If you have a child and haven’t heard of PANS/PANDAS and the symptoms associated with this devastating syndrome, it is very important that you do. Last week, I shared the story of my then 12 year-old daughter’s battle with PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndromes). Her sudden-onset panic, fear, terror and severe separation anxiety stopped our family’s life that summer. We felt as though we had lost our daughter. The joyful, fun-loving, social butterfly that we knew had been kidnapped by what we soon learned was a very common bacterial infection. Mycoplasma or in layman’s terms, pneumonia. You can read more about our daughter’s story here.
Bacteria Playing Hide & Seek
Here is my attempt to explain how a bacteria such as mycoplasma, which causes pneumonia, can cause PANS/PANDAS. The symptoms that this bacteria and others cause includes drastic emotional or behavioral changes.
Basically, these bacteria (STREP or mycoplasma, for example), play Hide & Seek within the body. These bacteria can actually imitate or mimic the healthy cells within the body. They “hide” while pretending to be healthy body cells. In the time that these bacteria are hiding, they multiply in secret. The invaders grow and grow until they are finally found once their presence can no longer be hidden from the body’s immune system. Our immune system actually attacks the healthy cells that the infections have been mimicking in secret.
Devastatingly, at that point, the child’s behaviors and emotions take a drastic turn for the worst causing frightening emotional and behavioral symptoms:
OCD (this can present as repetitive distressing thoughts)
Obsessions about food
Hyperactivity and sudden ADHD-like symptoms
Adults Forced to Play
This forces parents and doctors to begin the game of Hide & Seek that they did not know they were supposed to be playing.
Specifically referring to the STREP bacteria, WebMD describes it this way:
An infection causes your immune system to attack your body’s healthy cells, in this case, cells in the brain. The strep bacteria disguise themselves to look like normal cells. When the immune system eventually finds and fights them, it sometimes also fights the cells that the strep is imitating.
Another way to think of PANS PANDAS, as well as any neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism, ADD/ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder and even learning disabilities, is that these disorders may fall under the larger umbrella of autoimmune encephalitis (AE).
Autoimmune encephalitis is a disorder in which the immune system attacks the brain, impairing function.
I am honored to have Heather share her story with you in the hopes that more moms are able to access the appropriate diagnosis for their children who are suffering at the hands of this life-altering and debilitating illness.
When the diagnosis doesn’t fit
It was about 3 years ago when my then 4 year old started changing. We were getting calls from preschool about behavior challenges they were having with him and thought it was best he be evaluated for social/emotional and academic delays. This came as a bit of a punch in the gut as I knew my child had been ahead before this and we always watched him so closely as we have another child on the spectrum.
So why now?
Had I missed something?
Could I have been in denial for 4 years?
So we navigated through this new journey of many evaluations, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, specialty Doctor appointments and many diagnoses……. Many!
We would enter one of our toughest seasons yet in parenting. I mean parenting has never been easy and fun for us with our other children, but this season we were entering was the biggest heartache of them all.
As we navigated our way through a very dark valley of medical appointments, wrong diagnosis, the school system, our home life and watching him deteriorate rapidly… I found myself doubting everything especially the vision I knew God had shown me. I was questioning everything I once knew to be true!
You see there was a stirring in my gut as I continued to watch my child decline. As I continued to watch him slip away into a darkness I can’t put into words. Our lives forever changed.
So we continued with doctor appointments while searching for answers…….. But not satisfied.
Then there it was one night, almost 2 years later. It was staring back at me on a screen.
All my child’s symptoms listed. Everything…..
Our nightmare described in 1 word… PANDAS. PANS.
How had we missed this?
Why was this not discussed, mentioned?
Why am I the one figuring this out?
I’m just a mom and I am discovering what this is……
THIS IS PANDAS/PANS
This was not:
ADHD / ODD
Regressive Autism / PDD-NOS
Sensory processing disorder
Severe Anxiety with OCD – RAGE
Bi polar disorder With hallucinations
This is PANDA’s… PANS… Our HELL in 1 word, all of our symptoms…
And this is our HOPE! This is our journey to healing!
If you have child with multiple diagnoses please take some time to research PANS/ PANDAS
To learn more about Heather’s story as she navigates her son’s continuing battle with PANS/PANDAS/AE, check out her Facebook page. Trust in the Journey.
To my momma friends and fellow educators who love and are invested in outside-the-box children, let’s be brave for our kids. ❤️
The children who are constantly hearing that they are not enough.
The ones who will never live up the expectations of the adults around them.
Like the kid back in school who was considered a troublemaker and ended up exactly as expected by the adults around him…
The “loser” with a life that went nowhere.
There is an underlying belief in our homes, schools, churches and our culture as a whole that there is a one-size-fits all approach to “unacceptable” behavior. We may try to deny this in the name of political correctness, but we must be honest about this reality for the sake of our outside the box kids.
When we cannot control
When adults cannot “control” the “challenging” behavior of children, the perception is that there is something wrong with the child.
The idea that perhaps we are using the wrong approach with the more “challenging” kids rarely comes to mind.
Again, the adults blame the child and continue with the same ineffective, life-sucking discipline strategies… and the behaviors increase as the child’s sense of self-worth decreases.
Set Up to Fail
So many of our kids are placed in no-win situations as they continuously fail to live up to the accepted expectations of the world around them.
These expectations are often based upon benchmarks of development academically and behaviorally… Except these kids don’t meet the benchmarks and are always behind.
They are repeatedly corrected, punished, and shamed. 😔 These kids spend their formative years hearing about their faults, and their inability to please the adults and even other kids around them.
Mental Illness Hamster Wheel
These misunderstood children frequently end up trapped in a cycle of mental health issues that plague them for life. Rates of childhood anxiety, depression, cutting, and suicide are growing.
We need to wake up to the fact that there are so many kids out there suffering under the pressure of inappropriate adult expectations.
We are raising children to one day be adults. These formative years are crucial.
Mom Friends, it’s time to be BRAVE for our children.
It’s time to be BRAVE for our outside-the-box children.
Let’s stop approaching those who don’t fit the mold, who don’t respond to traditional discipline, with the belief that these kids are WILLFULLY making a choice to disobey.
It is time for us to be our child’s cheerleader and coach. Let us coach them well while we encourage them on to be the best outside-the-box kid they can be.
God Intentionally Chose You
Moms, you know in your gut there must be another way for your “outside-the-box” kid.
You know that God has created your child uniquely and that He must have a plan for your child. You KNOW IT!!
Yet, fear takes over. However, you don’t know what to do, but you know your child cannot thrive knowing that he is a constant disappointment.
We must be brave for our children who have been created differently. We must be willing to think outside-the-box with our outside-the-box kids.
Let’s equip our children with tools and strategies so that they can live a life of confidence and purpose.
Or we can continue to listen to the world and it’s rewards and punishment mentality. How is that working for your child?
Every child needs an adult who believes in them… let’s be that for our kids.
Wisdom of Moms Raising Outside-the-Box Kids
Mom Friends, it’s time to be BRAVE for our children.
It’s time to be BRAVE for our unique outside-the-box children. We must be brave for our children who dare to be “DIFFERENT.”
The Irony of “Different”
Interestingly, referring to our outside-the-box kids as “different” is insanely ironic. Why?
Hello?!! There are hundreds of thousands of them in our country. However, many of them are hiding out at home suffering alone because the culture’s expectations have destroyed any shred of their confidence.
These kiddos need to be raised, educated, disciplined, and loved in a way that best equips them to flourish into healthy adults. God has equipped our children to be “salt and light.” 🥰
Many of our kids display behaviors that are perceived as pure willful disobedience… Adults mistakenly believe that these kids are choosing to behave poorly.
Further, we adults reek of hypocrisy and confuse our children. When we lose it, fly off the handle or meltdown in some way, we justify it by listing all the stress in our lives.
“It all just built up and I lost it.”
We give ourselves and other adults grace, but rarely our children.
On the other hand, when children dare to meltdown in the grocery store after a long and exhausting day at school, we shame them. Onlookers often pass judgment and whisper, “He just needs a good spanking.” The self-righteous mom with her “perfectly” obedient, shakes her head a the mom wrestling her son into the cart.
Unfortunately, I’m ashamed to say that prior to the adoption of my son with “hidden” cognitive special needs, I was incredibly oblivious to the severity of my pride and self-righteousness.
The reality is that as a culture, we act as though we are surprised when a young, immature and growing child has a meltdown.
Fear Leads to Meltdowns in Adults Too
More importantly, when we as adults feel out of control, it scares us…
Adults often respond to socially unacceptable behaviors from a place of fear and insecurity.. Because we believe we should be able to control children, we feel like failures and become increasingly frustrated.
Think about it. When we feel fear and insecurity how do we most often respond? punishment, aggression, anger.
Let me repeat that: Adults respond to internal fear and insecurity very often through behaviors that look like anger and aggression.
Could it be that children who behave through anger and aggression are actually struggling with fear? This is a rhetorical question.
Unfortunately, mom friends, if we really allow ourselves to go there, we will likely recognize that we often parent out of fear.
We fear for the child’s future. ‘What will happen to him if I don’t stop behavior X, Y, or Z?’
Because we don’t know what else to do, we often fall back on the influence of a culture that is not invested in the heart, mind, soul and spirit of our “outside-the-box” child. The culture and traditional approaches often just want the inconvenient behaviors to stop. But at what cost?
Who cares most about your child’s future?
The culture tells you that it is your kid that is the problem. You had better find a way to mold your child to fit in the box. Discipline harder. Be more consistent. Ignore him. Your outside-the-box kiddo is expected to ‘suck it up’ and behave regardless of his capability to do so. Parents are told that there is only one way. You are told to force your child to fit the mold. If you can’t change your child, people perceive you as a poor parent.
Momma Friend, I hear it every day.
The school called. My kid flipped out and hit a little boy in class. Now he is suspended.
My daughter clings to me at church because it is so loud and crazy in there. She started melting down in the middle of the foyer last Sunday.
The teacher said that my child is off in lala land and that’s why she can’t learn to read.
My son comes home from school every day and screams and has meltdowns. No one believes me.
My child begs me not to send him to school (church, sports, etc) each day.
Getting to get my child to do her homework always ends up in tears and stress. She just screams that it’s too much to do.
I just found out that my daughter is cutting. She is under so much pressure. How do I help her?
My child can’t sit for circle time. She is going to get kicked out of preschool.
My son came home sobbing because he was back on red today. He told me that he tried so hard to sit still but when he did that, he couldn’t focus on what the teacher said. The teacher then moved his card down because he wasn’t paying attention. He can’t win.
The mom down the street won’t let my child play with hers because he had a full-blown meltdown when it was time for him to share.
The counselor says I shouldn’t coddle him…
The list goes on.
We Know God Does Not Make Mistakes
We know deep down inside of us that there must be a better and different approach in order to thrive.
And yet, out of FEAR of the culture (the schools, the teachers, the church, our friends, the lady in the grocery store…), we mommas cave and anxiously try to force our child to meet the world’s expectations.
We don’t know what else to do so we then push harder, yell louder, punish longer… Sometimes our kids acquiesce out of fear or exhaustion… having learned nothing about how to handle tough situations in the future.
Immediate Obedience at What Cost?
The cost of quick obedience through shame and punishment is HIGH... broken parent-child relationships, depression, anxiety, low self-worth, cutting, increased suicide rates…
The price is exponentially higher for children with cognitive differences or delays. So many of these kids do not have the capability to comply appropriately through rewards and punishments because they are stuck in fight-or-flight.
As a culture we say celebrate diversity and yet we have virtually no tolerance for children who are “different.”
For the child who doesn’t fit inside the cultural box… the ones who are “different.”
Let’s be brave together, Moms.
Let’s Equip Our Kids
Our children need to be equipped with the skills, direction, tools, LOVE and support of adults so that they can learn to appropriately handle big emotions, thoughts, etc…
When children are not taught these crucial life skills in a way in which they can receive and process, they fail and disappoint the world around them… over and over again.
My heart aches for the children whose sense of self-worth and ability to function in this world are often dictated by a perspective of children that assumes the worst of them.
No more sending our kids to their rooms yelling, “Go to your room until you can behave!!!”
Let’s actually look behind the behavior FIRST.
Let’s teach them to behave appropriately by equipping them with lifelong emotional regulation skills and tools. Momma, we must give them the education they need. Our children need to understand the LARGE sensations they experience inside their bodies… (aka feelings). We need to engage them in conversations about how their thoughts impact their feelings and behaviors.
What if we rally together to equip them instead of shame them?
God Chose You to Parent Your Child
Every adult remembers that kid from school who couldn’t get it together and behave in class… The troublemaker… Maybe you were that kid. Maybe you beat the odds… but most don’t.
Eventually after never being able to please and “obey right away,” that childhood “troublemaker” believed that he could not ever do it right. He was forced into the cycle of “I suck and I can’t do anything right.”
These are the ones who will never know real relationship and love because they were never taught how to appropriately handle their thoughts, emotions and such….
These are the kids from school who never succeeded.
Is that what we want for our children?
Fight for God’s Gifts to Shine Through Your Child
Let us parent our children from the perspective of the gospel. God loved us before we loved him. God sought relationship with us while we were still sinners. He looked beyond our behaviors and showed us love through his Son.
When our children mess up, let’s pour out the grace that God has gifted to us. Let us pour into our relationship with our child and show them that they are valuable even when they mess up… even when they struggle to focus, are impulsive, can’t learn math, struggle with social awkwardness.
God has a plan for each of these children.
Let’s be brave, Friends, and do something different for our kids.
Imagine fearlessly raising our “different” kids into confident, healthy and productive adults…🥳
God has made us all unique!! We say we believe in individuality and diversity yet we expect all kids to be the same in development, wiring, behaviorally and we shame them when they don’t comply!!!
Children are adults in the making…
Is it possible that perhaps there is a different, more peaceful, relational way to raise our children so that they can be “wired differently” and that be seen as a blessing?
It is time that we rally together to love, relate to, teach and ultimately influence these more “challenging” kids in a way that equips them for their best.
Every child can succeed. I firmly believe that God has blessed us with so many amazing and UNIQUE children with strengths that may currently be perceived as weaknesses… 🥰
What happens when we look behind the behaviors and see the strengths of these kids? What happens if we choose to love them well even when they are behaving in ways that make us uncomfortable?
Imagine what would happen if we as adults allowed ourselves to focus on what our child needs in this season in order to later be able to function and love others well in the future.
One step at a time, let’s connect with our kids and equip them with a vision of who they CAN be…. ❤️
Let’s be ok with parenting naysayers’ judgement and focus our attention on what our hild needs to grow into the person God has equipped him or her to be…
Can we please be brave enough to stand with the mom who has been “kicked out” of playgroup? The one whose child doesn’t know how to “behave” appropriately?
Shouldn’t we prioritize love for the momma who wakes at 2:00 am overwhelmed with anxiety because she knows her child is struggling. Her mind races as to what she can do to lift up and support her child well for his future.
For the mom who is late to church because her child threw a fit in the parking lot because the tag on her new pair of pants is driving her INSANE.
For the family who would love to enjoy a family outing but that one child is screaming bloody murder because his sister won’t stop singing…
Our Kids Need Us to Believe in Them
Imagine what would happen to the kids, who most would tell us to continue pushing and disciplining and punishing for “bad behavior.”
What would happen if we as parents, came alongside these neurodiverse children and embrace their differences as a blessing. Moms sharing a vision of a bright and thriving future for each of our unique children. What if we moms rally together to provide our neurodiverse kids the tools they need to get there?
Perceived Weaknesses as Great Strengths
Our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses…
Our greatest weaknesses are often our greatest strengths…
What if we looked at our child through a new perspective and looked for strengths out of apparent weaknesses?
What if we then equipped them with the emotional, educational, and practical tools to use those gifts to grow into the adults that God has created them to be?
Can you imagine???
No more kids growing up with self-worth that tells them “they will never be good enough!”
Every child has gifts and talents and purpose.
Let’s begin to parent them this way, Mommas… and let’s watch them fly…
Grab Your Free Behind the Behaviors Intro Bundle!
End the stress & parent with confidence! Deepen your parent-child relationship.
Equip your child with tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way. Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.
A couple of weeks ago, I slyly grabbed my laptop and quickly snuck up the stairs. Once on the landing of the second floor, I briskly tiptoed into my master bedroom. Locking the bedroom door behind me, I settled myself down in the middle of my walk-in closet. Yep. Nestled in a pile of jeans, dresses, and shirts that apparently I liked enough to try on that week, but not enough to put them back on their respective hangers, I sat.
Earlier that morning, I had dragged my teal cushioned ottoman into my closet earlier that day in preparation for that moment. Yep… the outside-the-box mother that I have become transformed the ottoman as the perfect “desk” for that Dell. And… it would fit perfectly in my closet.
Special Needs Adoption Requires Parents to Hide Sometimes
‘Lindsay, why were you hiding in your closet?’
Well, that would be because of my son. I was sitting in my closet about to share my family’s story because of my son. Relying on uninterrupted time is not a wise decision in my house. It is always a good idea to add an extra layer of sound-proofing in my house.
The Podcast Interview- Mom to Mom
Rachel Olson of the Sweetest and Toughest Podcast interviewed me that day… we discussed so much.
My story of infertility
Special Needs domestic adoption,
Parenting through the most volatile behaviors of an “uncontrollable child,”
Learning about “hidden” special needs,
Letting go of the lies that suffocated me,
The isolation of special needs adoption and parenting,
and God’s redemptive story in this whole journey.
Adoptive Moms Parenting Children with Special Needs
Mommas parenting children with “cognitive special needs are in every community. Often, however, they are isolated and alone. I know because I was and am one of them. Except now I don’t hide in shame and judgement.
This is why I am sharing. This is why I have captured EVERY valuable strategy that I WISH I had known when I was completely alone, depressed and had no hope for our family’s future.
Somewhere there is a momma hiding in her closet. Except she is not hiding for a podcast interview, she is hiding because she cannot bear to face another day living in a warzone. Share this with her. There is so much hope!
Grab your FREE Behind the Behavior Intro Bundle!
End your child's meltdowns even if you've tried every discipline strategy so you can lose the confusion & stress and start enjoying peace & joy with your children.
Parents have been navigating teen moodiness and meltdowns since the creation of man. Generations of moms and dads have been plagued by the hormonal roller coaster of their teens’ mood swings and attitudes. No fun.
However, it is not only my son who continually needs support with his meltdowns. Like generations of girls before her, my oldest daughter has morphed into a young lady with all of the teen moodiness and meltdowns.
Let me share a story with you.
Two nights ago, I took my girls out on a little date out for dinner. Of course, we all agreed on Mexican… chips and salsa are my jam!
The date was supposed to be just my middle daughter and me. However, at the last minute my oldest begged to join us. Middle graciously agreed that Big Sis could tag along on our date night.
Fast forward… we enjoyed our chips, salsa, queso, nachos and a burrito (yes! we shared)… we had a great time… silly convo… yep! It was a success…
Teen Moodiness to Meltdowns in 30 Seconds Flat
In what seemed like a thirty second window of time, my oldest daughter shifted. Her face changed… she was no longer laughing at my stories about how Aunty Jamie used to be obsessed with Davy Jones from The Monkees… Anyone else remember The Monkeeson Nickelodeon after school?
“Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!”
“Daydream believer and a homecoming queen…”
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Nobody cares?
Ok… apparently my cousins, my sisters and I had strange taste in entertainment. We still had tons of fun.
Anyway, my girls had been asking questions about my life as a kid and we were having fun and laughing.
We were chomping down on our chips and salsa when she began complaining about “being full” and wanting me to drive her home.
I asked her what was wrong.
Classic teen meltdown response, “Nothing.”
Pushing her further, (I knew she wasn’t telling me the truth), she responded with, “I’m just tired.”
‘Oh! That’s how she is going to play it. Great!’ My frustration was beginning to creep up into my voice.
Teen Moodiness & Attitude? Or Something Else?
My initial reaction was to become a little P.O.ed at her.
‘Great! After she begged her little sister to jump in on our scheduled date night… she gets what she wanted…she got her yummy Mexican food and now she is done with us.’
Does anyone see what was happening with me? We will get back to that.
Let’s be real… teens do have a knack for being just a little ego-centric… I couldn’t be that off in my assessment of her new shift in “attitude”. Right?
In my own heart and mind, I began to feel sad and disappointed that this change in my oldest’s engagement in our light-hearted fun, could possibly ruin my middle daughter’s date night. As the adult I had to make a decision.
I could have just started laying into her about ruining her little sister’s date time and being a bit selfish… But I didn’t. Not this time.
In the past, I likely would have pointed out her self-centered motives and “mood” swing. Because my oldest errs on the side of taking too much responsibility for others’ reactions and responses, she would have likely shut down and apologized profusely before I finished even speaking.
Her typical response would have likely satisfied me. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate it when anyone takes responsibility for their actions? An apology would have been a satisfactory response, right?
Maybe… or I could have slammed a door on our relationship… even if just temporarily.
Fortunately, this is not how the interaction went down. Praise God!
By God’s mercy, all that I have learned over these past several years navigating my son, has taught me so much more than just how to handle a special needs toddler meltdown… I’ve learned how to navigate relational conflict. Period.
Teen Moodiness as Meltdowns
My daughter was having a meltdown. Yes, this was her version of a meltdown. I know what to do when one of my cubs has a meltdown.
No, it wasn’t a drop-down kicking and screaming meltdown that the whole restaurant was privy to… but it was my teenage daughter’s (lite) version of a meltdown.
I made a mental pivot from the perspective that told me she was being willfully selfish and could care less that her negative mood and sudden lack of engagement were putting a damper on our girls’ night out. I shifted the lens to view this sudden change as, “Something just happened. She had a thought or something just came to mind and she is responding. Let me investigate.
I looked directly at my girly and made eye contact.
Step 2: Provide Emotional Vocabulary & Reflect
“What happened, Sweet Girl? You went from happy and laughing to ‘shut down’. What are you thinking? You look like you are feeling sad.”
Step 3: Provide Physical Input
I rocked her in my arms like a baby…
Step 4: Shift Attention & Distract
I began pretending to her cell phone in a baby voice to make her laugh and distract her.
OK. OK. I didn’t have to work through steps 3 & 4… the first two steps opened up conversation between us all.
Her defensive wall of perceived teenage “moodiness” crumbled down almost immediately. My girl opened up to us.
“I just heard a song that reminded me of Grandma,” she managed to confess as she held back tears. My mom passed suddenly about 9 months ago and she has been struggling terribly with her grief.
My teen daughter’s sudden change of mood had nothing to do with selfishly “using” her sister and me for Mexican food. Her perceived “attitude” was actually sadness.
Had I engaged her through a more traditional lens which simply looks at outward socially unacceptable behaviors as problems to be eradicated, I would have blown it big time. I would have missed out on an opportunity to be my daughter’s safe place of refuge… to be her trusted ally who ultimately points her to Jesus.
Praise God that I didn’t jump to conclusions and praise God that I have learned so much through this journey with my son.
Meltdowns Don’t Cease Simply Because We Age
The reality is that we all have meltdowns… ALL.OF.US. Adults and children alike. Adults lose it all the time. Adult meltdowns simply “look” different from a teen meltdown.
When was the last time that you snapped at your child or hubby because you have reached the end of your rope?
There is no judgement in this. We are all just human beings living in a broken world. Meltdowns simply appear differently depending upon the variables. We will all have meltdowns likely until the day we die. However, there is incredible grace for us all.
Whether a toddler tantrum, an elementary-age explosion, or a teen meltdown or moodiness… let’s equip our children to work through the tough thoughts and big emotions that lead to meltdowns.
Knowing how to calm a child during a meltdown is not easy. Parenting a child with special needs is exhausting. However, the needs of the child and how his cognitive differences show up on any given day will impact the severity of mom’s fatigue. Mom’s burnout is exponentially magnified when her child struggles with behavior issues. For that mom in the trenches, finding a way to calm her child during a meltdown can be impossible.
Without reservation, while I was in the thick of daily tantrums and meltdowns with my son, I was a mess. Anyone who knows me has heard me repeatedly say the same thing over and over again.
Yep, in that season of absolute misery, I wanted to “check myself into a mental institution.” All of the parenting strategies I knew to use were absolutely useless and I felt helpless. I had no idea how to calm my child during a meltdown.
Prior to the adoption of our son, I would never in my wildest dreams have believed that I would have zero control of my child. Once my son’s volatile behaviors began to display themselves at 18 months old, my world was completely rocked. All that I thought I knew about being a good Christian mom went out the window.
I was the mom who had read all of the Christian parenting books out there. When my biological children had a meltdown, I could bring order quickly. A firm voice or swift consequence and I had successfully trained my child to calm down from a meltdown. In hindsight, I can see now that my perspective on parenting was pretty skewed from the beginning. Determined, I was going to parent my children the EXACT OPPOSITE way my parents had raised me.
In my home, there would be love, stability, consistency and discipline. Dang it!
Oh, Mercy! God clearly had other plans for our family when He brought our boy into our world.
By the time he could move, our son steamrolled his way through our home. He screamed bloody murder every moment of the day. Destruction was his middle name. He manhandled anything and everything in our home. Some of the behaviors we navigated on a daily basis included: scaling walls, escaping the house, hitting, scratching, biting and destruction of property.
There wasn’t a single discipline strategy that helped calm my youngest child during his raging meltdowns. Consequently, I suffered deep emotional anguish. As I have discussed in previous posts, we lived in a war zone, navigating grenades at every turn.
Despite being surrounded by a loving Christian community, I felt like I was drowning. I felt alone, isolated and I eventually believed I was a failure as a parent. At times I believed that we had made a mistake in adopting our son. Plummeting to the depths of despair, I was desperate and broken. Broken for my husband, my two biological daughters and my adopted son. His hourly meltdowns were too much for me.
“Parents take way too much credit when their children are doing well. They take way too much credit when their children are doing poorly.”
Rather than checking myself into a mental institution for what promised to be a mini-vacation, I decided to make a different plan. In order to prevent myself from “setting the house on fire because I was about to lose it,” I made an appointment for counseling.
Side note: No one panic… I was never going to set my house on fire. I use A LOT of hyperbole when I tell a story. Its one of my gifts. Ha!
Back to it…
One winter morning after a few hours of desperately trying to calm him during one of his meltdowns, I made the call. I was so overwhelmed with his screeching,with knowing my daughters were struggling in his chaos, and with my own internal distress that I knew I had to do something.
I sent out a mass text S.O.S. to my tribe of girlfriends and asked for a referral. Within an hour I had a the name of a counselor.
Beginning the counseling process in that season has been a life saver for me. God used that time of absolute hell to humble me. That season was so humbling and broke me in a million tiny pieces. My prideful butt was so black and blue from the beating that my son’s behavior inflicted upon me.
In true form, God took those million pieces, gathered them up, and delivered me into Christian counseling. Unquestionably, I had a lot of my own emotional garbage to weed through. Apparently, I needed a major kick in the pants to make that initial call.
Needless to say, my astute counselor and I have done some serious work these past few years. One of the many nuggets of truth she has offered to me has been this.
We as parents take way too much responsibility for the successes and failures of our children.
It took me awhile to chew and digest this, but I finally got it and was able to receive this concept for the truth that it brings.
God is God.
I am not God.
‘Yes, Lindsay. I know that,” you may be thinking. ‘How does that have anything to do with my ability to calm my child during a meltdown?’
Let me put it to you this way. My ability to make any human being do anything is non-existent. I am unable to control people, even my little people.
Yes, I can influence, teach and guide my children and others. In the end, though, I don’t have control over anyone but myself.
I didn’t realize how unhealthy it was for me to view (although not consciously) my children’s behaviors as a reflection of me.
Having gained that new perspective, I was able to see how in years past I had disciplined my girls from a place of my own pride. How often do we as moms torture ourselves about what other moms think of us?
I wonder what “So-and-So” must think of me after my daughter pitched a fit at the playground?
How did I look as a mom to the mom sitting next to me in Bible Study?
That lady must think I am a horrible mother because my child threw a fit in the parking lot!
His preschool teacher must think I am a terrible parent because I could not calm my child during his meltdown.
I realize now how often my parenting has stemmed from my own “self-centered” ego. From my need for the approval of others. Yuck!
It was my inability to control my son that saved my entire family.
I couldn’t stop my toddler from running into the street. Nope. We couldn’t prevent him from using a broom handle to unhook the chain locks and escape to run wildly through the neighborhood. Forcing him to sleep and to “obey right away?” Calm my smallest child during a destructive meltdown?
Yeah right. I had zero control then and I really have zero control now.
It took years for me to finally realize that in order to effectively parent my son, I had to completely shift my perspective on parenting and discipline.
My little boy, like so many adopted children, through no fault of his own, was exposed to dangerous substances that severely impacted his developing brain. I had to wake up to the notion that his cognitive differences made his ability to self-regulate a very difficult task.
A Complete Shift in Perspective Led to Big Changes
The key to learning how to effectively discipline my son was to shift my perspective. Historically, I had viewed his behavior through the lens of “He is choosing not to behave.” Once I recognized his need to be taught how to “behave” (self-regulate), I began to respond to his meltdowns with a new freedom.
We have seen HUGE changes in my son’s behavior since this shift. Miraculous changes. Not perfection by any means, but huge gains in his ability to recover and calm himself down.
Fortunately, I have learned so much about parenting children with different cognitive issues over the past several years. Additionally, I have been blessed with an education from amazing local specialists. As I have become involved in adoption and special needs communities, I have gleaned so much more compassion for these precious children and their parents.
Steps to Recovery
The compassion that I have developed for children who are “wired-differently” has fueled the development of my organization, A Heart For All Students. I have begun this journey to equip moms with a greater understanding of their children’s wiring and resulting behaviors.
My goal is to free moms from the emotional chokehold of our culture’s traditional parenting mentality (punishment and rewards) so they can more effectively and confidently parent. When Mom (and Dad) are free to parent and love based upon their greater understanding of the needs of their unique child, true growth for all begins to occur.
Over the past couple of months, I have begun to observe the repetitive steps that I use to help my son recover from a meltdown or tantrum (there is a difference between the two, but for now, I will use the terms loosely.)
When I was in the thick of chaos and confusion, I would have done anything to have someone come alongside me and walk me through this journey. I don’t want any mom to have to suffer in isolation the way so many of us do.
My heart hurts for all of the children who grow up believing that they are “inherently bad” because they can’t seem to get it together. So many adults are now living from the dire emotional consequences of a childhood lived as a disappointment to the adults around them.
Ultimately, I owe so much of my new parenting education to Becky Bailey, PhD and the late Karyn Purvis PhD. The separate work of these two ladies combined with my own education and training has been the most influential resources that have impacted my shift in what is effective discipline and parenting.
While I know I cannot serve each child and mom (and Dad) individually, I can share with you, Friend. My heart is to share what I have learned in this journey with you so that you can equip your child for the incredible life that God has planned.
Later, when you see that distressed mom in the grocery store with her screaming kid, you can reach out to her. She is everywhere. She needs community and someone to care and believe in her. Let’s love our children well by loving mommas in the messiness of meltdowns.
I have been writing like a crazy woman all summer long, creating my course with the most useful information that I have received through four years of absolute you-know-what. I want to provide the mommas “in-the-trenches” with actionable content while also providing the “why” behind the strategies and steps that I offer.
This material really should be called: “What I would have KILLED to know when in the you-know-what of Special Needs Parenting.” Ha! What do you think? I’m open to ideas… seriously… 🙂
Join my Private Facebook Group for Exclusive Content, Announcements and Q & As with me and my amazing Tribe of REAL moms. No judgement zone ahead! 🙂
I am so excited to launch my ecourse filled with in-depth explanation and the Behind the Behaviors: The Why & How of the 4 Steps to Meltdown Recovery. My goal is to provide you with actionable strategies to equip your struggling child so that he can navigate big emotions well. I want to cut through all of the wasted energy and information that I encountered during my 4 years of on-the-ground meltdown training and share what I found to be most useful.
These steps are the basic framework of meltdown recovery to get you started. I will equip you with the why and hows in the course. Yay!!
We are a Tribe & we need you!
I need your help in order to not only help you, but also that “in-the-trenches” special needs mom in your community. She is there and you will find her. She is the one dripping with sweat manhandling a screaming 7 year-old boy in the bakery aisle. Encourage her, Friend. Point her to this ecourse and our growing Private Facebook Community. We are in this together.
What About You, Friend? How do you walk alongside your child during a meltdown into recovery and calm? Comment below. Would love to know your strategies. 🙂
Grab Your Free 4 Steps to Meltdown Recovery Cheat Sheet!
Deepen your parent-child relationship.
Equip your child with tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.
Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.
Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.
I’ve lived way too many years as a mom trying desperately to be the perfect Christian momma. If I just tried hard enough, and did all the right things, I thought there would be a way for me to get it right.
In 2013, after 7 miscarriages, God allowed another baby boy to enter our world. That boy shattered every faulty belief I clung to and after years of you-know-what, has been used to radically transform me as a mother and as an educator.
I am here for you, Friend.
I am my hubby’s wife, my kiddos’ momma and an educator. I homeschool my 3 children (two bio daughters and one adopted son). I have a heart for all those who learn differently and I’m indebted to Jesus forever.
My heart is for all children to thrive as the people God has created them to be by equipping the amazing mommas who raise them.
Grab your FREE Behind the Behaviors Intro Bundle and Parent with Confidence!