September 9th, 2011 7:59am - Posted By: Anne Maxwell, LCSW, RPT-S
My experiences with a mother and her now 6 year old son so clearly illustrate the joy that can develop from maintaining a state of regulation and speaking to your child’s heart. This mother and son came to see me. It was the first time I had seen them in a month. They were relaxed, laughing, loving together. This was a little boy, who when I first met him, had been kicked out of numerous day cares, both facilities and in home. In addition, several nannies had quit after not much exposure to him. His behaviors had included temper tantrums, aggressive fits, screaming, yelling, and inconsolable crying. He has two older brothers, all of whom live with their mother and father. His parents were at their wits end. They tried traditional therapies, including behavior modification as well as strong medications. Parents then attended a parenting group, modeled after Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control, which I led. In addition, parents and son participated in family centered play therapy sessions with me bimonthly. As things at home improved, they dropped back to once a month sessions.
Mother recounted the following: “Things are going so much better. Yesterday, Jack had a really difficult day. You know, one of those days where nothing goes right. It was hard at school, with a substitute teacher and an unfamiliar routine; hard at day care, because other kids were agitated and the place was really noisy; and, hard last night, when we got home. All his Tivo programs had been erased – it had been agreed to earlier – and he just whined and complained. My husband was trying to cook dinner for all of us, and, Jack was starting to get on his nerves. Jack was clearly escalating. But here’s the news: here’s how I handled it. I breathed and sat down on the couch and called Jack over to me. When he came, I put my arm on his shoulders and told him I was sorry to hear he had had such a tough day. He sat up and wrapped his arms around my neck and sobbed and sobbed. I hugged him and massaged his arms downward, telling him I was helping him to get rid of all the “bad stuff”. He cried for a while. Then, when he was done, he snuggled with me briefly. He said he wanted to color. He went and got crayons and a coloring book and sat at the kitchen table as his dad and I finished getting supper ready. He was cheerful, relaxed, regulated… What’s so different in all of that is that I did not yell. I don’t yell at home anymore. I used to yell all the time. That’s how I was raised. And I realize that my yelling was so hard on everyone. So I’ve quit. Instead, I breathe. I have him come for a time-in…and it really works.”
What this mother did was to under-stand that her son was not able to regulate himself at that time. As she saw him “amping up”, instead of yelling at him to stop and sending him to his room when he didn’t, she made sure she was regulated (by breathing). She then helped him to become regulated, by offering him a time-in, and, by rubbing/stroking his arms and talking softly and reassuringly to him. The result? Her son was then able to maintain that state of regulation and to be connected to his parents, by staying in the kitchen. (Coloring, playing with play-doh, playing in the sand box, playing in water, blowing bubbles are all examples of activities that are soothing to young children.)
In his book, The Great Behavior Breakdown, Bryan Post says that time-in is the opposite of time-out. Time-in presupposes that the child is acting out because he needs attention. Time-in presupposes that if you give him the attention he needs by offering him an opportunity to become regulated, that he will calm much more quickly. You see, I believe that behavior is a form of communication, and, any time a child “acts out”, my first response is: “Hmm… I wonder what’s going on. I wonder what he’s saying.” Anytime a child acts out, he has lost the capacity to self-soothe and needs us to do it for him.
Next time your child acts out, try bringing him in closer. If sending him to his room or to the time-out chair or to the corner has not worked in the past, try a time-in. You might be surprised.
Posted in: Parenting Techniques
View / Add Comment | 0 Comment(s) | Rating: 0 of 5 | Share: Twitter, Facebook, Google +