Have you ever had an "Ah-Ha" moment? A moment, conversation, story, or event that opened your eyes to things happening in your own life which changed your behavior/way of thinking forever? I had a very key parenting ah-ha moment last night regarding Ethan's meltdowns.
Last night, Corey & I attended a workshop provided by our local Easter Seals branch. It was entitled, Changing Challenging Behaviors and was taught by the director of Ethan's ITAP program. This woman has so much experience & is so educated.....I wish I could have her on speed dial!!! But I will settle for spending a couple of hours listening to her talk about this particular topic.
During the workshop, she gave us so many new ideas & resources, and we are excited to try them with Ethan. The woman is truly brilliant! But my big realizaton came almost at the end of the session. All workshop long, Ms. Donna was telling us how to change unwanted behaviors, but thankfully she included a section of what to do WHEN meltdowns occur anyway....despite all our efforts.
I was pretty proud of myself as she was describing how to react to a meltdown....I knew most of them & felt that I was pretty good at them....being calm, don't take it personal, don't use it as a time to teach, and so on. However, one thing she said was, "limit touch or talk during this time. It is like adding fuel to the fire."
Well, I thought adding pressure during this time was calming? NO IT'S NOT! It makes it worse.
I thought talking calmly to him about the reason for the meltdown was helpful? NO IT'S NOT!
Now, just like with everything else in life, I don't take someone's word for truth. I take it in, see how it fits into my belief system & experience, and then decide for myself whether I accept what they are telling me as truth or not. And as I was processing this new information, I was thinking back to earlier in the day during a meltdown before school....
I had asked Ethan if he wanted to go to Hobby Lobby with me before school or if he wanted to stay home & play instead. He choose to stay home & play. However, when it came time to go to school, he was INSISTANT that we needed to go to Hobby Lobby first & then school. It was a clear ploy to postpone going to school. (PS....we have discovered that the only reason Ethan doesn't enjoy going to school is because he can't do whatever he wants/no control over his schedule. And while I understand that way of thinking, it's just too bad! In fact, I know that school is so good for him in so many ways. So, we endure meltdowns & take him anyway.)
Back to the meltdown story.....When I reminded Ethan that he choose NOT to go to Hobby Lobby before school, he began his meltdown. During his meltdown, he kept screaming/crying, "I want to go to Hobby Lobby and THEN school! Why are we not going to Hobby Lobby?" Over & over & over & over again. I would calmly answer him, but the meltdown & questions persisted. The moment we crossed through the doors of the school, he instantly stopped his crying/screaming. THAT IS SO INFURIATING!!!! That is proof to me that he is playing me.....and that makes me mad.
So, I was thinking about this situation as Donna was talking about how to handle a meltdown. My thought was, "But Ethan is actually asking me questions during his meltdown? Do I ignore them?" After class, I approached Ms. Donna with my question.....
She explained that he isn't REALLY wanting to know an answer to his question, so I DO need to be quiet during this time. Why? Because as long as I'm talking, Ethan thinks that there still may be a CHANCE he will get his way. She reminded me that the first rule of negotiations is to keep the other party talking. So as long as he keeps me talking to him, he believes that he may sway me.
The frustrating part is......IT HAS TOTALLY WORKED ON ME IN THE PAST!!!! ARG!!!!! I also learned that because this has worked on me in the past, Ethan knows that & uses this as his go-to way of working his mom! OH MY GOSH!!!! I'M SO MAD AT MYSELF FOR LETTING THAT HAPPEN! NO MORE, BABY!!!!!!!!!! THERE'S A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN!!!!
Ms. Donna told us that it usually takes about 2 weeks of implementing a new system/parental behavior/environmental change for the child to change his challenging behavior. These 2 weeks will be very hard because Ethan will pull no stops & try with all his might to use everything he knows that has worked on me in the past. It's going to be very hard on me. But however hard it is for me to change my behavior, it is going to be even harder for Ethan to change his behavior.
So 2 weeks folks! Two weeks of actively ignoring Ethan's questions during a meltdown. Hopefully, I will no longer add fuel to the fire by talking to him & the meltdowns will be shorter. And with me standing firm & saying to myself, "He's going to school (or other unwanted place) no matter what. They can always call me to come & get him if needed," this will help me get througth this time as well.....and mommy won't have a meltdown of her own! :0)
Courage & Coffee.......I may need to invest in a stronger blend of both in the upcoming days!!!