What can I do to help my child?
There are three things you can do to help your at risk child.
1. Become your at risk child's main source of companionship and joy.
2. Model, teach and influence impulse control and ability to love.
3. Teach your child morality, especially the value of giving not taking. Just Like His Father? explains why each of these is important and teaches you how to do all three at the same time.
Am I too late to save my child?
(taken from Just Like His Father?) Do you worry that you are too late to save your child? Are you concerned he is too old for you to guide him to develop properly? Since antisocial personality traits can be prevented through primary prevention and reduced by secondary prevention, as long as there is a parent/child relationship there is hope. If a pre-adolescent school aged child has not developed guilt, there is still time to work on the relationship. If the parent can place himself in the center of that child’s world, he can set the stage to become important enough to facilitate the development of conscience. If a child enjoys his parent’s attention, he will respond emotionally to that parent’s instruction and there is still time. To put it bluntly, if your child cares whether you are alive or dead, you can work with him. If he does not care, you need professional help to get him to care. Once he cares, he will be receptive to your teaching. The earlier you begin working on love ability, impulse control and moral reasoning ability, the better off you and your child will be.
Is it really possible to overcome inborn temperament?
(taken from Just Like His Father?) The personality match between identical twins is not 100%. Similarly, “at risk” identical twins raised apart by non-relatives do not always share ADHD, addiction and/or antisocial personality disorder, even if one twin is strongly affected. Therefore, it has to be possible to mold personality beyond inborn temperament.
When scientists talk about risk, they speak of risk in a group of children that share certain characteristics. Statistics only apply to groups. Even experts cannot predict with certainty what will happen with any particular child. Statistics do help us to identify children that need special care and treatment.
Children born aloof and fearless can form secure attachments to their parents if parents provide unusually responsive care. While it appears that impulse control is to a large degree inborn, a child with less than average impulse control can improve. Better impulse control will only be possible if parent and child work at it. A child does not have to be at the mercy of an angry temperament. With practice, even angry children can learn to tone down their responses.
Parenting truly makes the difference for a child born challenged. Parents can allow inborn deficits to become real handicaps or they can encourage their children to be the best they can be. A child who makes small gains in ability to love, impulse control and moral reasoning ability every year may overcome inborn temperament completely by the time he reaches high school.
A small minority of children will develop disordered in spite of the best parenting and professional help. YOU WILL NOT KNOW IF YOUR CHILD IS IN THAT MINORITY UNTIL YOU HAVE GIVEN HIM THE BEST PARENTING AND PROFESSIONAL HELP AVAILABLE. If you have done your best as parent and your child still has problems, forgive yourself. Rest assured that his problems would be much worse if you had not done your best. Make sure you are doing your best, read Just Like His Father?
I just want my child to be happy. Is there anything wrong with that?
(taken from Just Like His Father?) Yes, wanting “happiness” for your at risk child is not a good goal. Instead, work to help your child achieve well-being. There is a difference between happiness and well-being. Well-being comes from life habits that foster physical health, quality relationships and personal growth. The job of obtaining well-being takes work! Doing the work may not make your child happy in the moment. Children whose parents focus on happiness rather than well-being become entitled, self-centered and spoiled.
My child is so oppositional I can’t stand being around him. What do I do?
(taken from Just Like His Father?) Is your child so oppositional that you feel you can’t stand being around him? If you avoid him, he will be left alone to lose the struggle with his own impulses. Instead of giving up, try to find the “good” in your child and let the good be the meeting ground for your relationship. Does your child enjoy a hobby or professional sports? Share these interests with him on a regular basis. Tell him you are proud he has found an interest. Complement your child when you honestly can.
Maybe things have deteriorated so much that enjoying a meal or an ice cream together is all that is left. If that is what you have, enjoy the meal. Start there and get professional help. Do not expect immediate results. It can sometimes take months of working on a more positive relationship to chip away at the walls that have been built up.
Consider the possibility that there is something within you that is preventing you from fully loving your child. Perhaps your own depression, early experiences, misplaced priorities or a draining adult relationship are the problem. I recommend you get therapy for yourself if you are having a hard time connecting with your child (See Chapter 3 of Just Like His Father? for more on repairing broken relationships).
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