Consistently Inconsistent

Big Ideas

Everyone has a purpose.

I am resolved to change my life and my child’s life through effective parenting practices. I pray and praise God for His help in turning our beautiful mess into His glory. The older Kody gets the more I realize my parenting practices need an adjustment. He is just a few short years away from graduating high school and we are looking at long term goals that will help him transition into society. He talks increasingly about living in an apartment and about what kind of job he wants to have. This is new for us. Until this last year, Kody was content to live with me forever (and I was content to let him). I am not surprised that he wants his own life, but I am concerned that I have not equipped him with enough life skills to accomplish this goal. Now that he is in high school and we are talking transition plans, college, and job skills, I am looking at Kody in a different light. I am finding strength and faith to help prepare him for his life apart from me. As I change our strategies to better suit his needs, I am met with a lot of defiance. This is not new behavior.
I have taught Kody how to do chores one task at a time since he was four years old. The first chore I gave him was to wipe the table and chairs. It was hand over hand while he threw a fit as I stood over him until he finished which could take thirty minutes or more sometimes. It was not something we did everyday but that was his chore when I included the kids in the housework. Now at fourteen, Kody can do just about every basic chore there is including mowing the lawn. Each chore has taken months and sometimes years for him to learn to do adequately and I still must stand by, check his work, and push him to stay on it until he is finished, but I am glad we do it. He has fought me 99% of the time and complained 100%. There have been hundreds of times I gave in and did it myself or gave him a chore that was easier because I was so worn down, but we would always try again the next time.
Teaching Kody how to do chores has been a plus but it has not changed the fact that he still must be told to do the chores. He still must be reminded to put his dishes up and clean up after himself. It is still a battle no matter what when it comes to doing anything he thinks is boring or too hard. I realize that this is typical teenage behavior. There are four teens in my household now and when I mention chores, everyone tries to run. The difference is that Kody not only resists my authority at home, but he resists my authority in public too. Not only mine but his teachers and other authority figures in his life. It is difficult to think about the trouble he causes for himself when I am not there to direct him. It is hard to trust that people will deal with him in love because I know the challenge he can present and how quickly he can take a person from kind to frustrated. This has been our life. I feel like I am constantly protecting him from the world and the world from him. It is hard to convince people that do not understand this part of his disability that it is a disability. I have a hard time understanding it myself.
Recently Kody’s pediatrician diagnosed him with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD. Though I did not know a lot about it, I knew enough to agree. I have just started to research this subject for myself. So far, I have learned that ineffective parenting practices contribute to the issue. It is going to start with me at home with him. Sometimes as parents it is hard to admit there are flaws in our child-rearing strategies but what I have been doing is not working the way I hoped it would. He is suffering, I am suffering, and his teachers and friends are suffering. There are behaviors that we are trying desperately to train that are not changing. Some are worsening. I cannot bear to watch it get worse for him.
Even with Kody’s disability, he is very high functioning. We have a lot to work with because he can understand ideas and reason well. Academically he is progressing at his level of capability. Socially and behaviorally he is challenged. Just like with his chores, Kody challenges conformity in all forms. What this looks like for him is heartbreaking in a world where he just wants to be accepted and respected just the way he is. Unfortunately, in society that is like trying to fit the square peg into the round hole. Kody can be such a gentleman when he wants to be, and he has wonderful manners when he is in the right frame of mind. When he is not, however, he can overstep people’s boundaries, their personal space, offend them, and irritate them.
I usually function from a place of stress and anxiety when we are in public together. At home it is easier because it is our world here. As I watch him, I wonder why we are having these issues? I rack my brain DAILY about what I can do to get through to him to help him understand that it is all about HIS choices. I ask myself WHY he chooses to behave with such defiance toward authority and rules repeatedly when he knows he is going to lose his privileges? He knows he will get a lecture and that I will be disappointed with his choices. Why isn’t that enough to change the behaviors?
Then I started looking at myself. There are a lot of issues with my parenting practices. If I am honest, there are many times that discipline is not consistent, but the threats are. Promises are made that I cannot keep. Stress is high, and sometimes tempers are short. More often cartoons and YouTubers are influencing him more than I am because of the amount of time he is spending on the internet. It is easier to put an iPad in his hands when I need him to be still than to train him with higher expectations in the situation. It is hard to parent Kody in situations that require my attention because without something to distract him and keep him busy, he can take all my attention. I have lacked consistency with upholding structure and have been soft on the rules I set. Consequences are dependent on how tired and emotional I am most of the time instead of consistent and concrete. Of course, there are issues with his diet as well. I fretted about his eating habits when he was a toddler and because food has always been an issue for me, I filtered his needs through my own. That means I considered it more important to feed him things he liked than to trust the process and continue offering healthier options and portions until he accepted that to be the way it is. Now, food is a huge issue and because he is older there is a stronger resistance to change.
As I continue to analyze my parenting skills, I can see the hardship I have caused us. Kody’s kindergarten teacher once told me that consistency was going to be my most valuable tool with him. She was right. The more I practice consistency in expectations, discipline, food choices, exercise, and other important areas of our life, the better his behavior is and (most importantly) the better he feels about life. I have been consistent in the wrong things and we have developed bad habits that may have seemed easier to do in the moment but have cost us years of bad results. I love him too much to continue down that destructive path. It is difficult to change these things but even more difficult to stay the same.
Kody has set a goal for himself. He wants to be independent and have a life all his own. I will do whatever I can to help him realize that dream. That means training his professional and social skills, breaking bad habits, teaching him self-control and self-discipline, and the skills to manage his health, his finances, and other responsible adult behaviors. All the things I have been doing since he was born but with better parenting practices and being more intentional. I know he will be successful. He is already an amazing young man with so much to offer even on his most difficult days.
In closing, I want to say thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you found it interesting or helpful, please take the time to like, follow, and share it. It is my goal to share insight, offer understanding, and bring people together over the challenges and victories Kody and I face every day.

Dirty Dishes are the Devil

Everyday is a battle. We fight the good fight. We may fall but we never ever give up. I look back at mistakes I have made with parenting my child with a disability and I have no choice but to lay it at the feet of Jesus. He loves this boy more than anyone ever could and wants the best for him. I get tired mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically and I fall short constantly. It is so easy to give in rather than let my yes be yes and my no be no. He can be relentless when it comes to something he wants or something he does not want to do. His power is limited in this world and that bothers him. There are things he believes he should be able to do and say that are just not so. The concept of authority is fuzzy. He is always paying attention to what is going on and what is being said around him. That means he will surely call you out on something you have done that HE is not allowed to do or say. It does not matter who you are, how old you are, or your position in his life. He will hold you accountable or he will use it as an excuse for his own behavior. I find this to be one of the most difficult things to help him process and it is because it is not supposed to make sense. Modeling the wrong behavior, whether it is in word or deed, IS wrong. Expecting any child to understand “do as I say, not as I do” is absurd. For Kody it is mind blowing. He does not accept that it is okay for you to be sarcastic and hateful with him and then punish him when he gives it right back to you. I love that about him. He convicts me daily. I have fought being a lazy parent and only doing what I was willing to do just as hard as he has fought making good behavior choices all his life. God has told me what I need to be doing for him.

Things like helping him pursue his gifts and talents and having a healthy and active social and physically fit lifestyle. He has also told me what to stop allowing for him. Such as abnormal amounts of screen time and a poor diet along with poor eating habits. I have been slow to obey His directions but I am catching up. The hardest part is realizing how much better or easier his life would be, and in turn mine, had I followed the Lord’s direction for us as He lead me to in the first place.

Leaning unto my own understanding, my own weaknesses, my own anything, instead of pressing into the One who understands Kody and me has cost both of us unnecessary trials and tribulation. I am learning to get over my flesh and work. Do not misunderstand. I have worked with Kody, for Kody, against Kody, and alongside Kody all of his life, everyday with the best intentions and hopes for him. I have used therapies, counselors, medications, and all sorts of helpful resources to help Kody get to where he is today. He has worked the hardest to get this far. I have seen prayers answered on his behalf and I continue to pray greater prayers and believe for greater things for him. What I am talking about are the areas in my life I have not used self discipline, consistency, and self control. Those places that have hurt both of us the most. When you have a child that can not afford for you to struggle in these areas, it is convicting. We all have our struggles but the Lord has promised that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. I Cor. 10:13”. That means that I have more power than I realize to overcome the temptation to give in to my child out of fatigue, frustration, guilt or any other excuse that the devil tries to hit me with. This includes (for us) eating habits, exercise habits, screen time, chores, respectful behavior, obedience, and any other good thing that he fights me on. It includes my own behaviors. We do not have to be victims of our flesh.

Acting on this rich truth, I have started establishing habits that have always been very hard for me. Logically I am aware that these are not hard things to do but mentally and physically they are huge obstacles that I have not been able to conquer. Though house work gets done, it has been a burden and an oppressive ordeal to do daily for a household of seven. I am not even talking about the entire house, just the downstairs and the laundry. I do not ever feel ready for company because there are ALWAYS dishes, clothes, and clutter. It sounds like a simple enough task to keep under control but for some people that is overwhelming in ways that cripple the soul. When you are tired all of the time and your plate is full all of the time, then dirty dishes can seem like the devil trying to crush your spirit. So, I decided to make that a habit. I have been praying for help to take care of my family and this home that God has so generously restored to me and He has been so very faithful in answering that prayer. Now, every morning I clean my kitchen, do my dishes, and start the laundry as unto the Lord.

Another area that has seemed impossible for me to overcome has been exercise. I never liked it but I know how important it is. I have been praying about taking care of this body God has blessed me with and to help Kody do the same. He wants to be in shape but it is hard to overcome our bad habits that we enjoy so much. They bring us temporary comfort and that seems important when you feel stressed all of the time. It is no way to live though. We end up staying miserable. So, I joined a gym. I work out most mornings after I drop the kids off at school and I take Kody in the evenings as often as possible. We are making this a regular part of our life for the first time EVER. It feels wonderful. I love watching him enjoy taking care of himself. I worried about how he was going to do with the complicated machines and other people around him that would be working out in their own space. He figured the equipment out quicker than I did. As for the people, they are encouraged by his efforts. I see it on their faces. On one trip, a large muscular gentleman watched us struggle as we were figuring out how to use a piece of weight lifting equipment correctly. I was concerned we were bothering him because we were next to him. He stopped what he was doing and showed Kody how to use the equipment properly and what to do with his arms as he lifted the weights. It touched my heart and encouraged Kody incredibly. If people only realized how much power is behind a kind gesture, we could change the world. Finally, I have resolved to quit procrastinating with my writing. I started a book that Kody is helping me write and I have asked a very talented young lady to illustrate it. We have only just begun but I am so thrilled to have this project to work on together. That also means more blogging on a regular basis.

The temptation to give up or give in when things are really hard and I am tired and overwhelmed will still be there but I am gaining in momentum to permanently change that for both of us. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, right?! I hope that you find encouragement in my stories. They certainly encourage me as I write every precious word. My life is not perfect. I do not claim it to be so. What I offer is a glimpse into our struggles, victories, strategies, and most of all the hope that is my Jesus working out the kinks in our life. Do not ever give up because there is always more to be revealed just up ahead.