Impulse Control and the lack thereof
I was so angry when told, before my youngest's third birthday, that he'd be probably diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder when he turned five (and those were "allowable" diagnoses). And here I am with a four-and-a-half-year-old, diagnosing him myself with some major attention problems.
Lots of the people who know him don't see it; his Multnomah County early intervention specialist only sees the sweet compliant Monroe (45 minutes a week) and always seems surprised when I tell her about his escapades. Even some other adults who see him in the community don't see it; he's active, yes, but what four-year-old isn't?
That's when I have to start telling stories. Like the time, a few weeks ago, when we went to the beach with my dad on a spectacularly stormy day. We just wanted to go feel the crazy wind and see the amazing waves and run around a little in the weather, and we drove from my dad's house to Oswald West, where the Short Sands creek comes into the ocean. We ran around for a while, and Everett and I were experimenting with overspeed running: watching the gusts of wind come at us, then turning around and sprinting and letting the wind push us fast fast fast. We'd gone over all the dangers of the place with the younger boys -- the waves that could pull you under, the slippery rocks, the stream, which shouldn't be messed with.
I turned around when my dad shouted, "Monroe!" He was in the center of the stream, right before it hit the sand and widened -- where it was deep enough to come up to his chest. Dad had seen him just charge right into the center of it, just run right into the stream, and get pushed under by the current. He had to wade in to get him out, and there we were, a soaking wet kid and a grandpa with his shoes all squelchy, with the wind ripping around us and the rain and the less-than-40 degrees temperature. I scooped Monroe up. "I shouldn't have done that, right?" he said to me.
"No, why?" he asked me.
No amount of discussion or gentle questioning would yield an answer. He just didn't know why he'd run into the water. We talked a long time about thinking first as we drove him back to Grandma and Grandpa's house, stripped down then wrapped in my scarf and his brother's hoodie.
I'd hoped it might have a little impact, such a scary thing to happen, yes? But I kept seeing him do smaller, less dangerous things -- running fast up a small stone wall and falling when it became too narrow. Running around the corner at Truman's school and right into another kid. Jumping off a couch back that was too high and hurting his feet. Holding a full mug of milk and jumping off a stool.
Today, he did another one: I bought a cup of coffee in a thermos with a top that pours. It's somewhat badly designed, and when he asked if he could take a drink out of the top I showed him how I usually take the top off and pour it into my mug. "I don't drink from the top," I said, "because it spills a bunch when I do that."
I turned 30 seconds later when he started screaming in pain, having just taken a drink right out of the top, spilling all over himself and burning his chest and tongue. "I shouldn't have done that, right?" he said as I carried him, sobbing and sniffling, up to a cool bath. Nope.
I know there's no real answer here; I'm already working hard as I can to teach him to think before he acts, model impulse control, talk about what went wrong afterward, coach him through the thinking when I see it about to happen. I think I have this how-to-parent-my-kids stuff handled. It's just not working, at least, not very well or fast, and if this post is for anything it's to get a kind listening ear and hear your stories.
Sometimes I think his impulse control is getting worse. Has that happened for you? Has your small child gone through periods of less thinking, more acting, when you thought that skill was improving?
He stops at all the corners, now, at least, when we're walking (i.e. running). That's something... (though I have to apologize for All The Drivers who have had heart attacks when he ran full-speed to the corner and then skidded to a halt an inch from the curb. sorry. I can't say it won't happen again.)