In spite of the thrill of the new hair and the agony of the illness, the real news last week was the inauguration of a new, chart-based motivational system for my kids. I am doing this because Boy #1 is having a lot of ups and downs in school. Two to three days a week he has been coming home with a red card, which means he's exhausted his warnings and gotten in real trouble -- as opposed to coming home with a stamped hand, which means he stayed on his green card all day. The problem always has to do with arguing with the teacher and denying wrongdoing. This is no news to me. The kid always has trouble accepting responsibility for his mistakes. I have tried and tried to fix this, to no avail.
After the most recent despairing call from his poor, embattled first grade teacher, I started looking into Oppositional Defiant Disorder. But that did not really feel right either. Although he shows some of the symptoms, it's such a nebulous disorder and it occurs most frequently in kids with really difficult family backgrounds. While I'm no angel mother, I certainly have not brought my kids up in the kind of chaotic home you seem to read about in ODD case studies.
As part of my ODD search, I turned to a guy I've always trusted with my kids. Yes, my friends, we're talking about Dr. William Sears, who doesn't know me from Adam. Or Eve, as the case may be. Strangely, he's got nothing on ODD. But my search did take me to his ADD/ADHD pages, which made me think maybe I should check out his ADD Book. I got it cheap from the used section on Amazon.
It's really amazing that I didn't do this before. I'm normally the kind of person who figures I can do anything if I can just find the right book to teach me how. And I think now I've found the right book, or at least a really good one.
Sears and his coauthor, Lynda Thompson, connect defiant and angry behaviors with ADHD in a way I'd never heard before. They say they are a defense against the feelings of low self-worth that come from struggling to do everyday tasks. Which totally makes sense! When you try to correct my son and he insists he has done nothing wrong, it's because at some level he really needs to believe that he's done nothing wrong. The prescription: More chances to achieve and more praise and love and positive attention.
Thus the chart system -- purposely made a bit complex because the book says that's more satisfying to the ADHD brain. So far it is great! Each daily task, from making the bed to leaving on time for school to coming home with a stamped hand, earns one sticker. Every 5 stickers earn a token -- a poker chip. (Yes, I know, my $10 for the box of poker chips supported the gambling industry. I couldn't think of any better thing to use for tokens.) Then I have a treasure box that I filled with rewards that take between 3 and 30 tokens to buy. Today, day 7, S should top 20 tokens. He came home with a stamped hand 4 days out of 5 last week. He's doing great! And as a bonus, little brother loves it, too, although he's less apt to save up his tokens and more apt to spend them on sugar-free gum or packaged rice krispie treats.
Back to the book: It is not at all anti-medication, which is great -- I'm all in favor of a balanced, multi-pronged approach. It also proposes using neurofeedback therapy, something I've just learned about from Sam's primary teacher, who is a psychologist for children and teenagers. She knows somebody who does it here in our little town. I just need to figure out how to get it paid for.
Feeling optimistic today -- maybe at last I've found the right book.