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How much control is too much control?
  • aliveit
    Posts: 69

    I'm struggling with my sons(9) control issues. I have 2 other children 11 and 3.

    I can accept certain things like
    -coming to dinner 10minutes after everyone else, and possibly eating something else
    - Not being able to wait 2 minutes for everyone to be ready to get in the car, so deciding he will walk(although this worries me if dark or too far)
    - Not wanting to go to shops or activities if there is no interest for him
    - taking time out of whatever i'm doing to occupy him, or reassure him when possible
    - Not getting into bed when asked so long as he's in his room
    ETC... you get the picture!

    But more and more he's trying to take over with my youngest and not let me parent her.
    -I will tell her to do one thing and he'll tell her to do another
    - teaching her unacceptable behaviour on purpose
    -not allowing me to discipline her( possibly a sensory thing as he can't take the noise of her crying)
    - taking her toys and then obliging her to give him a kiss to get them back
    - insisting she accompany him around the house or bath with him( anxiety provoked as he often doesn't like being alone in various rooms of the house) but then losing his temper with her ten seconds later and pushing her out
    - threatening to smack or smacking her

    I've tried to explain to him that three year olds can be frustrating and do annoying things , and i try to seperate them or stay with the 2 of them together so that they can both be calm, but he won't leave her alone and she doesn't know if she's coming or going. She adores him, but is also terrified of him. He will get angry with her and she will be the one begging his forgiveness. And that's not including the violent meltdowns she regularly witnesses.

    Then with me, how many of his demands do i give into?
    Of course He cannot handle frustration and has no patience most of the time.
    Taking yesterday as an example: I was cooking lunch, which is a rush as the eldest only has a short window to eat in b4 going back to school. My pdaer arrives, tries to go on his tablet and realises it is blocking him and asks me to deal with it. I had my hands full of mashed potato, explained dinner would only be 5 minutes, and i would definitely fix it as soon as lunch was finished.
    Full meltdown follows with bad violence involving me and his brother who just happened to walk in the room at that point . So extreme that his brother landed up having a panic attack and having the afternoon off school and me calling his dad in to look after his sister who was terrified.
    I know i probably could have worded it better, though i'm not sure how? Should i have just dropped what i was doing and taken the time to help him? After all i was rushing for his brother who landed up not being able to go into school because i didn't give into his demands!
    I try to be there as much as i can for him, but with the other 2 and my part time job(which i reduced after the diagnosis) it feels like there has to be a limit, and that he has to learn the limit, but is he capable? And if not how do i handle the situation, the 2 other siblings resentment and my own!

    On another point, he says he feels overwhelmed by the activities after school, (we've had physio appointments added to the mix after a sprained ankle) but when i try to suggest he doesn't do them, he sees that as a punishment. They are not fixed activities. Just dad trying to be nice and offering to take him swimming, no pressure, but my son wants to go. A school fancy dress party. A hairdressers appointment. I try to limit without him knowing, but then he gets bored and frustrated at home which leads to meltdowns..... but apparently he's also feeling too much pressure.
    I tried to talk to him but he doesn't seem to know what to do about this conflict either which just adds more stress.

    Things have definitely improved this last year letting him have more control, but i'm definitely going through a period of lost identity as a parent, the violence is back on the up, and is more control helping him or not giving him the structure he needs?

    These are just problems at home. At school very little, where he can contain his frustration.

    Any advice welcome.

  • MarSet
    Posts: 38
    Hi Aliveit, firstly welcome to the forum, there are a lot of helpful people here.

    I'd certainly try to stop the taking over with your 3 year old, she's at a very young and impressional age and if he's constantly frightening her a lot that could lead to her having physiological issues when she gets older. if it was me I would try to make sure they were supervised as much as possible specially if he teaching her to be naughty (your job is already stressful/hard enough)

    I try to only let my son have control over things he should be involved in but in reality he holds the house to ransom and unless were happy to have yet another WW3 its a case of damage limitation which usually means I have to let him take some control from me.

    Activities, if it suits him to do it he will but only when he wants to. eg, he went to the cinema with Mum a couple of weeks ago and wanted to see Alita (both me and Mum also wanted to see) so the following week my daughter was home with her friend so we decided we would all go. Nope he wanted to stay on his xbox which wasn't happening anyway because he had his time already. He demanded that we get one of the very limited resources we have to come and watch him while we all went, I explained that even if we did that he still wasn't going back on the xbox, his response was after a massive abusive rant "fine I'll just be a dick for whoever is looking after me then" I ended up staying at home with him so the others didn't loose out, no xbox though.

    Im not sure if that was helpful but im new to PDA so im limited in my knowledge.
  • SGCmum
    Posts: 84
    Hi aliveit. I can't really offer any advice but I wanted to offer some solidarity. I know exactly what you mean about wondering where to draw the line, and if you do, how do you enforce the boundary. I also have been reducing demands and allowing unacceptable behaviour, but now I feel the violence and verbal abuse has got worse, so it is impossible not to doubt ourselves and our parenting choices.
  • aliveit
    Posts: 69
    Thanks for your replies.
    I feel we are all stabbing in the dark most of the time. Surely no boundaries will eventually cause more anxiety, but too many boundaries cause the same effect! At a push, i could cope with the meltdowns if i thought it was helping, but all 3 children are suffering. But they will also suffer if i don't keep some control..
    We have a good and understanding psychologist who comes to the house. She has worked a lot with autistic children but is struggling with my sons pda profile. She is aware that her classic techniques will not help but she admitted today she's not sure what to try next. She also suggested we offer boarding school to our eldest if things are getting too hard at home, dealing with his brothers violence. Its an option, but a heartbreaking one.
    Hopefully its just another bad patch, and i can only hope that things will improve once my son can get back to his beloved football and expel some energy.
  • MarSet
    Posts: 38
    Hi alive it, heart breaking indeed my daughter is 18 and she ended up moving out because she just couldn't take anymore and it was causing her depression/anxiety to rocket.
    It would be nice if we could get my son interested in some kind of sporting activity like football but he has no interest in anything but technology. he's also obsessed with sugary products (sweets, energy drinks, full sugar fizzy pop etc) but he does nothing to burn the energy off. he knows he's not allowed energy drinks especially but he buys them when he's on his way home from school and then hides them when he gets in.
  • SGCmum
    Posts: 84
    It is so hard when your other children are affected, as they tend to miss out in the attention stakes anyway. I am going to a 1 day conference soon, and 2 of the speakers are going to talk about siblings. I'll let you know if I learn anything useful.
  • June67
    Posts: 816
    Hi alive it, your question is the one I'm wrestling with at the moment.
    If he has total control of what he wants to control he is calm and happy but his brother is stressed and fed up to say the least at being controlled, as am I. I am also sick of not being able to just get on with simple things and the more control I give the more he takes so it feels like things are spiralling out of my control.
    Once he has taken control of something it is almost impossible to get it back until he decides it's time for change, very frustrating. I worry greatly that he is not learning to understand that other people have needs and rights that need to be respected too. This worries me for his future as if he is getting aggressive with us or demanding something we don't want and won't take no for an answer now what kind of friend, boyfriend, husband or parent would he be? So he needs to be able to learn about this and accept some boundaries, he does this somewhat in school by mostly conforming so it could be possible. We just have to find a how. For understanding others needs I'm going to try the social story route or discussing situations that are not personal to him and hope he can start to relate these back to situations in his own life when calm. I'll let you know if I have success.
    Regarding control we are trying to change things when he is calm or at times when it is less crucial for us e.g. not when we are trying to get ready to go out to school but maybe when we are at home for the evening. Early days here we will see how it goes. I think it's a fine balancing act to select what it's ok to control and what the definite nos are and will vary on the situation and the family's (and child's) tolerance each time. It's the age old 'pick your battles' thing again I suppose. A threat to call the police did stop him smashing his brother's computer this week (and ask for help to calm down) but I know I'll need to use that very sparingly and for non-negotiable boundaries or it will lose it's effect or he will call my bluff and I'll have to call them.
    On a positive note I gave up trying to control when he washed himself and his hair as any mention would send him over the edge and settled for taking him swimming once a week where he would shower both before and after swimming without realising it as it's just what you do. In the meantime we have chatted about growing up, keeping clean and healthy, the bathing routines of the rest of us etc. and how it was for me to be teased at school when my hair first became greasy and I hadn't got daily washing of it organised. After a few months he has suddenly decided that now he is getting older and more smelly he needs a shower routine which he has devised himself and stuck to so far. I also mentioned brushing his teeth a bit longer and twice a day rather than the current once, he said 'yes but I can't do two new things at once it's too much. When I've got used to the shower plan I'll do the teeth thing.' So he is starting to reflect on how and when he is comfortable to try changing some things because we gave him a bit of space and trusted that he might get there in the end.
    I agree totally about siblings feeling under pressure and missing out on lots of time etc. When I get the chance I try to say that I understand his feelings of frustration and that I am proud of how he handles things when he stays calm etc. If their dad is home I try to guide him to doing things with one while I do something with the other but it isn't often possible, but even a little bit of time and attention seems to help.
    I hope this is of some use, if not sorry for rambling on. All the best June
  • SGCmum
    Posts: 84
    I'm wondering what other people mean when they have non negotiable boundaries, and how they re-enforce them. I'm not sure I have any at the moment, as my girls (18 and 11 years) are having a year out/ not at school due to anxiety. They have very little expected of them. My oldest mostly does what she likes, but she does self regulate quite well now when under no pressure, so we mostly don't have problems. But this is because she us just doing what she wants. However, that is because I don't ask her to do anything. We have problems when she argues with her sister, and she can be quite horrible to her, but I don't give consequences as there is point, and it would only increase resentment. The youngest one is having less outbursts ( not sure if I can call them meltdowns as she still retains some control), but her aggression, verbal and physical, is worsening. I keep questioning if this is because of lack of imposed consequences, as she doesn't need to hold back. When I need her to do something, e.g. get off computer or ready to go out, it requires much time, careful consideration of how I phrase things, repeated requests and sometimes practical help e.g. putting clothes on. Does this count as setting boundaries and retaining some control, as she eventually does it, or is that only if someone is made to do something rather than this gentle encouragement to decide to do it? Also, I recognise that hitting me should be a non negotiable boundary, and my daughter knows this is unacceptable, but how do ither people re-enforce this? Sorry, that's a lot of questions and a lot of waffling, but any advice or ideas would be very welcome.
  • June67
    Posts: 816
    I'm struggling with this too but for me it means expectations of behaviour that will be dealt with and followed up if not conformed with e.g. no hitting but with my sons consequences e.g. time out, loss of phone or computer for a short period of time don't appear to change the behaviour and seem to add to it more. Escalating a small situation to something much larger is not what I want, calming and reflecting appear more useful for us. Once they are calm I talk to them individually about what happened reinforcing we don't hit etc and why and trying to help them say sorry and think about how they could have done things differently before it got to that point. It's slow progress but it seems to be opening up conversations with my youngest about how he can try to manage his feelings in the future rather than a punitive punishment that just adds to resentment. I'm trying to give him tools that he can use and help him make better choices rather than petty consequences. Obviously if he breaks his brother's computer the natural consequence would be him swapping his for the broken one and the threat of that at the moment seems to be enough to move him away from that action with support. Another non negotiable for us at the moment is going to school; as he appears to be ok once he has got over the hump over getting dressed and leaving the house. He has said he likes secondary school more than primary at the moment although I know this could change we'll keep him there as long as he is ok. I do have to jump through hoops such as helping him to dress, serving breakfast at a certain time etc. to get him over the hump but we are making slow steps to him doing more things independently within these routines e.g. he fastens his shirt buttons now and pulls up and fastens his trousers things which he refused to do before. We are nearly always on time just as long as the routines are followed. So the boundary has been maintained but in away that he can cope with. It's working out what is important for you as a family to have as an expectation and then supporting them to find a way of meeting it and working out which things are less important to control as a parent; I don't mind if he wants to eat at his computer not at the table (they are in the same room) as long as he eats a reasonable diet, sometimes he will come to the table and join us other times not. That's how I'm trying to do things anyway, it's tricky and success is variable and sometimes it all breaks down but we keep trying.
  • Within a school setting I have found the following helpful. I'm hoping these can work at home too.
    You will have a range of demands that you will relinquish control on and some that you cannot (perhaps for safety or rewards of others). Those demands that you will relinquish control over can gently be restricted over time when the child is in a calm and stable place. When anxiety rises keep or lower the demands, when anxiety is low you can slowly increase the demands. When it's a demand you cannot relinquish parental control over try and provide anxiety busting / mindfulness / role-play activity immediately prior to the demand. For example a pupil would refuse to leave the school at the end of the day and so we introduced a 15 minute choice of activity at the end of the day the pupil was then less anxious and didn't view leaving the school as such a demand.
  • June67
    Posts: 816
    Sounds like your pupils are lucky to be educated in your thoughtful, understanding, responsive learning environment. If only all of our children were so lucky. Thanks for your suggestions, it is up to those of us that can think flexibly to do so and see if we can support and manage situations to help achieve stress free results for all.
  • aliveit
    Posts: 69
    Thanks everyone for your advice, strategies and stories... its nice to know we are not alone.
    There are times that for us, like for our children, we can use the strategies, adapt and cope and then times when everything gets on top of us and we don't know what to do for the best. Its definitely a journey of highs and lows!
  • Rubytuesday
    Posts: 308
    We’re currently doing an NVR (non violent resistance) course with CAMHS for parents of children with anxiety. Within this approach there are some useful ideas about control and accommodations. The whole idea of the approach is about changing parental behaviour as the child is so anxious they can’t change theirs... I’ll see if I can find an online link and will post it tomorrow in case it is helpful to anyone.
  • June67
    Posts: 816
    Hi Ruby yes NVR techniques have helped here; there is a good short read book 'Connective Parenting....' by Sarah Fisher that is a good place to start from and try things out.
  • MarSet
    Posts: 38
    Camhs family therapist put us on the NVR route when we first started seeing them but they gave us no guidance as to what the major problems should be. My son just started pushing boundaries further because he wasn't getting told off for the smaller stuff he just did it more often. It didn't work for us and just made me more anxious as I felt id lost all control.

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