One of our sons, Z, has been diagnosed with ODD, otherwise known as Oppositional Defiant Disorder. It sounds as frustrating as it is. One of the diagnostic symptoms is “often deliberately annoys people”. Man, is that the truth! Z will find the thing that drives you the most crazy and then he’ll do it as often as possible. He has many ways in which he acts out this particular behavior but his predominant method is talking. Z is always talking. T says that Z even talks in his sleep. He talks when we are talking and when we aren’t. He talks when the tv is on and when I’m on the phone. He talks when we’re in the car and when we’re at the dinner table. There is not a moment in the day when Z does not talk. Most of what he says doesn’t even make sense. Usually he is talking just for the sake of talking. I’ll tell you what, it is so irritating that I sometimes leave the room.
In talking with other parents who have adopted children from foster care, I know that all of our kids have issues. We as parents face these issues on a daily basis and try to get creative about how to deal with them. I know that Z has valid cause to be such a mess. That doesn’t make it easier to listen to the talking. Sometimes I feel guilty for not being more patient or coming up with the genius solution to all of Z’s problems. Sometimes I want to bang my head against the wall until it bleeds. Sometimes I want to leave town and never look back. I’m sure that some of you feel the same way with the behaviors you face each day. But we don’t do these things. We think about it, sure, but we stay the course. Our family works hard to find ways to cope. One of the ways we deal with many of Z’s behaviors is to give him time alone in his room to act these things out. If Z wants to talk non-stop, we tell him he is welcome to go and do so in his room. This offer is never an option. He goes to the room for 10 mins and talks himself silly and then he is allowed to come out and join the family. We have the same opportunity for chewing on one’s fingers and clothes or picking one’s nose. Each of our children are welcome to spend 10 mins in their room, alone, with their finger up their nose. We found this wonderful opportunity in a book called, “When Love is Not Enough” by Nancy Thomas.
If you have accepted the task of loving and parenting troubled children, even if you didn’t know what you were getting into when you started, then you are going to need to find creative ways to approach creative behaviors. We read until our eyes hurt. We’ve found every book we can and talk to as many people as we can. We take the advice that works and we don’t agonize over the advice that doesn’t work. Each kid is different and so each approach must be different. Don’t give up on your child’s crazy or irritating behaviors. Keep on pushing and searching for the thing that will work today and then use that piece of help until it doesn’t work anymore. Be predictable in that you always respond in a loving and calm manner. Be unpredictable in that your kids don’t know what kind of crazy “opportunity” you’ll have next. Make consequences fun for you and as irritating to your kid as their behavior is to the rest of mankind. I’ve found that behaviors are like viruses. Sometimes they build immunity to the antibiotic you’ve used to treat in the past. But you don’t let the virus keep you from living your life; you just try something new to put it in its place. Always love your child and make that love perfectly apparent. Hate the virus and do what you can to keep it contained. As for us, Z is going to keep chattering in his room and I’m going to keep exercising my self-control.