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.

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