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Gift Ideas for Badly Behaved 15 yo SD

completely overwhelmed's picture

I need some help with ideas for Christmas gifts for SD who’s 15 but not your typical teen. DH is clueless when it comes to gifts and he’s completely fed up with her behavior. She is completely out of control and holding her accountable for anything has become impossible. She refuses to do homework or chores and screams and yells terrible things at him. He’s not going out of his way to do anything nice for her after the way she treats him.

SD is incredibly jealous of DD 3.5 (her half-sister). I posted before about the issues with gifts. My DD is 3.5 and has a large extended family nearby who likes to spoil. My mom is a major bargain shopper, so she isn’t buying lavish gifts, but she has gone overboard for Christmas for DD. DD has gotten some rather large boxes with toys that aren't all that expensive but it looks like a lot.

SD’s behavior has been completely out of control. She’s facing expulsion from school. She’s failing all of her classes. She’s in general angry and argues about doing anything. Here’s how bad things have gotten - she went off on her dad this morning for telling her tie her shoe and refused to do it. It’s not only her refusing to do chores or homework. She is refusing to do normal things. She is battling mental illness, but this is pure Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Because of the issues with school DH told his mom to not send anything for SD for Christmas. SD doesn’t have much extended family. My mom offered to get her something, but I’m at a loss as to what to tell her to get her.

DH has tried over and over to get SD to earn things she wants or privileges. But that hasn’t worked. About 3 years ago SD asked for a phone, but DH told her she needed a B average on her report card to get one, so she never has earned the phone. He doesn’t want to just give her things like that without using it as leverage to improve her behavior, but the more he tries to do that, the more SD is pushing back.

SD knows that anything she wants will be used as leverage, so her response to “what do you want for Christmas?” has been shrugs.

Last year, she only wanted 2 thing: a dog and to visit her mom.

A dog or a pet is out of the question. It’s too much work. SD volunteering at an animal shelter wouldn’t work since she would have a meltdown begging for a dog she got attached to. If we got her a smaller pet like a gerbil or a fish as a test if she can care for it – then what do we do if she doesn’t? Get rid of it? It’s difficult enough to get SD to brush her teeth. We can't even get her to tie her freaking shoes. If she doesn’t feed the gerbil and DH has to give it away, SD will be a nightmare to deal with.

DH has nixed any contact with SD’s mom. She’s in a halfway house, so a visit is not possible. Perhaps arranging for her mom to call might work. But DH hates SD’s mom with a fiery passion and doesn’t want her to cause more problems on top of everything going on now.

Here’s the list of problems with normal gifts:

- Clothes - SD has Sensory Processing Disorder and also constantly has hives so she’s incredibly sensitive about what clothing she wears. We don’t know what school she will be going to so the problems with her school uniform may be over in January. Odds are any clothes you buy for her, she will find something wrong with them – it’s itchy, too tight, the tag hurts, the seam is itchy. Something. Shopping is an ordeal. A gift card is a possibility, but clothes shopping is highly stressful for SD and she it's something she hates doing.

- Cosmetics, Perfume, Toiletries, Jewelry – SD’s Sensory Processing Disorder means she doesn’t like anything on her skin. So stuff like lotions and make-up are out. So is jewelry.

- Electronics – DH uses access to electronics as leverage to get her to behave, but it’s never worked. She doesn’t care. She has major problems with fine motor skills and that explains why she can’t play video games. She is terrible at them. For example, she simply can’t move the controller to get her character to jump or have the coordination to hit two buttons at the same time. She gets easily frustrated and gives up immediately at things she can’t do.

- Books – SD’s reading level is very behind (probably grade school) and she hates reading. My mom has gotten her books before and they are never read. Books for reluctant readers tend to be for middle school students (like Wimpy Kids books), but I’m not sure she would read them.

SD doesn’t have any hobbies or interests. She doesn’t really like much music. A few years ago she liked One Direction, but she thinks they’re stupid now. She doesn't like most movies - she thinks superheroes and Star Wars are stupid.

Her therapist and psychiatrist both have suggested her getting more exercise to help with her depression and other mental problems, but getting her to do this has been difficult. She doesn’t want to do it. Maybe some sort of exercise related gift would help with this.

Money is very tight with all the medical expenses for SD so I don’t want to waste money on gifts just for the sake of getting her something. Putting money towards more therapy sessions, maybe occupational therapy to help with the Sensory Processing Disorder and motor skills issues would be better than buying her things for Christmas that she won’t use. But that’s no something to open on Christmas morning and won’t help the immediate problem of DD having so many gifts.

DH did buy SD’s some special sensory friendly socks since she’s so picky about socks. The socks were $12 a pair, so it’s expensive compared to clothes DD has gotten, but I don’t think she’ll understand that and it will look like a pathetic stupid gift.

I really don’t know what to do. DH knows SD will be terrible over Christmas but doesn’t want to try to buy her things to prevent it. He still wants to try to use anything she wants as leverage to get better behavior and doesn’t want to reward her for how bad she’s been. But her anger towards DD is getting worse. I want a calm, relaxed Christmas and SD is going have meltdown after meltdown. It’s already a bad time for her because of all the difficult emotions related to her mom. I’m dreading what she’ll do.


Icansorelate's picture

can you get her a camera-it might help with some of her motor skills and give her a hobby.

I feel sad for her. She clearly has issues that are not her own fault. I am a tough parent, but I think your DH is being to harsh with her.

arjuna79's picture

Oh my. Christmas is the least of this! From a PT's point of view... does music help at all? Headphones for auditory processing smoothing out? If SPD kiddos don't find workable strategies, by the time they hit puberty and hormones light the match up there... kaboom. I'm so sorry. But it does make me wonder if she's tried therapeutic listening or anything in that direction. And is she on meds? Under all the anger and the charge, what's her "currency?" Doesn't sound like she has much bargaining frequency. I'm so sorry. :O Sad

completely overwhelmed's picture

DH has been trying to find her currency for 3 years now. It's become a power struggle. As soon as he tries to use anything as a reward or motivation, she doesn't want it. It's to the point now that she's frequently refusing to eat just to be as disruptive and annoying as possible. If she would actually cooperate, I swear DH would buy her anything. If she got a B in school, DH wouldn't just buy her a phone - he'd get her a car.

She has relaxation music she's suppose to listen to at night for insomnia and an MP3 player. She doesn't like headphones or anything on her ears.

She didn't get therapy for the issues with SPD or really the learning disability issues when she was younger because the assumption was she was behind because of her mom and a lot of drama that happened with her mom. Multiple times her mom took off with SD and they lived in cars and were homeless for a while, and DH had no idea where they were. Then at 12, DH and I got her full time and focused so much on getting her caught up in school and it's been a huge fight ever since.

Pokeyketchum's picture

There is new pillow that uses no headphones. It uses the temporal bone for listening to music. So you just lie your head on the pillow and you can hear the music. The temporal bones house the ear ossicles, so it is sort of like how you hear your own voice through vibrations, not sound waves.
Just a thought. They are supposed to be super relaxing.

completely overwhelmed's picture

DH doesn't get home from work until 7pm most days and he's so exhausted. He leaves for work before 7am. It's very long days for him. SD isn't suppose to exercise before bedtime due to her insomnia. Ideally, she should go after school to work out. I've tried taking her to yoga classes but those aren't being offered at the community center any more.

I've suggested maybe a gym membership, but there isn't a time they could go together on weekdays. That's why everything falls on me - DH doesn't have time during the workweek.

still learning's picture

Constant punishment, telling grandma not to send gifts and having everything in your world used as leverage...
I'd be angry too!

I have 5 kiddos, 4 of them boys and I've learned basically just to treat them like dogs (in a good way!) Mostly all I do is exercise them, reinforce their positive behavior and ignore the other stuff unless it's really out of hand then I pick my battles. I hardly "punish" since it never worked with my daughter who was my first and the tester child.

Parenting is hard. There is no one right way and all children come into the world unique and different. I give it to this father for being a responsible parent. It's gotta be frustrating with all the circumstances and issues sd inherited from her mother.

completely overwhelmed's picture

DH spends so much time on dealing with SD's behavior problems and school issues. It's his entire focus. He's missing time with DD because he has to be SD's jail warden.

DH is trying the best he can. He's so frustrated. Based on the therapists' suggestions, he's trying to do shorter term rewards. If she does her homework that day, she gets to do X. That still hasn't worked and there's so much she refuses to do. It starts with the battle to get her to get up on time, brush teeth, get dressed and it continues from there. She regresses and there's new problems every day.

Every day he's getting a list of write-ups SD has gotten at school. He has been spending so much time trying to get SD back in a regular school because the alternative school has such strict rules and a 0 tolerance policy. The IEP doesn't matter. It doesn't excuse her from everything else she did to get expelled from her old high school and all the problems she causes for her teachers at the alternative school. I feel sorry for her teachers having to deal with her.

DH's parents are immigrants and a very different culture. His father would have beaten him had he done anything SD has done. He's tried his best to be strict but fair and she's lacked any discipline when she was with her mom and was allowed to do whatever she wanted. He has tried to give her structure, but she simply resists everything.

He's so worried that she'll end up like her mom - on drugs, homeless and in jail. He doesn't see any future for her other than that.

Thumper's picture

OMG....this is awful.

What I would do is ASK her what she wants, allow her to pick them out. Can she go shopping or is the overcrowded stores too much for her. IF so, pull things up on the internet.

Sorry I cant be much help but everyone has to start somewhere.

That is where I would start.

She may need a therapeutic home environment?

I do hope she receives recourses she deserves. If you don't know where to start try your local Social Services for advise.

completely overwhelmed's picture

Yes. She sees a therapist twice a month. She's also under the care of a psychiatrist. She'd had two in-patient stays at a psychiatric hospital.

still learning's picture

Granny, Sounds like you should apply to be a foster parent or a foster respite provider. With your attitude and environment you'd be an amazing force in the world Biggrin

still learning's picture

How about an "experience" gift? DH could take her to the closest zoo, petting zoo, aquarium, and let her pick stuff out from the gift shop that she'd like. There are also fun zones, arcade places that have lots of fun stuff to do (besides video games) if you buy a pass for 3 hours.

One year for a birthday my son got an "encounter w/the dolphins" where he got to be in the water with them and touch them.

Best of luck!

notsobad's picture

This is way off topic but something that I just have to say.

Please, please don't ever do another swim with the dolphins.

The tanks they are kept in are so small, they are trained with food (it's withheld if they do as they are suppose to), they are beaten if they don't comply with the training.

And if none of that matters to you, because you really truly believe that the dolphins are happy there, the water is disgusting! Dolphin poop turns to water almost instantly and so you and they are swimming around in water that is mostly poop! Not good.

Watch Blackfish, it is about SeaWorld and the Orcas but what they go through is the same for dolphins.

LostinSpaceandTime's picture

I agree that Christmas is not the time to withhold gifts to leverage behavior. Not sure what you can come up with at the last minute but there have been some good responses here.

A creative outlet is good. A camera and some photography classes or workshops. A painting or ceramics classes. Activities that she can do with her Dad or you that are not dependent on her grades.

Perhaps some audio books since she does not like to read. Music therapy is good also and the speaker pillow is nice. I am going to look that one up for myself. I hate wearing earphones too.

I found some therapeutic music that I am trying now. I have insomnia also and chronic pain. I first started by just listening to the samples on the website. They are only each about three minutes long and I would keep listening to them one after the other before I ever ordered the CDs. I did feel a difference in my relaxation and breathing. It seemed I was always tense and almost holding my breath. With listening to this music I started to breath deeply and normally. There is a lot of info to read about it on the website and I am not sure if it is all it claims to be. But I am giving it a try.
Perhaps it would help your SD. She could listen to the samples to see if she is interested before you commit to ordering. There is a money back guarantee. Here is the link.

I hope there is help found for your SD and your family in dealing with such a troubled child. Perhaps do as another person said in saving aside some of the gifts for the DD3 if that may help at this time. Best wishes for a blessed Christmas and promising new year.

completely overwhelmed's picture

She's been seeing a therapist for the past 3 years. It's incredibly expensive and IMO hasn't helped.