixed, it is a reality to be accepted".

I sure agree with this. Will is positive. It's also extremely difficult to navigate from within a tiny body subject to all sorts of authorities. Kids who've been granted this early -thus have to navigate it with fewer/undeveloped resources- have my respect! I really feel for them (and their parents).

Will is the only thing that got me through my stuff, for sure.

Laura33

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #23 on: February 20, 2018, 06:50:51 AM »
Wow, milliemchi, your DD sounds SO much like mine it's scary.  When you say "it's just that e v e r y t h i n g is drama," I know exactly what you mean.  And it is exhausting.

All I will say is that it does get better.  It sounds like you are doing all the right things (keeping calm is the big thing with this kind of kid -- they are like the canary in the coal mine when it comes to reading emotions, and my being upset was the quickest way to set off the death spiral).  Mine is 16 now, and she is by and large delightful -- that desire to be seen as competent has led to actual, useful competence!  She is still highly verbal and emotional, but I finally realized that she processes emotions by venting everything out loud, so I stopped taking it personally and just let the words flow over me -- and sometimes I just quietly go hug her in the middle of a rant.  And she always hugs me back.  I can see now how much I am her rock, and that my staying quiet and calm and listening and having faith in her gives her the strength and confidence to go out and tackle the world.

And do have faith in her, even when you don't.  Our relationship switched when I stopped trying to fix/correct and started just listening and supporting -- because she wanted to do it herself, and so she saw all of my "helpful" suggestions as a signal that I didn't trust her to do it on her own.  I started channeling the "smother" from The Goldbergs -- that mom who believes her kids are perfect despite all evidence to the contrary.  I remember one conversation that was going down the wrong path -- something about an excuse about a grade being bad because the teacher hadn't entered something, or the instructions weren't clear, and of course I had to say something like "well you should talk to the teacher," and that got her back up, and she started sniping, and I got more frustrated, and within 5 minutes what had started as a lovely conversation ended with her in tears and me with steam coming out of my ears.  Because the thing is, she knew the grade was bad -- she didn't need my disapproval, she needed me to tell her that I knew she could fix it.  And I had totally blown it.

So after we were quiet for a few minutes, I said, look, I'm sorry.  I blew that.  I said X, and then you felt defensive and said Y, and then we were off to the races.  So I'd like to start again:  OMG how DARE that teacher do XYZ, that is SO frustrating, I am about ready to go storming into that school and whip out the Smother on him -- if you want me to.  It's your choice -- I know you don't like me talking to your teachers and prefer to handle it yourself.  So you tell me what you'd like me to do, and I'll do it. 

She of course said she'd talk to the teacher and fix it -- the only thing she hates more than talking to teachers is ME talking to her teachers.  So I said, well, ok, but you know I'm itching to go Smother on his ass, so you just let me know.  I was completely over the top -- and she ended up giggling and relaxed.  It totally turned the conversation around. 

The thing is, everything I said about stomping into school was totally bull -- she was wrong, and I knew it!  There was no way I was going to go into the school and demand that the teacher fix XYZ!!  (I'd have happily gone to the school and politely tried to clarify the expectations and ask for help from the teacher given DD's ADHD, but I am not pulling a Beverly Goldberg).  But I also knew DD would never actually want me to do that -- she just needed to hear that I had her back, and that I loved her no matter what, and that I had confidence that she could get through it.  My learning to ask her how she would prefer to handle something, and how I can support her, changed our relationship.

TrMama

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #24 on: February 20, 2018, 10:46:17 AM »
That book that advocates for breaking your child's will sounds like it's promoting abuse. I wouldn't touch that with a 10 foot pole. If your DD has ADD, I also wouldn't bother with "regular" parenting books because they simply don't apply. For years, I read regular parenting books and couldn't figure how this drivel was getting published. DH and I would try the techniques suggested in the book to get DD to do X, and she'd do Q instead. I assumed the books were written by people who'd never met a real child before.

Then I discovered the section of the library with books on parenting kids with ADHD, anxiety, learning disabilities, ASD, etc. It was a scarier section, but these authors had actually met my kid and the advice they gave was spot on. By then, DH and I had already figured out many of the techniques on our own, but it was nice to be validated and learn a few more tricks. Some books that were helpful:

8 keys to parenting children with ADHD by Cindy Goldrich

Your struggling child : a guide to diagnosing, understanding, and advocating for your child with learning, behavior, or emotional problems by Newby, Robert F.

Straight talk about psychiatric medications for kids by Wilens, Timothy E.

My brain needs glasses : living with hyperactivity by Vincent, Annick

Nowhere to hide : why kids with ADHD and LD hate school and what we can do about it by Schultz, Jerome J.


Second, I know for sure that she spends a lot of time staring through the computer screen instead of getting work done. She had asked me many times to just be in the room with her because it helps her focus. When she practices math, without me, she does 6 skills in 2 hours. When I just sit in the same room, she does 10 in 1 hour. But I have my own work to do.

This sounds a lot like ADD. While you're waiting on a diagnosis for whatever's going on, have you considered reaching out to her teachers? Let them know things are hard for her right now and you suspect there's something going on. A good teacher will be willing to make changes for her without requiring the official paperwork. They can also put you in contact with the learning and behaviour person, as well as the councilor, for her school. These people will be a wealth of information about local resources.

Is it possible your DD is reacting with anger because she's anxious? It seems counter intuitive, but anger is a very common expression of anxiety and anxiety is a very, very common result of untreated ADHD.

caracarn

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #25 on: February 21, 2018, 09:29:35 AM »
OK, so did not have time to read everything above, so perhaps some duplication.

We have four girls in our brood of six, all of which have now been in the teen or later years for years now.  My oldest was very, very difficult and sad as it is to say, when she finally moved out around 18 to go live with mom initially the household was much, much, MUCH less stressed and everybody, including her two biological siblings commented on it at various times.  Everything turned into an argument.  She was/is dealing with gender identity issues and so everything was turned into her feeling all comments were tied to that.  My wife and I do our best to be supportive of her in this area but we also do feel that the mantra of the LGBTQ community in many cases is very militant, and the more she read literature the more combative she became.  Counseling she went to during this time also suggested there may be a connection here, but as with everything, too many things tie to others to really isolate.  She is now on some meds and living on her own and she has apologized for those years and indicates she is working on getting better.  She just turned 20 but the ages from 12 up were really hell so I get the exhaustion and wanting to give up.

We do make house rules very clear.  For us, bedtime for the home once they get into middle school is 9:30 (was earlier for elementary school) and 10:30 on the weekends.  No exceptions.  Allowing wiggle room created much of the situation you describe as the boundaries are always tested.  "If they let me stay up for this, then what about that?"  We strongly believe in letting natural consequences do the work God intended.  We will advise and parent, but if they wanted to not study, they got the terrible grades.  No one ever flunked out of school, but with my wife being a teacher we also know that it takes a LOT for a school to hold a kid back, and failing two classes is usually not anywhere near that threshold, especially in seventh grade.  Not saying this is a good thing, but the schools are more focused on moving kids through the system than on actually making sure they learned anything.   Welcome to the new American educational system.  When a child is being exceptionally difficult we clearly spell out the loss of privileges that will occur.  They may lose the car for a week or a month.  We will drive them to and from their job if needed (and yes that's more stress on us, but that is just part of being a parent.  Your consistently enforce the rules, and deal with the extra work, or you will live in chaos).  If they continue on, that consequence comes down.  Sometimes we let them do some extra work to shorten the punishment if it was appropriate but that was really, really rare.  Again, if it can get milked, it will, so figure out your parenting process and stick with it.

In a blended family we have the added drama of another household not having the same rules.  In both cases, the exes are free-for-all zones and that made the situation of having any limits constantly fought against.  Enforcing our rules meant that we have both 18+ kids choosing to be somewhere else.  In both cases the school of hard knocks is doing its job ("Oh, I did not realize that the co-pay was not all I needed to pay to see that doctor.  Now I am paying them $50 a month for the next 18 months.  Crap.").  Call it tough love or whatever you want, but overall, we've seen better results from that method than going along to get along.  We're seeing the fruit of that with the oldest starting to get to the point where she realizes that what we were telling her to do or how something works was not just made up from the top of our head like she screamed at us when she was a teen. 

Kids very clearly understand that driving, cell phones and other perks of the household are privileges not rights.

Also we strongly feel that the permissiveness of society and the focus on making sure everyone's feelings are not hurt are doing more harm to our kids.  They never learn appropriate boundaries and when you try to enforce them in the household you get pushback or reporting to someone or other threats brought on my them being taught that no one should ever tell them "no" without a reason they agree with.  The kids get their needs covered.  Any wants are possibilities and if they want more of a chance to make them happen then they best get a job.  Some chose not to do that and so they get by with less.  Not a bad lesson.  Also, the bank of dad does not have a never ending funding stream.  We will help with college if you show responsibility.  If you do not, but blowing every penny you earn, then do not come crying for cash.  Our decision to assist with finances is not a right.

So that's a bit of a window into our process.  We get the typical complaining that "it's not fair" when they get grounded for not doing something within the house rules and get to miss the weekend with their friends, but they get over it.  We get the grumbling that so and so's parents don't do that.  We always give them the offer that they can go live with them if they like those rules better.  We are comfortable that our kids have a pretty good life overall living in a nice home that has operational utilities (not a truth in some of the exes homes), cell phones and wi-fi they can use, food on the table (also not a given in the other homes), a shared vehicle to use that we pitch in on expenses for but also expect them to help our with driving needs once in a while, a great school district, help with whatever life problems they have that they want to talk about, watching out for their health and getting them counseling and healthcare they need as their lives evolve.  The situation they are in, regardless of their personal feelings otherwise when comparing themselves with others, is pretty darn good.  As we have said with the older ones, they are starting to see that and we trust that will also happen with the 13 year old etc. as they get older.  The tween and teen years are as ugly as the stories say in many cases, and in some cases uglier, but staying the course has worked for us.

Hadilly

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #26 on: February 22, 2018, 10:01:46 PM »
Uh, Milliemchi, I think we must be talking about different books. Here is the one I recommend: https://www.amazon.com/Setting-Limits-Strong-Willed-Revised-Expanded-ebook/dp/B00ATLAAGO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1519361587&sr=8-3&keywords=parenting+your+strong+willed+child

I really like his perspective that strong willed kids like to gather data as to how adults will respond, and then act accordingly. Itís  important to always be respectful with your child. He offers some pragmatic ways to implement change and bring about family harmony.

I think youíve gotten some good advice on bedtime and boundaries. Good luck with the ADD diagnosis.

milliemchi

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #27 on: February 23, 2018, 07:24:00 AM »
Uh, Milliemchi, I think we must be talking about different books. Here is the one I recommend: https://www.amazon.com/Setting-Limits-Strong-Willed-Revised-Expanded-ebook/dp/B00ATLAAGO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1519361587&sr=8-3&keywords=parenting+your+strong+willed+child

I really like his perspective that strong willed kids like to gather data as to how adults will respond, and then act accordingly. Itís  important to always be respectful with your child. He offers some pragmatic ways to implement change and bring about family harmony.

I think youíve gotten some good advice on bedtime and boundaries. Good luck with the ADD diagnosis.

OK, I'll check.

ETA: Of, course, I mixed up the books. The one I was talking about was "The New Strong-Willed Child" by James Dobson, as lhamo skillfully identified. I will go back and edit that earlier post to reflect that.

Then I went back to my borrowing history, and found that I have actually not read the "Setting Limits...".  But I sent a sample to my Kindle from the Amazon bookstore, and it sounds really promising. While researching books for my evidently strong-willed son, I often wondered about the attributes and behaviors described that fit my daughter, who I don't consider strong-willed. I even set down with her at one point and went through the list of characteristics of strong-willed children, and we found that it was a mixed bag. As I mentioned, she is pretty compliant as kids go, or so I thought. But - in the foreword to the "Setting Limits..." the author gives four examples of strong-willed children of different ages, and the 12-year old girl example is sooo her. So I placed a hold, with high expectations. :) Thanks Hadilly.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2018, 08:13:02 AM by milliemchi »

Sibley

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #28 on: February 24, 2018, 03:16:40 PM »
I might be able to provide a bit of an inside view. I had a period as a full adult when my hormones went totally out of wack. It was bad. My doctor said afterwards that I basically did the hormone swings of puberty as a 27 year old. In my case, it was caused by some medication, and I didn't recognize what was happening for about 4 months. It took a good 6 months after I stopped the medication for everything to settle down.

I did best in 2 circumstances - completely alone, on my own, or when I was around people who were solid, that I knew exactly what to expect from them they would not get emotional when I did. If I was around someone who responded with emotion or anything other than rock steady consistency, I'd fall apart and the other person would see increasingly irrational behavior. Sometimes the only way to effectively calm myself was a shower and bed for the night. Sometimes I would know that I was being irrational, but I could not stop. Other times I would be completely unaware.

The real key here is emotional response. If you're stressed, upset, angry, fearful - it will impact your daughter, and it will be negative. Especially when she's in an unstable state already, or you're discussing something that's pushing those buttons. These are NOT rational reactions, and she does not know how to cope with them yet. Really, I don't think anyone who's experiencing massive hormone swings will be able to fully control them. You, as the responsible adult in the room, need to provide the stability your daughter needs while she's navigating puberty.

If you think of a playground, you know those posts with the ball tied to the top? And you swing the ball around? Your daughter is the ball, wild, swinging around, unpredictable. You have to be the post - solid, predictable. That doesn't mean you can't relax, joke around, show emotions, etc. But you need to be the calm in the storm.

gaja

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Re: Put your own oxygen mask first... Stories with tweens, anyone?
« Reply #29 on: February 24, 2018, 05:22:41 PM »
The playground toy is a good picture. I often think of old fashioned swing dance, where you start out with the man standing almost still, and the woman twirling around. As you build up the trust and repertoire, you can increase the difficulty of the moves for both. But as the leading partner you need to always keep control.

My kids are very different, one acts out, while the other will keep everything under a lid until she gets ill. Both thrive with the method Laura describes. The more we trust them and treat them as intelligent human beings, the more they behave like that. We do have very clear rules, but they are all based on logic, and if the kids are able to present good arguments, the rules can be changed.