I just did a workshop for San Francisco and bay area parents and professionals, so I decided to use the slides to write some more blogs. In the beginning of the talk I spoke about foundational paths to make sure you are heading in the right direction before we get into specifics. “Experience vs Discussion” is the heading I use to explain the importance of children experiencing change rather than having it explained or discussed with them. We get into the habit (which I have been guilty of with my own children) of telling our children what to do. Very natural, you might be thinking, but it doesn’t work with children on the spectrum.
Children on the spectrum need to experience what they are learning, which could be argued for all children, but I’m just here to talk about children on the spectrum! Let’s jump into some examples you can use around SF and bay area!
First, I want to tackle the topic of calming oneself down. This is very difficult for children and adults on the spectrum. When they are disappointed, surprised, or just having a bad day, they continually get into situations that become extremely difficult to calm themselves down. What do we do? We have the tendency to redirect them with lots and lots of discussion. In other words, we want to manage their emotional distress through giving them language. It comes naturally to almost every parent. You are probably saying, “where’s the example??” Fair enough, here it goes.
You take your child to the store and he/she wants something she or he can’t have, or at least something you are saying “no” to and trying not to give in to. The unwanted behavior ensues and the question becomes, “how the heck does my child experience learning in this awful situation??” You become lost in a back and forth discussion or repeatedly explaining to your child how he or she should not act this way in the store.
What to do
- Change location – This is an amazingly simple and effective way to change your child’s behavior and have them experience calming themselves down. Use a bench outside, a curb, or the car. YOU ARE NOT GOING HOME! Just a break, but this will make a BIG difference!
- Wait without language or eye contact for your child to calm him/herself down. You are exuding the message that your children manage their own emotions, from this point forward. This isn’t just a spectrum discussion, in a typical family, everyone is constantly trying to manage each other’s emotions. Did I say constantly??
- As long as it takes, if it’s snowing, go in the car. If you have to be somewhere else, come back when you have an endless amount of time and set the same limits. Wait until your child is calm to TRY AGAIN! Because it’s so fun right?? Why not go back in? You have to, in order to teach your child. You have to try again before going home.
- Trying again – When you go back in, you are trying to accomplish what it is you were trying to accomplish in the first place but it can be a shortened version. Here are some examples:
- Trying to shop without buying your child something.
- Trying to have your children sit together.
- Asking your child to wait.
I want to make clear that this is part of a system I use. I strongly encourage you to incorporate my other aspects to helping children with difficult behaviors. These aspects include infusing their passions and interests into the discussion from the beginning offering them something exciting to discuss that you will BRING back when they are calm. For example: “let’s go to the store and discuss Pikachu!” This will give the message that you can be engaged both on their favorite topic and on a calm and mature way that you expect. When they calm down, be sure and reengage them on this topic.
Please share your experiences!!!
Thanks, and good luck,