It's one of those Mondays. About an hour into the new work week and already I have had to reschedule a meeting, cancel an order, find a new trucking company, I've lost my temper (twice), and spilled my coffee. As I mop off my desk on the verge of tears, I decide that this day is shot and my only option is to go back to bed, sleep off my funk, and hopefully wake up on the right side when I start over. I begin to daydream of burying myself under the covers when I hear my 10-year-old son having a meltdown in the other room, so I go to investigate.
Of course, what I find is the typical end of summer scene for moms of siblings all over the planet. My oldest has been teasing his little brother with everything in sight, including the TV remote, the kitten, his breakfast and apparently, underwear! I walk in to the chaos with the grace of an angry bull and send each of them to their own corners where I can interrogate them separately in order to ascertain the truth of what happened.
Max (the oldest) is of course completely innocent based on the mere fact that he is older and was doing whatever he thought was best for his younger brother and I should appreciate his desire to help me while I was having a bad morning. Alex (My aspie) is totally out of control, but completely logical as he throws the remote in the direction of Max's head while telling his brother, "it makes me angry when you change the channel and touch my food!"
Hmm, both have valid arguments, where to start? Violence gets the attention first so I ask Max to leave because he is the catalyst at the moment. In typical family situations, once the irritant has been removed, the chaos usually resolves itself but if you've ever spent time with an Aspergian, you know that typical is not all that common and de-escalation can take a really long time. Too often when our children get out of control, our first reaction is to scold them or chastise them for their bad behavior, but for kids like Alex, that reprimand is just one more reminder of their difficulty to control their emotions which typically results in an even bigger, angrier reaction.
Thankfully our family has been through some amazing trainings and have learned some useful techniques as a result; one of them being this really cool process called errorless compliance. The process involves praising him for doing what we ask, even if the request is as simple as asking him to put his head on the floor as he is actively lying down, or asking him to punch as hard as he can while he is actively hitting the couch.
By changing his focus and letting him realize success, we help him to understand that when he is calm and he is following directions, he is in control and things more easily flow in the direction he would be happy with. We use this process when Alex is so escalated that we can't even get him to see straight, not to mention listen to us, and we need to help him relax so we can communicate.
I know it sounds a bit silly, but when a child like Alex is completely overwhelmed and at the height of frustration, the most calming thing we can do for him is to inundate him with success.
Once Alex and I had worked through his frustration, I came back to my office and noticed my desk was still covered with cold coffee. With a fresh perspective, I finished mopping up my mess, then, in the spirit of errorless compliance, I made a new to-do list for my day.
Break up Kid fight
Spend 20 minutes with Alex
Make to-do list for the day
Spend 20 minutes with Max
WOW! 5 things checked off my list already! This is going to be an amazingly successful day! And I didn't even have to go back to bed…
So the lesson my kids taught me today is this: The next time you are feeling stressed, frustrated, defeated or just plain sucky…stop where you are and give yourself a well deserved do over. Start by making a new to-do list based on errorless compliance, and on no less than the first five tasks, list some things you have already started or even finished today…because on this new list, failure is NOT an option.
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