mardi 26 avril 2011

Big Brother part 2

He has grown into a truly wonderful teenager. His traits were low self-esteem, not sociable at all, sports challenged, unsmiling, selfhater, you get the picture.
After 2 years adapting in a new school, new country, new house, he is finally emerging as a balanced and happy person.
This teenager is smart. He has a great sense of humour. He is slowly domineering a budding computer addiction. He is learning to be organized in his homework. He is helpful. He loves to walk, says it helps him to think!
If one of us is angry at him, he just listens and then proceeds to explain to us why we are angry. Calmly. And often finds an unfair edge to point at!

I don't know if there is a recipe. I don't know if one can say whether this or that was well done. It all depends on so many things.
What I see is this:

- We have tried to instill a sense of humour into all our children. 
When BigBrother (this nickname is already bothering me, he is not just a brother, he is our son too!!!) would start his "I know I am terrible, I am horrible and you are right to tell me off, I don't deserve anything else" rant, we would get really annoyed at this avoidance technique, which consisted in not acknowledging the thing that he did wrong. So everytime he did that, we started laughing and calling him "Dobbie, bad, bad Dobbie", like the Harry Potter houseelf (is that the name? or is it a housegoblin?) Sounds cruel, but it made him laugh along with his sisters and us. We once even gave him a sock in the middle of an argument, telling him he was free now but would have to take responsibility for his actions. A bit far-fetched but it worked, he laughed as much as all of us and his selfhatred attitude disappeared.
I just want to point out that we would not have tried this joke if he had reacted badly to it. The joke obviously made him see what he was doing to himself. The 'Bad Dobbie' hardly ever comes out nowadays, and it is not his nickname.

- He spent five years of Primary School in a wonderful foreign school abroad and even though it did not prepare him for the french strict learning system (positive reinforcement does not even have a translation in french), it prepared him for bigger things, for being the wonderful teenager he has become. 

- Thanks to my sister-in-law, with whom I once burst into tears over the difficult times we were having understanding him, we took him to a "mental management" course. He had about 7 hours of one-to-one sessions, it helped him tremendously. All his talents became enhanced and the mental blocks that were slowing him down were steered in the right direction, it was amazing, humbling...

I want to relate the main example that opened my eyes to the way he was "functioning" because I am convinced that even if it helps only one person in my meager readers' statistics, it will have been worth it.
He once came home telling me about this test he had just done, on a famous french writer's book where he knew everything about the author. So he was sure to have a good mark. I had doubts, as it sounded like he had mostly written about the author's life without any reference to the book in question, but I kept them to myself and congratulated him.

He got the worst mark, 4 out of 20 I think, and did not really understand why. He could see he had not answered the question, but did not see why his impressive knowledge of the autor's life could not be rewarded with a great mark. There was no way to get through to him. It was hard and it was sad and it was truly crushing.

I was invited to stay for the first session of his "mental management" course. The lady mentor read a short story. Then she proceeded to ask him what was in his mind. She was very clear about the fact that this was not a test, he would not get a mark or anything, this was just about knowing what was in his mind after hearing this story. "Do you see pictures? Do your hear a voice? If yes, it is my voice? Somebody else's? Is it a singing voice? A boring voice? Is it a movie? Pictures with real people or cartoon characters? Tell me."
He described three animated pictures with real people, each picture related to an action in the story (there were indeed 3 actions), described the pictures. The last picture/action he described was the exact opposite of what had actually happened in the story.
The lady did not flinch the way I was flinching in the background. She kept questionning him on what he saw, asking for more and more details. At some point I think that she just asked "Is it the way the story I read goes exactly?" To which he said "No not exactly." "So you heard the story and you have an altered story in you mind." She was matter of fact. She made it very clear that it was not an issue here. She was only trying to determine how his mind worked at this point.

And I felt like bursting into tears, good tears this time: somebody was getting through to my son, somebody was working out what was going on.

In the car, on the way back, I had to bite my tongue and did not totally succeed, as I very offhandedly asked "By the way, why was the story in your mind different from her story?" He shrugged "...because I did not like her ending!" and gave me a sheepish grin. Most beautiful grin of my life. We shared a giggle. A giggle full of relief, of joy, of dawning understanding.
From then on it only went uphill. We let him get on with his sessions, he came back everytime with new insights and methods and literally opened up under our eyes. Getting help is not admitting defeat. It's just getting help.

I am starting the same course next week, I can't wait. It's a course about learning how our own brain works, how we learn best, be it by writing, listening, reading, and how we process the information we store. Then the course proceeds to teach us how to enhance this process, using our own abilities, talents. For parents, it is generally aimed at teaching them also how to recognize the best suited method of learning in each of their children. I will tell more about it once I have started the course.

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