First thing this morning, Little Bear was upset that today was still a school day. Then as we were getting ready for the bus (5 minutes before its arrival mind you), he gets mad that he can’t find the insert for his winter coat and complained about not being able to play the “sweater game” in class today. Sorry kiddo, but this is why we have a coat rack just for you at your height. So I sent him off and waited for the phone call I knew I would be getting today.
It came at 8:20am this morning – WAY EARLIER than I expected. He usually lasts until lunch. Flipping tables and chairs, etc. All the aggressive behavior that’s gotten him sent home in the past. I show up and find him already in the office and that he had already cleaned up his mess.
Today I decided I am done trying to read other people’s body language to gauge whether or not I’m being a “good parent” and just go with what I know works with my kid. It’s not that I don’t care, but I’m finding that worrying about it and trying to adjust to “fit in” makes the situation worse with Little Bear.
The first thing I said to him was, “What did I tell you would happen if I have to come in because of your behavior?”
His answer: “I lose my computer – but wait for how long?”
The fact he’s asking this question now and gauging the value of what he wants to keep versus what he wants to do already tells me what he’s going to be like as a teen. He’s going to be a lot like me. If I think it’s worth the consequence, then I’m doing it anyway.
My answer was “seven days” because at 8 years old, seven days is FOREVER. And of course he wasn’t happy with it and tried to throw a fit. Told him I wasn’t going to accept that from him and started counting down from three. He knows this means if I hit “one” and he hasn’t reigned himself in, the consequence just got increased. Sure enough, he reigned himself in by the time I hit “two”.
And thus the bargaining began. This is where a lot of people will argue I shouldn’t do this. However having Bipolar myself, I’m all too familiar with impulse.
First he wanted to go home. He got a firm no from me on that one. Then he wanted me to stay in school with him. The principal gave him a firm no on that one.
Finally he wanted to know how he could earn his computer time back today. So I asked him if he could behave himself and follow directions for the rest of the day. He said he would so I told him it meant no more frowny faces on his behavior card today. And I made sure the staff heard every word – I didn’t give them the chance to leave the room for this conversation.
So now everyone’s on board and on the same page. Little Bear did not come home like he wanted. I got to go home. And we’ll see if he makes it through the rest of the day without attempting to terrorize the staff.
All of this is consistent with Conduct Disorder. Bipolar (or in his case, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder) might aggravate it or help it to escalate, but the fact that I could walk him through reigning himself in under 5 minutes the way I did tells me this isn’t psychosis. No indicators of hallucination was present. I didn’t detect delusional thinking or disordered thinking either.
In fact, what started the whole thing was the “sweater game” and not being able to participate. Turns out the game involves you wearing a jacket or sweater to hide your shirt and the class is supposed to guess what you’re wearing. All he had was his heavy coat and he was told to take it off and hang it up before the game started.
Personally I think they should have let him wear the stupid coat long enough for the game and THEN make him take it off, but that’s just me. I mean, how long could this game possibly last in a classroom of about ten kids? Is that really enough time to make anyone over heat?
Hopefully today’s event will drive home the importance of putting your things where they belong so you can find them when you need them.