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parenting the unlikable child


caedmyn
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My 12 yo has always been a very difficult kid to like.  He spent most of his first year screaming.  Once he was fully mobile he was a little tornado, climbing everything and generally leaving a trail of destruction around him.  He’s very strong-willed and generally takes no responsibility for anything he does.  He’s never been very nice to his siblings.  Most of the kids in his small school dislike him (basing this both on things his siblings who attend the school report, and my own observations).  Several of his siblings don’t like him.  He’s just...kind of a jerk...in general.  He deliberately does things to aggravate kids at school/church who don’t want to play with him—he’s admitted to doing this, and he knows what he does annoys them.  Starting puberty certainly isn’t making him any more likable.  I can see him having zero friends as a young adult and blaming everybody else for why they don’t want to be around him.  Idk how I’m going to make it through another 6 years of parenting this kid.

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I have a particularly challenging kid.  She does have friends, but she doesn't get along well with certain adults, including one we live with.  This is compromising the quality of life of everyone living here.  It does seem to be slowly improving, but this started when she was 9yo and she's now 14.

One suggestion though.  Can you think of any legitimate activity that would channel your child's tendencies in a positive way?  For example, my kid likes martial arts.  She gets to whack the heck out of people.  It puts her in a good mood, which spills over into a more pleasant evening at home.  One hopes that she is even learning some positive things from the experience.  If not, at least she will have some accomplishment to put on her resume.

Another thing we hope will help is getting a dog.  My kid is really good with animals.  They seem to bring out her best side.

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BTDT.

 

A few things. Be as affirming as you can. Look for ways to compliment these kids. Often they hear the message that "I'm a bad kid, nobody likes me so why should I try?" Even if it's something as simple as he gave the baby a single goldfish. Catch that kid doing good, doing right, and being okay. It doesn't have to be anything spectacular. You just want him to hear things besides "Stop it." "Leave them alone. " "Could you please just be a little quieter." 

If I remember correctly, meds for ADHD are not an option for your son.

Find some books on ADHD and read them. Many have skill building exercises to help decrease impulsivity and annoying traits. Do these things.

Slow down and focus on the boy one on one at least a few times a week. He needs to see that you see him and notice him. Even if its something as simple as "Lets go outside and check the air pressure on the tires of the car. Thank you for your help. Good job" even if he didn't do anything but hand you the caps to the valve stems.

He probably needs more outdoor time than you can imagine. Is martial arts an option? I really think that 12-13 year old boys just need to punch and hit things a lot. Martial arts can channel that.

Set him up for success in small things. My ds likely has some ADD going on. He can't keep his room organized at all. So I've drastically pared back on the items he keeps there. Other things are put in storage and rotated out. Otherwise, he trails stuff all over the house, piles his room high etc. He can't manage to make up a bed with bedsheets, layers of blankets, etc. so he just has a comforter and a pillow that he pulls up on the bed. He can manage that. I only have the amount of clothing in his dresser that can EASILY fit in the drawers. Yes, if he folded and stacked them neatly, he could have more, but he can't manage that, and it's not worth it. 

Big thing though:

What you say MATTERS.

I found in my ds (messy, cluttered, etc.) room a list on a sheet of paper that was divided in half. He'd written a list on it. One side was his good traits, one side was his bad traits. It broke my heart to the point of crying that he only had four or five good traits and had like 20 bad traits. 

I picked up my pencil and filled in the good trait side with everything I could think of. And I left it on his pillow. And I resolved that he would hear better things from me. I also took a picture and showed it to other family members, privately, so that the could help with being more affirming.

Remember that every negative trait can be turned into a good trait if it's channeled in the right direction. MY oldest was a huge handful.  She was loud, argumentative and frustrating. But she's an adult now. She's still loud, but it serves her well at work (managing a fast food restaurant) She's still stubborn, but that means that she will train an animal to perfection. 

 

Edited by fairfarmhand
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I am so sorry. That sounds so difficult and I really don't have any advice but ((hugs)).

If you haven't tried therapy, that's the one thing I would suggest. An evaluation would tell you whether you're working with a kid who's a garden variety jerk, or who has some kind of neuroatypicality going on.

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I would push for both an evaluation and therapy. Kids don’t act like that without a reason so he’s probably not neurotypical. Most kids I know like this have multiple things going on and need multiple kinds of therapy and definitely do improve dramatically. 

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By the way, my ds was more annoying at 12 than he is at 13. Still annoying but not quite so bad. But I've had to put special effort into affirming him for stuff vs just barking at him for negatives.

Also, therapy would likely be a big help for your ds.  

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I would start by spending a TON of time with your son. I’d insist that he does almost everything near you and that he joins in on your chores, tasks, whatever. Like, the two of you would be together constantly. If he’s doing schoolwork, it’s in the same room as you. If you’re cooking dinner, he’s helping. I’d have him tied to your hip for a couple of months.

Why?

He would have a lot of your attention, which is usually something kids want from their parents.

You could catch him doing good things and commend him for them.

You can catch him slipping into bad things and stop it at the pass.

You’ll have more teachable moments to demonstrate more acceptable behaviors. 

 

And, for a 12-year old, I’d explain to him exactly why you’re doing it. I wouldn’t make it punitive, but it would be a time of gentle mentoring.

 

And I’d also get evaluations as well.

 

Edited by Garga
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Just now, Garga said:

I would start by spending a TON of time with your son. I’d insist that he does almost everything near you and that he joins in on your chores, tasks, whatever. Like, the two of you would be together constantly. If he’s doing schoolwork, it’s in the same room as you. If you’re cooking dinner, he’s helping. I’d have him tied to your hip for a couple of months.

Why?

He would have a lot of your attention, which is usually something kids want from their parents.

You could catch him doing good things and commend him for them.

You can catch him slipping into bad things and stop it at the pass.

You’ll have more teachable moments to demonstrate more acceptable behaviors. 

 

And, for a 12-year old, I’d explain to him exactly why you’re doing it. I wouldn’t make it punitive, but it would be a time of gentle mentoring.

 

Yes, my ds does much better on the days that he has a lot of one on one adult interaction. Especially if his dad is around so that I can get a break. He just is a really smart kid who gets bored easily, has lots of energy and then when bored and energetic channels that into annoying people. If I can nip that in the bud along with redirecting him into healthier channels everything goes better. 

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13 minutes ago, Garga said:

And, for a 12-year old, I’d explain to him exactly why you’re doing it. I wouldn’t make it punitive, but it would be a time of gentle mentoring.
And I’d also get evaluations as well.

 

OMG, thank you for framing this as mentoring. I have a child who is more difficult for me to parent than others. I've thought of this "trying to keep him near me" bit, but know this kid would see it as punishment. But if I frame it as mentoring, I might get his buy-in. 

OP, you've gotten some good ideas. I hope you are able to find some things that make life easier (for him, and those around him). 

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Such great advice already.   

Spend time with him and focus on the positive and affirm it to him lots. 

Does he have a pet?  Or can he spend time with one? 

Get him outside lots.  What is he doing after school and on weekends?   Is he in an activity that he able to find success in?  Does he have other adults that are giving him positive feedback?  Teachers or coaches? 

How do you have positive interactions with the siblings?  Mine get along better when they are doing a project together.  Legos, building a fire, or building a chicken coop.  Just a big project together.  We kind of step out of it and let them do it.  

Does he want to do more grown up things?  My ds at that age wanted to have more options to do grown up things.  Mow the lawn, fix the car, use real power tools, or put together furniture and appliances in the house.  So with supervision we let him. 

Getting a therapist sounds like a great idea.  Maybe a social skills class?

What kind of things does he thrive in?   Does he like learning new skills?  Fixing things?  Computers?  Sports?  Martial Arts?  Boy Scouts?  Dance?  Art?    I would look into getting him more into the things that he likes.   Maybe he can bond with people that way?  But also it would just feed his soul to be doing what he loves or enjoys.  Maybe you can join in with him.  If he likes biking go on rides with him.  Let him be the teacher.  Or just something that you 2 enjoy together.  

 

I am not saying this is your child, but for me sometimes I find my kids annoying because the things they like and want to do or talk about are not what I want to do or talk about.  I don't want to watch or read Harry Potter or Star Wars.  Thank goodness that dh loves that stuff.   But I think finding something that you 2 can bond over is a good positive step.  And I think it can be anything.  Show, activity, book, or hobby.   Sometimes it is hard to have something in common with a 12 year old boy.  I am not into cars, Legos, or the books he wants to read. So we have to look for things that we both like and can do together or talk about.   Shows, biking or walking, dogs, ballet.   Also sometimes I think it is hard to have kids that different than what you thought you would have.  Dh and I were into sports as kids.  Never took dance and had no background in that.  All of our kids are dancers (at the moment).  It is not what I thought our life would be like.  I thought we would be at games and competitions.  Instead dh and I are out of our element trying to support them in the world of ballet.  This is not what we thought our life would be, but here we are.  

Do you have family he can spend time with?  I know it Covid that is harder.  But even talking on the phone to grandparents or aunts or uncles.  I think Grandparents see the kids in such positive light (most of the time) and that is good for them.   

How is he doing in school?  Is he advanced and bored?  Is he getting enough stimulation there?   How is his teacher(s)?  What do they say about him?  

I am not that far down the road of teens, but so far tweens have been harder.  I understand that so much of them are changing so it is hard for them as well. 

Edited by mommyoffive
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I haven't read all the posts, so I apologize if this has already been addressed:    has he been assessed for ASD or ADHD?

 

I'm saying this gently - but when a baby senses their parent doesn't like them ('cause some babies are just difficult), or isn't interested in them,  it affects them.  I do understand - I have one who despised being a baby.  she had a  body that couldn't do what she wanted, and she screamed at anyone who so much as dared look at her.   She was only happy as she started walking (before 10 mos - despite wearing the theraputic shoes with a bar), running, and climbing everything in sight.  And then there's dudeling . . . . . he's 16, and has been a constant challenge since the day he was born.  (we have a relationship where he can share how he really feels.  those things about him that frustrate us, frustrate him too. But his physiology is what it is, and we all have to deal with it.)

 

I'm going to strongly suggest Transforming the Difficult Child.   All appearances aside, children want (and need - and deserve) to be loved.   Sometimes, the hardest to love are the ones that need it the most - and can be the most resistant to those offering love (because they don't trust it is sincere.).

 

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I really can't add anything to what others have said (especially fairfarmhand), except to say no food dyes for him. At all. I think *maybe* you have mentioned that he does not have them--or maybe I am thinking of someone else--but I always want to throw it out there as something that can really help.

It's not woo--it made a huge, obvious, remarkable difference for our child. No artificial colors, red40, etc.

In Europe they actually have warnings on packages saying the stuff may adversely affect children's behavior. America is behind on this.

image.png.5ea1cf3f6b82688b06029efb333c57b8.png to you. 

Edited by MercyA
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2 hours ago, Garga said:

I would start by spending a TON of time with your son. I’d insist that he does almost everything near you and that he joins in on your chores, tasks, whatever. Like, the two of you would be together constantly. If he’s doing schoolwork, it’s in the same room as you. If you’re cooking dinner, he’s helping. I’d have him tied to your hip for a couple of months.

Why?

He would have a lot of your attention, which is usually something kids want from their parents.

You could catch him doing good things and commend him for them.

You can catch him slipping into bad things and stop it at the pass.

You’ll have more teachable moments to demonstrate more acceptable behaviors. 

 

And, for a 12-year old, I’d explain to him exactly why you’re doing it. I wouldn’t make it punitive, but it would be a time of gentle mentoring.

 

This.  Spend a lot of time connecting.  Find things you like about him and affirm them. Over and over.  

Therapy and an evaluation.  A good therapist is a gift you can give him for the rest of his life - he will always know that’s a tool he can use, that therapy is available.

Plus a big, giant no to food dyes.  I can barely believe the difference that made, here.  Also, we had to get a handle on food allergies and asthma (not being able to get enough oxygen triggers fight or flight, even when it’s not an obvious major asthma attack.  Having a kid who doesn’t wheeze made it hard to identify).

Also - if your kid takes any allergy meds, any at all, be aware that they can cause all kinds of behavioral issues.  Claritin, etc, all of them are out here.

I have a kid who screamed as a baby for the first year.   He had reflux and allergies, we spent tons of times at the pediatric GI specialist, and had to use special formula, and still could not go anywhere for fear of an episode.  The one comfort I took in all of it was knowing that babies who need that much holding and cuddling constantly can develop a very strong bond with their parents, knowing they are loved.  So maybe you can sort of take that experience of sort of radical, intense bonding that you had that first year, and build on it now?  

Maybe take that tornado energy and channel it into your son’s passion?  Whatever it is, even if it varies week to week.  We are still dealing with intensity here, and channeling it into specific projects really does help.  And even better when he’s doing them with or alongside a parent.

And if none of this applies to you, just ignore me.  🙂


 

 

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I got nothin' but sympathy.

I have a kiddo like that. If he were 18 and spewing constant verbal abuse, lying, cheating, stealing, kicking holes in our walls and windows, and being a jerk, we could "evict" him. If he were 18 and beating me to a pulp, throwing chairs at people, threatening with weapons, and throwing sharp objects at my children, he would be arrested for assault. But because he is 9 I'm expected to like him.

And this is after 5 years of evaluations, therapies, medications, elimination diets, police interventions, inpatient hospitalizations, etc.

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I haven’t read all the replies but I had a kid like that. From about age 5 to 12 he was wild, out of control, obnoxious, etc. It was such a hard time. He was always getting in so much trouble in any activity (co-op classes, church classes, etc) that I ended up removing him either because it was clear the teacher was unwilling to deal with him or because I just could not handle another phone call or report about something my child had done. The implications and straight out accusations about my unfit parenting were pretty traumatic too.

This kid is 18 now and getting ready to graduate high school. I just today broke down crying reading a letter of recommendation that was written about him that focused primarily on his character and how well loved he is by his peers. 
 

I wish I had the secret recipe for you. I will throw out some things that worked for us.

- I stopped putting him in activities/classes with a potential for conflict. I told him “Listen, your behavior is not allowing you to do these things. I love you and I am never giving up on you but it isn’t fair to anyone else to have to deal with it. It isn’t fair to the teachers or classmates or your siblings who get brushback from it. So...it’s you and me hanging out while everyone else goes to co-op (or wherever)” Then I engaged with him and paid full attention to him. It was a “your behavior is not okay and I’m not going to pretend it is. But I love you and let’s go to the park.” 
 

- I made sure to defend him when warranted in conflicts with siblings and outside the house if there were other people involved. Once a kid becomes the “bad kid” they get blamed for everything and it can spiral. I kept a close watch and intervened when he was behaving poorly and defended him when he was falsely accused or getting picked on. I let him see I hadn’t given up on him and I wouldn’t let him get blamed for everything. 
 

- I definitely tried to catch him being good if at all possible. But it was honest. He was too smart for false praise. 
 

- when he would get in trouble there would be consequences but it always wrapped up with “I am not giving up on you.”

-lastly, and it could be the biggest factor and I’ll never know, is that we had to move. A fresh start in a new town worked wonders. Not saying you should up and move but maybe some dramatic change of routine or setting could make a difference. 

Hugs to you, OP, and anyone else dealing with this. I remember how awful it was on a daily basis. I’d just be going about my day and I’d get a phone call from someone telling me something my kid had done. I got dressed down in Chik Fil A one day by a woman who said “mothers like you are what is wrong with this world”. 🙁

If you knew this kid now, you would never know what we went through with him. It makes for funny stories now because it is so outlandish for anyone that has known him as a teen to believe he got kicked out of Sunday school when he was 8. 
 

And take care of yourself, OP. It was a really hard time for me and I didn’t  really feel like I had much support. Because my kid was so unlikeable and because society tends to assume it is the mom’s fault. Those people that were kind to my child and me during that time  are saints to me.

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Caedmyn, that is so hard.  I do know of children like that who  were turned around when their ADHD was medicated.  I don't think it's fair to the child not to treat a biological issue.  I know that your dh is resistant, but your ds has no friends.  And he might have friends if he could control himself more.  I would have him evaluated and give him a fair chance.

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(((((Caedmyn))))) 

I get it. I agree with other advice offered here.

If your spouse will not agree to ADHD meds, would he consider anxiety meds? My tough kid is on both kinds of medication.

We started the ADHD meds at age 10, and they made a night and day difference, but we still had a lot of unpleasant issues (at home; at school, he is quiet and is outwardly obedient, mostly). The unpleasantness did not get better with age, in our case.

When we started the anxiety medication, it took a few months to see a real effect, but now that it's been about a year, it's amazing the difference that it makes for him. Enough that he notices it himself, which is not always the case with the ADHD meds. I kind of thought that the anxiety meds would just make a difference for him INSIDE himself, but they have made a huge difference with his ability to interact with others, and our household is much calmer now. He is much more likable now, as well, and he gets along better with siblings. Things are not perfect, and we still have struggles, but they are more manageable by a magnitude.

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2 hours ago, MercyA said:

I really can't add anything to what others have said (especially fairfarmhand), except to say no food dyes for him. At all. I think *maybe* you have mentioned that he does not have them--or maybe I am thinking of someone else--but I always want to throw it out there as something that can really help.

It's not woo--it made a huge, obvious, remarkable difference for our child. No artificial colors, red40, etc.

In Europe they actually have warnings on packages saying the stuff may adversely affect children's behavior. America is behind on this.

image.png.5ea1cf3f6b82688b06029efb333c57b8.png to you. 

I had to pull artificial nitrates/nitrites (processed meats) from dudeling's diet for a few years.   Casein (protein in milk), soy, gluten, and one more I can't remember - can also cause big issues.   I know one kid that reacted to sharp cheddar - but not regular cheddar.

UK also recognizes pathological demand avoidance as a subtype of ASD . . . US doesn't.

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Late diagnosed ADHD child here - can only agree that medication has really helped him with self-esteem. 

Otherwise, I frequently work with unlikeable children. I take three steps:

Decide to find something likeable in the child, even if it's small. My most unlikeable student shares a name with my son, so I decided to like that. 

Then, show a genuine interest in the child. Ask them how they're doing. What they're interested in. How their day has been.  Their thoughts on a topic. Tell them a joke you know they will find funny. Remember things they've mentioned before.  Respond with warmth in voice. Do this daily. 

Finally, catch them being pleasant. Reward it. Again, small instances are fine. I mean, even ambiguous instances. 'Billy, you just sat down next to Sarah quietly! It's pleasant to eat lunch next to quiet seat mates! Give a sticker/token/cookie/however you tangibly reward target behaviour.  Aim for multiple instances to reward per day. Fade out rewards but not attention as behaviour becomes more consistent. 

I have a lot of affection for my most unlikeable student now; he's better tolerated by peers as well. He's happier, reads better, and has less of a chip on his shoulder. He's still challenging to manage, because underlying issues are going untreated, but at least he knows he's liked by me. 

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1 hour ago, teachermom2834 said:

I haven’t read all the replies but I had a kid like that. From about age 5 to 12 he was wild, out of control, obnoxious, etc. It was such a hard time. He was always getting in so much trouble in any activity (co-op classes, church classes, etc) that I ended up removing him either because it was clear the teacher was unwilling to deal with him or because I just could not handle another phone call or report about something my child had done. The implications and straight out accusations about my unfit parenting were pretty traumatic too.

This kid is 18 now and getting ready to graduate high school. I just today broke down crying reading a letter of recommendation that was written about him that focused primarily on his character and how well loved he is by his peers. 
 

I wish I had the secret recipe for you. I will throw out some things that worked for us.

- I stopped putting him in activities/classes with a potential for conflict. I told him “Listen, your behavior is not allowing you to do these things. I love you and I am never giving up on you but it isn’t fair to anyone else to have to deal with it. It isn’t fair to the teachers or classmates or your siblings who get brushback from it. So...it’s you and me hanging out while everyone else goes to co-op (or wherever)” Then I engaged with him and paid full attention to him. It was a “your behavior is not okay and I’m not going to pretend it is. But I love you and let’s go to the park.” 
 

- I made sure to defend him when warranted in conflicts with siblings and outside the house if there were other people involved. Once a kid becomes the “bad kid” they get blamed for everything and it can spiral. I kept a close watch and intervened when he was behaving poorly and defended him when he was falsely accused or getting picked on. I let him see I hadn’t given up on him and I wouldn’t let him get blamed for everything. 
 

- I definitely tried to catch him being good if at all possible. But it was honest. He was too smart for false praise. 
 

- when he would get in trouble there would be consequences but it always wrapped up with “I am not giving up on you.”

-lastly, and it could be the biggest factor and I’ll never know, is that we had to move. A fresh start in a new town worked wonders. Not saying you should up and move but maybe some dramatic change of routine or setting could make a difference. 

Hugs to you, OP, and anyone else dealing with this. I remember how awful it was on a daily basis. I’d just be going about my day and I’d get a phone call from someone telling me something my kid had done. I got dressed down in Chik Fil A one day by a woman who said “mothers like you are what is wrong with this world”. 🙁

If you knew this kid now, you would never know what we went through with him. It makes for funny stories now because it is so outlandish for anyone that has known him as a teen to believe he got kicked out of Sunday school when he was 8. 
 

And take care of yourself, OP. It was a really hard time for me and I didn’t  really feel like I had much support. Because my kid was so unlikeable and because society tends to assume it is the mom’s fault. Those people that were kind to my child and me during that time  are saints to me.

This post made me teary.  Seriously, it can just be so hard some times, some years.  I can’t bold, but the part about “I’m not giving up on you” ... that just took me back.  We would say “Every day, all the time, no matter what” (I love you and am not giving up on you).  It was our mantra, and became part of our good night ritual. 

I don’t think this would apply to most people, but also thought I’d throw it out there:  my kid also had massive issues with heavy metals and VOCs, from exposure pre-birth (through a birth parent).  We did chelation, and learned how to lessen current VOC exposure with specific air purifiers and housing materials.  We really renovated our whole house to prevent outgassing, which was impacting him.  We had an amazing doc who took us on as a test case, and did a lot of new (to her) treatments that she learned at conferences.  She did a lot based on a book called something like The Four As: Allergies, Asthma, ADHD and Autism. Those were desperate years, but it all did get better once we put everything together.  The final piece, for us, was the food dye I mentioned above.  He has a documented neurological response, per his allergist.  Putting all the pieces together was so hard, and took so long, but once we found all the little jigsaw pieces, it all got easier.

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2 hours ago, gardenmom5 said:

I had to pull artificial nitrates/nitrites (processed meats) from dudeling's diet for a few years.   Casein (protein in milk), soy, gluten, and one more I can't remember - can also cause big issues.   I know one kid that reacted to sharp cheddar - but not regular cheddar.

Yep. Preservatives (like nitrites, sorbates, benzoates, propionates, sulphites, BHA, BHT, and TBHQ) are bad news. I personally react badly to artificial vanilla flavoring, called vanillin. Some kids react to the natural coloring annatto (in most orange cheeses).  

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(((((Caedmyn)))))

A friend calls it "parenting a pickle." She wrote this on a discussion forum many, many years ago, which doesn't really have advice, but at least you know you aren't the only one:

I love my daughter. She brings me a lot of joy. There are days, however, when all she brings me are pickles. Not the sweet kind, either. Today was one of those days, the kind that starts with pickles for breakfast, moves along to pickles for snack, pickles for lunch, pickles for snack, and pickles for dinner. The kind of day when, by sunset, all I want to do is shout "Enough with the pickles!!! No more pickles!!!" The kind of day when I am stuffed with pickles up to my neck and I'm getting ready to hurl. The only way to avoid that unpleasant event is to announce as though Queen of England (or Mary Poppins) that all pickles must be in bed earlier than the usual time, no ifs ands or buts, spit spot. So my daughter, whom I love, packs up her pickles and goes to bed. I am now pickle-free, and I hope, nay pray, that tomorrow I get to enjoy some ice cream or something sweet. I need a change of diet. I am drained, but I love my daughter.

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Agreeing with a lot of things that have already been said. We cleaned up his diet fairly early on and it helped, but not enough.

He was about age 12 when I heard the advice (from some lovely ladies on these forums) to work on relationship. Once he realised that I was on his team, we were able to work together to solve issues. Previously, he had felt it was him against the world.

The biggest change for us came with ADHD meds at age 15 and my only regret is that we didn't do it sooner. We also saw the effect of a fresh start (change of location) not long after that. Recently we have added anxiety meds to the mix and have seen another leap forward from that.

I could not have imagined, when he was 12, the son I now have (age 20). Not only do I like him, but other people enjoy his company too. He is doing very well at university, is repected by his peers and is even holding down a part time job in the field he wants to work in.

It is not easy. But I wanted to let you know that there is hope.

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I don’t remember your scenario, but if I answer honestly? Medication. And we know every late afternoon when it wears off. 
 

There are mornings where I make him go somewhere, anywhere, and do something, anything, until the meds kick in. 
 

And like the previous poster, I deeply regret not starting them sooner for a multitude of reasons, but I’m glad we started when we did (12/13) because I am hopeful he’ll continue to take them as an adult. Because, in all seriousness, they’re his best shot to a decent life vs something like prison or some other awful scenario like unemployment and resulting homelessness. I love the kid. But he is impulsive, makes awful choices without meds, and is really difficult to be eating without a filter. On meds? Pretty likable kid. The difference is shocking. 

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Before I clicked in to your post, when I'd just seen the title, I thought, "I wonder if the unlikeable child will turn out to be 12?"

I can see from the rest of your post and the wise answers you've already received that this is more than just a 12yo being a pain.  I don't want to minimize your situation and I don't have helpful advice.  Nevertheless, it might be particularly bad at the moment because he *is* 12.  

You might find commiseration, further advice, and hope that this will not last forever on Farrar's awesome "You're being a pill" thread 🙂 https://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/541789-youre-being-a-pill/

 

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32 minutes ago, caffeineandbooks said:

Before I clicked in to your post, when I'd just seen the title, I thought, "I wonder if the unlikeable child will turn out to be 12?"

I can see from the rest of your post and the wise answers you've already received that this is more than just a 12yo being a pain.  I don't want to minimize your situation and I don't have helpful advice.  Nevertheless, it might be particularly bad at the moment because he *is* 12.  

You might find commiseration, further advice, and hope that this will not last forever on Farrar's awesome "You're being a pill" thread 🙂 https://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/541789-youre-being-a-pill/

 

Dudeling's neuro said they all get worse at this age - when the hormones kick in.  It was the first time I really had a clue more out of the ordinary was going on with 1dd (diagnosed with ASD and ADD as an adult.).   I thought it was just hormones, and when they settled it would get better - but it never did.  (Somatic therapy has been a God send.  She feels like a different person, and we can all see how much it has transformed her.)

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I appreciate all the suggestions.  Most are things I’ve thought of but am not sure how to implement.  We’re thinking of getting a dog in the spring (though I’m not sure I can handle a puppy and DH doesn’t want an adult dog, so we’re a bit stuck there).  He definitely needs an interest to involve himself in.  He used to play Legos tons but rarely touches them any more.  I’m making him do 4-H so he has some activity but he doesn’t want to.  Currently his only real interest is video games.  I do limit his time on those to 30 mins on weekdays and a couple hours total on weekends.  He likes to run but there’s no serious kids’ running clubs here and he won’t run on his own.  He did jiu jitsu in the past and enjoyed it, until he competed in his first meet and didn’t do as well as he thought he would and decided he wasn’t interested in jiu jitsu any more.  My oldest plays basketball and my 10 yo likes it too but 12 yo has no interest.  Maybe I should require him to choose a sport/physical activity to participate in?  He does have a few friends, mostly kids younger than him.  

I know relationship-building and positive comments are needed but am struggling to make it happen between dealing with my health issues and constantly feeling overwhelmed when they’re all home. Overall I think he needs those more from DH than from me (not saying he doesn’t need them from me also).  Really hoping my parents will finally move here this summer as my mom is really good at those things and I am not.

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1 hour ago, caedmyn said:

  Currently his only real interest is video games.

He did jiu jitsu in the past and enjoyed it, until he competed in his first meet and didn’t do as well as he thought he would and decided he wasn’t interested in jiu jitsu any more.   Maybe I should require him to choose a sport/physical activity to participate in?  He does have a few friends, mostly kids younger than him.  

 

ASD, ADHD, kids (and kids with other issues) - play video games because they are consistent.  There are rewards, and their are consequences.   No whims, no changing the rules in the middle, the game doesn't have moods, get tired, etc.  They're completely consistent and the players know what to expect, and what they have to do to get positive feedback.

ASD kids, tend to be emotionally immature for their age, and prefer kids their emotional age - and those are kids that are younger than them.

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8 hours ago, gardenmom5 said:

ASD, ADHD, kids (and kids with other issues) - play video games because they are consistent. 

Also for the dopamine, a chance to feel more organized and focused. 

People are going to self treat their issues, and if we don't give them meds, they just find other ways (caffeine, video games, etc.).

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On 2/24/2021 at 12:01 AM, caffeineandbooks said:

Before I clicked in to your post, when I'd just seen the title, I thought, "I wonder if the unlikeable child will turn out to be 12?"

I can see from the rest of your post and the wise answers you've already received that this is more than just a 12yo being a pain.  I don't want to minimize your situation and I don't have helpful advice.  Nevertheless, it might be particularly bad at the moment because he *is* 12.  

You might find commiseration, further advice, and hope that this will not last forever on Farrar's awesome "You're being a pill" thread 🙂 https://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/541789-youre-being-a-pill/

 

Gently, please realize that does minimize the situation. 
 

I heard, “Ah, he’s just a boy.” “He’s 10, 11...” etc. “He needs outside time.” “He’ll grow up just fine.” “He takes after —-.” From people who knew we were struggling, from people who knew our family, who knew our older kids. They thought we were hard on him because, and I’ll quote my dad, “School just isn’t his thing.” Right... I’m frustrated because he’s not a stellar student. 🤦‍♀️ 

He doesn’t give me pickles some days. This kid, unmedicated, wouldn’t be allowed to live in our house. Medicated? A coachable human being. At 9, we were told he had inattentive ADHD and frustration from low working memory, and severe dyslexia. They began advocating for meds. But it was the behavior issues and a complete inability to trust him that drive us to meds... But we were at a very damaged relationship. 
 

I think it’s hard for moms with 1-2 kids, especially if it’s their youngest. Goodness, I had four very competent, stable older children and people still wanted to minimize and give advice, because surely, if we were parenting right, then this wouldn’t be so hard, and if we were parenting well (as evidenced from reaction s of those closest to us) then we must have unrealistic expectations. I (now) have enough confidence in what I’m doing, and am backed by a neuropsychologist eval, saw a psychiatrist regularly, pulled in a juvenile mentor, and our pediatrician. 
 

He’s now 16.  Has it improved. It has, but not because he’s 16.  It has taken constant supervision, behavior training, medication, an insane amount of physical exhaustion, and even with that, we believe, if he ever decides he doesn’t need medication? It will go very badly. Some kids have practically no impulse control and they seek the fight... over the weather, the meal, the assignment, because the sun came up...

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38 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Also for the dopamine, a chance to feel more organized and focused. 

People are going to self treat their issues, and if we don't give them meds, they just find other ways (caffeine, video games, etc.).

Exactly! The question is, do we give tools to equip them or do they cobble together coping mechanisms that cripple them?

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39 minutes ago, BlsdMama said:

Exactly! The question is, do we give tools to equip them or do they cobble together coping mechanisms that cripple them?

No, we let our church tell them they have a spiritual problem. Or we imply it by telling them to try harder rather than giving them the tools.

42 minutes ago, BlsdMama said:

He doesn’t give me pickles some days.

Yeah, unfortunately some kids are much more than pickles. My ds has given me two concussions. He destroys property. Our goal for the last few years has been to have a path that doesn't lead to jail.  

I can add that if the theory is when they're 18 it's not your problem, well let's just say you won't be happy with how that works out. It's much happier when you find answers earlier and do them and get the kid on board with interventions they will accept that work for them. And if you wait till they're 16 to try meds, what effectively happens is you don't have time to work through all the issues of meds. So if you're going to do them, take the plunge. We waited till 16 and it was not ideal. Multiple people here have said that.

42 minutes ago, BlsdMama said:

if he ever decides he doesn’t need medication? It will go very badly.

Oh I know, sigh. Have you done interoception work with this dc? Self awareness is key for self advocacy. You can do all this stuff (Zones of Regulation, etc.) but if they don't realize it in themselves, pretty hard to say what you need and make better choices. I had done trainings in almost every system (Social Thinking, Zones of Regulation, etc.) but once I started working on my own interoception I went back and got a doctor, got anxiety meds, started thyroid meds, on and on. It's why in the mental health community there's so much emphasis on mindfulness, because without self awareness you can't self advocate.

On 2/24/2021 at 1:01 AM, caffeineandbooks said:

Before I clicked in to your post, when I'd just seen the title, I thought, "I wonder if the unlikeable child will turn out to be 12?"

And I don't want to minimize this, because my ds *is* 12, hehe. I think we could all talk past each other in a way, because we're each experiencing something in a range, from dill pickles to in jail or ends up on the news. And they're all pains in the butt, but there's still that range. 

Op asked about sports and I will say in our house and in my observation structured WORK is good too. We put a lot of effort into finding WORK my ds can do. We look for straightforward skills that he can learn the steps for and be required to do. Builds EF, confidence, job skills, all sorts of things. Not against sports, done a lot of sports. But WORK is really valuable. My dh will have him sweep floors in a garage, water flowers, weed whack, take out the trash, unload the dishwashers. Heavy work is especially good (anything that uses muscles and fatigues them a bit). I get that it's harder in the winter. The more you say you want to roll without meds (for ADHD, for anxiety, etc.), the more I'm going to suggest WORK. It's structured, consistent, and once learned even relaxing. 

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10 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

But WORK is really valuable. My dh will have him sweep floors in a garage, water flowers, weed whack, take out the trash, unload the dishwashers. Heavy work is especially good (anything that uses muscles and fatigues them a bit). I get that it's harder in the winter. The more you say you want to roll without meds (for ADHD, for anxiety, etc.), the more I'm going to suggest WORK. It's structured, consistent, and once learned even relaxing. 

But how do you get them to do it?

Yesterday we had a 6 hour tantrum over Elliot being told to vacuum his room. It never got done yesterday, and this morning ABA has been working with him for 2 hours trying to get it vacuumed. He doesn't necessarily mind vacuuming - he does his room once a week, and normally has no issues - but he is just SOOOOOOOO oppositional that we have long, aggressive, destructive tantrums over school, chores, hygiene, food, leisure, household rules, sharing with siblings, weather, laws of physics, etc at least 5 days a week. We never know what is going to set him off...or how many hours or days the resulting tantrum will last.

I have to be so, so careful about what I require of him, because every single expectation better be a hill I am willing to die on.

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Along the line of getting him into a sport, I would suggest looking at swimming. Hard, physical workouts that really wear them out. I had 4 teenage boys at one point and had them all on a swim team. They came home exhausted and happy at the same time. The other thing I like about swim is it’s all about the personal best - they may not have won their race, but if they improved their time it was considered a win. 

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7 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

But how do you get them to do it?

Yesterday we had a 6 hour tantrum over Elliot being told to vacuum his room. It never got done yesterday, and this morning ABA has been working with him for 2 hours trying to get it vacuumed. He doesn't necessarily mind vacuuming - he does his room once a week, and normally has no issues - but he is just SOOOOOOOO oppositional that we have long, aggressive, destructive tantrums over school, chores, hygiene, food, leisure, household rules, sharing with siblings, weather, laws of physics, etc at least 5 days a week. We never know what is going to set him off...or how many hours or days the resulting tantrum will last.

I have to be so, so careful about what I require of him, because every single expectation better be a hill I am willing to die on.

In our house chemistry and compliance go together. As you say, there is no compliance without chemistry. There's no ability to repeat the task the next day if the chemistry wasn't right the first day. And yes our experience was that ABA treated things that were chemistry as a behavior problem.

So I'm with you on the complexity of the question and we can calk about that. But for op (whose situation isn't as extreme), I can say that people I know who have straight ADHD + anxiety, your sort of run of the mill stuff, kids who *can* be asked to do a task and *can* with support comply, for those kids work is structured activity that builds confidence, gives them routine, gives them work skills, and smooths over some of the issues.

So back to the really hard stuff. No, if my ds' chemistry is not in place, you can't walk up to him and make demands. He's learning, at 12, how to tell himself to do something. It has improved both as our chemistry interventions have improved and with (to some degree) our techniques. I've gone to every professional training I could get (Minihan's on oppositional child disorder and anxiety, everything Social Thinking, Zones of Regulation, Interoception, everything except the crackpot autism school training on the virtues of restraint skipped that one). But yeah, beyond that reality is a lot of that edge is chemistry. You have strategies (doing it with him, prewarning, etc. etc.) but whether my ds can respond to the strategies is chemistry. People talk about herding cats, but with my ds it's more like alligators.

The more challenged the situation, the more I would be wondering what got missed. Not saying I have great answers on that, just agree complex kids are complex. Since behavior is communication, you can go back to what got missed. 

The chemistry stuff is hard and we could talk about that privately only because it's way beyond the goal of this thread, lol. I will write you. I'm actually going around a bit with our new psychiatrist and could stand to talk it out.

But no, I do NOT underestimate the challenge of asking for behavior when the dc is not in that place. Totally with you there. We specifically watch for what we do with chemistry to UNLOCK ds' ability to work and do the tasks. 

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1 hour ago, PinkTulip said:

Along the line of getting him into a sport, I would suggest looking at swimming. Hard, physical workouts that really wear them out. I had 4 teenage boys at one point and had them all on a swim team. They came home exhausted and happy at the same time. The other thing I like about swim is it’s all about the personal best - they may not have won their race, but if they improved their time it was considered a win. 

I can ask him if he’d be interested, but idk if I can handle another traveling sport.  DD’s basketball season is four months of 5 days a week practices plus games and that’s exhausting.  I definitely don’t want to be doing that much driving year round.

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2 hours ago, PeterPan said:

 

Op asked about sports and I will say in our house and in my observation structured WORK is good too. We put a lot of effort into finding WORK my ds can do. We look for straightforward skills that he can learn the steps for and be required to do. Builds EF, confidence, job skills, all sorts of things. Not against sports, done a lot of sports. But WORK is really valuable. My dh will have him sweep floors in a garage, water flowers, weed whack, take out the trash, unload the dishwashers. Heavy work is especially good (anything that uses muscles and fatigues them a bit). I get that it's harder in the winter. The more you say you want to roll without meds (for ADHD, for anxiety, etc.), the more I'm going to suggest WORK. It's structured, consistent, and once learned even relaxing. 

I do think more constructive work would be really helpful for him, but DH needs to be the one to make that happen.  DS12 could do all the mowing, and then look for mowing jobs in the neighborhood once he’s had some practice like one of his friends does, but DH was supposed to teach him to mow last year and he only let him mow part of the yard maybe three times total.  DH just doesn’t seem to want to take the time to teach him or deal with a kid just doing an adequate job instead of one that’s up to his high standards.  It’s frustrating.  DS12 does have chores every day (vacuuming and kitchen cleanup), but he could do a lot more if DH would be willing to make it happen.

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13 hours ago, caedmyn said:

I appreciate all the suggestions.  Most are things I’ve thought of but am not sure how to implement.  We’re thinking of getting a dog in the spring (though I’m not sure I can handle a puppy and DH doesn’t want an adult dog, so we’re a bit stuck there).  He definitely needs an interest to involve himself in.  He used to play Legos tons but rarely touches them any more.  I’m making him do 4-H so he has some activity but he doesn’t want to.  Currently his only real interest is video games.  I do limit his time on those to 30 mins on weekdays and a couple hours total on weekends.  He likes to run but there’s no serious kids’ running clubs here and he won’t run on his own.  He did jiu jitsu in the past and enjoyed it, until he competed in his first meet and didn’t do as well as he thought he would and decided he wasn’t interested in jiu jitsu any more.  My oldest plays basketball and my 10 yo likes it too but 12 yo has no interest.  Maybe I should require him to choose a sport/physical activity to participate in?  He does have a few friends, mostly kids younger than him.  

I know relationship-building and positive comments are needed but am struggling to make it happen between dealing with my health issues and constantly feeling overwhelmed when they’re all home. Overall I think he needs those more from DH than from me (not saying he doesn’t need them from me also).  Really hoping my parents will finally move here this summer as my mom is really good at those things and I am not.

Sending some hugs.  You have a lot of kids and on top of your health issues, it is a lot.  I feel like parenting is even more exhausting as they get older. 

I would 150% make him do a sport.  I think kids  need to get outside and get exercise everyday.  And I think that tweens - teens need lots of exercise.  I would make it a rule that they all are in something physical.  He doesn't have to do a traveling sport.  What is around local that he can do?  Or anything online?  Not sure of what your area is open with Covid or not?  Are there non serious running clubs?  Can he run on his own?  Can you take him to a track or trails?  Will his siblings cross train with him?  Can he just try different sports for a few months at a time and see what fits? 

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8 minutes ago, caedmyn said:

I do think more constructive work would be really helpful for him, but DH needs to be the one to make that happen.  DS12 could do all the mowing, and then look for mowing jobs in the neighborhood once he’s had some practice like one of his friends does, but DH was supposed to teach him to mow last year and he only let him mow part of the yard maybe three times total.  DH just doesn’t seem to want to take the time to teach him or deal with a kid just doing an adequate job instead of one that’s up to his high standards.  It’s frustrating.  DS12 does have chores every day (vacuuming and kitchen cleanup), but he could do a lot more if DH would be willing to make it happen.

Can your oldest be the one to teach him?  Sounds like Dh already gave him a trial, so maybe  you or your oldest can just watch and he can do it.  

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23 minutes ago, caedmyn said:

I do think more constructive work would be really helpful for him, but DH needs to be the one to make that happen.  DS12 could do all the mowing, and then look for mowing jobs in the neighborhood once he’s had some practice like one of his friends does, but DH was supposed to teach him to mow last year and he only let him mow part of the yard maybe three times total.  DH just doesn’t seem to want to take the time to teach him or deal with a kid just doing an adequate job instead of one that’s up to his high standards.  It’s frustrating.  DS12 does have chores every day (vacuuming and kitchen cleanup), but he could do a lot more if DH would be willing to make it happen.

My son does much better in the summer when he's weed eating every day for half an hour. It's physical, it's soothing to my son, he feels a sense of accomplishment, it's outside...We bought a smaller, battery powered weed eater just for him. (we have lots of acreage so weed eating daily is doable here)

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9 minutes ago, fairfarmhand said:

My son does much better in the summer when he's weed eating every day for half an hour. It's physical, it's soothing to my son, he feels a sense of accomplishment, it's outside...We bought a smaller, battery powered weed eater just for him. (we have lots of acreage so weed eating daily is doable here)

LOL  I was like, "She makes her child eat weeds? And that makes him nicer to be around? What kind of weeds?"

 

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Oh and about the dog issue.  We got dogs because we really felt like at the time DS needed one.  We like dogs, but probably wouldn't have added them to our lives if we didn't think at the time that DS needed one. 

Or how about another kind of pet?  Does he raise and show anything for 4H?  How about raising Chicks? 

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Op, I would absolutely make him do a sport.  I'm another one who requires a physical activity.  It doesn't have to be as "bad" as travel (which would kill me, too.)  My oldest did climbing at a climbing gym.  My others do TaeKwanDo.  Youngest also does rec soccer (she'd make a travel team, but we said no.)  On top of that, I require daily exercise for gym.  I can't remember if your kids are in person right now, or not.  We homeschool and I require the exercise to be first thing in the morning when kids are going through the more difficult times.  It helps them organize themselves and work off some hormones.  It also teaches them a coping skill for when they have that "feeling." 

My kids are also calmer and happier after outdoor work.  Could you teach him to mow?

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Echoing another activity. I don’t have a team sports guy, but DS here got sooo much benefit from the parkour gym.  There were all ages, and he ended up with male role models who were very dedicated to their sport.  They were not friends, but rather people he admired, and modeled. I think martial arts would be similar in that respect, but parkour was more motivating - and honestly, I wanted my tornado kid to learn to fall properly.  🤣

We also found an all ages maker’s club that met weekly at a science and tech school.  DH took him, and they met engineers and creators of all types and ages.  Maybe you could do something like that online, if he has an interest?

Or, if he’s interested, what about something like acting?  That is fun, requires some discipline, memorization, and working with a group.  Acting and improv have been excellent here, for developing self control and timing, reading social cues a bit better, and all kinds of things. If they do a production a few times a year, it’s a good life experience.

We also require daily exercise, but it can take many forms.  At 12, if things were particularly bad on a given day, I’d send him to the trampoline. Even during math lessons.  There was something about that exercise that wore him out and filled a sensory need.  Swings and bicycles are good that way, too.  Now I send him to the exercise equipment, and even if he just rides the stationary bike while watching funny youtubers ... it helps.

And ... don’t forget the traditional sandwich, shower, nap.  We never did the nap thing, but protein snack and a shower (or bath) can really help change one’s perspective.  Again, the water was a sensory thing that DS needed.

 

 

 

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