We had a rough weekend with Michael. There were lots of challenging and aggressive behaviors, and we only realized near the tail end of the weekend what we’ve been doing wrong. It was quite surprising really. I always thought Michael’s Dad and I didn’t walk on eggshells around Michael, and for better or worse, told it like it is, Dr. Phil style. Well, unfortunately we had a rude wake up call when we realized that we haven’t been doing consistent parenting where boundaries and expectations are clear. After the storms of the day were over late afternoon on Sunday and the dust cleared so to speak, Michael, his father and I had a heart to heart. I also had a private talk with Michael’s father and we agreed that it was mandatory, for Michael’s well-being and ours, that he knew what to expect, that we didn’t dilly dally on consequences for actions, and that we kept our word on this no matter what.
So far this week I see my child reacting to these changes positively. Yes, he is still challenging authority, will say rude things, but immediately he apologizes. He then asks me what will happen. I reiterate what his father and I told him that Action A will always result in Consequence B. For example, screaming in a public place and being rude equals leaving that public place, immediately. I didn’t keep to this promise when he was acting up in church on Sunday, and told him that would not happen again. Next time we leave right way. A certain rudeness with bad table manners means he has to clean up right away, or no playing with Dad after supper. Bed right away. We have also set up a reward system again. He is working for little rewards the last two days which he has earned, and his big reward comes at the end of the week for cumulative good listening. A trip to his favorite shopping center to buy stickers or tattoos. He is so excited about it.
Michael is a good kid, but lately his anxiety and feelings of being out of control have traveled into dangerous regions where his frustration at not having control has made him behave aggressively towards himself and us. He has started employing some calming down mechanisms, but usually only after he is in recuperating mode. He is always sorry and wants to do better, so now together we are working on handling anger, anxiety and using visuals to plan out the day or weekend. It helps, but only when we have this plan in place. When he is ready to phase this out, we will, but so far I feel promise. I am worried about his mental health, how much he takes things to heart. I hope in time the beautiful person he is inside with all the talents he has, will emerge and he will have the confidence in himself to know he can do it, and get through the rough times. It’s hard when your body and brain are hardwired with more stress. He has started doing deep breathing and meditating with me, sometimes even yoga, though he prefers his own yoga. At school they do one he really likes, and I put it on at home for him now.
I tend to forget this when I am tired and stressed like I’ve been lately. I cut myself some slack for some of my anger and aggression too this weekend. I’m back to really meditating and doing yoga, and focusing on calming down. No, I didn’t do anything super horrible, but I did do things I regret. The good news is that I sat down with Michael and when I told him he needed to apologize to me for what he did, I also apologized to him. His father too apologized for yelling when he was melting down and hitting his head. We know rationally we can’t reach him at this point, but the frustrated parent that forgets to breath also forgets to be rational in their reaction. We all learned something the other night, and now we’re on to better things in handling this new awareness of his anger, power and control.
Exceptional Moms and Dads, how do you handle meltdowns, your own and your Exceptional Children’s? How do you find your inner calm after owing up to your mistakes? It’s ok. Your child will forgive you. You must also forgive yourself as I’m learning to do, so you can set the right example of anger management, serenity and positive coping strategies that your child needs to learn from you. And, don’t forget to breathe and take it slowly from one day to another. Until next time.