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Life changing advice

November 11, 2012

I love reading.  There are some novels that I have read that I will always remember.  The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.  The Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.  Away by Jane Urquhart.  However, I’m not sure that I would say any of these books changed my life.

The Explosive Child by Ross Greene changed my life.  This is not going to be a book review.  However, I will highlight one aspect of this book.  This aspect changed my life.  The book is about children who have a low frustration for tolerance and whose reaction to frustration is extreme.  The children he describes often have one or more of a number of diagnoses such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

I have an “explosive child”.  For 8 years, I struggled with guilt, anger, and despair.  I didn’t know how to parent my child.  There were sleepless nights while my child screamed and screamed.  There was the dread of extended family gatherings because I knew that my child would misbehave and I would be judged negatively.  There was embarrassment when strangers asked me how my ears could stand the loud and relentless screaming. 

There were also sleepless nights while I worried how my child would navigate adulthood.  I anticipated drug addiction and illegal activity.

Finally, I felt strong enough to withstand the “helpers” saying “You just have to be more consistent in your behaviour management.”  I started the process of asking for help and yes they did say that I needed to be a more consistent disciplinarian.

Luckily a number of factors led to my child having an EEG.  It was abnormal.  Yay!  Why Yay?  Yay because that led to us to seeing a neurologist.  My child demonstrated his/her worst behaviour during that visit so we got an emergency consultation with a psychiatrist.  She recommended I read The Explosive Child.

The aspect of The Explosive Child that changed my life was the suggestion to shift my perspective, my paradigm, my understanding of my child and the causes of my child’s behaviour.  Green asks the reader “Would you deny your child glasses saying “You just need to try harder to see.”?  He asks “Would you deny a child with cerebral palsy a walker saying “You just need to try harder to walk.”?  I wear glasses and I work with children who have cerebral palsy.  I answered No! 

Green then challenged me to change how I parent so that my child experiences less frustration.  He also challenged me to change my response to my child’s extremely negative behaviour when my child was frustrated.

It may sound simple and obvious and I guess it is.  But it wasn’t easy to do but boy oh boy was it effective.  My child is not an angelic teenager now.  However, I no longer worry about drug addiction and illegal activity.  It still isn’t easy to parent my child but it is easier.

I share this story because this blog is about inclusion of people with impairments in our communities and society.  My focus with my child shifted from changing my child to changing my child’s environment.  I believe that is what we must do in order to enable everyone to experience success, a sense of competence and a sense of belonging.  What do you believe?

What books have changed your life?

Sheila

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One Comment
  1. A few years ago a friend told me about that book and how helpful it was for her and her daughter. Your blog entry also reminded me about how I shifted our home environment when I had toddler twins and a 4yo. My children were “typical” but I was tired of constantly saying no, so I made our home environment one in which almost everything was yes. It helped us all feel successful. I had people tell me I was making it impossible for them to learn why ‘no’ was important but there was plenty of opportunities for that when we went out and really, I think ‘you can’t’ is overrated.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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