Friday, February 19, 2010

Disability vs. Personality

I’m trying to be accepting of my children. Unconditional love is, as I’ve written before, the most important part of any plan to help with ADHD or other challenges. Acceptance is a cornerstone of 12-Step recovery, but a dicey one when it comes to parenting. There are things in life I can’t change. There are things about my daughter that I can’t change. But there are things that, as a parent, I must change. Well, let me put that a different way: It’s my responsibility to teach my daughter a basic level of appropriate behavior and the tools she might need to get along with her fellow human beings. But it’s at just these teachable moments when I completely blow it in the unconditional love department.

The truth of the matter is that it is sometimes impossible for me to discern which aspects of a particular behavior are her disability (e.g. Tourette’s causing uncontrollable outbursts or anxiety causing uncontrollable outbursts or ADHD… causing… uncontrollable… out—well you get the idea) and which aspects are her personality (as children are often generally willful, defiant and self-absorbed). I can accept that she has greater challenges to her serenity than some other children. I can accept that I need to take these challenges into consideration when structuring her routine or establishing discipline. But in the moment when she seems completely incapable of performing the simplest task, I can’t seem to accept that she might not be entirely willfully misbehaving. She may be willfully misbehaving in part, and that’s the part I’m supposed to lovingly discipline but I can’t tease out what’s what and, in the end, three out of five times I wind up losing it and yelling, sending her to her room, or revoking various privileges.

Mind you, three out of five times is a vast improvement over my natural instincts. Having to report my own melt-downs to my sponsor each day has helped a fair amount in delaying my outbursts at least long enough for a few rational thoughts. And I’m ridiculously proud of the few times I’ve managed to navigate a behavioral mine-field without blowing off any body parts, hers or my own.

Come to think of it, maybe I oughtta cut myself a little slack if I’m dealing with my own self-diagnosed ADHD. I should look at my own behavior and ask which parts I can easily control and which parts might need more intensive intervention. Where can I develop alternative coping mechanisms that would allow me to approach my daughter without going off the deep end? Aren’t those just the things I’m hoping to develop in her? Wouldn’t it be easier to teach her out of personal experience rather than mandate out of my own need for order and quiet?

Uff da. I’m off to do my daily 10th Step inventory. Luckily I get to write down the good things I did, today, too.

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