Parenting an Obsessive Child | The Work

Parenting an Obsessive Child

Video Description: 
A mother asks Byron Katie about dealing with her son’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. “If my son is obsessive-compulsive, and he takes showers again and again,” Katie says, “I might say, ‘Honey, notice how hard you are on yourself. I understand that, because in my own way I judge myself too, and I’m working on it. But tell me, did you enjoy the shower?’” The best way to love your children is to understand your own mind.
Byron Katie: OK. So, Jo from Brazil. Hi, Jo. Jo: Hi, Katie. Hi. Hi. Good to see you. Yeah, you too. Thank you. Read what you wrote. OK. One second… OK. So, my 13-year-old son has some odd behaviors and the psychologists call it OCD. And I would like to hear you, Katie, talk some more about how to leave your children alone and how to do that without appearing neglectful. So, I have done Worksheets on my thoughts about him and can see that he’s perfectly him. And I recently found a video of you talking to a mother whose son was weird, which was also very helpful. So, my question is: What are your thoughts on there being a point when it’s necessary to intercept the way your children are behaving if it’s not socially acceptable of if it’s self-harming. And what responsibility do we have as parents for how our children turn out and shouldn’t we encourage them to have certain values like, for example, not killing, to take it to the extreme. Yeah. Yeah. Another example of this is my son not wanting to go to school every day. I still make him go, but maybe I should just say, “OK, don’t go,” and then not force him to. Because, can I really be absolutely sure that it’s best for him to go to school? Yeah. Yeah. So, when you say, my question is, “What are your thoughts on there being a point when it is necessary to intercept the way your children are behaving if it’s not socially acceptable or self-harming?” What’s an example of that? Well, an example with my son is if he needed to take another shower because he has to clean himself all the time. And how old is he? He’s 13 now. Uh-huh. So, he has to have a shower, and then if something were to happen which would have him feeling like he needed another shower, he would feel bad about that. He would get frustrated and cross and he kind of doesn’t know how to be with himself about that. And when I say “self-harming,” I don’t necessarily mean physically. It’s kind of like I can see him absolutely struggling inside. When he feels that way, does he take a shower anyway? Not straightaway. He struggles with it. But eventually he does? Well, oftentimes I do intercept and I say, “Look, honey, if you need to take a shower, then go and take another shower. It’s OK.” Well, that’s exactly where I was going with it. It’s like, if my son is OCD, he takes a shower, and then shortly after he wants another shower, and he’s in; and I watch him; I witness him. He’s in self-loathing. He’s judging himself. And then he takes another shower. Then I just noticed that. And then, like you, when he’s in that and he wants to take another, he’s condemning himself, I might say, “Honey, just notice how hard you are on yourself. And just notice you’ll take another shower or not. And what I notice is sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. And either way, I just want to know you enjoy the shower. I mean, as long as you’re in there. And the way you judge yourself, I understand that because in my own way, I do that, too. I judge me like that, too. And I’m working on it. And I love you.” You know, because so often they’re going to do it anyway. No matter we say. No matter what they say. So, just to do our own Work to witness their life. When we know ourselves we completely relate. It doesn’t matter what the doctors have (and I mean this respectfully) labeled them. Diagnosed. That’s the word: diagnosed them to be. Their minds are exactly like my mind. Their dealing in their own way exactly the same way I’m dealing with the same thoughts. There’s no difference between your son and me or you. Bodies look different. But our minds, basically they’re the same judgments. So, you work on you and then he’ll work on himself or not. But you lead the way as example of a free mind. A “free mind” to me meaning a loving, caring, connected mind. My job is to love my children. That’s my job as a parent. I couldn’t do that with a crazy head. So, when my mind changed, even my dyslexic daughter began to read when she moved into The Work. Because it had freed me, it was just natural for her to take it on herself. And you said, “What responsibility do we as parents have for our children; have for the way our children turn out?” And what I noticed also that whatever my mom or dad said, I believed it myself or not. And today I’m responsible for what I believe. But I have to say, I’m the one that believed it. They said a lot of things I didn’t believe. So, at first I take responsibility for what I believe. Now, your son is the same way. He’s believing what he believes and you can’t stop him. But you can work on yourself; your own mind. So, I found later that I pretended, even, I even lied about believing what my parents believed. It’s like I believed what they believed and some of the things I didn’t believe, but I even lie about believing what they believed for their approval. So, I have no idea what my children believe or don’t believe, knowing myself. OK. And as I have worked, you know, questioned my thoughts, I really have no idea what they’re thinking or believing. And so when I see them, it’s a clean slate. I see them out of that don’t know clear mind that’s open for them to show me and then you say, “Shouldn’t we encourage them to have certain values, like for example, not killing, to take it to the extreme.” And of course in your life, don’t kill. You know, what is it about his belief system you’re trying to kill? It can only cause war. Because every time we try to change a person’s mind, it’s war. Only I can change my mind. And only other people can change theirs. And it’s hard to change one’s mind. The only thing that can change my mind was inquiry. That was it. So, don’t kill. And talk about, from within yourself, as it arises, maybe once in a lifetime with him, maybe never, maybe several times he’ll have questions for you. Or it arises maybe in a television program or something. So, just talk about why killing, for you, is not a good idea, without invoking fear in your child. In other words, just simply why it’s not a good idea for you. You know, it’s like, I would think if I killed someone it would be really painful (if they brought up the question) because it would cause such guilt in me they wouldn’t even have to punish me. I mean, it’s bad enough for me, sweetheart, like you, when you even just want to take a shower, you feel guilty. And for me, I have those things in my life. So, to kill someone, I think it would really cause a lot of guilt in me. And, you know, this portion that I’m relaying to you now, it’s not quite right but it’s right when it comes out of you and your own direct experience and you’re not trying to teach your child anything. Yeah. I get the difference. Yeah. Yeah. So… Just going back slightly to something the beginning part where you don’t want to appear neglectful or whatever, these psychologists, their advice is to challenge the behavior and to stop it, because if you don’t, you’re reinforcing the behavior and the thoughts that direct it. Yes. And I’ve done The Work with him and it seems to me that; well, he’s done The Work with me. And it seems that it’s absolutely contradictory to what the experts say to do. Yeah. Yeah. And so I suppose it’s just; I suppose there’s a lack of trusting myself. I don’t know. Yeah. Yeah. I certainly can’t offer advice anywhere. I can offer experience and advice around what it’s like to be inside inquiry. But let’s move on for a moment and see if I can pick up some of this. It’s like you said, “I mean, can I really be absolutely sure that it is the best for him to go to school?” When you brought up the school. OK. And what I’d said is “no.” And, “He should go to school.” Turns around to, “He shouldn’t go to school.” And what I mean by that is it’s my responsibility as a parent for a lot of reasons. Because I’m someone who believes it’s right. I’m someone who, if I don’t believe it or not, it seems right. It seems right that I could give my child such a gift. You’re breaking up a little bit, Katie. So what I mean by, He shouldn’t go to school… Can you hear me now? I can’t hear what you’re saying; you’re breaking up. I’ll go ahead and you can maybe catch it when we reshow it. But, “He should go to school” turns around to, He should not go to school. And that fits for me because maybe when I take him to school, he emotionally really is not in schools. So, I can never make him go to school. I can get his body there, but I can’t get his attention there. So, as a parent, I’m doing the best that I can do, understanding that I’m taking his body to school but he’s got to take himself to school. I don’t have that power. So, when I’m just getting his body there can be a lot of fun for us. It can say, like, “Every reason you don’t want to go to school, honey, I really hear that. And let’s see what happens today. You could be right and let’s see what happens. But what I want you to know is education is a gift I want to give you. And I understand if it’s difficult for you, but this is right for me and I love you.” And even if you say the same thing every single morning, you’re hearing within yourself again what’s valuable for you and that is to give your son the gift that you can give. Yeah. But it doesn’t mean he’s gonna take himself to school. So, that’s how you stay right with yourself. And when you’re right with yourself, then you’re teaching your son to be right with himself through the witness of another human being: you. And, again, my job is to love my child no matter what. And to be mindful of the statements on the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, statements 2, 3, and 4. “I want.” “He should or shouldn’t.” “I need.” Those, turned around, to be mindful of those as my own prescription for happiness when I turn it around to the self and to the other is great, great advice and your needs fulfilled and your wants fulfilled. So, also, if I waver, my child wavers as well. Like, if I tell him, education is the gift I want to give you, and this is the only way available to me right now, it could change, sweetheart. But for now, this is the only way I can give you this gift. And now, if the next day I don’t take him to school, it’s like, “Hmm, why isn’t Mom wanting to give me this gift anymore?” Wow. And it’s not that they think it consciously. It’s just, “Mom’s nuts.” Basically. “She wants to give me a gift? Well, today she doesn’t. And I can talk her into not wanting to give me that gift.” So, there’s not consistency. So, if all my heart’s desire is to give my child an education, and I have let them know that, you know, sweetheart, this is a gift that I want for you. And to be right in myself I want to give you this. And, anyway, it’ll give you consistency and you get to back to what you believe to be important. And eventually they’ll learn that when you say something, they can count on it. Yeah. So, again: self-awareness. When you’re aware of him, I mean of yourself, then… Sweetheart, I hope that this has helped. It’s all there in the Worksheets. No, it really has. I mean, I just love listening to you talk about things because you have such a clear head. And it always, always helps, listening to you, talking to other people or now, myself, it’s just truth, you know? Thank you. But you know, if I can’t deal with my child when he has OCD, how can I deal with my child if he doesn’t? Because this is all about me and what I’m thinking and believing. The line’s breaking up, so I can’t hear what you’re saying. OK. So, I’m hearing you have a lot of noise in the background, sweetheart, going through your thing. So, thank you. And love to your son and blessings be. Thank you.