Living With a Pathologically Disobedient Kid

“This is a journey no family would choose, and the outcome is unclear even under the best of circumstances. Here is one boy’s story.

Before Oscar* got kicked out of his first preschool, he was upset about lunch. Not long into the school year, the 4-year-old expressed his displeasure with the midday meal by dousing his tray with milk. When his teacher brought him to the director’s office to be disciplined, Oscar was unrepentant. He reached his tiny arm across the director’s desk and swiped its contents onto the floor.

It was already clear to his mother, Sarah, that something was off. Oscar’s tantrums were nuclear; his disobedience was beyond correction. And he was so impulsive that when someone else’s child climbed into a gorilla cage at the Cincinnati Zoo, Sarah was seized by terror—and sympathy. Given the number of times Oscar had broken free from her at the zoo and run off in search of adventure, it was sheer luck that he hadn’t ever landed in a cage himself.

Now 14, Oscar has been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He still throws tantrums when he doesn’t like what’s on the lunch menu. But when he runs off now, he sometimes comes home in a police car. His behavior is more self-destructive than criminal, but it tends to attract attention.

Once, when Sarah took her kids—Oscar and his older brother plus their two younger sisters—grocery shopping, Oscar decided he’d had enough before Sarah had gotten through her list. She urged him to be patient. Instead, he ran to a nearby dollar store, where he raged to a clerk that he was going to kill himself by drinking bleach. The clerk called the police, and Oscar ended up in a children’s hospital, where he was involuntarily committed as a suicide risk.

Kids like Oscar are regulars in hospital mental-health wings. They’re also overrepresented in after-school detention halls and juvenile justice centers—and, when they grow up, in jails and prisons. We see them on the news when they do something dramatically reckless, like climbing into a gorilla’s cage—or when they commit an act of violence. The recent wave of school shootings has brought aggressive, impulsive young offenders to the forefront of public consciousness.

So how do we keep explosive kids from becoming destructive, dangerous teens and adults? Armchair parenting experts tend to promote harsh punishment, arguing that even the most challenging kids will straighten up if given significant consequences for their actions: a good long grounding, say, or a strategic spanking. Many of us shake our heads at the overly indulgent parents who, we believe, allow their kids’ behavior to escalate unchecked.

But research reveals that, contrary to conventional wisdom, harsh discipline backfires when it comes to pathologically disobedient kids. The best way to keep them from ending up on the nightly news is, instead, a skill-building, problem-solving approach grounded in compassion.

Experts in the so-called disruptive behavior disorders—which include ODD and conduct disorder, and which often accompany ADHD—say that instead of doling out punishment, we need to help these kids develop the coping skills and impulse control that aren’t innate to them.

“It’s only counterintuitive if you haven’t been paying attention to the research that’s accumulated over the last 40 to 50 years,” says child psychologist Ross Greene, who founded the nonprofit Lives in the Balance, which advocates for changing the way we treat behaviorally challenging kids. “And that research is pretty compelling.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201809/living-pathologically-disobedient-kid

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Comment (46)

  1. ALL of my nieces & nephews (10 of them) are 18 to 28 years old and are all TOTALLY supported by their "loser" parents (my brother & 2 sisters)!!! I left home and was totally on my own when I was 18, WTF?

  2. I was a very well behaved child. My parents never hit me. I always had good grades and preferred being around adults, especially grandparents because to me kids were not intelligent enough to have conversations with on the topics of my choice. My sister on the otherhand was a "surprise' 12 years after I was born.. and most of the role model adults in my childhood had passed away or were not in my parents' lives anymore. Although she is smart as well she was neglected by my parents and had much less structure in the household.. not really surprised she had a rebellious attitude until recently..

  3. Now, today's women can't even manage the responsibility of their own children. So why in God's name do we give them the responsibility of the entire future of the country? Women should not be able to vote.

  4. I love your videos. I'm a mother of two who came from absent/violent father figures and I made very impulsive choices and suffered mentally. In order for the cycle to change parents not only need to take responsibility, but also recognize and heal their own wounds as the first step, otherwise it's just a superficial gesture. My heart goes out to all the children suffering from the destruction of the family and this hedonistic culture, as well to the parents who suffered from the same and are trying to break the cycle

  5. Without consideration of biological affects ur conclusion is false
    I was told all this about my oldest son who last was diagnosed with tumor on Amygdala which regulates fear
    If you look at this from a fear perspective
    Then the boys behaviors makes sense
    The drs at UCLA told my this was there since birth and hereditary
    Think about it

  6. This is the reason I have no respect for psychology, this whole video was based on assumptions and opinions. How can you do an accurate account of any situation without an assessment of both parents and the child. EVERY situation is unique and pointing fingers at either parent when the odds are the onus should go on both parents you are helping no one. I for one had experience with a psychiatrist that decided to asses both my husband and myself without knowing either of us or ever meeting with us, but instead was a friend of my husbands ex- wife herself being a psych nurse. She was trying to obtain custody on abuse charges in court, and between the two they wrote a bloody book that was supposed to be presented in court as proof of physical and mental abuse. She was trying to get an out of Province custody order as she no longer lived in the Province the child resided in, the custody hearing was going through in the province they resided in while they were married. All this after she refused to return him after a visit, he was handed a subpoena while he was at work. The case was thrown out on the grounds the assessment was done without the accused being present for the assessment, the court ordered her to pay costs, she should have been locked up, along with her male psychiatrist friend.

  7. The mentally of some parents is that of demanding respect at all costs, regardless of how they act, yet the child is suppose to be golden or else there is something wrong with them innately.

  8. Ok I did lol at the assumption that only kids without attachment run off. My kids were homebirthed, breastfed, co-slept, I'm a sahm, and homeschool, my hubby and I have a good marriage and he is around his kids as often as work allows etc etc. My boys…would Take off running lol. Now…they did it fully assuming I'd maybe keep up? Or find them? Total confidence in me to be there when they turned around lol. But the did do it. My girls on the other hand, stayed mostly right beside us.

  9. Being a idiot. Blame your kid on it.
    Wasn't it blaming anyone else if your kid screws up something? (That's not more intelligent but may need more care then she was willing to give him)

    There shouldn't be anyone i would like to see get hit by a 40t Truck, but some of them are giving me every reason they could.

    [non native english speaker
    i will not debate any grammar advice]

  10. Stef. I grew up in the Canadian crown ward system. I've seen it all. I did somehow end up at least productive enough that I eventually ended up self employed. Ironically my upbringing is what makes being self-employed necessary, rather than a real desire. If you truly understand people who have come from where I've come from you'll know that schedule can be variable for good reason.

    Anyway roughly 18 minutes in you mentioned that nobody knows how to install empathy in a sociopath, or fix a smashed up personality. This is my self-proclaimed area of expertise. To a large degree I owe a lot of my understanding to Dr. Gad Czdnur, psychologist and author of a book about child criminality.

    Dr. Gad was old when I met him in jail. He was also Israeli and had a thick accent. I remember one day in his office telling him that I wanted to kill my parents.

    for the first time ever somebody just looked at me and said no you don't. He went on to outline the exact reason why I don't.
    The next thing he did was demonstrate that sometimes parents become children when you as an adult supersede them in morality or intellectual and emotional capacity.

    Once he teaches you that you are not necessarily the child anymore in your life, he touches on the virtue of forgiveness and how it might apply to children. If I the subject were to look back at myself as a child I would have wished for forgiveness. it's reasonable than to assume that if you want that forgiveness you must also give it. The question from Dr. Gad Czudner then is; if your parents are more child like in their poor choices, and you are aware and angry about it, it means you've come to a point where you can stop being angry, and very easily see, your parents are "fucked up".

    I said "what?". "Fucked up…" he said, "your just a little bit fucked up". He explained it in my language. "We are a little fucked up, I'm a little fucked up, this is ok".

    Dr. Gad then went on to ask me if I ever had a favorite baseball hat. I told him yes, and I remember it was a Portland trailblazer basketball cap. I just wore the shit out of that thing for about 4 years I think. Well confirming I did have a favorite at one point in time doctor get asked me what I would feel like if somebody took the cap off of my head and stomped on it. I told him I would be mad.

    that was the proof that I do in fact have the working mechanics for empathy. that statement didn't change me into an empathetic person immediately. but it gave me living proof that I can exercise the muscle.

    now during dr. Gadd's regular program where all inmates are involved he spoke about the feeling of power you could achieve when you do good. he told us that the reasons we would do good things were still selfish just like a criminal, however the deeds themselves have a positive impact rather than a negative.

    Doesn't matter whether it's holding the door holding an elevator button not lying when you could, it's all about the rush of knowing that you are amongst the best people in character.

    now for reasons don't need to explain to someone like you, there can be other roadblocks to a person's positive state of mind or connection with others, but for the purpose of demonstrating how to first begin the dialogue with a disconnected personality, it begins with wonderful analogies that make it extremely easy to conceptualize. once the brain cannot ignore the evidence is presented with it is internalized as fact and becomes part of what could potentially be a new foundation on which to build the new perceptions of the reality they're in.

    I made. Believe me it is quite the ride in almost 40 years. That's system is absolutely incredible and it's a little disturbing that unfortunately it was kind of the best we could do as a society for the countless numbers of children who are in that system.

  11. What about woman just being horny? its ok for men but not woman you gave an excuse for men but woman aren't allowed? Guess what? WE ARE TOO DING DONG WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU ? PEOPLE ARE ALIVE AND WANT SEX WOW YOU HAVE MISSED SO MUCH?… START ASKING?

  12. I LOVE THIS VIDEO. THANK YOU STEFAN FOR NOT BEING AFRAID TO SPEAK THE TRUTH ABOUT WOMEN. 💖💖💖😇😇😇😇THANK YOU FOR TREATING WOMEN AS EQUALS.!!!! TRUTH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EMOTIONS. Take care of yourself and your lovely family. 😇😇😍😍

  13. I am so tired of you blaming woman and always saying "men are men what do you want ". Good God. You need yo resolve the issue you have with mommy. Fucking crybaby period. Get over it. Hope your daughter ends up a pole dancer . Just for you DADDY?…

  14. I am shocked that an Internationally available, allegedly serious, professional, magazine is okay running a hit piece on a child with his photo looming in it, when he has no way to understand the long term, world wide implications or give consent to that. That's so disgusting that they would permanently scar a child like this and pretend to be some magazine by professionals who claim to heal people. It would have been bad enough with some anonymous kid, but to put his photograph like that is so disgusting. And if that is not the actual child in the article, it doesn't matter. That child's picture is indelibly linked with a horrible condemning article where there is no self defense angle from the child against these claims.

  15. People thought I was unruly and had a developmental problem when I was a child. When in reality I was severely abused by babysitter.I wish women would truly seek the problems of their children instead of using them for sympathy and virtue, or passing the problems off in the child. I was made to feel like a degenerate, which did not help my situation.

  16. This may be Attachment Disorder which is unknown to many but widespread among the populace. It comes from incomplete or nonexistent attachment to a parent(s) as a small child. The intensity of the disorder can vary from minimal to extreme and can be devastating and nearly destroy a persons life. Imagine how it feels from the inside of the affected person/child.

  17. I was married to an ODD man; his father was the same way. I think this is a genetic condition made worse by quality of upbringing. He was smart: masters in chemistry; no intellectual problems. But he was difficult to live with; saying he was oppositional is an understatement, but he not quite defiant. Day after day after day……exhausting.

  18. I started running away from home at 2 years old. The State Police found me 5 miles away in a cow pasture standing under a cow sucking a teat for milk. I've been mentally evaluated as perfectly sane, but i can't say the same for my mother…lol!…true story.

  19. The choice then can be assumed that it is also out of the father's hands as well. Both parents are responsible for an ill-behaved child, not just a mother. Come on Stefan, you need to blame both parents equally and you are not doing that. Why are you not blaming the father for not doing enough to raise a good child from birth? By your logic, if the child is good then the mother should get all the credit, even if the father has equal amount of input into his development. Your child's development must all be because of your wife's work.
    As the article does not give us a complete picture of this child's life, it is irresponsible of you to make any assumptions or criticisms or either parent, let alone just the mother.

  20. Psychology Today has been fake news for a while. Just a point on how 'psychological disorders' find their way into the ever-growing book called the DSM-5.
    Everyone should know this. There are no tests which show 'chemical imbalances' in the brain for most if not all 'disorders'. A small group of 'experts' VOTE on whether a disorder exists. And $ big pharma $ is usually lurking in the shadows when such decisions are made.

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