Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Will He/We Ever Learn???

If you've been following this blog, you're well acquainted with Bear's little escape act last week. If you're new, here's a quick synopsis. Bear, who isn't even allowed to the corner on his own yet, decided to ride his bike to my parents' house without telling anyone. My parents live about 10 blocks away, and there are two very busy streets to be crossed between here and there. After a frantic search of the neighbourhood by some wonderful neighbours, the police were called. Shortly after that, Bear was located safe and sound at my folks'. (For more explanation on why they didn't call me, read last week's blog.)

Anyway, TheODDDad and I struggled with how to discipline Bear. The thing is, kids with ADHD have problems with impulse control. Science has proven that the area of the brain that controls emotion and impulse (among other things) doesn't work as well in people with ADHD, so they have a hard time regulating their behaviour. Bear knew he shouldn't go to my parents' house, but he was unable to stop himself.

So how do you discipline a child who you know can't control his behaviour? Or do you discipline them? Is there any point? On the one hand, they need to learn, but on the other hand, it's not their fault. Tricky, huh?

Anyway, despite the countless parenting and ADHD books I've read (and apparently not paid enough attention to), the only idea I could come up with that seemed to fit the crime was to take away his 6th birthday party that was planned for a few days after his little escapade. Now, in my defence, the thought of taking away a little boy's birthday party made me nauseous, but I was scared and wanted him to learn his lesson. NOW!

TheODDDad, however, despite not having read any parenting books, is way smarter than I am when it comes to these things. (Oh, thank God!) As he pointed out, the birthday party had nothing to do with Bear's disappearing act, so taking it away made no sense and would teach him nothing. (Duh...I knew that. Really, I did.) Rather, he suggested, why didn't we remove his bike since that was the vehicle used in the great escape and restrict his freedom to our property. Brilliant!!! This summer was the first time Bear was really allowed off our property without our being with him, so we explained to him that he had shown us he wasn't ready for that "big-boy" privilege yet and needed to earn it back. So for five days this was the deal, and we stuck to it. Yay us!

Bear, bless him, really seemed to get it...or so we thought. (I know, now you have to read on just to see what he's done this time.) When he asked to go next door or across the street we would gently remind him of why he wasn't allowed to go, and he was OK with that. No major meltdowns (or even minor meltdowns), which really surprised us. He even went so far as to come into the house to ask if he was allowed on the street to pet the dog that was coming. I was impressed at how well he had learned his lesson.

So along comes Sunday, and Bear regains his privileges. Of course, the bike/Bear reunion was prefaced by a serious talk about the importance of always telling an adult where you are and not going further than you're allowed. Yes, Mommy. Yes, Daddy. No, Mommy. No, Daddy. So far so good...and off he went.

The first place he wanted to go was to visit our new neighbours two houses away. We haven't even met them yet but they have a dog, and in Bear's world that means they're A-OK. When I tried to explain to him that Mommy and Daddy hadn't met them yet and we didn't even know if they liked children, he matter-of-factly informed me that he had spoken to them the other day and they hadn't said they were allergic to children. Well, it's hard to argue with that kind of logic, so I agreed that he could go see if they were outside.
"Mommy, if they're there, do I have to come back and tell you I'm staying there?" he asked. I smiled at him, said a quick little prayer of thanks that he had learned his lesson, and explained that it was OK because I knew where he was going.

About 10 minutes later TheODDDad, who was working outside, asked where Bear was. At the neighbours, I explained, but suggested that we should fetch him so that he didn't overstay his welcome. So off went TheODDDad to bring Bear home. About 20 minutes later I realized neither of them had returned home yet, but I just assumed he was chatting with the new neighbours. After all, they have a dog, and that makes them A-OK in his eyes as well.

A little while later a very sad looking Bear rode into the driveway, followed by a very serious looking daddy. Funny, though, they were coming from the opposited direction of the new neighbours' house.

"Hi, Mommy," Bear said quietly. "I went away again." Sigh...

Apparently when he didn't find the new neighbours outside, Bear decided to go to the park around the other side of the block instead. When TheODDDad didn't find him at the neighbours', he headed straight to the park, where he spotted Bear's shoes and bike...but no Bear...the very same scene I had come across when Bear took off last week. Thankfully Bear was at the house next to the park petting their cat, so another Bear disappearing act ended safely.

So Bear's bike is once again locked in the shed and Bear isn't allowed off our property. Will he learn his lesson this time? My guess is probably not. Will we? Well, if the lesson is not to trust our son (yet, that is), I'm afraid we've learned it. But I can't say I like it.


  1. You are gifted with patience and insight. All you can do is keep doing what you're doing and you will both eventually get where you need to be. You know, adult education research indicates that an adult needs to be told something 30 times before in remains permanently in memory not sure what that stat is for children, but probably more, and for those kids with ADHD probably even greater. Stay the course! At least it's all great blog fodder.

  2. oh wow. I understand SO much of what you're talking about. My son, Keith (10) has ADHD and is gifted with the ability to completely forget what we have said to him 5 minutes after it's been said. (sadly, he has also disappeared on us many times. ) UGH.
    Keep up the good work. Eventually you'll find something that "sticks" and when you do, please share it.

    ps Thank you for your lovely, heartfelt comment on my post on Scary Mommy.

  3. Thanks for the insight on memory, C. That's another one of those little tidbits that I try to keep tucked away for a day when I'm struggling with my patience. You may just need to remind me another 29 times though, OK?

  4. Debi, I just knew there was a reason why I connected with your posting on Scary Mommy. I'll continue to share my things that stick (once I finally find something) if you do as well. Deal?

  5. Hi Laura,

    I so relate to this post. Unlike these other ladies, I don't relate to it from the parental point of view. I know exactly where Bear is at. I've been that child. Not only was I that child, I was the siren's call, I was the pied piper and oh boy what an adventure did my family and I live when I was a child.

    The clearest memory of an example such as what Bear did that I have is the day where I took two of my three brothers, my sister and some friends "half-way across town" to go to the park. I was the oldest in the bunch and I would have been 8-9 at the time. The baby would have been 3? 4?

    We had permission to go to the park down the street, which had a short slide, a wooden bridge and a tire swing. Thing is, I wanted to go to the big park that had a big slide, an elephant slide, a boat, a merry go round, swings, a tunnel and oh so much more! But that park was about another kilometre or two away. Did that matter? No. Did it matter that I had to bring 6 kids along? No. Did it matter that we were on foot? No. Did it matter that my mom had said that I couldn't go to the big park (and I had never yet been allowed to go on my own...)? Not enough to stop me.

    So off we went. We had a lot of fun. We were gone most of the afternoon. It was a great adventure! Then it was time to come home, so I gathered everyone up and we headed back home.

    In the meantime, my mom wanted us to come home to get ready for supper, so she sent one of her brothers to get us. At the first park. Where we were supposed to be. Where we had not been at for most of the afternoon. He ran home and told my mom that 4 of her children and a couple of neighbourhood kids were missing... Yeah, that went over well.

    She called my dad and he rushed home. Fortunately (?) by the time my dad made it home, we had returned home - like ducks in a row. Yeah. That was a day.

    Fortunately, my parents didn't kill me - although I'm sure they may well have considered it at the time. We all grew up, and we all have our families, and we all have our stories. :D Sadly at the time, we didn't know about ADHD, or that I had a severe case of it. We only found that out a few years ago. Once we did though, the entire puzzle that had been my life up to that point came into a very clear focus and stories like this finally made sense.

  6. PS: Not to discourage you, because honestly I face the same thing with my girls... But to tell the truth, I never did learn the lesson of telling my parents where I was going, even if it was just next door. I'm not sure there is a solution other than steadfastness and watchfulness.

  7. Oh my goodness, Johanne, your story had me laughing! I can only imagine how many grey hairs you caused your poor parents over the years. I'm delighted to hear you all turned out OK. ;-)

    By the way, speaking of your girls, you know ADHD is genetic, right? Like mother, like daughters????