Monday, 6 October 2014

Tantrums and Fight Training

I studied karate before I ever got pregnant with Alex and I've been grateful for it, although not for the usual reasons one would assume.

The reason I'm grateful is because my sensei taught me restraint holds which would not injure the person I was holding but would allow me to prevent them from escaping and hurting me.

It hasn't always been perfect but it's been an invaluable tool when dealing with the boys' tantrums.  Neither of them has a good concept of empathy or hurting other people.  Alex sees violence as a useful tool to get what he wants (and once which is easier than communication for him) and Nathan has a hard time remembering his empathy once he's upset.

Over the weekend, Nathan had a huge tantrum.  He's been having a rough week since Alex has been home.  Alex has been attacking him on a fairly regular basis, trying to get out of doing various tasks such as eating his dinner and cleaning up his toys.  I think the pressure just built up and Nathan couldn't take any kind of disappointment anymore.

I had told Nathan that if he hit me or Alex or the cats or his father again, he would lose his Lego for the rest of the weekend.  (This is his prize toy and we'd already tried a few timeouts to give him time to recoup his temper.)  It wasn't two more minutes before Nathan hit me again. 

I got a big tub and carefully put all of Nathan's Lego creations inside it.  A few did end up breaking despite my care.  Nathan ran and hid while I was doing it.  When I brought him back to his room, he started screaming that he was going to throw away/destroy all his toys and books and then he'd be miserable forever.

It was a tough decision moment for me.  On the one hand, stuff is stuff and I'm trying not to be overly materialist or pack-rattish around the boys (I have great attachment to my stuff, probably because I moved frequently as a kid and therefore the things had greater stability than the houses or people.)  And sticking with that first hand, I don't want to encourage this self-punishment technique and give Nathan the idea that it's a tactic which works.  On the other hand, I know that if he destroys his things, in ten minutes he's going to be heartbroken.

I decided to treat this the way I'd treat a friend who was drunk and announcing she was going to booty-call a horrible ex.  Prevent action until the individual regains enough calm to have some shot at thinking straight.  Nathan was effectively drunk on his upset and science has shown that strong emotions do literally shut off the ability to predict and reason.

He had launched into full fists of fury mode, which meant I had to hold him and restrain him until he calmed down.  It took almost half an hour and was heartbreaking for both of us.  He screamed, he kicked, he punched, he even tried to bite a few times.  But eventually he wore out enough to calm down.  I stayed about another ten minutes to make sure he didn't regain his energy and start again but then I gave him his privacy to recover.

I know parents who walk around with black eyes and bruises from dealing with their autistic children.  Alex actually cracked my nose one time when I wasn't holding him properly.  I'm very grateful that I've got the knowledge to restrain them properly.

My karate teacher is still teaching at Prana Shanti Yoga on Armstrong Street on Thursdays at 7:30, if anyone else would be interested in learning his techniques.  You can call the yoga studio or simply show up for a drop in class.

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