Sometimes when I explain the effects of Complex Developmental Trauma on the brain and therefore on the behavior of a child to a parent, I get a quick push back.  It sounds something like this, “Okay, but she isn’t always like that. Sometimes she is perfectly fine.”   What the parents are telling me without knowing it is that their child is spiky.  That means there are skips and stops and gaps in development over several domains–cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual.  Spiky behavior is confusing to many people–therapists, psychiatrists, teachers, parents and extended family members.  
Some days my son remembers to do his chores completely and some days he doesn’t.  Sometimes he follows all the rules and sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes he brushes, zips, and puts on deodorant and sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes he is completely chill and sometimes he is molten lava. He has been like this for 16 years.  He isn’t being defiant, lazy, oppositional or deliberately anything.  He wants to please me and feel good about himself, but his behavior is spiky.  If he slept poorly, ate poorly, felt bored, had a disagreement with a friend, didn’t do well at school, felt misunderstood, had a nightmare, broke a rule, ate all the donuts, had a great day, is planning a sleepover, went to a birthday party, got a gift, didn’t get a gift…he gets dysregulated. Life is dysregulating to him and sometimes it isn’t.  He is the poster child for spiky.
Just to be honest here, spiky makes me crazy.  I can’t depend on my son to consistently do anything.  I am worried he will forget something important if I don’t check up on him–like leaving the blender on, letting the dog run out, getting really lost, getting stuck somewhere, forgetting his meds, letting the sink run over, coming home hours late, not calling when he said he would, not following instructions, misunderstanding directions, and the list goes on.  
So, what is the solution for spiky?  You aren’t going to like this: acceptance, understanding, empathy, and patience–all YOURS.
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
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Spiky is as spiky does.
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