The Push Pull of Challenging Behavior-How Exceptional Kids Test For Love

Every December things seem to come to a head in our household, and not in a good way. I’m not sure if it’s the excitement of Christmas, Michael’s birthday, or Dad’s and my increased excitement and stress moving around getting last minute things done before the holidays, but his challenging behaviors seem to worsen. Last year was the worst December for us as the weather was warm and Spring like. For Michael, it spelled confusion-no snow to play in, weird thundershowers and dressing. I was not prepared for his reaction to it. I found myself bawling on Christmas Eve for the end of vacations. This year I am readt. I have always seen a pattern, and how at holidays Michael, like all exceptional kids, has more difficulties with filtering out things around him. Every year I know I have to be on alert to some extent to help Michael navigate this difficult time. I am prepared and ready to help Michael, with the rest of his team at his school and beyond, learn to manage the increasing rise of anxiety and his need for control, especially at this time of the year.

I am always reading and learning about new things, new ways to help Michael. Most parents know that kids test with challenging behavior for several reasons. They want to escape doing something they don’t like,  they are in pain of some sort and can’t communicate it, and they are looking for attention. Michael, like all kids, has at one point acted out for all of these reasons and still does. He is smart and finds our triggers all the time. Then, it’s a matter of Mom and Dad not reacting. I see his challenging behavior happening more now as a way to find his place in the world. His need for control is so great, down to every last detail of where we go, how he needs to help close doors, what we say. It is exhausting for him and us. Teaching him it is alright not to know, that Dad and I are in charge to help him, is what we are working on along with getting him to manage his anger when it bubbles over. Anger is alright. Screaming, hitting and yelling are not. It is all about consistency in everything with both parents doing things exactly in the same way. For Michael, we cannot budge an inch. Not always easy. We are learning. We have our good days and bad, but Dad and I now check in, I let his school know when we have tough days and they are a great support and we go from there. Most important, I don’t have any expectations of perfection from Michael, myself, or his Dad. We go with the flow and laugh at the little things. We respect each other, and I keep in mind that we can still enjoy this time of year, but need to be realistic that the days won’t always go smooth. We cross that bridge when we come to it.

Exceptional Parents, how do you handle challenging behavior as the holidays approach? Do your best to keep your child organized and give them outlets for their energy- sports, play outside etc and try to connect with other exceptional families, in person but even online. Remembering you are not alone is essential. Most important of all, check in daily with yourself and your partner, how you are both doing emotionally. Take care of your own mental, spiritual and physical health. Be firm about aggression, but try and remember that when things are going well, to emphasize that with your child. They will take away some positive examples from the holidays and relax a little too. Until next time.

am a writer and parent coach at “Exceptional Parenting/Exceptional Balance.” I am passionate about empowering parents to trust their own instinct when raising their exceptional children with autism, and remembering that parenthood is as much a journey for us as childhood is for our children. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and GooglePlus. For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation, see my website:

One of the hardest and most stressful times of the year for special needs families is fast approaching. Are you and your exceptional family ready? Do you need new strategies to cope with anxiety? Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY”


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