So life at our house is basically one dramatic encounter after the other. I have high aspirations that Michael will make it on Broadway one day, if he can listen long enough to do what he is being told to do. He is either the angry young boy, the anxious young boy, the overly tired young boy, or the ” I don’t have to listen to my boring parents” young boy. Sigh. It’s enough to make me want to go and sell tickets to the production of life in our family these days. Still, as angry, frustrated and exhausted as I feel, I have also been reminding myself that Michael is doing all these things because he is growing up, changing, and under stress. He is also testing his boundaries and seeing how far he can push us. It is clear he needs help and new tools. We are working hard to find them for him, putting down limits, and trying to keep our sense of humor, but it is hard. Yes, so hard that there have been times in the last month that Dad and I have blown our tops too and done the equivalent of Michael. We have yelled back, slammed doors and had to put ourselves in our rooms to calm down. It has been embarrassing, particularly for me. I like to think of myself as a calm and patient person. I am. Most of the time. But there is no one who can trigger me like my son can. And I mean no one.
I am learning what NOT to do as Michael’s Mom. Dad is too. As we learn to get better in touch with our own anger, stress and feelings of worry over how to help Michael, we are learning what we need to change in our parenting styles. As a couple we have come a long way in supporting each other, though we sometimes fall back to bad habits. It’s not easy. I am particularly seeing how hard it is to hold it together for Michael’s sake as he is truly struggling especially when he is being aggressive, so that we can be good examples to him. So here is what I have learned NOT to do when Michael acts out in any unfortunate manner:
1) Do Not Yell: Yep. Not easy, but so true. As much as you want to yell back, don’t. This shows the child that yelling is acceptable and that they are getting to you. Remember, you want to decrease anger, not increase it.
2) Do Not Stay in Room With Escalating Child: Don’t wait till the child escalates. If you see they are getting upset but can manage it and you are in the same position, take a five minute break in another room. Breathe. Collect your thoughts and focus on the present. If you have no choice, go to another room virtually to calm down.
3) Do Not Think Their Anger is Who They Are: Remember, their anger is bigger than them. Show them how by staying calm, they can learn to shrink it.
4) Do Not Give Up Going Out or Taking Personal Respite From Your Child: As hard as it is and as tired as you are, schedule a day or night away from your child. Have your partner do the same. It will give you both a much needed break and you will come back refreshed and ready to see the good in your child again.
5) Do Not Blame Your Partner Or Yourself If You Make Mistakes: Hey, you are human. Parenting does not come with a handbook. Acknowledge the mistake, learn from it, and move on.
6) Do Not Say The Same Mean Things to Your Child They Say to You: This is hard in the moment, but if you child says, “I don’t love you,” don’t say it back. You could say, “I don’t love what you are saying. I hate that, but I love you.” Always make sure to end things on a positive.
Exceptional Parents, how many times have you blown up at your kids and felt terrible after? How many times have you seen how stuck they really were, that it wasn’t all bravado and aggression, and yet you couldn’t stop yourself due to your own frustration at failing to reach them? If this has happened a lot, it just means you are human beings dong your best. Parenting exceptional kids is like preparing for a marathon. It requires being in the best physical, mental and spiritual shape that you can be. Take care of yourself. Practice self-care. Remember your child for all their bad behavior needs consistency, boundaries, but most of all love and a healthy calm parent to show them the light at the end of the tunnel. Reach out and get help yourself so you can be the bearer of that light for them. And know you are not alone in your journey or your child in theirs. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.