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Dealing with obsessions about buying things(22 Posts)
We have had 3 weeks so far of this latest obsession- wanting to buy a £170 lego set. When I say obsessed I mean obsessed, this morning for example, he attacked his sister, me and dh, biting, kicking, punching, throwing things and this happens everyday.
There is going to be a lego club at school next year and the class did a cake sale and raised money and now he is desperate to know if they're going to buy this set even though it's £170 and age 14+ (they're going to be in yr 3).
He is constantly angry, aggressive and generally unhappy because of this lego- what can we do? We have tried all the talking in the world (we have loads of books about dealing with emotions etc). If we were to buy it, as we did for another lego set that he wanted for his birthday he just got obsessive about building it then as soon as it was completed, moved on to another set! He didn't even play with the bloody thing!!!
So, what can we do????
If you can't afford it and don't want him to have it, you'll have to tell him he can't have it. Understanding his obsessions doesn't mean you should put up with violence or tantrums to get what he wants.
Focus on what he can have have. Allow him to earn reward points for good behaviour to get these things.
But I think you have to be firm and tell him violence is not acceptable and you cannot afford this. Big presents are for Xmas or birthday etc. if he gets violent, remove him from the situation but do not give in.
I assume he is of average or above average intelligence? He should understand that attaching people for a lego set is bad behaviour. If he doesn't you have to teach him.
It should say attacking people.
This is not an uncontrollable outburst he can't control because of his disability but a campaign of tantrumming to get what he wants
I can see 2 options which I would use:
- say a categorical 'no' because it is 14+ and stand firm, eventually he will move on to something else
- discuss and make a plan of how he can save up for it. Ask him how he could earn money, ask him to forego other treats and have cash instead, explain he can have money for birthday and Xmas instead of any other presents. Can you use it as a tool to incentivise the behaviour you want? Can you agree small goals and reward with small cash prizes? Get him involved in how much any task is worth? So, having a calm bath, sitting reading for 15 minutes, playing in his room for 15 minutes, doing a 'kind thing' for his sister, work out very exact and precise things, ideally positive approach goals rather than avoiding doing things tends to work better. Make a chart with him to fill in as he collects money. Use a collaborative problem solving approach (I know you've read the Ross Greene books )
I did the second with ds when he wanted a hideous huge piece of tat Transformer thing which was £150 IIRC, he's barely played with it but can remember the saving process and still values it even though it just sits in a box.
ie it's really not that easy to stop your child being violent, and often what might look like a tantrum and appear to be manipulative behaviour isn't, it's yet another expression of anxiety.
IE, if it was that easy do you think I would be posting?! He has special needs, he has no empathy, he has no self awareness, his disability DOES mean it is hard for him to control his emotions, it is a campaign of tantrumming to get what he wants but he cannot stop it. He cannot control his emotions in order to do so.
We are as firm as fucking firm with him. He never gets anything by hurting and every time (once he's calm) we discuss with him how hurting us makes us feel and that it will never get him what he wants. How his anger is his choice and there are many other ways of expressing his feelings. We have 'what to do when your temper flares' as well as a hundred other books on social stuff.
We have tried the saving up either tokens or money, but he cannot do it! It all just makes him more and more frustrated.
He knows he gets presents at birthday and christmas (believe me when I say I have considered banning birthdays/christmas/presents in their entirety) and we have usually 5 or 6 weeks of extreme behaviour and huge anxiety leading up to those events. I spend my life using collaborative problem solving and cognitive-behaviour-therapy-type counselling but I've been doing that for the last four years and he is only getting more obsessed.
The reality is, it isn't the stuff he wants or needs its just a hook to 'justify' the anxiety he feels. He is high functioning (too bloody high, that's another problem) and knows that other people don't feel anxious like he does all the time, he looks for a way to explain the feeling and a potential solution... In his mind the absence of a particular lego set must be the reason he feels like this, therefore getting it will make him feel better. Unfortunately, his PDA is what makes him anxious.
pop I know you're super stressed at the moment, but you asked for ideas, we can only speak from our own experience, if it's not helpful, fine, if you've tried everything, fine, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in the chaos, frustration and relentlessness of it all we forget the basics, I certainly do.
The Internet is a tricky place to discuss extreme behaviours because what is extreme for one of us won't be for someone else. I read your posts and recognise a lot, but actually have no idea whether each of our subjective experiences is anything like on the same scale.
So a £170 lego set will make his anxiety go away?
"His 'PDA' is making him anxious". How do you know he just doesn't want lego?
"He never gets anything by hurting" Yet you say "if we buy it...." and then explain what has happened when you have given in previously and bought things and he moves on.
I am sorry but this suggested to me that he has got things by hurting and that the message is that this behaviour could work.
I have suggested diverting the behaviour positively into something he can achieve but a £170 lego set is a non-negotiable surely so I am not sure what you want me to say.
But if you don't see it that way, do buy it to please him and make him less anxious.
I am really not trying to be difficult but what would you say to yourself if you read your first post. There surely is a line and he has to know where it is and you have to stand firm. The phase will pass but it won't be pleasant.
Reading your posts again I'm wondering if perhaps you're doing too much 'intervention' and 'therapy' and 'talking about' and it's all a muddle for him. I wonder if stopping trying to solve everything might actually help a bit. You describe being 'fucking firm' with him which is clearly not working, what you've been doing isn't working.
I've found things have got a lot easier since I've accepted that sometimes ds needs to get angry, and actually letting him be is very cathartic for him and over time his violent meltdowns have reduced in frequency and intensity. This doesn't mean I do nothing, he wouldn't have made as much progress if I'd done nothing, but it's not constant or frequent and it's not obvious to him mostly that he's being 'worked'.
pop what Lego set is it, out of interest?
I know from your other posts that my ds is very,very similar to yours. He too had a Lego obsession for a while but that has ended now. We did try to get him bits and bobs where we could but had to draw the line at a £365 set which we knew he would play with about twice.
He can be very persistent which is due to him wanting to control situations and it is very wearing. You have to keep saying no and distract with other things really. We found that by ignoring it and talking about something he eventually stopped going on about it. Now he is older we can say no and he says 'o.k' and doesn't ask again which still surprises me sometimes as his responses used to be so different e.g anger,lashing out. He still has obsessions and has already decided his Christmas list.
I know it's hard but sticking to your guns does pay off eventually.
Polter - you are much more reasonable and helpful about this. I think I'll duck out as I'm probably making things worse
Good luck OP. I know it must be hard as it can be like dealing with a toddler but it does get better.
Apologies if this doesn't help, but I would tell him straight that he isn't having it and that you are not going to discuss this anymore. My DS has Aspergers and was very awkward and manipulative at your son's age. We gave in for a while, but once he had acquired the item he then wanted the next thing and we realized we had to stand firm and ride out the storm. It was horrible for a couple of days, but eventually he realized he wasn't going to get everything he wanted.
Bloody lego used to drive me mad. It is not robust (meltdown when the model breaks) and is very expensive and the manufacturer's use branding (spongebob, star wars etc) to create a never ending demand for more of the stuff. DS1 was only ever interested in building any model once and then trying fruitlessly to preserve it in tact. Megablox are tougher. Thankfully it is a phase that gets better over time.
Practically, does he get pocket money? By that age DS1 had amassed a fair amount as he had never spent any money. I told him he could buy what he wanted provided that he used his own money. By the time we had conducted internet research together (with me pointing out cons) he would always decide not to buy the thing he was campaigning for but to spend much less and buy something else or to buy nothing.
To deal with the acquisition of lego but never actually using it imaginatively, I would recommend having a look at some of the video's on You Tube made using lego stop animation - you can download an ap that my 6 year old can use to make videos. Believe me many songs and subjects (ie minecraft) has been made in lego stop go.
I am super stressed at the moment it's true, so sorry if I am over sensitive! We have never had such a difficult time with him and I am a very positive and pro active person so we have explored a lot of ways to get around this already.
When I say we are firm, what I mean is that we have never bought him anything or given into him because he has hurt us yet years have gone by and he is still engaging in this strategy- I can't work out why. The time I refer to when he got a set was near his birthday and he was obsessed and angry but not aggressive as I guess he knew he was able to get it on a certain date. He has other obsessions
He is regularly obsessed with things and will get frustrated and keep going on about it and make himself angry, but we can often distract and they fade away after a few weeks but this one is more intense than any before. He also with it with people, eg. when am I next going to see X? then breaking down if the answer isn't 'right now'. At one point he was obsessed with someone who'd gone to Australia for weeks, he repeatedly freaked out about them being away and no amount of explaining how far away it was helped. In fact he became obsessed with Australia in general and now has a huge knowledge of it.
The reason he thinks he might be able to get the set now (it's lord of the rings tower of orthanc) is that they are starting a lego club at school and have done fundraising by having a cake sale etc. His teacher has said there will be a vote next year and the class can decide between them what to buy, the tower of orthanc can go forward as an option with everyone else's ideas- all very reasonable and clear. Except, ds is stressed now because in three weeks there IS a chance that he can get this set, IF enough of his class mates vote for it. But, he isn't in control of that and herein lies the root of all ds' problems.
Wrt the hurting, theoretically he must be getting something out of it, in the past when we've discussed it he says 'it feels good to get my anger out, otherwise it is all stuck inside of me'. We can't ignore it because it is too dangerous, he attacks dd as soon as he sees her, I have had to keep her out of the house to keep her safe. When he attacks me, I can only just restrain him.
He does play a lot with his lego but rarely with the sets, he has most fun out of the boxes of random bits we've picked up at carboots or charity shops (and no amount of pointing this out helps either).
I guess the biggest problem is that over the years we have tried every strategy there is; saving up pocket money, paying him for odd jobs (that he never does, yet still demands the money) but it just seems to exacerbate it. We have tried pocket money but he just freaks when he gets it because it's not enough. One time his uncle had given him some money for his holidays and we took him to the lego set, having discussed how much money it was and the kind of sets he was going to be able to buy. He spent 40 mins in the shop and would only pick out sets that were far too large to buy, and was getting more and more stressed. After a while he picked out a set he could afford and I said yes, you can get that one, but he immediately changed his mind (even though it was one of his favourite characters) after awhile he started hurting himself leaving big red marks on the skin, and eventually we did manage to settle on a set within budget but it had taken forever and he had marks all over him. Clearly we've never taken him anywhere near another lego shop, we even avoid argos as he knows you can get lego there and even the sight of it can set him off.
It's just seeming more and more clear that there is no intervention that can help here, just medication. I am still just clinging on to the hope that someone can suggest some other alternative...
Given that you are at the end of your tether and you feel that all the things you try are not really working, why are you against medication? Ds takes medication and I honestly feel that he has a medical condition and that condition requires treatment to help him cope with the symptoms. For ds the symptoms are aggression, anxiety and fluctuating moods. While the medication hasn't solved all his problems it has taken the edge of the symptoms and made it easier for him to have periods of calm where he can enjoy going out or buying a DVD or whatever. If the medication didn't help y our ds you can stop it, try something else or go back to where you are now. I know some people see medication as in some way admitting defeat or may be acknowledging that, something is 'wrong' with their dc but for me whatever we do should be about helping our dc to be happy. For many dc this means helping them to cope with the outside world and the demands of school or family life.
cansu, I know you are right now. I guess I've always believed that I should be able to 'fix' things for him, adjust the environment and help him develop skills, but clearly what we can do is nowhere near enough. That is also what they have told us at camhs, so I wonder if they will be willing to consider prescribing anything. We have an emergency appt on mon.
If you don't mind me asking what medication does your ds take?
DS1 is capable of a lot of this sort of behaviour, but not to quite the same extreme.
The only way we can break the cycle is often to make him go cold turkey on it, the same as with any other intense obsession or addiction. I would tell your DS that lego club will not be happening for him, in any form, if he can't rein in his behaviour in some way. It's supposed ot be a source of pleasure for him, but if thinking about it is making him so anxious that he's hurting himself and hurting other people, then it's all going to stop. No lego club and his lego at home will all go on holiday for a set period, after which he'll have to earn it back, a bit at a time, by being a perfectly lovely boy.
We've had to do this once or twice with DS1 and he actually reacts remarkably well, when the source of the stress is taken away.
Ds takes Risperidone. He started off on a very small dose. Initially he put on weight but that then dropped off entirely and he is very healthy now. I think we were v lucky to manage to see a psychiatrist who had a specific interest in learning disabilities. Good luck with your appointment.
Hi Pop, I have the same obsessive behaviour about buying here to. My son is 5 and is generally obsessed with acquiring stuff! It's almost daily and like you I feel its done to help himself cope with his anxiety, sort of gives him a focus. It is relentless here, we do lots with him everyday and that does seem to help. If we don't have an exciting "plan" for the day he will become obsessed about buying something or seeing some child , this will take over everything and like your son mine will become very aggressive ( I know, easier at 5!) .
It's hard to deal with and I believe part of PDA obsessive/anxious behaviour. We do not buy him things when he hits, we also don't try to get him to save/earn money by being "good" etc, there no way this would work, ever! We try to ignore him, we calmly say we can't buy that today, try to say its really easily broken ( we too have so much lego) and try to get him to see its not going to be worth it , but in quite a bored sort of inattentive way. Often after a while we suggest getting something like a magazine or a little car instead....we then get that and often it was never about the original thing anyway, he seems to fix on an idea and not be able to move on, replacing it with something small often moves him on.
My son is also very bright and already I feel his anxiety is increasing as he sees his differences and this causes more obsession with things and also with people.
Sorry I haven't go "the answer" and I know how you feel, it's not going to work to get tough or reward, it is what it is, you just try to get through the day and help them. Compromise does sometimes help, that and not getting into too much discussion and acting a bit bored with it all.
Hope things improve.
hi walter, ds does the obsessing about a friend coming to play every night after school, that is the excuse (in ds' mind) for his daily meltdowns, he attacks us because we are stopping him having somebody to play (there is only one child comes to play everybody else's mothers just politely decline an invitation).
I would be too concerned about what he might do if we attempted to go cold turkey. His behaviour is already so extreme, not only the aggression towards us all and the trashing the house and the self harm but he has also attempted to jump out of the upstairs window and he often threatens to kill/hurt himself and run away to live on the streets.
He is just 'stuck' on these ideas and distraction does sometimes help in the short term, the problem is that it takes so much time and energy to do that distracting, you think you've moved him on but suddenly he goes back to the beginning and you have to start all over again, but we no longer have the energy for it.
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