Monday, August 27, 2012

White Lies or Story Embellishment: Is there a Difference to a Child Who Lies?

by John and Diane.  
It can take a lengthy conversation to get to the truth.

Dealing with a child that lies is always difficult and this is a topic we have covered often on our blog within numerous postings on RAD as well as in the recent post, Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: The Three Kinds of Liars and How to Stop Them .

There are many types of lying and one type we never really talked about was “white lies.” Often seen as harmless amongst adults, and manageable with most kids, when working with foster kids or kids who have a complex history with lying and manipulation, such as RAD kids, impulsive kids like those with ADD or ADHD or any number of other issues, white lies, story-embellishing, or “telling stories” cannot be ignored. 
Children who cannot differentiate between right and wrong or who tend to “follow the crowd” leave no room for gray areas like “white lies” and therefore must be confronted and the untruths must be brought to light in what might seem like a harsh way to avoid later chronic behavior.
Below is a question from a parent that illustrates this point.
Q: I have a foster child who habitually lies to cover up bad behavior like stealing. He is now using imagination to embellish stories about things that happen at school or at home. They seem harmless and seem to be done just to make the stories more entertaining, yet the other kids tell me the stories aren’t true. Is this a problem?
A: John: Foster Parent Rescue:
Yes, I am sorry to tell you this, but using his imagination to embellish stories is harmful.
Just think of it, if a child finds that he or she can lie and get away with stealing or doing something wrong, they will continue the behavior right?  They got something for their work and they may even feel good inside because they were able to pull it off. They are empowered.  Now that is a fact we all can agree on. 
The same holds true for the feeling they get from embellishing a story. They make up facts (lie) and get away with it, the extra attention they get from it makes them feel good, and so they get the pay-off for the behavior. This reaffirms the behavior and then it continues and becomes a habit. (Case in point: Casey Anthony.)
The other problem with story embellishers is that when one child embellishes a story, he or she overshadows other children in the home who do not embellish stories and tell the truth. That child “steals” the spotlight and the attention from the truthful children and if not confronted, teaches (by example) the other children that lying to get attention is a successful method that they, too, can use.
Here is an example:
Tom came home and said “I played football today and made a touchdown for our team!”  Now, you are making dinner and you look up at him, stop what you’re doing, and say “Good job honey you have to tell your dad when he gets home!”  You may even give him a treat for being so good in football. The truth of the matter is that he never even played the game and didn’t even have gym today.  Wow. 
This actually happened to me with one of my foster boys.
So, look what he got for his embellishments. First he got your attention. Then he got your praise and even a treat for the story. He is empowered so in his mind is it a lie or and embellishment or “white lie?” It’s the same thing to him. He does not know the difference. Do you?
If you said you do and you think there is, your wrong! There is no difference.  until you figure that out the child has no chance to learn what is right and wrong.
You are sending him or her a mix message of how the world works. They are too young to understand the gray areas of life, so keep it simple, black and white, yes or no.  After they have mastered that, what a lie is, then you can tell them about “white lies” people tell and why.
How To Deal With The Embellisher
If you think it was an embellished story, just come out and ask him or her if the story is true or made up.   If they tell you that some of it is true, but some is made up, this child probably will be ok.  They know they are using their imagination and are not consciously trying to be deceitful.
If they tell you its all true and another child is shaking his head “no” take the other child into another room and find out the true story.
Then come back and ask the storyteller to tell the story again, but this time ask questions and look for the mistakes. It’s hard to tell the same lies twice and point them out.   If you can get them to admit to the lie now, you are on your way but sometimes you may have to bring in the other child to help.
 Now if it’s a older child it would be safe to do, if it is a younger child, maybe not, because you don’t need a fight between them later.
Now when he tells you the true story, thank him for it and tell him that it is a good story to.  Smile and tell them it is always better not to lie or they will teach you not to listen to them any more! Let them know that you always love hearing the truth.

·  Religious Intervention
As a Christian household, we talk a lot about God and so I can use God to help talk about lying and stealing along with my other methods for dealing with the lying behavior. When faced with this situation I sat my boys down and talked to them about sin and lying.
I tell them what sin is.  Most kids don’t understand it’s lying to God and telling him untrue things makes God not believe in them.
 So, I ask them,  “why would God want you in heaven? I don’t think it would be called heaven if you could lie there and get away with it.”
 “When I say to God I am going to do something, and I don’t do it I have sinned or lied to him.  If I steal something but no one sees me and I got away with it, it’s really only on the earth I have.  God knows I stole and so it was from him I have stolen it.”
“Now if I never try to change, he will know this, but if I ask for forgiveness and stop what I am doing, he will always forgive me and then he will trust me and take me home or let me go to heaven with him.”
“ I do forgive you for the lies you have told me and if you stop lying this home will be yours until you don’t need it anymore.” 

Please see the other blog post on lying mentioned at the beginning of this article for more ways of dealing with kids who lie.
As always, your comments and thoughts are appreciated. 

Image: flickr: 
Attribution Some rights reserved by Katatonic28

Friday, August 24, 2012

ADD and Sleep Deprivation: What Has Snoring Got to Do with It?

by John and Diane.

According to a recently released study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, persistent loud snoring in children 2 and 3 years of age can be an indicator of nighttime breathing problems with far-reaching effects.

Loud snoring in young children can predict later conditions in these same children such as anxiety and ADHD (Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity Disorder.) Since the brain does much of its growing during infancy and early childhood, breathing issues like this decrease the amount of oxygen to the brain and can effect the development of the parts of the brain that control behavior and mood.

If addressed immediately, effects can be avoided or minimized, but infants whose snoring goes unchecked, sometimes due to inconsistent doctor visits (often found in lower income families,) children will predictable have some negative effect later in life.

Sleep and the 5-7 Year Old ADHD Kids

Studies have shown that snoring, and other sleep disorders, are still more prevalent amongst these children then children without ADHD.  In some studies kids with ADHD are twice as likely to have sleep disorders as their Non ADHD peers.

Understandably, children whose sleep is disturbed by snoring do significantly poorer in school, and have lower test scores in language abilities, attention tests and overall intelligence.

Some studies have shown that although medications can help, removing the tonsils and adenoids seem to have better results to improve sleep, therefore improving overall behavior in these types of children.

What is a foster parent to do?

If your foster child seems tired during the day, is complaining about not sleeping at night, is falling asleep during the day or at school or you hear him or her snoring at night, take them to the pediatrician for an evaluation. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat doctor.
ADHD Medications can effect sleep and often keep children awake, so discuss medication changes or taking them in the mornings to troubleshoot nighttime wakefulness.

Talk to the child’s doctor about possible breathing obstructions at his or her next general check up to make sure the child is able to breath and sleep well at night.

If your ADHD child has no physical cause for not sleeping well at night, make sure you are providing the right environment for good sleep. Make sure the child gets plenty of exercise during the day, avoid stimulating activities like playing videogames or watching television immediately before bedtime, make sure the bedroom is dark and quiet and make sure sugar and caffeine is eliminated from his or her diet.  Keep a regular bedtime and morning rise time to regulate sleep.

Do you have any suggestions, comments or thoughts about childhood snoring or sleeplessness and ADD or ADHD? We’d love you to get in on the conversation. 


Image:  Flickr:
AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Roberta Taylor

Monday, August 20, 2012

That Evil Grin and What it Tells You: Foster Kids and Stealing for Revenge

 by John and Diane.

 Stealing is a common issue with troubled kids and is often seen in foster homes for many reasons. We have already talked about a few types of stealing in previous blog posts, Impulsive Stealing:An ADD/ ADHD Child Problem?, and Kids Who Steal for Thrills and How to Stop It. Now I want to talk about stealing for revenge.
I was really surprised the first time I witnessed this. I discovered it with a foster child in my home and he shared with me his motivation, why it worked for him and made him feel better. Once he had opened my eyes to this “phenomenon,” I saw it repeated over and over in my home by many different children.
I caught the first boy stealing a part from a toy that belonged to his brother. He could not play with the part he took, so I asked him: “Why did you steal this, it no good to you.  What did you think you were going to do with it?”
 He told me that his brother had done something wrong to him and he was getting even with him.
 This child was a small boy who could not win a fight with his brother if he tried, so the only way he could win would be if he took something that his brother needed to play with.  Now, he just took one part, not the whole thing, so I ask him why he only took half of the game?
 He told me it made him feel good, seeing his brother looking all over for the lost part and knowing that he was not going to find it. He also thought it was extra funny because he would not be blamed for taking it.
 “Smart!” I said to him.  “Wow, that’s a good way to get even with your brother.”
Now he was smiling at me and had to share more.  He told me that once his Dad punished him for something he did at school, so he got even with him by taking his Dad’s wristwatch.
 So I said,  “wow you did that?”
 “Yes” he said “and I threw it away to.”
His Brother and sister heard us and they knew of their brother’s system to get even, but they said they never knew when he would take something because he would never let on.
 So they got into a routine of checking the garbage before emptying it. They found that he would also hide things outside or in other places in the house.  Thank God I have cameras!
Now that I knew of this behavior I would watch for it in other kids in my home.
Suddenly, I could see it was there all the time.
 Now I know that “lost things” are not always “lost things” in the house. For example, if one of the kids did not like it when I told them to turn off the TV, my TV remote would be hidden under the coffee table.  Not totally hidden, just enough so it could have been put there by accident, at least that is what the child would tell me when I would find it.
 “Opps I must have put it under the coffee table in that dark corner, leaning against that table leg by accident.”
 “Ya right” I would say to them, “do you remember last night, you were mad at me at bed time…” then he would give me that smile, and I knew I had him. 
My remedy for this situation was to take the matching remote from the kid’s television in the family room and use it in the living room until the child admitted he had hidden the remote on purpose and it was returned to me.
 Stealing for revenge may seem somewhat harmless but it is still stealing, not only of an object, but also of time, which is a precious commodity, especially in a foster home.
So, how do you deal with this kind of stealing for revenge?
The trick is you have to know that it was this kind of “stealing” and not just something misplaced or lost. So, here is the house rule:
·       The last person that uses something is responsible for it. (Or for finding it.)
·       Always have a designated spot for certain items so you can see if it’s missing i.e.: the TV remotes, scissors, art supplies, games, game controllers and joysticks.
·       Have a consequence for the child responsible until he finds it: refer to disciplinary sheet (of course a time-out here would not be helpful.)
·       Group homes or foster families might need a sign out/in sheet for items that tend to go missing a lot to prevent revenge stealing or irresponsible usage.
Overall, the prevention methods are clumsy; the real key is to be aware of this kind of behavior as a possibility and as a reaction to fights amongst kids or discipline from caregivers. If you notice that things start to go missing, and you see a pattern, you can narrow down which child reacts with this kind of stealing behavior and isolate him.  Prevent him from having access to items other than when he is with a trusted child.
Always treat all stealing as a serious issue. If you don’t it will get to be a serious issue later in life.
Image: copyrighted Diane Steinbach: no reprints

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Help! My Foster Child Has OCD!

By John and Diane.

Childhood Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a complex disorder that can start in children as young as 2 years old. An anxiety disorder with components including obsessive thoughts and actions and compulsive thoughts and actions, it affects boys and girls from any walk of life, which may and often does include children in the foster care system.

Statistically affecting more boys than girls and increasing in puberty, symptoms can decrease after adolescence. The cause for the disorder can be anything from brain injury, strep throat or a genetic link (inherited.)

 Unlike a lot of issues that foster children suffer from, OCD is not thought to have been brought on by trauma. It is estimated that over a million children in the US have the disorder, even though children are very good at hiding the symptoms.

Characterized by the obsessive thought process, the child may indicate the obsession by repeating a phrase to control the thought or repeating a movement, a compulsion or activity, to respond to the obsessive thought process.

Children may also have rigid rules to do certain things, or must do things in defined sequences that may have, for them, severe consequences when done out of order.

Children with OCD are hyper-responsible, taking responsibility for everyone and everything around them. Foster children may talk about their personal history and take on the responsibility for their circumstances or the family dynamics even though the reality of the situation is not their fault.

Although caring for a foster child with OCD is difficult under the best of circumstances, a common obsession for OCD children makes it even harder. Thoughts of the child being harmed or harming others is a common obsessive thought. Children with OCD even worry that they may hug you too tightly and may kill you.

Hoarding, psychosomatic illness, over-grooming, self-mutilation, self-doubting, the list goes on and on of symptoms and issues a foster parent must deal with depending on the severity of the OCD disorder for the child.

How to Deal with it

 Although medication and counseling can help a child deal with his diagnosis, acceptance and allowances by family members in the foster care home can go a long way. When the behaviors are approached with a positive, accepting attitude, the child’s obsessive thoughts can diminish and the behaviors will lessen or stop.  

Negative attitudes or discussions about the behaviors as “bad” or “trouble” only exacerbate the issue and increase the anxiety for the foster child, which will reinforce the obsessive compulsive behaviors and may create new ones. When you embrace the child’s “idiosyncrasies” and work with him or her in a positive way you can gently provide a safe environment to display the behaviors and slowly work on reducing the anxieties that cause the obsessive thoughts and triggers. 

Make sure that the other children and caregivers in the home understand and support the child and the approach so that the whole household can work towards a common goal.  Although it may feel like an impossible task, I have used this approach with some of my foster kids whose diagnosis has included OCD and behaviors have diminished and within a year and a half have nearly, completely disappeared.

 Image: Flickr: License
AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by nicolasmary2

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Know My Kid has RAD, but My Spouse Won’t Support My Approach: What Do I Do?

by John and Diane. 

Whether you are dealing with a bio-kid, an adopted or foster child or a stepchild, when parents or caregivers don’t agree on discipline or the fact that there are behavioral issues with the child, there is a huge problem, both between the spouses and for the child.

Unfortunately, this is a problem I have heard about from many of our readers and friends, especially when it comes to children with reactive detachment disorders. The reason for this? RAD kids are especially bright, manipulative and love to play caregivers against each other when they sense that there is a weakness between them.

Especially problematic for a stepparent who comes into a delicate parenting situation already, trying to tell a bio-parent that their child might have an attachment disorder and may have behavioral issues may seem like a marriage ender. The child might act like the perfect kid when the bio Mom or Dad is home and like a little terror when the bio parent is away.

So, what are you to do when you are at home with a RAD kid and get no support?   You try to set boundaries and use tools to control the behavior you see, and try to get the other parent to agree and support your use of things like House rules, Chore lists, disciplinary and reward charts and other tools.  If the other parent refuses, you still have an option.

This is the exact issue that was brought to us on the blog. The step-Mom of an 8-year-old RAD kid who displayed manipulative and tantrum behavior at home had a bio-Dad that didn’t support the use of any disciplinary tools. The step-Mom felt helpless.

Her solution, although extreme, was based on the fact that the child was intelligent and that the step Mom had no support from the Father. The step Mom had to turn the tables on the RAD child and use the child’s desire to be liked against her.

After a talk with the husband, relenting to his wish that she just “leave the step child to do what she wants,” we talked to the step Mom about a “fall-back” technique.  We instructed her to, instead of catering to the child, just do the bare minimum and to isolate the child socially from her normal nurturing style. 

So, for example, instead of providing the child her favorite cereal in the morning, give her a lesser cereal, leave it on the table, in the box, alongside a bowl and the milk, instead of serving it to her.  Do not say “good morning,” do not smile at her, do not stay and eat with her.  Give her the cold shoulder. 

The child will ask what is wrong … say, “Nothing.”  Continue the “cold shoulder” behavior and soon the child will start behaving like a “good” child to try to get the step Mom to “like” her again. The child will try to manipulate the step Mom into doing nice things for her again by acting nice and behaving—which is after all, the desired behavior.  This time, however, the child is doing it herself because she sees that she will be the one to get the reward or the punishment for the good or bad behavior.

So, by the Step-Mom changing how she acts towards the child, she can manipulate the child’s behavior to an extent.  Until she can get her husband on board with the other techniques or get a doctor or counselor to back her up with a diagnosis, at least this technique can give the Step Mom something proactive to do and help her make it through the day. 

AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Jeremiah Ro

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The ADHD/ Aspergers Connection: Is Your Child Diagnosed Correctly?

by John and Diane. 

Many children who display behavioral extremes, inappropriate affect and impulsivity can be diagnosed with a range of issues from RAD, defiance disorders to ADD depending on the specific behaviors and symptoms.  One diagnosis that can sometimes be overlooked as a possibility however is Aspergers disease.

Aspergers is a high-functioning form of Autism that has similar symptoms to ADHD and is sometimes misdiagnosed as such. A genetic disorder like Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, they both can present with difficulties in social interaction and learning, as well as hyperactivity.  Conversely, a child may have both ADHD and Aspergers.

When diagnosing the disorders, a doctor will refer to a checklist of behaviors to determine which describes the child best. If the child does not meet all of the criteria for one or the other, the child may not qualify for the diagnosis.

Both disorders include uneven fine and gross motor skills, carelessness with school activities or homework, tantrums, engages in dangerous activities (no real fear) but Aspergers children will additionally make little or no eye contact, display inappropriate giggling or laughing and have difficulty making friends and mixing with other children.

 Aspergers children will tantrum for no apparent reason while ADHD children will have a noticeable trigger. Children with ADHD frequently break rules they understand but dislike, while children with Aspergers like rules and break the ones they don’t understand.

Typically, a child with Aspergers will avoid anxiety-inducing situations and seek calm by organizing, peculiar word usage and gaze aversion.

If you feel that your child may exhibit some of these behaviors talk to your doctor or counselors and discuss the possibilities.

Here is a video that explains more about the Aspergers/ADHD overlap. 

Read more:

image:  Flickr
AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by normalityrelief

Monday, August 6, 2012

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: The Three Kinds of Liars and How to Stop Them

by John and Diane. 

All kids lie sometimes. Little lies that don’t amount to much can be easily dealt with in normal families, usually. With the kids I have worked with in the juvenile justice system and now in foster care, lying has led to or been part of bigger problems including stealing, anger issues, impulsivity issues and other ways of acting out.

Through the years I have identified three basic kinds of kids who lie.

1.     Kids who lie by mistake. These kids might have learning difficulties or memory issues as a symptom or effect of another problem like fetal alcohol syndrome. They lie because they use the wrong words to explain what happened in an incident or situation.
2.     The Half-Truth teller. This is a manipulative kid who has all the right words to use to win an argument or explain away a situation.  They think they can talk and lie their way out of any situation. They think they are smarter than you, and that they can drive a wedge between parents or caregivers.
3.     The Defeated Liar. This is the child that will go along with a story or lie told by another child simply because he feels like he can’t ever win by telling the truth. He has lost so many “word fights” by trying to tell the truth in the past, that he just goes along with what the stronger child says, usually the Half-Truth Teller, and therefore gets in trouble in spite of his desire to tell the truth.

How to identify them:

The Kid Who Lies by Mistake:
·      When forced to talk about an incident the child will have a hard time describing the events correctly, consistently.
·      May not be able to tell you a correct time-line of events.
·      Will show frustration at his or her inability to correctly remember the events when questioned.

The Half Truth Teller:
·      Is never doing anything wrong, but the brother or sister is. (Blames others)
·      Does all the talking for the siblings or friends
·      Can tell lies with a straight face because he or she really doesn’t see that he or she is doing anything wrong.

The Defeated Liar
·      Waits for another child to start explaining an incident at question
·      Will say it doesn’t matter what he or she says because they will be punished anyway for the event.
·      May refuse to even explain the event.

How To Stop It

The Kid Who Lies By Mistake: 
·      Ask them the same question in different ways. Reword your questions until his face lights up and he says, “Yes! That’s it!” Be careful not to lead or give away the “right” answer, or you will taint the results and just teach the child to lie. You want to simply try to get to the truth of the situation and allow him to identify the actual state of affairs by wording it correctly for him. Once you get the accurate description, explain to him the difference between the accurate description he identified from what he initially said. This will help him learn how to express himself correctly and as you work with the child’s word skills, this type of lying behavior will disappear.

The Half-Truth Teller:
·      This is the hard one. I hope you caught him early on.  If he learns how to talk to adults and he is clean cut, Wow you have got problems! Run, run, run as fast as you can! This kid his headed for jail!  Ok, I know you need to help him, and he has good points you can use to but he must find out that you are smarter then he or she is and sometimes you must use his own tricks against him. 

He has to feel the pain of what his lies can do and the only way this can be done is by setting him up. If you’re lucky he has a sister or brother that can help you in this.  First you need to identify something he did wrong and that he doesn't think you know about.  It should be something small that you can turn into a big deal.  Stealing money is a good one.

So, for example: You know he took your money and you find the wallet empty.  You tell him he has to pay you back all the money in the wallet. Now you may have had only $5 in it but now you’ll say you had $35.  (I think the bible tells us it should be 7 times the amount or something like that.)   Now he is going to have a fit! 

“There was only $5 in the wallet!”

You just tell him, “No, there was $35 and you are paying it all back, or I will call the 911 and whose word are they going to believe? Yours or mine?  You stole the wallet out of my room. Who knows what else you have taking? You admitted it to me and (blank) heard you!”

Now, always have a witness to help you with this. When he gives up and feels the pain and says to you “you’re lying how can you do this to me?” you tell him you learned from him and then you share all the time he pulled this on you or others in the house and you get him to own up on it.

The trick here is not to own up to it too quickly. You want him to stew in it for a while to feel the pain.
He must understand that the truth is that he stole the wallet, and there was money in the wallet, and that the only thing in question was the amount, and that was what made it a half-truth. The half-truth would stick if you told a police officer. This teaches him that his half-truths hurt. You have to wait until he says he will pay you the $35 and accepts the consequences, bends and feels the pain of being truthful and no one believing him.  Then you can release him. 

He must feel the pain of being a victim of his own actions. You can tell him that “you just created an invisible jail around yourself, the lies that you use to get your way can be used on you, cause no one believes you anymore. You will be the one being locked up.” This will make an impact on him. Then he will know you are smarter than he is and he will remember the sting of being caught in his own lies.

If you’re going to try anything like this let your caseworker and counselor know before you try it. You can’t let the lies win. The consequences must outweigh the rewards from the lies. 

The Defeated Liar:
·      This is the easiest one to help. Let the child know that you are listening to him, give him chances to talk and reward good behavior. Help him to tell the truth and as his self-esteem comes back he will begin to start standing up for himself again and will be able to resist the pull of the stronger Half-Truth Teller child. You do need to know the truth before you talk to him about an incident. Having cameras in the house help with this, if you don’t have cameras, hopefully you have an honest family member who can tell you the truth.   The Bounty on Bad Behavior system works great as a support with this child.

image:  License
AttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Zygia