Why is my child mean?

Ken Shyminskya former vice president of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, draws upon his personal experiences as a teacher and student with Tourette Syndrome to help children with TS and related disorders. He also has Tourette himself and is the founder of the website Neurologically Gifted.

There have been many parent posts online regarding the general and persistent negative behavior patterns of their children.  They describe their children as being “mean” on a regular basis.  It’s not uncommon to see this default behavior in children who have neurological challenges.

In my presentations, I call this the “Awfulizer Syndrome.”  To these children, everything is awful.  They always seem annoyed or angry.  They are routinely mean or insulting.  They often engage in name calling and typically communicate in an unkind or angry tone of voice.  Generally negative in most aspects of their daily life, they are most often disagreeable.

Without intervention and support, it is difficult to correct these behaviors.  From personal experience, as a person who has overcome this challenge and a parent who has dealt with it, I can tell you it takes a great deal of effort to overcome this neurological affect.

Step 1:  Identify your child’s behaviors and the responses of your family members

Identify and address when your child is mean through his/her words, voice or actions.  Be sure to do this when your child is in a calm and receptive state of mind.  Session need to be frequent and on-going.  Share your feelings with your child.  Explain how their words/tone/behaviors make you feel, and how it affects your thinking about them (e.g. “Although I love you, your tone of voice makes me feel mad and I don’t want to be around you when you are mean to me”).  This response is a natural consequence – people don’t want to be around people who are mean or unkind.

Why Is My Child Mean?!?  NeurologicallyGifted.com Continue reading

RAGE!!! Part 4: Prepare a plan

Ken Shyminskya former vice president of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, draws upon his personal experiences as an teacher and student with Tourette Syndrome to help children with TS and related disorders. He also has Tourette himself and is the founder of the website Neurologically Gifted.

Rage tends to make family members feel hopeless and out of control.  We began our discussion in Neurologically Gifted’s article Rage 1:  About Rage.  Preparing a plan to deal with rage in the home puts an end to those feelings of hopelessness.  With a predetermined plan, you will have responses and strategies that you and your family can rely on.  You will now have something you can do about it.

When preparing to take on rage in our home, we stepped back to observe carefully what was happening.  We watched for triggers for our son’s rage, how it occurred, and how we responded.  In doing so, we were able to uncover our own (ineffective) default behaviors.  (See Neurologically Gifted’s Article Rage 2:  Look, Listen and Focus).

Once we had identified the behaviors in our family (rage, triggers and responses), we sat down with our son to discuss those patterns.  We openly and honestly discussed our feelings.  With care and support, we helped our son explore what he felt before, during and after a rage episode.  We made it clear to him that this was a family problem and that as a family we could find solutions and improve our situation.  (See Neurologically Gifted’s Article Rage 3: Talk About Rage.)  With this critical step completed, it was time to for us to make a family plan to get control over rage in our home.

Make House Rules

  • Rage 4 NeurologicallyGifted.comMake rules with your child.  Ask them what rules they think should be included.  Prompt them by letting them know that the rules will apply to everyone in the family.  Ask them how they would NOT want to be treated by others.  Ask if there are things they would like to change by making a rule.  Discuss with your child why the rule is important and the natural consequences of non-compliance to the rule.  
  • Guide your child through the rule making process.  Keep rules simple and concise for easy recall.  
  • Do not over-burden the process with too many rules.  Choose your battles, picking only rules that apply to your greatest challenges. Over time, your child will become better able to self-regulate their emotions and responses.  As your family begins to experience progress you will be able to change your focus and rules to address other priorities.
  • Keep rules obtainable and focus on safety.  For example, a rule prohibiting swearing is not realistic for a child with coprolalia.  A rule prohibiting anger or frustration isn’t appropriate either as we all have feelings.  In such a case, the family rule could outline acceptable ways (and places) to express anger and frustration.   You want your child to be successful, gain confidence and learn to apply skills for managing their emotions throughout this process.  
  • Keep copies close by for quick reference.  Having the rules posted in their personal space as well, will allow the child time to review expected behaviors and natural consequences of prior behaviors.  In our home, we placed a copy in our son’s bedroom, and referred to them at bedtime when we debriefed the day’s successes and challenges.
  • When referring to the rules:  Give kind and gentle reminders.  Reminders could include what the family (including the child) agreed would promote a safer and more peaceful environment.  Referencing the rules on paper takes the blame/authority away from the offender/enforcer and places it on the family rules.  A child is less likely to express anger towards a predetermined rule, rather than to being told to stop what they are doing by a parent.   Avoid trying to catch your child breaking the rules or to use the rules in a punitive manner.  You are attempting to use the rules to guide them in a predetermined way to modify their rage, not to punish them. Continue reading

RAGE!!! Part 1: Learning through experience

Ken Shyminsky, a former vice president of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, draws upon his personal experiences as an teacher and student with Tourette Syndrome to help children with TS and related disorders. He also has Tourette himself and is the founder of the website Neurologically Gifted.

As an adult who has Tourette Syndrome and associated disorders, I have an intimate understanding of rage through experience.  I understand the frustration of shouldering the burden of getting through every day filled with tremendous and constant challenges due to my disorders and associated symptoms.

These demands not only test one’s patience continually, they test one’s ability to be still, to perform routine tasks and even to relax.  If unable to calm themselves during times of  stress, the sufferer may “boil over” emotionally, and release their frustration through angry outbursts. (See our post Mental Health Challenges in Neurological Disorders for more about stress.)

People with neurochemical disorders including Tourette Syndrome and ADHD often have a low frustration tolerance.  They are usually predisposed to poor self-control in the manner of impulsivity and rage.  This is especially true in children with neurological disorders.  Children are just learning the coping mechanisms and strategies to assist them with daily struggles due to their disorders as well as managing the common unpredictable stress life brings.

Dealing with the day-to-day of managing their symptoms (which are always waxing and waning) drains away their mental energy to cope with anything else. They can easily become overburdened with stress.  Add to this, an under equipped skill set to calm themselves, and outbursts of rage can occur at even the smallest challenges.

lightening storm neurologicallygifted.comAt times, the release of this frustration goes beyond the person’s control and the combined behaviors that occur are termed rage.  Specific biochemical and hormonal changes occur within the body and brain including the “flight or fight” response.

Rational thought, perception and reasoning stop functioning.  Learned strategies for calming are no longer useful.  The person will often say or do things they would not have ever thought of doing.  Often, the person may have no memory or have an altered memory of events that occur during a rage.

Shame and depression may also follow rages as the person wonders how they could have acted so poorly and so out of control.  It is important for the individual to recognize that the actions that occur during a rage are beyond their control.

Feelings of shame post rage will accumulate without this understanding and make the individual more prone to rage.  It is also important to understand that despite the involuntary nature of rages, there is help, there are strategies and people manage them effectively.  But how? Continue reading

Dealing with stress

Having a neurological disorder can present many welcome abilities. However, they can also present many challenges. Many neurological disorders increase the likelihood that a person will suffer from a mental health disorders. Some of these disorders can lead to intense feelings of anxiety and depression.

Stress and Mental Health

NeurologicallyGifted.com Mental Health StressStress (good or bad) can exacerbate symptoms and lead to “overload”. Because some people who have neurological disorders are poorly equipped to self regulate themselves, they can unknowingly exhaust themselves physically as well as mentally.

In such a case, poor mental health may come upon them slowly, without detection. Or, a sudden stressful situation may occur, and it may “tip” a person into a state of poor mental health very quickly. Regardless of the cause, judgement will be impaired and a sufferer may feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.

In extreme cases, a sufferer may make harmful decisions (to themselves or others) in a failed attempt to cope with their situation, symptoms or fears. As someone with neurological disorders, I know I must be aware that my neurological disorders can pose challenges to my mental health and have the potential to lead to a state of mental ill-health.

It’s a reality that I must be aware of and vigilance is required in order to reduce the risks. I know that the times of greatest risk to me often occur when I am subjected to external pressure. Pressure is perceived differently by each person, based on their personal strengths and weaknesses.

Stress can come from work, family or stressful events such as having an ill friend or family member. To preserve my healthy mental health state, it is vital that I know what my weaknesses and my “triggers” are. Knowing what “stresses you out” will allow you to plan to avoid (if possible) the trigger or minimize its affect on your mental well-being. Continue reading

Sounding off about vocals: A real term for this irritation!

Those of you with tics who have written to me often say that your noises bug you. Those of you without TS but who live with it say the sounds can drive you batty.

I have nothing but sympathy for people with TS when their symptoms drive them nuts. Honestly, if my friend’s kid is ticking, doesn’t bug me in the slightest! But when it’s my kid, I really struggle.

Perhaps this is like people who have sympathy for the anxiety/neurotic/blabbermouth type. You might find those other emotionally inclined people funny, but if you lived with them, you might want to kick them to the closest pharmacy and insist they down a bottle of Xanax with a Zoloft chaser.

For those of you who have issues with vocals — despite feeling guilty for having such issues — I am pleased to announce you might actually have a mental disorder!

This just in from someone in my Twitch and Bitch private group: I had to share with my loyal mamas here! You’re welcome.

Misophonia:

Misophonia, literally “hatred of sound”, is a neurological disorder in which negative experiences (anger, flight, hatred and disgust) are triggered by specific sounds.  The sounds can be loud or soft. The term was coined by American neuroscientists Pawel Jastreboff and Margaret Jastreboff and is often used interchangeably with the term selective sound sensitivity.

Misophonia has not been classified as a discrete disorder in DSM-5 or ICD-10, but in 2013 three psychiatrists at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam formulated diagnostic criteria for it based on the largest cohort of misophonia patients so far, and suggested that it be classified as a separate psychiatric disorder. Continue reading