Figuring Out the Root of Challenging Behaviors and How To Help Your Child Navigate Through Them

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So today was a Friday that was tiring for Michael. He started the day dragging his feet out of bed like a teenager (too many late nights due to low blood sugar), and then dragged his feet in after school complaining that the teacher got mad that he was putting his head on his desk. He also said he almost fell asleep on the bus. Yes, he was tired it was clear, but then what happened is that he started a slew of cursing, disrespectful behavior towards his teacher and me. Her crime? It was that she told him he needed to sleep more. My crime? I told him after he had finished snack that he could not have dinner right away. We would need to eat our usual time in order to time the insulin right. Sigh. With my bad sinus cold and own tiredness, I took a deep breath and reminded myself to stay calm. I asked Michael instead that if he was really hungry, and wanted to eat earlier, what was a better way of asking? He then asked if we could do it earlier as he was extra hungry (probably due to the tiredness). I agreed. What followed next were more testing and silly behaviors , rudeness, and laughing at my coughing and my cold. I told Michael to use his strategies to control his emotions as we could not do injection and dinner like this. I reminded him that he needed to get his strategies that he had written down (as well as notes from his educator), that would help him practice self-control. He kept coming in my space, so I went to another room. He disregarded the closed down and opened it continuing to try and squeeze/hug me when I told him not now later. I needed my space.

Finally, I gave him a choice. He either used his strategies in another room or I would take him to his cool down room and close the door so he could use them there. He hates his cool down room. I few times we have had to force him to go. It is only used in extreme cases now when he is being physically or verbally aggressive and everything else has failed. He finally realized the seriousness of his actions and he went to use his strategies in the bathroom. I waited out until he said he was calm and apologized and then did his injection and had dinner.  Where were these behaviors coming from? Then I realized. When Michael feels overtired or overwhelmed his need for control over everything increases. He was upset that he could not set up his injection equipment due to rudeness and stalling this morning, and tonight for disrespectful things he was saying to me and inappropriate things he was doing. I realized it was all due to him feeling out of control due to tiredness, but it was a catch 22. The more he wanted control, the more he tried to push my buttons and what was appropriate. I had no choice but to act, even though I saw that it was a cry for help. “I hate hearing the word no and being told what to do.” This is his big problem, and one we are working on teaching him to handle. It is not easy, but with time he needs to learn to handle his body and himself properly whether he is tired and not act out. It is a matter of watching him learn from his mistakes and apply better strategies to handle anger and frustration. It is also about us being there to support him as his parents, but letting him learn from his mistakes and grow better over time.

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Exceptional Parents, how good is your child at self control and self-regulation? These are two of the hardest things they need to learn. It does not matter how old or how verbal they are. These are challenging things for kids on the spectrum to learn. Have a system set up with them where they have direct consequences for their negative and positive actions. Also, remember as a parent no matter what to stay calm while they test. Once they know they can’t phase you, they will stop and start to hopefully start applying positive strategies to regulate. Finally, remember that challenging behaviors happen when kids are overtired, overwhelmed, sick, or stressed about something. Try to see which one your child is being challenged by and help redirect them the best you can to positive behavior. Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach whose son with Autism and Type 1 Diabetes has shown me a whole new way to see the world and embrace the joy of  living in the moment! I believe in empowering parents to trust their own instincts when it comes to their children, and in helping them parent with love, respect and confidence on their own exceptional parenting journey.

For more information on my coaching services,  for a FREE 30 min consultation, and to receive a  copy of my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY,” see my website: 

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