The ‘trick’ is anticipating! Knowing what will come of new habits formulating. Then, consistency in implementing a few steps. Additionally, simply having a firm hand with an empathetic heart. When my 10 year old tantrums – and I do believe the universe conferred with him when they were creating the definition of the word – the entire family feels defeated. So I work at identifying his triggers… the antecedents to his tantrums or disruptive behavior… and helping him do the same. Reducing and/or eliminating the episodes is our goal.
He got the latest version of a video game he really wanted for a Christmas present. Here’s what I knew was going to happen:
1. He was going to be very excited! And he was!
2. He was going to ask to play with it immediately. And he did…. for 6 straight hours! He skipped lunch.
3. This would be his “go-to” and only preferred activity for the foreseeable future. And it was…
We have a system whereby all “electronics” must be checked into my bedroom on a table I have named “The Docking Station.” That way, no one succumbs to the urge to play at midnight. So every morning the gadgets are checked out of my bedroom. I decided to see how long this new obsession would go on and also give him an opportunity to enjoy his new toy. Finally, on day eight day when he came to me bright an early in the morning to check our his video game, I told my son I was very busy and would get to his video when I had a minute. I sat at my computer and worked.
He interrupted me a few times and I finally asked him not to come back… I suggested that he self-manage for a while and I will get to him when I had a free minute. My son sat for three hours and stimmed… shaking his head from side to side to alleviate his anxiety and in anticipation of receiving his video game to play. He did not touch another item in his room. What was I seeing? A new rigid pattern was developing… a ‘tantrum in the making.” I eventually gave him the toy but before he started to play, I told him we needed to chat in about one hour. He committed to our meeting.
I started the chat by saying… “Hey, I noticed that you are playing your new video game eight hours or more every day and not using any of your other toys, art collection or writing manuals…What’s up?” We proceeded to engage in conversation and negotiated a new strategy for him using his new video game in addition to his other activities daily. That was done with some Collaborative Problem Solving communication strategy. I also utilized the ABA strategies I’ve used for years with my children, including writing a Social Story. The matter was dealt with before there was a chance of escalation.
As with much of what we do, it is a process… I have great empathy for my son. There are some beautiful aspects of his Asperger’s Syndrome that makes him unique and amazing. I am so proud him. I also understand his impulses. His rigidity and need for routine. In addition, I also am just as aware of the world we inhabit and understand the importance of helping him find ways integrate. This will be vital to his socialization later in life.
So the ‘trick?” Observe! Anticipate! Adjust! Get ahead if the potential problem… It works!