Sunday, December 22, 2013

Our Plan of Action: “Big Consequences”

I’m happy to share that things have been going good, I mean really good lately. My oldest son has been doing a wonderful job of controlling his violent anger towards us. On two separate occasions he became quite upset, but he didn’t threaten or harm us or any property. This is after we established new “big consequences” for such threatening behavior. His consequence are as follows: First, he’ll lose his bed mattress in his room for a week and will be required to sleep on the floor. This is not something he’d consider fun since he loves his bed. We figure that after becoming violent, he’ll have to live for a whole week thinking about his actions as he tries to go to sleep on the floor each night. Second, he’ll lose all electronics for a week and finally, third he’ll be demoted to riding in the back seat of the car. Which currently is a new favorite privilege of his that he recently earned when he turned 13. At this point we feel that he has enough control and is currently stable, but he doesn’t have enough incentive to control his anger. He’s spent years reacting to stress with violence and now it’s become somewhat of a habit. This is our response to the doctor wanting to hospitalize him in order to “teach him a lesson.”

In addition, we also contacted the school to come up with a plan on minimizing his stress through the rest of the school year. Especially when it comes to large school projects and tests that seem to happen all at once. Our hope is that by reducing his stress, he’ll have a better shot of controlling his actions while allowing him time to practice self control over smaller stress loads.

So far, things have been wonderful. It also helps that he recently had Thanksgiving break and is now on Christmas break. The true test will come when the workload increases and there are no breaks in sight.

At this point, we don’t know what the outcome of this plan will be, but we had to try something. I’m certain that if or when the time comes that he does face these “big consequences,” it will be one rough week for all of us. But if we have a chance of helping our son take control of his actions and learn from his mistakes while he’s still young, it will be worth it in the long run. (Fingers crossed)

But in the moment, as my house sparkles with Christmas decorations, my cup runneth over. I’ve been having so much fun with my kids. They’re being kind, helpful and polite. But more than that, I’m connecting with them, laughing with them and gushing with love over them. It honestly feels like a Christmas miracle.

Whatever it is, I am blessed.

* * *

Thank you for being a part of my life through letters and prayers. Though we’ve never met, I think about you and your families and I’m praying for you tonight. Merry Christmas my fellow Mama and Papa bears, may you hold your cubs close and be filled with joy.


  1. Hello Mama Bear,
    FWIW, about the response to the doctor, you can also tell that pdoc that big consequences help only when your son needs motivation to do well.

    So, IMHO, as a person suffering from ADHD brought by brain damage, the big questions you can ask yourself are :
    - does your son needs motivation to behave ?
    - does a behavior plan with reward and consequences will help ?
    If the answer to at least one of these questions is "no", then, relying on a behavior plan with rewards and consequences is set up for failure.

    You know your son better than his pdoc as you spend every day with him.

    For stress and social skills, a great book that helped me is "The charisma myth" by Olivia Fox Cabane.
    This lady is a French-American former lawyer and she has now become a coach in charisma.
    This book is straightforward written. No threats for consequences if we don't apply her method, no condescending tone, only practical facts and exercises to help.
    I embedded stress and social skills on this same paragraph because this book teaches you that you cannot have social skills under stress.
    The other self-help books about charisma don't emphasize this point enough.
    What I also love in this book is that it focuses on sincerity in order to be charismatic, while other books about charisma rely more on manipulative techniques.
    For all these reasons, I highly recommend you this book for your oldest son because he will also find helpful hints to manage his stress.

    For your younger son, as this book does not teach how to read non verbal cues, you need to complete with other books/social skills classes.
    You can also complete it with "How to make anyone like you" and "How to talk to anyone" by Leil Lowndes.
    If my advice works, keep it. If it works so so, adapt it. If it does not work at all, quit it !

    I am very wary about the following book "How to connect with anyone" by the same author because it fosters lie in order to connect with people. I absolutely don't advise this third book for people with social skills deficits.

    Disclaimer for every reader : "The charisma myth" is not a substitute to therapy. It completes the therapy.
    If you're in doubt about whatever a specific exercise may trigger a symptom, check with your doctor first.

  2. I think the "big consequences" are a good idea! Because of my emotional problems as a kid I often spent all day at school etc holding in my stress (not always successfully...) but didn't feel the need to do so at home because it was a safe space. That sounds great in theory but it meant my parents were on the receiving end of a lot of anger and aggression that they really didn't deserve! It would have been one thing if I REALLY couldn't control myself but like your son I think I just got into the habit of not bothering to hold back even when I could have. When I realized this in my teens I made a concerted effort to change but even now as an adult I sometimes catch myself speaking to them in a way that makes me go "whoa, K, these are your parents, you know!"

    I'm sure when your son finally does cop a "big consequence" is gonna be a scary time for you all, ha. But hopefully he'll be reasonable enough once he cools down a little to realize he screwed up and accept the consequences with grace (hey, it happens!) I'm glad your new approach seems to be working for you and I hope it continues to give you good results! I seem to be using way too many exclamation marks in this comment... hmm.

    I wish you all the best for your family, and Merry Christmas :)

    1. Thanks for your insight and support. We are hoping that this new plan encourages him to now access the therapy tools we’ve been trying to teach him for years. I agree with your comment that he does keep it together at school because of the "big consequences" such as being expelled. The reality is, we all have to control our anger and not threaten others, even if we feel bad inside. The real world doesn’t allow this behavior so we need to prepare him for that, and that includes how he treats us in our home. We know that if he wasn’t stable this would be impossible to do, but I think the time is right for where he is right now. I am also hoping that as he gets older, he will have more self control and this will get easier for him over time. If for some reason he becomes unstable, we will address that at that time.

  3. Hello there! I've read a handful of your posts but haven't made a comment yet. I'm so happy for you and your family. The consequences are clever... it seems like you all really gave it much thought. Unlike many other parents who dish out "punishment" that appears to be more about them than about the children. I look forward to reading about your eldest son's progress. Best wishes and happy holidays :)

  4. Thank you Nemya, I appreciate you reading my blog. I look forward to hearing from you again.

  5. Did your son help come up with the consequences? If so, I think that they are perfectly reasonable!

    I'm glad everything is going smoothly right now. I'm glad your holidays went well! I'm also glad the school is working with you, and him, especially. School is stressful enough for any 13 year old kid, let along one with a mood disorder.

    Merry Christmas and may 2014 bring more improvement!

    1. We decided on the consequence without our son's help. We thought long on hard what would make the biggest impact. My husband came up with the idea about his bed. My son's response to this was, "you found my weak spot, I love my bed!"

      So far, so good.

      I wish you a good 2014 too!