By: Dr. Liz Simpson
Your child is on a developmental journey that takes up all of their time and energy. They are learning about the body they live in, the mind and emotions that rule the body, they are learning about other people and how to be in relationship with others, their spirit is filled with creativity and joy, and they are trying to understand the rules and regulations of the planet they find themselves inhabiting sometimes by pushing boundaries. Absolutely developmentally appropriate.
What does all of that going on inside the child look like if your child has ADHD/LD or Autism? Often all of this development operating simultaneously in your child can lead to a giant, anxiety-filled, high volume meltdown, often at an inopportune time in a public place!
Frustrating? Can be for sure!
So, when we find ourselves frustrated by our child’s behavior, There are four key steps we can take to support ourselves so we can best support our child.
- Egolessness-Never take your child’s behavior personally! It is not about you. This is their struggle. They are looking to you as someone who can help them figure it all out, but sometimes they don’t have the language skills to let you know that. So observe their struggle through the eyes of objectivity, take it all in, the verbal and non-verbal. Observe the struggle and then take a deep breath.
- Compassion-Assume your child was trying to meet a need in their life from their developmental perspective, and be compassionate- not condescending. Often the need has to do with safety, belonging, control, freedom, and identity.
- Respond, don’t react-Step away- Stop, breathe, listen. It might even be good to have a code word or sentence to let your child know you need some time. “Mom’s going to step away, Ill be back in a minute and would like to hear all about what happened here.” That can be reduced over time to simply saying “stepping away.”
- Listen to empower. Help your child find their own solution to their frustration. For example:
- What was the problem you were trying to address?
- What were your choices for addressing the problem?
- Were the consequences of your actions what you intended?
- How can you make this situation better?
When you model the above 4 steps, overtime your reaction to your child will change for the better. In addition, you will be teaching your child to respond with the same compassion for themself when they start to feel overwhelmed, and with new understanding, their behavior will improve as well.