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Looking for parental tips my character could use for a child that is dead inside.


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#1 Pen

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Posted 19 January 2016 - 05:53 PM

I have a character dealing with a child that is void of life (if that makes sense) the child doesn't laugh a lot, doesn't play with others, has a strict routine of cleaning, exercise, working, sleeping etc. Is more interested in the geopolitical situation instead of the cartoons. And even feels that the parent hates them. The child isn't disrespectful or rebellious. All tasks are carried out in a swift and prompt manner.

 

I have had the opportunity to talk to a few parents about this and appreciated the feedback which had a very interesting range of answers.

 

It was mentioned that it was a failure if a child falls into an autonomous routine like that, their childhood is destroyed and you as a parent have failed miserably. The same for if the child was growing up too fast and trying to comprehend elements of life they were not ready for.

 

Another parent stated they would do some things to break the routine, take them to a park, get them interested in a hobby so they can tap into their creativity. Communicate with them more and show them more love and affection.

 

I'm interested to know if there anything more I can add to the feedback I've received so far.

 

Thank you.



#2 Thrash

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Posted 19 January 2016 - 06:50 PM

It depends very much on the child, of course. If they child is routine simply because it's his personality, than pushing can be good--but if the routine is a comfort because the child is somewhere on the autism/aspergers spectrum, then challenging that routine may only increase the feeling of alienation the child feels and cause spikes in anxiety that can be very detrimental.  

 

Better to work with the routine instead of against it--find events where he can learn more about politics (who cares if he doesn't like cartoons?), look for communities with children dealing with similar habits or compulsions, etc.  If they child wants to work instead of play--work with the child to give him a sense that what he likes and wants isn't totally invalid. 

 

Not all children are alike, so trying to force him to behave like others when he doesn't feel like others is much more a failure than allowing him to fulfill a compulsive routine.

 

I am not a parent myself, but I work in a school with children of special needs of all different kinds. Just today one girl told me she hated me over and over for 23 minutes. (I timed it because there was nothing else for me to do at this point except let her come to the conclusion that what she was doing wasn't going to make me disappear. So she said "I hate you" for 23 minutes followed by a few seconds of silence and then "What did you want me to do?) A little boy had a panic attack because today he had to read silently instead of aloud like we usually do. He was so used to reading aloud it was like a physical difficulty to read silently. Another little boy, during recess, went to the same spot he does every day and neatened the concession stand instead of playing with the others--as he does every day. This is not because his parents failed him and killed his childhood. It's because he's autistic.

 

There is a misconception that those on the spectrum are notably less intelligent or more disruptive, but that's not universally the case. I've had students who, at ages 12-15, have given me a run for my money and made me try hard to keep up with their reading and the speed they learned. One girl, so bright it was hard to plan enough lessons to keep her interested. She did everything I asked--the challenge was to think of enough things! 



#3 Pen

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Posted 19 January 2016 - 08:43 PM

That is very interesting that you mentioned that about autism because my mothers friend's grandson  ... hang on .. yeah that's right. (I know this sounds like the basis of a bad rumor) but just two days ago they were talking about her friend's grandson. The boy's school is wanting to have him tested for autism .. my mother asked if they were going to test for genius as well. They're probably much much smarter than people think and she was griping about how they'll test them for autism and put them on meds but hardly test to see if they're a genius.

 

I'm really happy that you weighed in on this and mentioned that. Because I wasn't really thinking about that until now.

 

Also I've been thinking about ways to break the routine but I've never considered working with the routine. Partly because his routine is defined as destructive behavior by an ignorant doctor. They want him to get away from anything resembling the life he was apart of ... a long back story that will never see the light of day.. but for the purposes of world building and having a reference to create tension ... it exists. If you want to know I'll tell you. But like you said breaking that routine could be a bad move of course this depends on the character. Even though.he's not autistic but  seems that way I'm going to look more into autism.

 

For now, to me, it's just something that he does because it is comforting and makes him feel as if he's doing something right in a world where people despise him simply for what he was selected to do.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to provide some feedback.



#4 S.H. Marr

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Posted 19 January 2016 - 09:26 PM

For now, to me, it's just something that he does because it is comforting and makes him feel as if he's doing something right in a world where people despise him simply for what he was selected to do.

See, that's strikes me as the behavior of either someone with a developmental disorder, or a mental illness like OCD or PTSD. And in that case, forcibly breaking the routine will cause more harm than good. That's a kid that needs therapy more than anything.



#5 ah_522

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Posted 19 January 2016 - 10:38 PM

It was mentioned that it was a failure if a child falls into an autonomous routine like that, their childhood is destroyed and you as a parent have failed miserably. The same for if the child was growing up too fast and trying to comprehend elements of life they were not ready for.

 

 

I'm not sure where this comes from (and I'm a bit concerned that a parent said this?!) or how the parent comes to this conclusion. 
 

My two cents, since I was that sort of kid growing up, I wouldn't say it was a bad thing at all! Although from a child's perspective, being the kid more interested in politics than toys did make for some awkward moments in school and fitting in.

 

But having said that, if I had a child like that, I'd let them be as long as I engage them on a regular basis and make sure I'm interested in their lives and activities. 

 

Additionally, I have to ask, what sort of cultural background is this child? In my experience, East Asian culture tends to be heavily regimented, while Americans tend to value independence and creativity more so. So you might get very different responses if you're talking to an Asian parent or an American one, just sayin'. 



#6 Thrash

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 11:24 AM

Very good questions from the above poster.

 

And responding to this boy you know that may be tested for autism or genius--I talk about this in another thread, but children (and adults) on the spectrum of autism disorders have no greater (or lesser) chance of being "genius" or displaying savantism than any one else. The trouble is that its more difficult to 1) gauge intelligence and 2) teach a child on the spectrum, because the communication channels are a different.  

 

Also, with significant cases of autism, some things can appear like savantism out of context, but aren't. For example, I have a student, a boy of ten, who when he came to our school two yeas ago was non-communicating. Now, he's able to communicate to some degree, but it can be difficult to understand why he says things at a certain time and answers to direct questions sometimes don't make clear sense. But, as he learned to speak aloud, it became clear that he had dozens of popular songs of the 60s,70s, and 80s, memorized and eventually started to sing them from start to finish when the mood would strike him. His parents were astounded, having had no idea that the music they played around the house was sinking in to their kid so thoroughly, when things like learning to brush his own teeth had been such a struggle. They bought him a child-size guitar.  Here's the harsh truth though: this kid has no musical prowess beyond a normal ten year old kid with an interest in music. His renditions of Thriller and Hey Jude, while adorable and surprising, are not signs of some inner genius, but of a fairly normal level of intelligence we weren't able to see before. 

 

He'd been learning the lyrics to those songs through simple old fashioned repetition, it was just that when he finally learned to express himself, that was where most of his language came from. He has a guitar teacher now and none of us are going to say you're kid's not a musical savant, he's just been listening more than you thought. We're not sure yet whether he understands that the guitar can help create the music that goes along with what he's singing. He's learning scales through repetition and correction, the same as any obedient ten year old can--it's just very difficult to tell whether he knows why. Because while autism spectrum is not, in itself, a learning disability, it's a communication disability.

 

But from what you describe--if there's some kind of trauma in this character's past, that's different--more along the lines of OCD and PTSD as previous poster said.There's a great book called The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly that deals with a traumatized child (and it's a portal fantasy). 



#7 Pen

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 07:04 PM

Ah_522 It was a parent from the UK that mentioned it would be a failure if that happened.

 

Thrash- that sounds like a neat book I'll have to check out.

 

There really is no cultural background from him to work with. Even though its more of a trained behavior I guess it could be PTSD related in a sense because he's having to give up one lifestyle and forced to live in another society. Also later on he does find out why he was selected and that will be a traumatic event that will take place around the point where he'll feel his mother hates him. He'll just walk away and turn his back on his mother and society- never to be seen or heard from again.

 

I'm getting more feedback and a lot of parents are saying just about the same thing. If it's child's personality let them be (some said they would be happy if they're kid were more interested in politics than cartoons) another lady relayed a personal experience that she was like the character but her dad who was an extrovert pushed her to be around people when she wanted to be alone. Some good insight there too.

 

One person did say that if their child felt as if the parent hated them then they as a parent failed. They would evaluate whether or not they were sending any negative vibes/messages and would look at themselves to see if a change needed to be made.



#8 Thrash

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 10:21 AM

I think the idea of a parent being a "failure" isn't really true to life. I understand a 1000 ways a parent themselves may feel like failures, but from an objective standpoint, How do you measure "success"? 



#9 ah_522

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 03:19 PM

I forgot to mention this in my last post, but I'd just read a child psychology article about self-esteem recently. 

 

Excluding the autism discussion above, if you tell kids that they need to do other stuff and force it onto them, you risk damaging their emotional development. If the parent keeps doing this, it might stunt a child's self-confidence and make them doubt themselves and lead to long term problems with anxiety and depression too--of course, this is the extreme side of things. Kids are sponges, and they pick up EVERYTHING even if you don't notice it. A lot of the insecurities and feelings of being devalued/unappreciated might not manifest until later in life, but it does adversely affect relationships even if it's an unconscious reaction. 

 

(Just a personal example, I really liked playing instruments growing up, but my father kept telling me I was awful and didn't let me practise. I haven't picked up a viola since my teen years because I keep hearing his voice in my head. That stuff sticks with you even when you think it doesn't.)



#10 Pen

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Posted 22 January 2016 - 08:40 AM

I can understand things like being detrimental to a child. That's horrible.



#11 mwsinclair

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Posted 28 January 2016 - 03:19 PM

Very good questions from the above poster.

 

And responding to this boy you know that may be tested for autism or genius--I talk about this in another thread, but children (and adults) on the spectrum of autism disorders have no greater (or lesser) chance of being "genius" or displaying savantism than any one else. The trouble is that its more difficult to 1) gauge intelligence and 2) teach a child on the spectrum, because the communication channels are a different.  

 

Also, with significant cases of autism, some things can appear like savantism out of context, but aren't. For example, I have a student, a boy of ten, who when he came to our school two yeas ago was non-communicating. Now, he's able to communicate to some degree, but it can be difficult to understand why he says things at a certain time and answers to direct questions sometimes don't make clear sense. But, as he learned to speak aloud, it became clear that he had dozens of popular songs of the 60s,70s, and 80s, memorized and eventually started to sing them from start to finish when the mood would strike him. His parents were astounded, having had no idea that the music they played around the house was sinking in to their kid so thoroughly, when things like learning to brush his own teeth had been such a struggle. They bought him a child-size guitar.  Here's the harsh truth though: this kid has no musical prowess beyond a normal ten year old kid with an interest in music. His renditions of Thriller and Hey Jude, while adorable and surprising, are not signs of some inner genius, but of a fairly normal level of intelligence we weren't able to see before. 

 

He'd been learning the lyrics to those songs through simple old fashioned repetition, it was just that when he finally learned to express himself, that was where most of his language came from. He has a guitar teacher now and none of us are going to say you're kid's not a musical savant, he's just been listening more than you thought. We're not sure yet whether he understands that the guitar can help create the music that goes along with what he's singing. He's learning scales through repetition and correction, the same as any obedient ten year old can--it's just very difficult to tell whether he knows why. Because while autism spectrum is not, in itself, a learning disability, it's a communication disability.

 

But from what you describe--if there's some kind of trauma in this character's past, that's different--more along the lines of OCD and PTSD as previous poster said.There's a great book called The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly that deals with a traumatized child (and it's a portal fantasy). 

 

Boy, your description of the boy sounds so similar to my daughter who is autistic. And if I may, The Book of Lost Things is absolutely fantastic. I consider myself a huge John Connolly fan now, and that was the novel of his I first discovered, though the Charlie Parker series is much, much different.



#12 Thrash

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Posted 28 January 2016 - 05:13 PM

Yeah--John Connolly is one of those I point to when writers ask if anyone's successful publishing under multiple genres. 



#13 stormydawn

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Posted 28 January 2016 - 05:37 PM

My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD/ODD/High Anxiety, and I'm actually currently writing a fictional novel with her as the basis for my MC.

 

It is SO HARD to understand her, and I want to so badly. Some times, kids that have set routines (and believe me, I know, as she is one of those kids...) NEED it! If something changes, routine fails, substitute teacher comes in with a "I'm the boss" personality, she literally breaks down. With that being said, some kids fall into routine because of their background, if they have to grow up too quickly, or be the parent when they shouldn't be... that can also lead to compulsive routines like what you mentioned in the first post. I do not think, in either case, the parent in this novel should break the routine, unless you're looking for drama in your book. In which case, if she does make him break his routine, it better be a drag down fist fight. (Again, I know lol.) Good Luck on your book! 


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#14 Pen

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Posted 01 February 2016 - 08:46 PM

The more I keep thinking about the character the more I'm starting to wonder if breaking the routine would be a good idea.

 

I basically thought of how I adjusted to life after leaving the facility I was forced to go to.

 

Don't open this unless you want to read some really raw and disturbing things ... real life things. NSFW kind of things.

Spoiler

 

He maintains the routine because that's a learned behavior. It's familiar and it helps him stay active. He watches the news because the situations depicted on the news is a situation he was going to be a part of. If he's not working on something, watching the news, he's exercising. He keeps to himself and avoids unnecessary contact and communication with anyone outside his home. Past experiences makes him keep his mouth shut. Each day his desire to return to the life he had increases. He'd rather die than live another day in a society that is completely alien and hostile. He feels that he's useless, dead weight, and I'm contemplating on whether or not he should leap from a bridge or get viciously attacked by bullies from his school.

 

Already had him trying to commit suicide once. No one knew of course. People will be upset with him for many different things, he'll make too many mistakes for his own liking and that will anger him more than anything. He'll be frustrated because no one will seem to understand his point of view or understand him at all. He'll feel as if he won't belong. Anyway I'm leaning towards the bridge because his body can get swept downstream to a location I need him to be in. I think that works better because I don't see a group of kids getting anywhere near that location .. not unless the cops don't care but that would be too much. Then the other problem I found in the draft is that he's at a location that shouldn't exist and considering his age someone is going to be looking for him; it will only be a matter of time until they find the location. But then they can all assume he's dead. So that could work too.



#15 stormydawn

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Posted 02 February 2016 - 07:08 AM

I'd say this sounds like PTSD over Autism. I think you have a sense of how strong this character can be. I might be good to break his routine, and especially if you're going for a "happy ending" he may be able to work through his problems. I'd be interested in being a beta reader for this novel, if you got it done. :) Good Luck!


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#16 Ronna

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 04:55 PM

I know this post is old, but I just found it, so...

 

As a parent of a child who shares some of those traits, I'd say that first off all those traits combined spells personality or mental disorder.  Medical advice is needed.  No, for lack of a delicate way to say it, normally functioning human is dead inside.  But barring those things, I would ask if the child shows affection.  If he is capable of love, I would grow that emotion with him.  If he is not capable of love I would actually have serious concerns about raising a psychopath.  As in the kind who butchers women and hides their pieces in his basement.  He feels, to me, one step away from killing the neighbors cat.


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#17 Pen

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 06:29 PM

He'd kill himself before he'd kill the neighbors cat. Unless the neighbors cat is trying to kill someone else in which case he'd give his life to protect that other person. Anyway I have him jumping off a bridge when he concludes he really has no place in the society that he's being exposed too.






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