Monday, July 24, 2006

Being Mom or Dad First

During the recent conference sessions by David Pitonyak, Ph.D., he talked a lot about difficult behaviors being “messages” and usually about some unmet need. That does fit with what I have been calling “communication by behavior”. I must admit I tend to think of Billy Ray’s communication as being more physical issues because that has often been the case.

On the trip home from the conference, I thought a lot about Billy Ray’s behaviors and if there were needs we might be missing. On Saturday, I downloaded several of Dr. Pitonyak’s handouts from his website. One of them was called a Note to Parents. It was another of those Ah Ha moments.

The point of A Note to Parents is that we should be Mom or Dad before the other multiple roles we must assume in our children’s life. It is so easy to become so involved with doing things for our kids that we lose being the Mom or Dad.

As my regular readers are well aware Billy Ray’s behavior deteriorated shortly after I had submitted the manuscript during some major health issues. We nearly lost him last summer. A year ago tomorrow he had the second surgery in 47 hours and wasn’t able to breathe on his own for nine days. During the past year we have been working with a team of professionals to find out why the pain continues after the known issues have been addressed.

The Ah Ha moment was that I realized I have been so busy trying to work with the team of doctors, train support staff besides my work related to my book. I have been here and caring for Billy Ray but have become more the caregiver and less the Mom.

Dr. Pitonyak told the story of a young boy who into self injurious behavior when he had ear infections. After that had been address the child repeated the behavior. Dr. Pitonyak, the wise storyteller and almost comedian that he is, said that the child had learned that “Mothers are liars” they say they will only be on the phone for 5 minutes and then are gone for 30 minutes, etc. The self injurious behavior had become learned behavior because he learned that if he did that he would get his mother’s attention immediately.

With that illustration in my mind I took time to watch one of Billy Ray’s favorite movies (Sound of Music) with him this weekend. There is a line in there where the children are telling their governess about all the tricks they have pulled on past governesses. She says “you are such nice children, why would you do those things.” They respond “how else am I going to get Father’s attention.” Ah Ha!!

Major parts of his difficult behaviors are probably physical and I am working on additional training for Billy Ray’s support staff but it seems likely that some of his “messages” are about the reduced closeness during all that we have gone through in the past year.

Yesterday, I read him the visual I created about his adoption and we talked about how glad I am that he is my son. We spent time just having fun together.

Until next time,
Peggy Lou Morgan
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Lighthouse Parents Blog
Parenting Your Complex Child Yahoo Group

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