HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

Bipolar Daughter


HI MARK,

MY NAME IS G___, I SPOKE TO YOU ON THE PHONE LAST WEEK ABOUT YOUR PROGRAM. I HAVE A 16 YEAR OLD STEP-DAUGHTER THAT HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH BI-POLAR. MY WIFE AND I HAVE HAD PROBLEMS WITH HER FOR OVER FOUR YEARS.

SHE HAS HAD TWO STAYS IN THE LOCAL CHILDRENS MENTAL HOSPITAL …THE FIRST STAY WAS ABOUT FOUR MONTHS, AFTER WE DISCOVERED SUICIDAL POETRY SHE WAS WRITING, CUTTING HERSELF, BULIMIA, OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANCE, VERBAL ABUSE, CUTTING SCHOOL, NO SCHOOL WORK WAS BEING DONE.

THE SECOND STAY WAS AFTER SHE HAD A BREAKDOWN ABOUT A 19 YEAR OLD MAN SHE WAS GOING WITH THAT WE OPPOSED. THE CUTTING CONTINUED AFTER SHE WAS ADMITTED INTO THE HOSPITAL …THE SECOND RELEASE WAS IN SEPTEMBER 2006. SHE WAS PUT INTO A THERAPEUTIC SCHOOL AND HAS DONE BETTER THAN THE PREVIOUS PUBLIC SCHOOL. …SHE HAS A JOB AT A LOCAL SUPERMARKET THAT I PUSHED HER TO GET …SHE HAS BEEN THERE FOR ABOUT 2 MONTHS.


THE PROBLEM NOW IS HER BEHAVIOR. IT IS AT ITS WORST WHEN SHE IS WITH HER FRIENDS. BUT I CAN'T SAY ITS THAT GOOD WITHOUT THEM. THE FRIENDS THAT SHE SPENDS THE MOST TIME WITH ARE FROM HER PRESENT SCHOOL. …THEY ALL HAVE A MENTAL DISORDER. MOST OF THEM ARE NOT INVOLVED IN ANYTHING BUT SCHOOL, WHICH IS OVER FOR THE YEAR. THEY SEEM TO ALL GRAVITATE TOWARDS EACH OTHER AND SITTING OUTSIDE DOING NOTHING OR FINDING SOME SORT OF TROUBLE. THERE IS A LOT OF CURSING IN HER EVERYDAY SPEECH. SHE IS ALSO EXTREMELY LAZY. MOST TIMES SHE'S ONLY MOTIVATED BY GREED. SHE REALLY SHOWS NOTHING TOWARDS HER FAMILY (MOTHER, SISTER, AND BROTHER).


SHE TAKES 2 MEDICATIONS FOR THE BIPOLAR.THAT IS ALSO A PROBLEM …GETTING HER TO TAKE THE MEDS ON A REGULAR BASIS. SHE HAS STOPPED TAKING THEM FOR PERIODS AT A TIME. SHE TAKES A LOT OF ADVICE FROM HER FRIENDS. WHAT BOTHERS ME THE MOST ARE THE REACTIONS TO THE QUESTIONS I ASK HER. WHEN SHE DOESN'T FOLLOW SOMETHING WE TELL HER TO DO, SHE BECOMES VERY CONFRONTATIONAL, VERBALLY ABUSIVE, AND DENIES THAT PREVIOUS CONVERSATIONS EVER TOOK PLACE.

MY WIFE AND I HAVE DEVOTED THE LAST 4 YEARS TO TRYING TO HELP HER (NATURAL IS NOT AROUND). I'VE WORKED VERY HARD TO TAKE A LOT OF THE PRESSURE OFF MY WIFE. MY WIFE HAS LOST ALL PATIENCE WITH HER. THIS PUTS US AT ODDS A GOOD PART OF THE TIME. THE REASON I'M WRITING IS BECAUSE I'VE EXHAUSTED MY ABILITY TO HELP MY DAUGHTER. I TRULY FEEL THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO TO HELP HER. THERE IS STILL A GREAT DEAL OF DEFIANCE WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH. WE'VE HAD HER WITH A PROBATION OFFICER, BUT THEY DON'T GET INVOLVED ANYMORE BECAUSE IT IS A MENTAL ISSUE.

I DON'T FEEL HELPLESS, BUT I FEEL THAT MY FAMILY HAS BEEN CHEATED OUT OF A STRESS-FREE LIFE. THE AMOUNT OF CRAP THAT MY 9 YR OLD DAUGHTER HAS HEARD AND DEALT WITH IS UNREASONABLE. WE HAVE ALL TOLERATED A LOT, WORKED HARD, PUT IN A GREAT AMOUNT OF TIME. I FEEL IT IS UNFAIR TO CONTINUE TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS. THE THERAPIST AT THE MENTAL HOSPITAL HAS DISCUSSED A BACKUP PLAN IF THINGS DIDN'T WORK OUT AFTER HER RELEASE. AS I REMEMBER THERE WAS SOME SORT OF FOSTER CARE PROGRAM. WE ALWAYS GET STUCK, BECAUSE THEY ALWAYS LOOK FOR EXTREME BEHAVIOR IN MY DAUGHTER, AND NOT THE ON-GOING STRUGGLE WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH EVERYDAY.

TO SUM THINGS UP, I DON'T THINK MY DAUGHTER IN CAPABLE OF MAKING RATIONAL DECISIONS A LOT OF THE TIME. ITS NOT JUST TYPICAL TEENAGE NONSENSE, BUT I SEE PROBLEMS FAR BEYOND THAT. IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN. MY WIFE AND I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT YOU SUGGEST. WE FEEL WE CAN'T CONTINUE TO LET HER GO ON LIKE THIS. I'M GOING TO CONTACT THE THERAPIST FROM THE HOSPITAL TOMORROW TO SEE WHAT OUR POSSIBILITIES ARE.

THANKS FOR YOUR TIME,

G.N.

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Hi G.,

I’m not sure where to start. You’ve listed the following problems:

1. Bipolar
2. Suicidal ideation
3. Self mutilation
4. Bulimia
5. ODD
6. Truancy
7. Poor academic performance
8. Verbal abuse
9. Negative peer association
10. Refusing to take meds
11. Use of profanity
12. Lack of motivation
13. Bio father is not involved

To address each of these issues individually will take me the rest of the afternoon. Since you are a new member to Online Parent Support, I want to provide a checklist of the strategies in the eBook that you and your wife should be focusing on.

Some parents are indecisive about what course of action to try with their child. They jump from one parenting technique to the other without giving any one technique enough time to be effective, or they try a new parenting technique once and then give up in frustration because it didn't work fast enough.

Some parents will say, "We've tried everything and nothing works with this kid." On rare occasion, this may be true. What I usually see is parents drifting from one parenting tool to another without refining their parenting tools.

Here are several ways to refine:

---Realize the same discipline may not work for all children, because of the unique features of different children

---Try to blend a combination of several parenting tools to create a more effective discipline

---Don't believe it when your children seem unaffected by discipline. Children often pretend discipline doesn't bother them. Continue to be persistent with your planned discipline, and consider yourself successful by keeping your parenting plan in place. When children pretend a discipline doesn't bother them, parents often give up on a discipline, which reinforces the child's disobedience. Remember, you can only control your actions, not your children's reactions.

Let's trouble shoot...

Below is a summary of all the assignments I gave you in My Out-of-Control Teen eBook. If parents do not implement ALL of these assignments, it will be the "kiss of failure." For example, the transmission in your car has hundreds of parts, but if just one little tiny part is not working -- the whole transmission does not work. The same is true with this "parent program." Omit just one strategy, and the whole plan falls through the floor.

1. Are you asking your daughter at least one question each day that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or a "no" to demonstrate that you are interested in what is going on in her life? (page 20 of the printable version of eBook)

2. Are you saying to her "I love you" everyday and expecting nothing in return? (page 20)

3. Are you eating dinner together at least one evening each week -- either at home or out? (page 20)

4. Do you use "The Art of Saying Yes" whenever your answer is yes? (page 25)

5. Do you use "The The Art of Saying - and Sticking With - No" whenever your answer is no? (page 25)

6. Do you catch her in the act of doing something right at least once each day? (page 25)

7. Do you use the "When You Want Something From Your Kid" approach as needed? (page 31)

8. Do you give her at least one chore each day? (page 31)

9. Do you find something fun to do with her each week? (page 54)

10. Do you use the "I noticed ...I felt ...Listen" approach when something unexpected pops-up? (bottom of page 50)

11. When you are undecided about what to say or do in any particular situation, are you asking yourself the following question: "Will this promote the development of self-reliance in my daughter, or will this inhibit the development of self-reliance?"

If it is supportive of self-reliance, say it or do it. If it is not supportive, don't!

12. Is she EARNING ALL of her stuff and freedom? (see "Self-Reliance Cycle" - page 19)

If you answered "no" to any of the above, you are missing some important pieces to the puzzle. Most parents DO miss a few pieces initially -- you can't be expected to remember everything! But don't get frustrated and give up. We must be willing to hang in there for the long haul.

I'm talking about refinement here. Refinement is a necessary tool to use in order to truly be successful with these parenting strategies.

HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: Parents who refine are, on average, 95% - 100% successful at getting the parent-child difficulties reduced in intensity and severity (i.e., the problems are easily managed).

The same can be true in your case. Don’t give up just yet. Please continue to refine by emailing me as needed over the next few months. Refinement is a process, not a one-time event.

Mark

Online Parent Support

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Comment:


Hi Mark,


A have written to you 2 times regarding our daughter (17). Our last communication was about her being asked to leave since she had broken all our house rules after returning home from running away for 2 months. She begged for another chance and we gave it to her since she asked for psychological help. Over the month she kept her end (smoking outside, no drugs on premises, none of her new 'mall' friends over and sleeping here 5 nights per week).


In this time she has been improving. No screaming anger outbursts etc. However, this is partly becasue she does not have any pressure on her. She dropped out of school and doesn't turn up for her casual job. However, we do not provide her with any spending money at all or pay her fines etc. She would need to earn it.


We have been seeing a social worker (who works primarily with kids she hangs with from this mall area) and a psychologist who she has seen a few times. She has been assessed by our region's mental health team and a GP doctor who have diagnosed her as clinically depressed (cutting, running away from home, substance abuse, intrusive negative thoughts, loss of school and normal friends etc) and is on their waiting list for therapy. They recommended we seek a private psychiatrist for assesment and treatment since she has had 3 nights of being afraid of her bedroom due to seeing lights and hearing noises that are not there (she said she had recently used cannabis). Although that stopped we are currently waiting for an appointment which I'm concerned she won't attend.


Like you and us, originally the social worker believed she was an out of control teen who needed strong boundaries to the point of letting her live on the streets if she chose not to comply. We put in the work re that. Other psychologists agreed UNTIL they have seen the whole picture: date raped last year and two sexual assaults since then as well as a loss, as well as a strong history of bipolar and psychotic depression in the family. They have said it seems she is experiencing possible post traumatic stress, major depression (possibly bipolar) and very disorganized and scattered thinking which is preventing decision making.


The problem is that she is now saying she is 'feeling better' and doesn't need to see a psychologist regularly anymore (it cuts into time with the boyfriend and is too confronting I think). She has begun staying away for more days at the boyfriend's (who we don't allow at our home due to his behaviours - he is 20 unemployed, vandalizes, intimidates people etc and the police told us is bad news - we don't want this influence on our younger daughters). The advice we have been given now is to just keep her safe. To prevent her raging against herself - basically walk on eggshells. We have been told whatever happens to prevent her being out of home again as she is at extreme risk. This is hard becasue at times she appears fine - when there is no pressure.


We feel at ransom. We had an ultimatum - 5 nights or you have chosen to live elsewhere. Now there are to be NO rules regarding her number of nights at home??? As long as the door is open she can drift in and out, not do anything constructive with her life (I've been told she needs routine - how can I encourage that if we are told she needs just a safe place to fall until she is ready to seek help???) At 17 1/2 with a mental illness is this reasonable? Last night we brought up about work etc and she said she 'didn't want to talk about it' over and over again. After 5 months of patience it is growing thin all this unpredicable all over the place behaviour, so we lost control of our poker faces (no screaming though but not great) but it was too confronting for her so she packed some bags and left 9don't know how long for).


We are so stressed out feeling at ransom. She asks for help then doesn't want it. She can't keep to anything she says she will do. The social worker said her way of coping and keeping safe is avoiding everything other than hanging with the boyfriend and at the mall (staying at the boyfriends as often as possible - which is a problem becasue he is very controlling). If mental illness wasn't in the picture we could implement this stuff without concern. But we have been advised to just be there for her and provide gentle guidance and encouragement to try new things since she feels like a failure and isn't sure how to dig her way out.


Please advise us as we are finding it hard to know how to handle this situation. She complies with everything when at home (not swearing at people, she doesn't ask for money or steal off us anymore, she is polite and reconnecting with family, hasn't brought people home etc) but wants to stay away when ever she wants and can't hold a job etc. The psych says just try to gently prod her to therapy or psychiatrist - easier said than done. We feel disarmed, we have nothing left to guide her because the one thing we had (not living here as a consequence for not working or being in school or staying 5 nights) is the very thing we've been told not to do in order to protect her. We only have our own personal boundaries left. It is such a bad message to our younger kids (14 with mild aspergers and 11). We've been told to just explain that she is mentally unwell and the way she is living is not what we expect of them.


Please advise us as we are so confused. We feel manipulated by her comments such as 'I'm not coming home tonight because something has happened and I need to get my head together' (often an excuse to stay at the boyfriends) coupled with direction to keep her at home to protect her mental and physical well-being. We keep thinking if only we had accepted this new boyfriend we wouldn't be in this mess.....although we never told her she can't see him or go out with him etc so as not to make the connection stronger but it seems to have happened anyway because we won't have him over in order to protect our younger ones. Please help us with some direction.


Thank you.


Melanie


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Hi Melanie,

Re: ...how can I encourage that if we are told she needs just a safe place to fall until she is ready to seek help???


She's never going to be "ready" as long as she is pampered.


I think you've been duped again!!! She's very smart.


Even if she is bipolar and depressed - it doesn't change anything on your end. Many parents with bipolar teens are using the strategies outlined in the ebook. One important caveat is to make sure she stays on her meds. You will make no progress otherwise.


Botton line: If she has a mental illness, she needs help from a psychiatrist -- but you should NOT change from assertive parenting BACK TO passive-overindulgent parenting (which sounds like what you have done).


You do her no flavors when you let her run the show. It hurts her - it doesn't help her. How do you expect her to function in the real world as an adult (when you're not around).


Mark

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