Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Part Two: Dr. Foster Cline's response to Sympathy Trumps Reason

Okay, Lisa, I get your point: kids go for both positive and negative attention. However, your important and well- written example brings up another issue. Parents (and evidently hospital staff, too) get the behavior they overtly or covertly okay. In this case, evidently the staff’s conscious or unconscious response was: "Poor little three-year-old, feeling lonely… It’s understandable that he would pull out his oxygen tube to get company."

I'm sure most readers know that three-year-olds are among the brightest animals on earth! The only animals brighter are older human beings. And I don't mean to be up obnoxiously crass here, but any dog could quickly be taught not to engage in this type of behavior.

Most three-year-olds respond to firm requests, particularly when provided by a no- nonsense stranger. So I can't help but wonder if anyone went in and firmly explained to this little guy that pulling the tubing just won't work for him and perhaps set up some kind of reward for leaving it in. It would seem to me that this is at least worth a very good try as, if the child didn’t respond, there is an immediate alarm to ensure no harm.

Having hospital staff act as babysitters for this kid is a pretty expensive proposition. To me, this story may be a perfect example of how adult covert "permission" for obnoxious child behavior causes the unhappy adults more time, energy and strife while the adults never realize that in one way or another they okayed the behavior. Certainly this kid’s behavior worked for him.

I have a recent example of this type of covert permission. A neighborhood four-year-old tended to lose a lot of friends because he chewed on them! When I talked to his parents about it, they brought up his "need to bite"! Some parents live with whiny, rude or demanding kids and have grown to simply accept, expect, and covertly okay that behavior.

I'm very interested in seeing the responses to our posts, Lisa. Perhaps people will see me as an old curmudgeon.

Lisa’s Response:
Foster! Of course you are right! It makes perfect sense to give “setting limits” a try.  And, in fairness to the people involved, I don’t know whether or not they did. But, in my own sympathy for this little boy, I didn’t even ask!

As a mom of two children who spend a fair amount of time in hospitals, I couldn’t imagine leaving my three-year-old there alone for an extended period of time. So, my own feelings caused me to commiserate with the nurse telling the story who is a caring medical professional as well as a loving, attentive mother. We both felt bad for this little boy.

As I read your response, I see it so clearly now. Isn’t it interesting how our own feelings about a situation can cloud our judgment when it comes to responding to children in intense situations? Whether a parent or a medical professional, this is a very important point.  

Thanks for helping me see it. I hope others can learn from this, too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Part One: Sympathy Trumps Reason: How Feelings Can Cause Ineffective Parenting Responses

At a recent workshop for parents of children with cystic fibrosis, I (Lisa) was talking with a nurse about kids who will do the craziest things to get attention.

She told me about a little boy who was about three years old and admitted to the hospital. Sadly (and for reasons unknown to me), his parents were unable to be there, so this little boy was basically on his own with the hospital staff.  In case you don't know, hospitals generally do not have the staffing to keep someone in the room full-time with a child. They do what they can with nurse visits, volunteers, and child life specialists but there are times when the child will be alone.

So, this little boy was in his own room, hooked up to lots of monitors and also needed oxygen to breath properly (I do not know the specifics of his medical condition). 

As the nurse tells the story:

"I had just checked on him and he was doing fine so I went to check on my other patients. All of the sudden, I heard "Code" over the intercom and it was my little patient!

So, I ran into the room along with the resuscitation team and discovered that his oxygen tube was disconnected. His lips were blue. So, we fixed him right up and he was fine. I spent some time with him to make sure he was doing okay but then I needed to attend to my other patients so I told him I'd be back soon and left.

About a minute later, you guessed it, "Code!" I ran into the room and there he was: sitting in bed, tubing unplugged, blue lips, and a great big smile on his face. Hmmmm. Now, I am starting to get suspicious. I re-hooked up the oxygen and tried to make sure there was no way he could unhook it accidently. Then, I left. And yes, minutes later came the code.

That little stinker was unhooking his oxygen tube! He figured out that when he did, people came running. At three years of age! I couldn't believe it. So, he got his wish. We set up full-time monitoring when he was awake with volunteers and assistants. Poor little guy, you could hardly blame him, really. I felt bad that he was there all alone and apparently, he did, too!"

This is a great example of how far kids (and some adults, too) will go to get attention. Even negative attention is better than no attention.

So parents, it's important to give your kids enough attention so that their little "love cups" are full and they don't have to act out to get you to notice them.  Even just fifteen or twenty minutes of undivided attention each day can make a difference. This of course applies to siblings of children with special needs, too.

Be sure to look into their little eyes, give them plenty of touch and hugs, and really listen to what they are saying. Be engaged, interested, and responsive. You'll be building a bond a bond that will last for a lifetime.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Welcome: A little bit about Parenting Children with Health Issues

Welcome to our new Parenting Children with Health Issues blog! We are so excited to begin blogging about the joys and challenges of raising a child with medical issues, chronic illness, disabilities, and other special needs.

Foster Cline, MD is a child psychiatrist, co-founder of the popular Love and Logic parenting approach, and now a (proud) great-grandpa! Lisa Greene is the mom of two children with cystic fibrosis, a parenting educator and certified parent coach.

We have teamed up to bring you new ideas, tools and tips for raising children with special healthcare needs.  We also work with other professionals and expert parents who, like Lisa, have been educated by the "school of hard knocks." Our message to you is one of hope. You can do it!

As we travel around the country- and in fact, the world- doing workshops, we meet so many interesting people and hear their stories. And that's what we will bring to you here- stories and observations from others who are walking a similar path.

No matter what the illness or disability might be, our journeys have many things in common. With this blog, we will attempt to weave each of these golden threads into a tapestry of wisdom and hope.  

We look forward to getting to know you and sharing our joys and trials as we wander down the path of day to day living, loving, and coping.

For more information about us, visit www.ParentingChildrenWithHealthIssues.com.