So we have temporarily found our solution for Michael’s challenging behaviors and bedtime anxiety, the token system. Thank you to all the wonderful work of mothers, fathers and educators who have put these resources up on line for parents struggling to find a system to help their child! I don’t know how long it will work. Michael is smart. He adjusts quickly and figures his way around things. For now though, he is happy to have a “reward” to look forward to after good behavior. He has to earn 5 tokens (and they are cute cartoon or superhero ones) that we put on special chart. He loves this, as he is visual and can put them on himself. Every time he does something right (which he is beginning to see he does often) I give him a token. This is to reinforce the good behavior, which sometimes as parents we tend not to look for. I am guilty as charged for reacting more to the challenging behaviors than the positive behaviors. Some examples of rewards he has chosen: playing a game of school with me, baking, playing a board game or puzzle.
For good nighttime behavior in slowly helping him adjust to being alone in his bed for longer periods of time, what has been working is a longer time on the computer navigating with Google Maps and watching his favorite children’s You Tube videos. He normally is allowed ten to fifteen minutes on both combined. With the reward system, it is increased to twenty-thirty minutes. This is working well too. We have peace, a child that knows his limits. The other day he tested those limits by not listening to something he was supposed to do and still demanded his last token. When I didn’t give it he raged and slapped me. After he had calmed down and apologized, he asked if he could have another chance. I told him no as he knew the rules. He was disappointed, but understood. Other than that incident, we have not had any more miscommunications about following the rules which we have clearly outlined.
I started thinking to myself how chaotic my life would be without a set of rules, guidelines and rewards I give myself for good listening. Even us neuro typical adults use these kinds of systems to reign ourselves in, to keep order and to have something to look forward to. And let’s face it, the world is much easier on our nervous systems than it is on our children’s nervous systems. At first I thought to myself, this is like dog training. And although I know some parents who have said training your small child is like that at times, I shuddered at the comparison. But in the short term, as a child starts to learn how to control emotions, delay gratification and self soothe better, I think this is a great system, whether the child has special needs or not. I have our Psycho Educator to thank for reminding me of this. As always though, I will look to Michael to see if it is working. One thing I’ve learned is that he will not only tell me, he will show me by his reaction if I am talking down to him or up at him. I’ve made that mistake in the past, and in learning how we are raising each other, I have also seen how much better I can read him now when I really look beneath the behavior and see the scared child who needs new tools and help.
Exceptional Parents, how have you learned to set limits for your child and yourself? What tools does your family rely on, and after a while, how do you know it’s time to change to new ones? Remember, things will go in waves, good and bad. What matters is how strong and resilient you and your child are to ride those waves. With time, practice and patience you will find the right tools and solutions to the difficulties that arise. Don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals and other parents online and in person. Until next time.