* Smiles

Yesterday was a stellar day: No sad faces on Rio’s Behavior Chart, smiles all around:)

When we got home, his big brother (Big B) had acquired 2 free skateboard decks, and donated one to Rio provided he let the other kids use it when they're here. Rio was tickled, almost as tickled as I was to see his stepbrother being so nice to him. I can cut a teenager a lot of slack if he just treats his little brothers and sister with some kindness.

It was yoga night last night, and this time the Diva came over and we did it at my house. We went upstairs where it’s warm and made it through our whole routine without any interruption or eruptions from the boys downstairs. Nothing short of miraculous, this. Afterward, the Diva had to run and the boys were outside skating across the street. I had the whole house to myself. The universe must really be pleased with me these days:)

Now’s my chance to talk about some of the strategies I’ve been learning to use for Rio. I started out with The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents by Deepak Chopra. This is a beautiful book for any family, and his ideas are simple yet effective. This book was the first to point out that the conventional punishment-reward system is not necessarily the best way to teach children how to make good choices. However, it is not easy to release old habits, as I am learning.

I first picked up this book when Rio was still only a year old or so, and it’s really not terribly applicable to children at that age, so I put it back on the shelf and forgot about it. But it was already clear to me then that my romantic visions of motherhood were not going to be realized, not even close. I was so idealistic and so naïve at that time, and I still had reason to believe that Rio’s behavior was merely the typical stuff of toddler years, surely he would outgrow it, right?

Ever since then, I’ve been disciplining him defensively, for fear that people would think that I’m too easy on him, that I’ve allowed him to behave so badly by giving in to him. If only that were true, if only consistent discipline, harsh punishments and bribes were enough to train a little Hercules. If only!

Thanks to The Explosive Child, I am now armed with a new viewpoint. This book deals specifically with inflexible-explosive children, and that’s my Rio. According to the author, Dr. Ross Greene, these children have a critically low frustration threshold, which means that he becomes frustrated very easily over seemingly trivial things. Concurrently, he also has very low frustration tolerance, which means that when he does become frustrated, he lacks the skills to cope with it.

For example: I send Rio into the backyard one evening while I fiddle around out front. He tries to get into the house through the back door, which is locked. He pounds on the door, but Big B can’t hear him because he has his headphones on. Rio hollers and pounds some more. Still no answer. Next thing I know, Rio is screaming and crying and kicking and punching the back door. He was too frustrated to think clearly, and therefore unable to reason that perhaps he should just walk around to the front door, which was open. When I try to talk to him, he screams at me. This is what I call meltdown mode: the point at which Rio is beyond reason. Once he reaches that point it won’t do any good to threaten him with severe punishment or loss of all his most prized privileges. Nope. This will only serve to compound his despair and frustration, and escalate the meltdown. It can get very, very ugly, even violent and destructive.

So instead of threats and coercion, I have learned that what Rio really needs at that point is reassurance. He needs help, and he doesn’t know how to help himself. He needs to know that I’m there to help him work it out, not to increase his frustration. And already I’m seeing a difference in how he responds to me. And it’s funny in a tragic sort of way, because all along my instinct has been to do just that, to comfort him and soothe him when he’s beyond control. Yet I was so worried about what other people thought was right for my son, people who seemed to know better than me, that I second guessed myself and played the authoritarian mother. It was not only counter-productive, it was miserable.

Someday, I will learn to trust my instincts.


Blogger Fate said...

This sound SOOOOOOOOO familiar. My nine y.o. sounds JUST like that. Hmmmm. I just might have to pick up those books as *I* am getting just as frustrated as my Brat gets. Thanks for posting.


12/09/2004 4:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home