So, I began the draft for that last blog way back in the spring. When I finally went to post it, I thought the grimace-filled hug was just a few weeks earlier, but later on, I realized it happened in April and we had been dwelling in that dreadful limbo for months. I don’t want to come back now and write, “well, it’s not all THAT bad,” because it really has been very, very bad. However, things have been improving.
Over the summer, every time Bill and I talked about Ruslan (and financing that ejector seat/ vapor gun) Bill would say, “I just don’t like who I am when I’m around that kid.” I thought for a while that this was our fault. If we “don’t like who we are” when we are around Ruslan, I thought that the solution was for US to change.
However, we finally had a knock-down, drag-out fight about a week before that last post. It had gotten to the point where Ruslan was so very annoying to everyone, all the time, that we were doing everything we could to keep him away from us. NO ONE wanted to be near him. To make matters worse, anytime Ruslan put one foot out of line, Bill was on him like a sledgehammer to a thumb tack. My point was that, “it’s just really hard to be around that sort of extreme disciplining” and Bills point was, “yeah, but it WORKS.” Finally, as we were talking it out I said, “this is just really hard because the ONLY WAY to really get through to Ruslan is to be mean, and I hate to be mean.”
Imagine a light bulb illuminated over my skull. After going through the same time-consuming motions of explanation/reprimand, warning, time out, spankings. I realized that maybe the answer was to understand that extreme discipline is the only thing that is helping him so I’d better learn to appreciate it. Some people are going to be just horrified at what I am about to write (these people are welcome to take Ruslan off our hands). Others (like my parents) are going to be reading this thinking, “Well, FINALLY!!” In retrospect, I’m embarrassed that I spent SO MUCH TIME in the “talk it over” phase. I started the draft of this blog back in APRIL and for months we’ve been in a sort of purgatory in which Ruslan has been requiring a huge amount of our time and attention with no measurable improvement. In my defense the only thing I can say it that it’s hard to skip the explanation/verbal reprimand stage, even this late in the game because Ruslan is SUCH a blank slate.
As late as August, I was having a hard time getting him to correctly wash his hands at bedtime. I was ready to kill him because after EIGHT MONTHS of nightly hand washing, he would still just smear soap on the top of his hands and arms and then splash waster on them and decide he was done. No matter how many times I made him do it over again properly, he would not scrub and rinse his hands, top and bottom unless I was on top of his every move. Finally, in exasperation, I went into a long, detailed, (repetitive) explanation about hand-washing. I explained that his hands were DIRTY after a day of playing (show him the dirt). His arms were not dirty (show him the clean arms). I explained that soap kills germs. So, we put the soap on our hands ALL OVER our hands to kill the germs (repeat). We scrub off the dirt. We don’t have to wash our arms, but we do have to wash our hands (repeated at least five times and have him say it back to me). We wash the top AND BOTTOM of our hands with soap to KILL THE GERMS and then we RINSE OFF THE SOAP AND THE DIRT SO WE NOW HAVE CLEAN HANDS (also repeated at least five times in as many ways). I was really annoyed with him at this point, but thank goodness he didn’t notice. He just listened quietly the whole time and when I was done he looked at me in amazement and said, “I learn so much here.”
This was one of those times when I just wanted to bang my head against the wall. The only reason I am not at all skeptical that Ruslan really had no idea what he was doing or why he was doing it is because the whole Eastern block of Europe is living their life on that same level. One of the things you notice when you live over there is that half the time they do anything, they are just copying the people next to them with absolutely ZERO understanding of what is going on. They are not expected to understand. They are just expected to DO. It reminded me of the time we bought a screwdriver, only to have it stripped the first time we tried to use it. As long as it LOOKS like a screwdriver, a Ukranian will think it’s adequate. The idea that a tool might need to be capable of meaningful work seems lost on them.
Therefore, I’m not sure if I can communicate it clearly, but it’s sort of a constant ….dance, trying to determine what Ruslan does and does not understand. Sometimes, after an explanation, he will get it. Other times we tell him the same thing over and over again with no improvement.
Anyway, about a week before that last post, poor Bill was just about to go crazy every time he was in the same room with Ruslan and the rest of us were at about the same point. So, after that I realized we were at yet another breaking point in which something HAD to be done about Ruslan’s behavior, I went to totally non-verbal discipline.
The next day was the yogurt episode that I described earlier. When Ruslan asked “why can’t I have more?” before I’d even had a chance to put any in his bowl, I just put down the yogurt without one word and took him straight to time out. It feels mean at first, but I’m less annoyed because I’m not repeating myself over and over. Ruslan knew exactly what he had done and really, I don’t think he’s complained about amounts since then and that was well over a week ago.
With the incessant talking, I now just wordlessly take him right to time out when he interrupts or talks out of turn. It sounds horrible, and I feel horrible doing it, but it also works.
Thank God, Ruslan has been improving. Out of the behaviors on that list above, we have had at least a 75% improvement since we implemented the silent discipline program a few weeks ago.
I realize though, that it is only dealing with the surface problem. Like Simon and Garfunkle’s “Fighter,” the psychosis still remains. After that last blog draft one mom wrote to me that, “what you're describing in your blog is everyday life in our house (and has been for the past 3 1/2 years) and for every other parent of a RAD* child. Nothing you described is new, odd or isolated.” She also sent me to an excellent web site on Reactive Attachment Disorder: www.radmom.info The RAD page has a list of behaviors that perfectly describe Ruslan. If you’re in the same boat, you’ll want to check it out.
Another mom wrote that her adopted daughter was the same way and she was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and is on Zoloft for anxiety. She has found it really helpful. The PTSD is totally logical, since the kids were in horrible environments, starving (literally) and abused/neglected as a way of life. I haven't put Ruslan on Zoloft (yet), but it has set me thinking…. You mean there’s a drug for this??? …Really???
* RAD is short for Reactive Attachment Disorder