Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I think we are the problem and the solution

I'm coming to terms with the fact that my child may suffer from ADHD. Yes, this is something I've diagnosed myself, and I could be totally wrong. Most doctors warn against trying to diagnose a child until age six or so because so many of the hallmark behaviors (restlessness, inattention, easily distracted, impulsive) apply to most preschoolers. But in a group, Olivia is always, without exception, the most active, least attentive, most distracting child. True, her groups have thus far been limited to Bible school, gymnastics and family gatherings. But still.

I don't know...maybe I'm jumping the gun on this. But recently? Life has just been hard. Part of it, I think, is the fact that it is winter and therefore too cold to work out those energies in some active sort of way. So it comes out in more destructive, aggressive ways. As a result, we are all yelling. A lot.

One place we don't yell is in Church, and that seems to be where Olivia's worst behavior manifests itself. I hate that we leave Mass every week frustrated and not at all spiritually nourished because we just spent the last 50 minutes wrestling with/negotiating with/ threatening our child who won't stop talking and using the back of the pew in front of us as a stand-in for the uneven bars. (She says she is practicing holding her arms stiff and pointing her toes, which she did learn to do in gymnastics, and nothing I say can convince her that this is not the right place or time to be practicing her gymnastic skills.) When she disobeys in Church, she KNOWS that we can't do anything about it right there, and she flashes that devious grin when she gets away with the misbehavior. She's impulsive and defiant, and some of her worst behavior shows up in Church.

At home, she bounces around. I don't know how else to describe it. She doesn't stay in one place much. She jumps on the couch and the bed even though she KNOWS that is not allowed. When I ask her to do something, she comes up with indecipherable excuses, and when I insist that she do it anyway, she wanders off and does everything she possibly can to avoid doing this one thing. If (when) things get so frustrating that the yelling begins, it just causes her misbehavior to escalate. IT. IS. MADDENING.

So. Most of what I've read recommends behavioral adjustments for small children and their parents. Rigid schedules. Constant parental attention. Positive reinforcement. Calm tones. I know this stuff works to an extent, because I've seen her behavior change when we are off schedule or when Olivia is fighting to get our attention or the difference in yelling versus calm and persistent requests. I get it. It's us. We need to step up and be the parents that Olivia needs us to be. And coming to that realization is hard because it means that we are going to have to change a lot of things around here and break a lot of bad parental habits. I'm sure it will be worth it. I just hope it will be enough to break the cycle of bad behavior.

But I still have my doubts about her ability to sit still in Church. Help!

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