Tag: challenging behaviors

Mantras and Regrouping-How To Turn Challenges Into Strengths In Exceptional Families


Rear View of Woman With Arms Raised at Beach during Sunset

I finally let out a very deep breath a few days ago. It started with heaving sobs and crying. Then all the anger, all the grief , and all the stress of Michael’s escalating aggression in the last six months hit me full force. Yes, it’s been building. Yes, it’s been rough. Yes, I needed to let all that out. I felt lighter, calmer, more sure of myself as his parent,  and able to start changing our home strategies to give Michael more of the calm, consistent environment he was not getting for whatever reason. Maybe Dad and I were too busy to see it. Then a beautiful thing happened. After a particularly hard end to our week on Friday, this weekend was wonderful. Michael seemed to be starting to connect the dots of what the new team is telling us to do, and we had our first good weekend in a LONG TIME. Michael earned some chore money helping do housework, yard work with me, and helped me clean my car yesterday. Michael also had great bonding time with me and his Dad at parks and at home.

He was loving, calm, and when he tested we reminded him of the tools he had at his disposal: his calm corner to regulate, his anger box to write out his feelings and talk to us when calmer and a transition place where he can stop himself before his anger escalates. All these great tools are no help when his anger would go from 0 to 100 in second,s and we were all left in tatters after. A great parent coach we consulted  (yes, I know the irony of this), suggested something to get Michael to stop and think before he let his anger take control. She suggested counting backwards which he didn’t like. I agreed that he needed  this transition time though, so using her great idea I suggested a one to three word mantra which he would come up with to help him. The point is I was talking too much and the more we simplify, the easier it will be for Michael to understand what is expected of him. His mantra is his favorite shopping center.  Not a shock for anyone who knows Michael! Now he uses that to calm down before getting upset, and it is working so far, fingers crossed. What this is showing me too, is how important it is to be open to new trying new things with our Exceptional kids when they are struggling and we are struggling.  It has been humbling for me to seek help too. I always know what to say to heal others, but in my own family, it has its limits. I can see the wheels in motion and am happy that the people we are adding to team Michael are helping us as others have before to open up to new ways of thinking, growing, and being as individuals, as parents and as child in Michael’s case.

Exceptional Parents, when were you last stuck with your Exceptional kids in a pattern of challenging behaviors or other circumstances? Did you remember to think outside the box? Don’t be afraid to rebuild the team you have for your child if what you are doing is not working, as well as try new things as a family. You are not a failure as a parent, and never say that about yourself. You are growing and learning and that is OK. But the most important thing to do is remind your child that they are loved for who they are, and remember to love yourself too. Take time to be alone, to spend with family and friends and regroup. Harness your energy for the parenting journey ahead. Your body and mind will be ready for the next challenge as an Exceptional  Parent. Until next time.

Honeymoon’s Over- Autism Behavior Triggers And How Exceptional Parents Can Learn from Them

So this afternoon the honeymoon period was over, the honeymoon period of NO behaviors for a good three weeks. I wasn’t clear and concise with something. I said one thing, then changed my mind. Michael was hungry, tired. It was just before dinner. As a matter of fact, I was getting dinner on the table. I said something he did not like. He started protesting, yelling, then before I could stop him, he broke a glass that was near the sink. Immediately he looked to see if his hand wasn’t cut. It wasn’t. I informed him this had cost him one of his tokens. He was upset, started to hit his head and continued trying to bargain with me and justify what he had done. I told him to calm down. I spilled the water from draining the pasta that I had cooked, and was losing my temper too. I quickly took a deep breath, and told Michael to go get washed up for dinner. We would talk at dinner. He finally listened, did what he was told and we talked strategies- how he could have handled himself better, why he needs to listen (not just to get things), and the importance of learning from our mistakes. It was a good conversation. Due to losing one of his 6 tokens, he did not get the usual one hour reward of time on the computer as he normally did, but the thirty minutes he gets for earning 5 tokens. We show him he can still succeed, and next time do better.

I’m sure this scenario plays out, and will play out I’m sure, many more times at homes where exceptional children reside. It’s normal. They don’t hear the boundaries. They are tired. They get frustrated and don’t have good coping mechanisms and they blow. It’s not easy. Even children who are on medication have these moments. I used to wonder as a Mom who has not gone down that route, if this would solve the problem. I think it is helpful, like any intervention, but should be used when it is used, in conjunction with good anger management strategies. When the child is aware and can grasp consequences for their actions, this is the best time to teach. I always do a rewind with Michael after such an incident and have been for the last year. I think it is helping him like it helps me, as long as we don’t overdue it.

What did I learn from last night’s episode? Yes, I am a parent coach and have learned many strategies to cope with my own anger, stress, and feelings of being overwhelmed in the last three years. But I am also a human being, and I have my breaking point. I allow myself the room to make mistakes, learn from them and regroup. I could have paid a little more attention to my words and been more concrete. Now, I’m not blaming myself for Michael’s outburst. His feelings reactions are his responsibility. But I am only saying that I need to be conscious of my words, stress level, and what I mean. With exceptional kids, they can often go from 0 to 100 very easily, particularly at times of the day when they are tired.  Michael has made leaps and bounds in his awareness. As I have blogged before he is even trying to do some neuro typical manipulating (as all kids do), with it in mind. I am proud, but it also means as a Mom, my job title got harder. It’s ok. I am ready for it.

Exceptional Parents, have you recently had breaks in your honeymoon behavior period with your children? How does this make you feel? It’s normal if your first reaction is stress and despondency. Self-pity sometimes comes in too. Give in to it for a few moments, but then it’s time to get back in the saddle. Think of the gift of the mistake. Learn from it and help your child to learn from it. Together the two of you will become stronger and closer as a result. Until next time.

Are you looking to make changes in your special needs parenting life? Do you need support on your journey?  I am a writer and parent coach who is 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. For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation Session, see my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.

Looking to beat those winter blahs? Download my FREE EBOOK: “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS


Differentiate Between Sensory Sensitivities, Boredom and Challenging Behaviors-Let Your Exceptional Child Lead the Way

I used to think I knew Michael one hundred percent. I used to think that surely all the books, articles, and experts I’d talked to about him and his various behaviors could give me an accurate peak into his mind pretty much 24/7. Then I saw that wasn’t the case as he got older. Yes, I know a lot. The books and articles accurately describe a lot of what Michael and kids like him experience, and his therapists know a great deal. But none of us really knows Michael or the individual with autism better than the individual himself. Maybe another person with autism could come closer than us neuro typical parents, educators, and experts. So this has helped me greatly to trust that Michael will usually know what is right for himself.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This does not mean that he does not need guidance and rules to follow like any kid. Believe me, he has tried and continues to try to get his own way with staying up later, not wanting to listen to us, etc. But I see that when I give a little as far as asking him how he is feeling, he will give back more. Some days I have less patience than others. I shared a great quote on Facebook yesterday about pausing and showing patience before we respond to our children. This is hard when we are tired and low on energy, but mandatory. It is the way to their hearts and souls as it is to ours. Understanding and giving them space will go a long way to help us as parents understand what they are going through. I now can tell the difference when Michael is having real sensory sensitivites, experiencing boredom, and showing challenging behaviors. When I look back, I can now see the pattern and know where he needs help.

Exceptional Parents, how do you know what is going through your Exceptional Child’s mind? You don’t know everything, but you definitively have an idea. To get more details, you need to let your child open up to me in a way that only they can. Let them express how they are feeling and with time you’ll recognize if they need space, a hug, sleep or new strategies to deal with sensory issues. The important thing is to give them the steering wheel and let them steer you to where they need help. Until next time.

Are you looking to make changes in your special needs parenting life? Do you need support on your journey?  I am a writer and parent coach who is 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.

For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation Session, see my website: http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com. For a limited time, I am also offering a special New Year’s Promotion: Refer a friend for one of my six month programs, and receive 2 one on one 1 hour coaching sessions with me for 50% off the regular price. Don’t be afraid to move forward while parenting your exceptional child in a happier and healthier way.

Looking to make a fresh start in 2017 with the way you handle anxiety in your special needs family? Download my FREE EBOOK: “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS.



The Issues Behind Challenging Behavior for Exceptional Children

There should always be consequences for behavior, good and bad. Kids, as well as adults, need to know that they always have choices when it comes to how they act, as well as what they say and do. Sometimes though, challenging behavior in our exceptional kids has more to do with what they are not receiving from loved ones, whether intentional or not. With Michael lately, Dad and I have unintentionally been creating some mixed signals and have been doing our best to clear it up. Michael has to some extent been acting up as all children do for extra attention. I guess he felt he wasn’t getting enough positive attention, so out comes the negative ones. He also was testing us to see how far he can push us, who is really in charge, and where he fits in with everything on the home front.

His school psychologist gave him a really good exercise to do which he did this morning. It is called a”Thought Diary.” He needed to write down what he was thinking and feeling right before good and bad things happened, or rather good and bad consequences happened. It was helpful. He told me how he saw a particularly difficult afternoon we had yesterday. I was surprised that he thought after his three strikes you’re out I would give him a fourth chance, but he also told me how I had promised him some together time, and then due to an unpredictable late day turn of events, it did not happen. He also had told me he misses me and wants to spend time. This surprised me as we’ve been home together since Christmas with just a little bit of time he had alone with Dad. But it was the quality of our time together, not the quantity. I have been busy with work and have been squeezing in as much as I could in between family activities. It occurred to me on Sunday when we spent the whole day as a family how well the day went. There were no behaviors, no aggression and although minor testing, nothing big. I realized that challenging behavior on all fronts is exhausting, but also means the child is hurting and doesn’t know how to reach out.

Later today a favorite babysitter is coming to play with Michael. I am going to use this time to recharge my batteries, and do things I need to do to regain my sense of calm, happiness and patience.I have lost these in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Normally, the holidays were only about parental stress, but this year with working and parenting a special needs child I felt the pressure even more. Though the work was my escape from autism, it also tired me out. By recharging my own batteries I know I will be able to pick up on when Michael is feeling lost and have that much more energy to handle his emotions as well as my own. I also know my sense of humor will come back.

Exceptional Parents, what have your learned from your Exceptional Child’s challenging behaviors? What does it say about them? What does it say about you? Sometimes our reactions will increase or decrease their reactions. Don’t beat yourself up. You are doing the best you can. It’s important we all keep track in our own “Thought Diaries” how we are feeling before events and what we can change to make communication flow better between us and our children. But remember parents, it all starts with a healthy and balanced adult. Only when we can handle stress in a positive way, are we able to model that for our child. Until next time.

Are you looking to make changes in your special needs parenting life? Do you need support on your journey?  I am a writer and parent coach who is 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. For more information on my parent coaching programs, and to book a FREE 30 Minute Consultation, see my website: http://www.exceptionalparenting.

It’s a new year. Are you thinking of new strategies to handle anxiety? If so, download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS.

What I Learned From Having An Exceptional Mommy Meltdown

About a week ago in the late afternoon, Michael and I  got into a very heated argument about Michael not accepting something I told him couldn’t happen that afternoon. I knew it when he got off the bus that something was wrong and we would be in for a rough ride. I tried to stay calm. Really I did, but due to feeling tired and stressed myself, I instead joined in Michael’s anger. He had been having more and more of these aggressive outbursts as is usually the case at this time of year. The next thing I knew he did something he’d never done before. He slapped me on the side of my head so hard my glasses went flying off and crashing to the floor. For a split second I stared in shock at the floor where my glasses lay, then quickly picked them up. In a voice trembling with rage and an anger, I uttered that there is no hitting. He tried to hit me again and I stopped his hand, and then roughly pushed him into the couch directly behind him. We were in our living room. Now he was scared. So was I. I was holding tight to his arms and repeating in an angry voice no hitting. That’s when Michael started to yell I was hurting him. I immediately released his arms and told him I needed to go calm down in my room.

The other reason I went to my room to calm down was that I could not stop the angry thoughts going through my head and the rage and hurt that he had attacked me. The tears came almost instantly minutes after I was alone, and then they went on for over thirty minutes. Even after that though, they did not dissolve the anger. Why had I lost it? Where had  I gone wrong? How had it escalated so quickly? I couldn’t even remember how the fight had started. So what did I learn from my Mommy Meltdown that afternoon? I learned to be honest with myself with where I was. I learned to check in with myself when I’ve neglected de-stressing things like exercise and not getting enough sleep. Like a lot of children with autism, regulating his emotions is one of Michael’s greatest difficulties. But a rested, refreshed me would have known to stay apart from the storm and not take it personally. Yesterday morning after another tantrum that escalated, I helped Michael calm his storm. It took time, but was over with faster than last week’s. It was not easy, but what helped is, you guessed it, I stayed calm. I was feeling rested too, as I had slept well the night before. We even talked about strategies he needs to start using. He left on the school bus with his usual kiss on the cheek and I love you from me and one back to me.

Exceptional Parents, are you angry and ashamed to admit when you lose it with your children by yelling and joining their anger? Don’t be. All of us have been there as parents. Just remember you need to take care of yourself so that you can weather any exceptional parenting storm that comes your way, and show your child how to handle themselves too. And you know what, if you fail, you and your child can discuss strategies for managing stress together. Until next time.

am a  writer, speaker, and parent coach at “Exceptional Parenting/Exceptional Balance, http://www.exceptionalparenting.net. I  am passionate about empowering parents to trust their own instinct when raising their exceptional children with autism. I help guide them with the right tools for their children’s challenging behaviors, as well as help them see the beauty in their children again.  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 Session with me, see my website: http://www.exceptionalparenting.net. 

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” http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS




OCD, Ritualistic Behavior And Michael Transitioning to A New Season-Winter

So the last two days have been hard. There are no ifs, ands and buts. Michael is tired, stressed, and due to the cold and rain he has not been able to get outside at recess and out to the park with me. Even when he did, he talked in the gloomy rain with me after one half-hearted run for Dooki his imaiginary friend who he was running for. The Stimming Lady asked him to do it. When he starts talking about her, imaginary friends become more rampant and I see him repeating his words while reading, becoming very particular with door closing/opening and other general ritualistic behavior, I know he is stressed. The problem is those hormones are kicking in and when I ask if he had a bad day at school or he is stressed he will yell,

“No, Mommy! I am yelling because you are saying things I don’t like.” He will also hit me, himself, try and damage property and then it is sad. He breaks down and cries. I have been so exhausted this week with work and not sleeping much, it wore me out too to hear him. And he doesn’t just cry. It’s loud gulping sobs which he then pushes out with great gusto. I don’t think it is a behavior, but it is exhausting to listen to and watch. He sometimes wants me physically close when he does this. Other times he likes to be alone. I am nearby, but I want him to try and figure out how to let out his emotions, and then come to me to calmly talk. This is the difficult part for him. We are working on that together.

Exceptional Parents, how do your Exceptional Children react with rain and being indoors? Are their emotions harder for them to deal with? Are there more challenging behaviors at home? The important thing is to, as usual, be a little bit of a detective and see what is happening around them that could be contributing to this behavior. It is not an excuse for it. But always remind your child that you are there to talk when they are ready. Until next time.



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” http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS



Endings, Beginnings And Seeing The Right Path With My Exceptional Child

What a weekend! I don’t think we have had such an amazing weekend as a family like this in about a month. Saturday’s beautiful fall sunshine weather just added to my joy, the joy of being with Michael outside in the park. I watched him play serenely on all the park equipment, and then play quietly on the grass with his Skylander figurines, a new interest.

“There are no more picnic tables Mommy. Did the city put them away?”

“Yes, winter is coming. Enjoy today. We are getting snow on Monday.”

A small smile plays on his lips. “I’m so excited. Will we be able to go sledding?”

I laugh. “There won’t be that much snow. But it’s good you have your new snow pants.”

He runs off to play. I sit down in the grass and feel lighter than I have in a long while. Michael’s challenging behaviors had started up again last week. I think I figured out what the problem was. He had another loose tooth that came out Friday afternoon. The beginning of the week had been so hard for both of us. Then I remembered a few weeks previously there had been pain with the other tooth too. He was feeling calm again. The pain was gone. I knew this was not the only reason. I had also been making sure to really be present for him. I had been turning off my phone and listening, and most importantly, feeling calm around Michael by practicing self-care. I had made sure to go back to my weekly exercise along with meditation and yoga. I had all that much more to give him even if I’d had a busy work day. It’s so important for parents to take care of themselves so they can be there for their kids.

I witnessed a calmer and more mature son this weekend. He was feeling good. He was rested. He knew his limits, and he asked calmly for what he wanted to do. I even had some extra beautiful surprises. He bonded with his Dad in a way I haven’t seen for quite a while. It’s been strained between them due to stress on both their parts. But as Dad has gotten back into his self-care, the two of them spent a beautiful Sunday. They went to shopping centers, out to lunch, a tennis lesson, and a holiday craft bazaar. The child that came home was not the son of the last few weeks who was stressed, anxious, fighting. He was clearly happy to have had time with his Dad and thrilled to tell me all about his day. It was so nice to see my little guy so happy.

Pain can do a lot to all of us. It can make us think and act crazy. I was reminded this weekend of something I read in a book a long while ago about children and behavior. It is important to always see if there is a physical cause for behaviors or outbursts. The child could be overtired or in physical discomfort in a way that we had not thought of. It works the same for us adults, though we usually can hold it together better. I had forgotten this life lesson, and was so happy that Michael reminded me of it by showing me the truly wonderful little boy he is when he too is feeling balanced and good inside.

Exceptional Parents, how many times have you missed the real culprit behind your child’s challenging behaviors? How many times have you been so stressed trying to help your child, that you forgot to be calm around them and not join their chaos? We’ve all made these mistakes. No one is perfect. The important thing is not only to be keen observers when we see our child on the right path, but also to be a keen observer when we see ourselves on that right path. Until next time.

Tired of anxiety controlling you and your child? Download my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS


Parent/Teacher Interviews and More Growth for This Mom and Her Son!


So last night was the Parent/Teacher Interviews at Michael’s school. As always, it was as much a learning experience for me as it was for Michael. I was happy and it was a positive experience, in spite of the testing he is doing at home. I heard once again thankfully, how well Michael is progressing in reading, writing and math. He is starting to grasp the basic concepts, and as his teacher told me, is able to understand what is expected from him in with work and in holding a conversation. He is kind to others in the class and has many friends. It is a dream come true for this Mom. He is also holding it together very well in school. His body is regulated and he is able to sit and focus and learn. The anxiety he holds is released at home, and for that I am grateful. I am also grateful that he is working with the school psychologist on a program to help him handle his anger triggers and learn to respond appropriately at home as he does in school to stress.

At home he will react inappropriately using vulgar words, will laugh at things that are not funny, and will be aggressive at times when he hears things from me that he does not “like” as he says. I and his Dad will tell him that is ok to not like it, but that he needs to respond in a respectful and calm way. It is all to test us, and to test the newfound independence he is exploring as he enters the double digit years soon. As one professional put it, he is experimenting with his physical and mental agility, and on how far he can go in asserting himself and his opinion. I am told by lots of other parents with children on and off the spectrum that this  is perfectly normal, but that we need to show him boundaries. At the same time, what I have been reading is that anxiety and anger come out in times of fear. We are not teachers and professionals, but I think he still wants to please us and worries that he fails us when he makes mistakes. Though it is not always easy, Dad and I are trying to slow down, be there for him by sitting and talking to him, and tell him we love him just as he is because we do, of course. We don’t love the negative behavior, but we love him. And I truly believe when the parent is calm, the child will become calm. This is something I remind myself of every day. If I am not calm and able to show that, my child will not be calm.

Exceptional Parents, what feelings do Parent/Teacher Interviews bring out in you; worry, excitement, dread? It’s normal to be concerned about your child’s full development, but remember it’s ok if the child takes two steps ahead in one area, and falls behind in another. Life is about that back and forth for all of us. Just remember, to ask questions, seek support, and most of all, just love your child, love them for who they are and accept where they are. You can both work from there on other issues. Until next time.

Tired of anxiety controlling you and your child? Download my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS

Pretend Friends, Crafts and Experimentation With Control, Anxiety and Self-Direction

Michael is going through another phase of exploration now, with making pretend friends out of crafts materials. As with anything he does, he does it with an intensity that is hard to sometimes understand for me. This is mixed in with his little mini rebellions of not wanting to listen to things I am saying that he does not like lately. Last evening was a tough evening for both of us. We manage to turn around things around after school, but were not lucky at bedtime. He just couldn’t stop talking about the next phase of his plans for his craft creations, and was asking me about things he wanted me to be doing with him on the upcoming PED DAY. My crime was telling him that we would talk about it the next day as it was bedtime and if he wanted his story and massage we needed to get a move on. The process had already been moving too slowly. Maybe it was that. Maybe he was tired. Regardless, things went from tense to tantrum very quickly. I finally had to leave and have Dad take over.

This is not the first time this has happened in the last little while. It is becoming increasingly hard for Michael to listen and I am still trying to find the reasons behind this breakdown in communication. We have done some beautiful bonding in the last month. I am doing my best to be there and present for Michael; in the morning, at snack time, at dinner time, and at night time when he lets me. This new phase is challenging for me too. It is accompanied with hitting and a new one, hair pulling, if he is upset. I reiterate that there is no hitting, pulling or screaming. He needs to calm down and use his words. At school he is wonderful. His skills are increasing and he has lots of friends. Still, he seems strained and going through the motions. We are looking for ways to bring the joy back for him, for us. It is hard.

I have joined him in his craft building, and, as with everything Michael is interested in, am taking an interest myself in it to show him support. He has surprised me by asking for Leggos and wanting to try building  with them. This gives me hope after Dad and I figure out just why listening to something reasonable is so hard for him lately; put on your winter jacket, get ready for bed. etc. I take it one day at a time, and know like with the other phases Michael has gone through, we will figure out new tools to handle this one.

Exceptional Parents, what tools do you use to help your child when they are going through another challenging stage? What tools do you use to help yourself? I think it all starts with love, love yourself enough to show respect for you and your boundaries, and then teach your child that they need to have that same respect for themselves and for you as their parent. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different things to reach them, and have patience. It will all work out and you will reach them in whatever new phase you are in. Until next time.

Tired of anxiety controlling you and your child? Download my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” http://www.exceptionalparenting.net/EBOOKS


5 Ways to Bridge the Gap Between Challenging Behaviors and Testing Limits With Your Exceptional Child

So the latest stage Michael is at is kind of a cool one, yet difficult at the same time. As I mentioned before, he is testing us with pushing the limits on things his Dad and I ask him to do. Yesterday afternoon, a heated battle was waged concerning wearing a winter coat out in the park as it was sunny (though chilly), then another battle was waged on the tennis court and pool grounds. Michael ends up doing amazing during tennis games and swimming one on one with his instructor, but does not like the rules he has to follow in these games or when Dad and I ask him to do something. It is not that he has no control. We understand how anxious he is and that he needs to be in control of many things. So we have given him these opportunities to be in control. He is old enough to choose his own clothes, lunch items (within reason), parks he wants to go to as long as not too far away, and bedtime routine is flexible to a certain degree if we start on time. Still, we have come to this power struggle. He has SO MUCH stress and worry. And when we ask him he just keeps saying that he wants to make the rules and decide.

Dad and I have repeatedly told him that even adults have to follow rules in society, at jobs, with family, with friends, but at times it is still frustrating for all of us to grapple with this. I am now trying something completely different from tokens and rewards, at least for a little while. I want Michael to tell me and his Dad what he is feeling. I am asking him to use his words to explain to us, and to be calm doing it. I remind him of his options to calm down; breathing, rocking chair, kids yoga, swing, sitting on couch, crying. He is better able to cope after a good cry and I always encourage crying so he can get his feelings out. Sometimes, I get annoyed and frustrated myself and will tell him stop crying. But yesterday, after a fight in the park he rightfully called me on it saying, “but you told me crying is good to get my feelings out.” So, I backtracked and told him to cry on the park bench and not on the see-saw where he was. As always, he is smart and observant.

So what ways can a parent find the line between control for the child and nipping challenging behaviors in the bud?

  1. Look at the child’s overall well-being: If the child is happy for the most part, you need to clamp down a little more tightly on the rebellion. If they are feeling a little lost though, it’s a good idea to take a tiny step back and see why? Are they sleeping enough? Do they have pain or are they coming down with something? Are they scared about something at school? I am at this stage with Michael where I am looking to bridge the gap that has arisen between our closeness since school began.
  2. Don’t be afraid of child and stay calm no matter what: This is a toughie, and one I am still mastering, but is so important. No matter what cues a parent has misread, it is mandatory that they not fear the child and that the limit they put out stays as a limit no matter what. The child needs to know Mom and Dad love them enough to be firm, but also listen to their point of view.
  3. Bond closely with child whenever you can: I am learning that my son misses me even if he is  bigger and says he does not need me. I am looking for ways to make little rituals of time for us where we can reconnect. This is hard to do in a busy household, but mandatory for helping get behaviors under control and bond with your child again.
  4. Tell them you love them, but NOT behavior: I hate when people have said, “you are a bad girl or boy.” It’s the behavior that’s bad, not the child. I correct Michael all the time on this, and remind him that he is always a good person, but that he CHOOSES good or bad behavior.
  5. Continue to model positive coping mechanisms over time: This is so important. I now model to Michael how I regain control; breathing, calm corner in another room, lying down, walking etc. They will emulate in time.

Exceptional Parents, what have you done to show your Exceptional Children that you love them, but expect them to follow rules? It’s a tough place to be, but one which we all have to face as parents of all types of children. Just remember, honesty is the best policy of all, and as long as your child knows you love them, set firm but reasonable boundaries, in time they will come around. Patience is a virtue, and one parents must practice themselves and pass on to their child. Until next time.

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