Meltdowns killing our relationship

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patternist
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11 Aug 2008, 9:45 am

Mine, that is....


Divorce/split custody - 50-50.
Child is 3 and a half
I believe he is either AS or HFA, in the process of diagnosis

Pretty sure dad doesn't really discipline. When I ask my 3.5 y/o son to do something, he hears me...about 30% of the time. I get so impatient and after about the 4th time I ask...I just lose all restraint and sort of black out and yell and generally act mean and scary. It never gets physical, it is just me venting my frustration, carrying on and such, but afterwards I feel awful and I am pretty sure my child is terrified of me. I always apologize afterward, to make sure he knows my reaction was disproportionate to the "crime".

I don't know what to do to stop acting like this and/or get the kid to pay attention to me the first...or second...or even third time. This happens maybe once every two weeks.

I am at the edge. I pay child support AND have him 50% of the time, and pay for 50% of child care (dad takes him to child care in the day and presumably goes back home and watches TV, as he hasn't had a job in 6 months). That leaves no money for counseling and the like. Even when I yell, I still feel like the more responsible parent. Ex has told me he doesn't feel comfortable talking to our son. And he comes back from dad's house with infected mosquito bites.

So I need informal help, advice, comiseration, something. I don't want my child to grow up feeling scared of me.
If you feel I am a terrible parent, please be kind enough to not say so. I already feel that I am; I know this is bad; I want solutions, not criticism. I get enough of that from myself.



ouinon
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11 Aug 2008, 10:07 am

I was like that at times, mostly when my son was littler. He is now 9 and things are much better.

I would totally lose it every couple of weeks about something like you describe, small things. And I would become a raging fury, a hyper-critical driven ranting thing. And at times have been violent ( mild compared to some but still violent) . Not nice to know about myself.

As he has become more verbal, and as I have learned what works, how to handle things that he has trouble with, things have got much better. It was chiefly his being so non-verbal for so long; he didn't really speak until he was about 5 and even then it was very broken/faltering, often so poorly pronounced that others could not understand him at all.

Finding out about AS was also very helpful, because it explained both his and my particular difficulties. As so often with AS simply having the right data, the reason for it all, made a huge difference.

I too have loathed myself for how I have been with him. Hated myself. The first years were the hardest. It gets easier, though I still occasionally erupt, and it's not nice. At times i thought that I should leave him, that he would be better without me, I felt so awful. But it is working out ( I actually find living with his father the hardest thing now! :wink: ).

Courage, good luck, and best wishes.

.



Last edited by ouinon on 11 Aug 2008, 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

arkityp
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11 Aug 2008, 10:18 am

i have been through 2 divorces and one parental death. if there is one thing i have learned, it's that you shouldn't even be concerned whether your ex-husband has a job or what he does with his time. he's your ex for a reason. all this "he said, she said" business will get you absolutely nowhere. it is unnecessary drama, and you are inadvertently hurting your child.

that being said, if the child is coming home with "infected mosquito bites" and other signs of neglect, you need to document this. not to use against your ex-husband, but for the sake of the child. if this neglect escalates, the evidence will not only allow you to seek sole custody, but it will protect your child. this is what is most important.

if your child is not getting the support and love he needs, he is going to lash out. he is going to ignore you, and he will end up hating you.

you have to figure out how you can give infinite amount of love to your child. spend time with him. find out what his interests and obsessions are. teach him what is appropriate and bad behaviour. you brought him into this world for a reason (and hopefully the appropriate one), so start doing your job as a parent. work with your child instead of fighting against him.



patternist
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11 Aug 2008, 10:30 am

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all this "he said, she said" business will get you absolutely nowhere. it is unnecessary drama, and you are inadvertently hurting your child.


There's not really any he said/she said business. I don't discuss anything about my ex to or in front of my child. My point was to demonstrate what exactly was stressing me about the situation and why I am stretched to the point where I feel like breaking. But thanks for your concern (?) anyway (?). Hopefully I am allowed to be irritated by things that my ex-husband does.

Quote:
you have to figure out how you can give infinite amount of love to your child. spend time with him. find out what his interests and obsessions are. teach him what is appropriate and bad behaviour.

Yes, that's what I'm trying to do. Kind of the point of my post, actually. How do I demonstrate infinite love while teaching him right from wrong?

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so start doing your job as a parent.

Excuse me, what?

Ouinon, yeah, that's kind of exactly how I feel. My little boy is verbal now, but delayed. he's made great strides, actually. I have found some footholds. I just need to learn to a) get through to him about the small stuff b) not freak out about every little thing. The question is: how? And how do I get through this without hating myself? Because that surely doesn't help.



arkityp
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11 Aug 2008, 10:39 am

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Hopefully I am allowed to be irritated by things that my ex-husband does.


the key difference is whether you are irritated because they are hurting you, or hurting your child.

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Yes, that's what I'm trying to do. Kind of the point of my post, actually. How do I demonstrate infinite love while teaching him right from wrong?


you might benefit in speaking to family members about this. obviously as an individual with AS, they would have experiences in dealing with this type of thing. or, friends. or even attend a few parenting classes. they are relatively cheap and can help you build not only parenting, but life skills as well.

Quote:
Excuse me, what?


what do you think the role of the parent is?



patternist
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11 Aug 2008, 10:51 am

Your prior post implied (by saying "start doing your job as a parent") that I am not doing my job as a parent. I am, in fact, already trying my best. Your post would imply I have some auxiliary reserve of strength and I am simply not trying hard enough. Not so. Maybe you don't have children.

If you had read my prior post more carefully, you would have seen that I was not looking for criticism. You post was hurtful, unwelcome, and missed the point entirely. I am beating myself up over this. I really didn't need anyone else to join in.



ouinon
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11 Aug 2008, 10:57 am

patternist wrote:
I need to learn to a) get through to him about the small stuff b) not freak out about every little thing. The question is: how? And how do I get through this without hating myself? Because that surely doesn't help.

You're right, it doesn't. When I was feeling that guilt and self-hatred and horror it was like a wave of sick weakness which paralysed me, and during which I felt as if I had so messed up that if my son/motherhood had been a painting of mine I would have torn it up and binned it many times, so much of a "mess" I had made of it.

Like you I apologised, I explained, I cuddled, I cried. I rarely ( though unfortunately do sometimes) pretended that my rage was justified, or not for long. I think sometimes that oddly enough my openness about weakness has led to stronger bonds between us ( but the teenage years are yet to come ... ), because we are close, affectionate. He talks to me about everything he is interested in.

I think the most important thing is to avoid justifying, admit the mistake/error/weakness, as you already do, because I know that something I am and always have been angry with my parents for is how closed against all criticism they were, and still are, ( always insisting that they did their best, which I hate) , never admitting that they made mistakes, nor acknowledged any weakness/wrongness in themselves. I think the illusion ( maintained/protected by the parents) of parental "perfection", can be as hard or harder to deal with than parents who who admit to failings, to humanity.

One big mistake I made was , through inexperience, expecting progress ahead of his age, and of course AS made this worse. I simply had these idealised notions of what age children did things. Now I am amazed at what I thought was appropriate for him at x, y, and z age. So, a long time ago now, I slowed down, let up, allowed him to set the pace for things more ( for example he was in day nappies till 5, night nappies until 6, after trying to toilet train at 3 and 4 and reaping nothing but disasters and my consequent meltdowns) . We live slowly, ( he home-unschools for instance) , and quietly, but it works.

I think that at some point I stopped thinking that I could do it perfectly and that if I couldn't I had to throw "it"/him away and start again. I accepted that I would make mistakes, be horrible, and that despite that I would love him, and he would love me.

I think being honest with my son is one of the most important things, one aspect of which is not being afraid to say that my behaviour was appalling, ( even that I don't always manage, or it takes a while to admit to).

.



arkityp
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11 Aug 2008, 11:03 am

patternist wrote:
Your prior post implied (by saying "start doing your job as a parent") that I am not doing my job as a parent. I am, in fact, already trying my best. Your post would imply I have some auxiliary reserve of strength and I am simply not trying hard enough. Not so. Maybe you don't have children.

If you had read my prior post more carefully, you would have seen that I was not looking for criticism. You post was hurtful, unwelcome, and missed the point entirely. I am beating myself up over this. I really didn't need anyone else to join in.


i had no intention of "beating you up over this". parenting is a learning process. nobody is a perfect parent. but you need to learn how to restrain yourself. put your negative energy into something positive (i.e. "don't cry over spilled milk"). there is a difference between discipline and unnecessary anger. if your child breaks something, tell him why he shouldn't touch it and explain to him that breaking things is not appropriate. if your child throws a temper tantrum over not being able to have something, ask him what he would be willing to do to get it (i.e. incentive). the list goes on. it's just common sense and reasoning.

i don't have answers to your specific situations but if you would be willing to share an example it would be easier for us to assess and brainstorm solutions.

and for the record, no i don't have children. i know that my AS would be a detriment to their life (not to mention passing on the trait). many years ago, i refused to have children until i knew i had a good sense of how to cope with AS. not to say that someone with Asperger's shouldn't have children, but we need to learn to take care of ourselves because we can expect to take care of anyone else. that's my opinion, and it applies to all neurodiversities. i have seen and experienced a $417load of bad parenting; i see it every day and it doesn't help that people who are too self-absorbed to even care about another individual are popping out babies at an alarming rate. i suspect this generation will be the most horrifying and corrupt yet.



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11 Aug 2008, 11:05 am

Ouinon: I was thinking that too, about how the apologizing helps. My father was much the same way as I am, only he had my mother around to offset it. I was scared of my dad from an early age, but again, every time he yelled and flipped out, he apologized later. Which, I think, completely shielded me from thinking it was my fault, and salvaged my self-esteem.



arkityp
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11 Aug 2008, 11:20 am

also, i don't think you're a bad parent. a bad parent wouldn't ask others for help.



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11 Aug 2008, 11:51 am

My point was, that I am not a bad parent but sometimes I feel like one. And how to reduce the times that I feel like one? My son and I are usually close, but every time I freak out about something he pulls away from me for days at a time. This last time we went to my mom's house the next day and he followed her around like a puppy dog but wouldn't even turn toward me when I was speaking to him. It's like I didn't even exist. Worse than usual. Which hurts my feelings and makes me act even more hurt and childish. It is a classic catch-22.

If you're looking for a specific example, last weekend he peed on the floor because in addition to trying to potty train him I am trying to get him to put his clothes on without help; he knows how but doesn't try unless I basically refuse to do it for him. So we in a standoff about "who puts the pullups on" and while I was waiting for him to do it, he peed on the floor. After this last time he said he wanted to go to daddy's house. I brought up my ex - not because he does anything directly to hurt me - but because I know - and I'll try to be objective - that discipline/training is about 5 times harder when it is not applied consistently. Like driving a car with 2 flat tires. The child will prefer whoever is the "easy" parent to be around. I know dad's parenting style; it is "laissez-faire". As you said, Arkityp, he is my ex for a reason.

Maybe we can brainstorm now. For a spectrum 3 year old whose parents are divorcing, who suffers these setbacks, he is doing incredibly well. I need to know how to head this stuff off before I become irrational. Remember - I don't have 5 minutes to take a break; 3 year olds demand pretty constant attention. Moreso in the short amount of time I have trying to cram self-care skills into his adorable little head.



mom2bax
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11 Aug 2008, 12:05 pm

it is hard to raise a child especially in the 3's when you're doing it on your own even half the time.
you are dealing with the divorce and all that goes along with that as well as having this child who wants and needs you when you feel totally drained. i am assuming that you are working full time as well.
it takes a strong person indeed to ask for help and admit their weakness. i also find myself in a similar situation where i am just done with my kids some days when they have made a huge mess in another room while i was trying to tidey up another. i have also found that my outburst times seem to be somewhat hormonal that right around my time of month my temper seems harder to control.
i think an important thing for you to do would be to take some time for yourself while your ex has him and do things that you enjoy, evern if it means having a long hoe bubblebath and going to bed early or sleeping in if it's possible. Make sure you have time to go out with friends, even going for coffee or something or having someone over.
sometimes lack of sleep is a huge factor and ther's just not enough time to get everythng done some days. i am not sure how particular you are abot things but if you are very meticulous you may just need to start letting things go a little bit, not sure if this is a factor or not just a suggestion. some times we use paper plates so i don't have to worry about dishes or so i can catch up on the dishes i have let slip for a while.

all oi can say is try to be aware of when you're getting to teh point of "blowing your top"
and attempt to make the choice not to do it, (easier said than done, i know) also maybe try to figure out your triggers what is it about the behavior that frustrates you so much. even if you omay not realize it you may find certain things being associated withyour ex and unconciously directed towards your son.
i know i've done that with my kids especially when they haven't told the truth since their father had a tendancy to constantly lie. maybe it frustraes you so much that he doesn't listen becaue you've never really felt listened to and you don't want him to turn out like his father.
sometimes you don't even realize why you're doing it.

i was told to keep a journal of my thoughts and feelings by a counsellor, it was actually quite amazing the discoveries i made as i went along somethings i didnt even realize that they were lurking there but one thing led to another and it is a place wher you can be free to curse be angry be bitter whatever then you've also had a chance to release it too.

one thing i have found that works too is to do a countdown for my kids 5-4-3-2-1 if it is not done or they have not started by one i physically go over to them an try to get tehm to do it (eg. will tell my daughter to pick up a piece of paper she's thrown across th floor she won't i count, she sits i go over to her get her to walk over use my hand on hers to pick it up and walk her over to teh garbage and get her to throw it away) that doesn't often happen anymore because theykno once i start counting i mean business.
also i find that explaining things to my As son works a little better as well as giving him lots of warnigns of transitions. like he has to get off teh computer when he is finished that game or he can only play a short game then has to get off. i have found that if i sid you have to get off the computer at 7pm and he's in teh middle of a game it ends up frustrating both of us.

routines are said to be helpful as well if you don;t already have a set routine established it may work well for you if he knows what's coming next then it might not be so hard for him.

we all have bad days and as single parents we have no back up on the days we're done more often than not, so just know that you're not alone,and you're not horrible, you're human and we all have things we need to work on in our lives

sorry it's so long but i sure hope it helps.



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11 Aug 2008, 12:21 pm

That was the age, 3 1/2, that my second child was born, and I started to loose it (eventually diagnosed as post-partum depression). It is frustrating to see yourself behave in ways that you know are not the best for your child. I found a life-line in medication, and a placebo probably would have done the same job, I just needed to feel I had a lifeline.

1) You DO need to take care of yourself and MAKE IT A PRIORITY. Our children need us to be, first and foremost, able to put our best feet forward for them. Where I live there is a community mental health clinic that can offer free or reduced services; seek out something similar where you live. If you don't find that a viable option, find a mother's group. That was one of my life-lines, and we talked frankly with each other about our frustrations, guilt, and the rest. If that is not your style, consider what might be. What will allow you to feel whole and capable, so that on the days you have your child, you will feel you are doing the best you are capable of?

2) Remember that there are no perfect parents. Just "good enough" ones. Consider what are the most important things you can do for your child, and allow a few other things to slide. Stop listening to the world, which seems to have us parents worrying about every little thing and it's potential life long effect on our kids. Is it OK for you to indulge him in this period of insecurity, if that makes things easier for both of you? YES. Find the balance that works for you and your son. What anyone else thinks does not matter at all.

3) I found it useful for my son not only to see us, as parents, apologize for our mistakes, but to also have consequences. Many times I put us in "time out" together: my son for failing to listen, and me for yelling or whatever it was I was doing. Your child doesn't have to know that you actually enjoy "time out" (I certainly did!), just that every action, by adult or child, has consequences that he is able to understand.

4) 3 year olds by nature have trouble listening, and have trouble with transitions. Add AS on top of that and, well, it multiples. If you want to be heard, make sure that you are facing or touching the child and have his attention (be patient with that) before giving instructions. In a busy day it is so tempting to yell across the room, and also completely ineffective with a 3 year old, setting everyone up for upset and frustration. You also need to allow time for the request to be completed. My NT daughter did really well with a count to ten; my AS son needed longer at that age. For him, I devised this elaborate routine that might include a countdown from 5 minutes and then a song, or start with the song. I would sing ABC through twice, saying after the first round "next time you will come with me (or dress yourself, etc), and after the second round, "now its time to come with me." Even then, I still went through a count of 10 before expecting result. I tried to be clear before starting the routine each and every time what action I was requesting (time to leave the park calmly, without complaint) and what would happen if the action did not occur by the end of the singing and counting (I will pick you up and carry you out, like it or not). My daughter has long found joy in seeing how fast she can respond ("I did it before you got to 3, mommy!), but my son always took every second of his time. Still, it always worked. Like magic, lol.

5) Pick your battles. Be sure that the number of requests you are making are reasonable for his particular level of development, and that he is able to accurately process and understand them.

6) One step forward, two steps back, is very normal with kids. They regress a lot, particularly in times of emotional stress. I found it effective to basically give in a for a while, making it clear from the start why I was doing so, and how long I would do it. After my daughter was born, my son started refusing to dress himself. We realized that what he really wanted was my attention and physical touch for those few minutes. He missed my focused attention now that a baby was in the home. So we told him, "OK, one of us can help you dress, but we expect you to be doing this all by yourself again by the time you turn 4. We understand that what you really want is for us to give you the same attention we have to give your sister." Or something like that - I honestly no longer remember the details, lol. I just remember lots of long conversations, and a set of rules that were constantly in flux as a result. Preschoolers don't want to make mom or dad mad; they just want their needs met, and they have quite a few needs, and what wasn't needed last week by them may be needed this week. They will outgrow it. They always do.


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Mom to an amazing AS son, who recently graduated from the university (plus an also amazing non-AS daughter). Most likely part of the "Broader Autism Phenotype" (some traits).


patternist
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11 Aug 2008, 12:47 pm

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maybe it frustraes you so much that he doesn't listen becaue you've never really felt listened to and you don't want him to turn out like his father.
sometimes you don't even realize why you're doing it.


Yep, I'm sure that's part of it.

Quote:
I would sing ABC through twice, saying after the first round "next time you will come with me (or dress yourself, etc), and after the second round, "now its time to come with me."


This is actually quite brilliant. It is like you lifted the top of his head off and peered into his brain. Singing > talking to him, always. You should write a book called "how to get kids to do stuff".
When I ask him to do things, sometimes he will echo me ("brush your tee-eeth") or he will echo me and add opposition ("don't brush your teeth") and if I start counting to 5 or 10 he will sometimes think it's a game and continue counting. It's so hit-or-miss which is what gets hard. The singing thing is a stroke of brilliance though, I will have to try that. The child speaks music.



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11 Aug 2008, 1:09 pm

patternist wrote:
If you're looking for a specific example, last weekend he peed on the floor because in addition to trying to potty train him I am trying to get him to put his clothes on without help; he knows how but doesn't try unless I basically refuse to do it for him. So we in a standoff about "who puts the pullups on" and while I was waiting for him to do it, he peed on the floor. .

I am stunned by the things that you are expecting him to learn simultaneously, and already. But I was exactly the same, and until I stopped, slowed down, allowed him to pace things etc, as I said above, life was a nightmare with frequent meltdowns.

I discovered that, for my son at least, the age for toilet training was never; in that he went from day-nappies to no nappies in a day, aged 5, and the same for night nappies, aged 6, no training, and almost no accidents once he was ready. Putting on clothes was the same, but later.

I basically realised that life was incredibly and wonderfully simple when I left it up to him to programme progress/developments. Whereas when I pursued programmes of life-skills, pushed ahead with my theoretical ideas of when he should be able to do stuff, it was hell.

The same with reading. He learned in his own time; suddenly he was reading, aged 7 and a half. I had felt all the pressure from society; occasionally passed it on to him, but mostly I held back, made myself wait, because of what I'd learned about the rest, that he would do it when he was ready, when it made sense to him.

He did a lot of things "late" but does them fine, and I don't think puttting pressure on him, following schedules, my ideas and society's of when it should have happened, would have made any difference except to produce more meltdowns and more loathing/distance.

Leave it up to him to learn at his speed and if you need him dressed for things etc then do it yourself. Like that he will not pick up the awful habit of making other people do things that he wants done whether they do or not, but to do them himself .

.