“You break it you bought it!” is a wise saying. The one that works well for teaching responsibility is, “if you break it, you fix it!” Holes in the walls requiring sheet rock or dry wall repair are one of the family secrets of some families with children with these disorders. This is why sheet rock classes are offered at our clinic. Reparation is one of the most effective tools in the family’s behavioral arsenal, and they can be done by earning money or doing chores if the actual repair is too difficult. Reparation teaches responsibility and allows the person to regain their self-respect by cleaning up the mistakes that have been made. Reparation also needs to be thought of when verbal mistakes are made. No matter what, it is not okay to make a mess and expect someone else to clean it up. Apologizing is not sufficient! For example, a chore should follow to make up for the time expended during an argument. The chore should be work that is normally done by the person who was inconvenienced during the argument. If the argument took 45 minutes, then the parent assigns a chore that takes the child 45 minutes to complete. One of the most frequently asked questions is, “How do I know if it is caused by neurology or is just naughty behavior? If you use reparation it does not matter, as long as one does not lose one’s temper while stating the reparation expectation. If the child needs assistance, then help can be offered, but the person with neurological disorders must participate and eventually take the lead to repair the situation.
One of the major problems with getting the neurologically impaired individual to understand and take responsibility is the extreme developmental delay in certain areas of maturity and independent functioning. Russell Barkley uses the “two-thirds rule” when dealing with children with ADHD– you take two-thirds of the child’s age to get their current, overall maturity in making decisions. In addition, people have a tendency to believe that either they have control over their lives or that others do. This concept is termed “locus of control.” The goal is taking one’s own responsibility for one’s actions and not blaming others. Very young children, naturally, see this concept as being outside of the child’s control. As the child matures the child begins to see how to take control and to take responsibility for his actions. If the child does not understand this and blames others for all that occurs, then the individual is delayed in maturing and developing a positive self-concept. The ability to take control and be successful is an important confidence builder and the success in this arena gives one the sense that they can control their destiny. Without this, one blames others for all the difficulties one has. Taking responsibility is supposed to be well established by the time a person leaves home and goes out in the world. This is frequently not the case.
Excerpted from the book Tigers, Too, by Sheryl K. Pruitt, M.Ed., ET/P and Marilyn Dornbush, Ph.D.