Teen 14 – Only Incentive is Technology Time

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    • #14503
      Barbara R

        My 14yo daughter has ocd/anxiety related to PANS. I’ve accommodated her avoidance needs for far too long (disgust ocd) and am ready to start the SPACE program. I have a therapist who will guide us but my question is about motivation/incentives versus punishment/consequences.

        I’ve always allowed her to go online with friends and play Minecraft 3 times a week; weds, fri, sun.  She’s not mindlessly playing a game…she is talking the whole time, laughing, planning, and working with friends to build and create storylines.

        Until now, I rarely took tech time away because it is very social for her (given what I described above) and it means so much to her, AND because I didn’t feel “punishing” her was an appropriate response for times when she can’t overcome her anxiety or ocd. For example, she began struggling to get to school about a month ago. Crying in the morning because she wanted to go but couldn’t get dressed (just right). Sometimes getting to the school parking lot but being so overcome with anxiety she couldn’t get out of the car. Even tearfully standing outside of the car, leaning in to take her bag, and being frozen in place.

        As I’ve started to pushy her to do more, telling her that I’m pushing because I know she can, I’ve told her that to “earn” technology she has to get to school. Today, she couldn’t do it. I drove her there and she suddenly couldn’t go in because she didn’t have her book. Came home, looked for book, couldn’t find it, and she refused to just grab another one. I told her, “no school, no technology Weds”. She finally chose another book (success) and I drove her back to school.

        She couldn’t get out of the car. Trembling, agitated, fearful. I waited about 10 minutes and told her I had to get to work. She started raising her voice, saying it was not fair to take tech away because she couldn’t do it. She said she tried really hard but couldn’t go in.

        So my question is….how do I handle this? Tech is such a huge motivator and the possibility of losing it usually works. Should I take it all away and tell her she has to earn it as she goes? Each day you go to school you get a certain about of tech time. That way I’m not taking it away all together? I’m confused about “punishment” versus “incentive” because she’s always had tech 3x a week. She’s never been a kid that I had to punish so she’s not used to losing something. her reactions are HUGE when I take it away. It all feels very traumatic and like I’m making it worse.

        She has just undergone a med change. We’re just starting SPACE. She’s unwilling to see a counselor or do a ERP program. And her ocd is disgust so she has NO DESIRE to overcome it. Open to any thoughts/perspectives.

      • #14506

          Hi Barbara,
          Sorry to hear about her struggles. I don’t typically advise taking away privileges that were already there and make them earn it, as that can be seen as a punishment. What about offering her the opportunity to earn “extra” time for doing exposures or taking brave steps. You can have her earn points that translate into extra time outside of her scheduled tech time.

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