Wednesday 23 April 2014

When Fighting A Battle of Wills, Losing Is Not An Option

I think all parents must go through this.  You catch your kid doing something wrong and in a split second, you have to make the decision to "notice" it and deal with it or pretend you don't see it and let it slide.

We're starting a new behaviour program and one of the criteria is to not let Alex get away with any aggression, no matter how minor.  Which means we have to step up how often we notice.  We've always intervened on physical aggression between him and Nathan but now we have to also start intervening each time he throws things or knocks something over.

The therapist pointed out that by making attacks on Nathan and I the go-no-further line, we may have inadvertently encouraged using them as an escape strategy.  He knows they won't be ignored and doesn't have the empathy to stop on his own.

Last night, Alex threw a toy rather than hand it over to Nathan.  So, with a slightly trepidatious heart, we went into action.  First, we made him hand over the toy, which increased the screaming and tantrum level.  Next, he went into a time out for throwing the toy.  He would not settle in the time out and both Dave and I ended up having to actively prevent him from throwing things or kicking the table and chairs.

Of course, this happened around dinner time and after half an hour, it was time to eat.  Alex still was not anywhere close to settled, so we made the decision to move his time out to his room to give us time to eat.  Then we would bring him back to finish the time out and have his meal.

Maybe it was the right decision, maybe the wrong one.  We put a lot of things on hold in our family to accommodate Alex and perhaps we've encouraged tantruming as a way to get sent to his room.  But I felt Nathan (and us!) deserved twenty minutes of a quiet meal without having Alex screaming at us and attacking us.  Keeping him there would have only continued to ratchet up tension.

We did make it clear that his actions were sending him to bed early but wouldn't let him get out of eating (a usual source of conflict in the best of cases).  I guess we'll find out how we did when we go back to the behaviour therapist next week.

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