We have been dealing with our difficult child for nearly 15 years. Diagnosis after diagnosis brought us no closer to helping our daughter and, while medication helped address some of the symptoms, the underlying problems were never recognized. I've spent many years in the pharmaceutical industry and have access to some of the best psychiatrists and therapists in the country. The advice was always to manage my daughter's symptoms through medication.
Her verbal and physical assaults started about 18 months ago. We've called the police three times and they have visited our house twice in the last four months. The last time, she narrowly avoided arrest and time in the county jail. She sat in handcuffs in our dining room and refused to talk with police officers who were only trying to help. My wife sobbed uncontrollably for hours. I felt my sanity slip away and the security of my family crumble before me. In all of this, my wife and I still wondered: What is causing this? Are we bad parents? Did we raise our kids the wrong way? Are we doomed to live with this situation until we are forced to estrange ourselves from our daughter? My promise to my daughter was that I would never give up on her. I knew it would be the hardest promise I'd ever have to keep because we were still looking at our daughter as the culprit...even though we know she can't control her behavior. She can be so mean and hateful, it makes helping her that much more of a challenge.
Recently, I needed to go on a short road trip and I wanted something to listen to so that my mind would not focus on the previous night. I bought the audiobook for The Explosive Child on iTunes and listened. I was skeptical but I was desperate. Within the first five minutes, I thought Dr. Greene was describing my daughter. ODD, IED, Bipolar, ADD...they all had been applied to our daughter. The Waffle Story was a page out of our daily lives. I cried driving 65mph down Highway 380 for 30 minutes, knowing that someone knew exactly how our nightmare has played out over the past years. Then came the typical parental responses and reactions. Some of them were, word for word, exactly what we've said in these situations.
Fast forward to last night. Emergency Plan B. Empathy, understanding, and a collaborative solution that not only defused the situation, it led to another discussion about other issues that added stress to her life and how we can solve those problems togther. I realize that this is a long process and, like teaching any other skill, time and dedication will improve the outcome. At least my wife and I -- as well as our son -- feel like we have set a course down a better path. This is a proactive approach to solving and defusing problems before they sabotage a family.