MonsterBoySized"I cannot bump off that rock (which is how my son describes himself) anymore. It's too painful and I sometimes don't know how to heal that pain.

I'm sorry if I sound negative sometimes, but I hope you understand the hell I've been through with him these past few years.

It's hard to say this, but I don't trust him any longer and I feel he'll have to do some work to win my trust back. Is that expecting too much? I feel drained and perhaps I need time to heal." - a heartbroken client

Dave replies:

In many ways this is a really sad email, you have lost all enthusiasm and maybe most tragically, you have lost hope.

Yet there is always one more way to look at things, another perspective to try out on the view, and fresh energy to bring to the problem. In family circumstances where the members involved are below 21 years - I actually prefer 25 years - staying with the problem is obligatory, it's what we signed up for as parents.

The secret to surviving - even thriving here - is to not look at children as they are, but to look at them as the young adults you want them to be, those fine young men or women you imagine them to be.

When you do this, a mysterious and wonderful thing happens; you start to treat them like the person you imagine them to be. the person you want them to be. Most times, they respond to this treatment by becoming that person, albeit in small jerky uncoordinated steps, two steps forward, one step sideways, one step back, two steps forward, and so this seemingly random pattern becomes the normality.

Parents are so desperate for their children to succeed, to become the person we imagine, the person we dream of them becoming, that any setback, temporary rest, or period of decline, as opposed to progress, becomes an enormous boulder that needs to be smashed out of the way using any and all means available.

The result of all of this urging, threatening, and forced progress is to bring the whole situation to a complete standstill. We get bogged down in a quagmire of rules, threats and continual punishment, and the beautiful child becomes a rebellious zombie, doing what they are told when in sight of a parent or domineering spouse, and rebelling secretly against the confining strictures.

Your healing will come from doing things the way I have outlined above. This seemingly "soft" way of dealing with a difficult child is much harder than creating those hard cold rules and codes of punishment, those are easy and anyone can do them. But as any of the great leaders will tell you, soft is hard, but infinitely more successful.

Believing and doing these soft things becomes your armor against the hurt his behaviour can - and will inflict. But he does not do those things intentionally. The wounds you receive come from impulsive unthinking actions, not from deliberate and malicious thought. This makes it all the more difficult to understand and deal with.

I am in no way advocating that there should not be consequences for crossing boundaries, far from it. Boundaries come from principles which are easier to remember and to practice. ADDers can never remember the rule book, those vast tomes dictating what is right and what is wrong. Very few parents - the custodians and creators of the rule book - can remember their own rules, so they create new ones as they go along.

Your son does not knowingly inflict wounds on you. Lying and doing what he wants, when he wants is all that matters in his world - which is all in the immediate now. The events of an hour ago have long since been forgotten, and the goals and events of the future are shrouded in thick mist, the glimpses far too brief to hold his attention.

Does this mean we should stop what we do? That we should not bother? No, never!

It means that we must do what we must, to the best of our ability, with all the love we can muster, at all times. Love conquers all, every time.

I understand your pain more than you know, and I remain available for healing guidance and even hugs any time you need them.

Create a new dream. A dream in which your young man stands tall and proud in his world, as a human being, confident that he can overcome - and learn from his failures, which he will have until the end of his days, just like all of us.

If he does not meet your dreams for him, it is not done to hurt you. He may not have met your dream for his life, but he is living his life, not your dream. Changing your dream can change his life, because your love will enable him to achieve more, something rules and punishment can never do.

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