Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Escalation . . .

. . . and NO,I am not talking about last week when I went to Kohls and the escalator was broken and I had to hoof my fat butt up the stairs. I am talking about escalating behaviors with our kids.

I have come to the realization over the past few months that I escalate my child's behavior more often than not. Let me give you one quick instance where I didn't . . .

Sunday Dustin had pants on because he had been helping me in the yard and taken trash to the street for pick up. Typically we don't let him wear pants in the house because he runs away. I figure if he continues to run without pants on, the police will understand he is nuts mentally handicapped and I am not some stark-raving lunatic mother trying to keep her 14 year old in the house. Anyway, I told him to take a shower. He did not want to take a shower. He told me no. I insisted that it was a school day the following day and he needed a shower. He got up from his chair and headed toward the door. I said, "Dustin! You win. No shower for you." He turned around and sat back down. All was well with the world. I let it go for a while.

Did I give in? You bet your sweet bippies I did.

Did I win? Yep, he didn't run out which is win-win for all of us.

But Oh my Gawd, Sheri, what about the shower? Later (about an hour) I sent him to the kitchen for a treat, while he was in there (close to the bathroom) I said, "Oh I forgot, you can have a treat when your shower is done." I had him in close proximity to the bathroom, there was nowhere for him to run, and he complied easily. I didn't discuss it earlier, we didn't talk about appropriate behaviors. There was no need to learn from it, he knew he should shower, I knew he wouldn't right then. There was no need to argue. Later, I gave him no warning, he had no idea it was coming. I didn't chastise him over the earlier event. I simply made him do it. After the shower, I simply said, "Dustin, did I tell you to do this earlier?" He said, "Yes." I said, "I always win." And it was over.

This was not the case in the past. I had to explain my position. I had to tell him the consequences. He argued some more. Then I piled on more consequences. He didn't do it and ran out. Blah Blah Blah. Too many words! I escalated and in the end I lost. He lost! We all lost!

Now, some of you may be thinking "Well, that's fine for your mentally handicapped boy, but in the real world my child will have to make choices and he needs to learn now." Really? All they are learning is you are the drill sergeant and they rebel against you even more. I know that when I am angry there is nothing you are gonna say or do that will make me back down. I would argue the sky is green and not back down. But give me a chance to calm down and I will see your point in a heartbeat. That is all I am doing for Dustin.

And don't even get me started on piling on consequences, that just makes the child angrier and you feel more powerful. That doesn't get anyone anywhere. That is no way to build a relationship. Children thrive on relationships, especially traumatized children who have been removed from their homes, forsaken by family and had their life turned upside down. Am I saying give them what they want? No! I am saying give them a break. Give them a chance to breath. Give them some leeway. Treat them as you would've wanted to be treated. Act as though they have a choice even when they may not. Did Dustin walk away thinking he won. . . maybe, what's so wrong with that? In the end he got a shower, that's what he will remember. Maybe next time I can impart some skills and teach him to say, "Can I do it in 10 minutes?" because he knows in the end a shower will be done.

Does my 14 year old know that running out is not acceptable. Sure. He still does it. I don't need to discuss it every single day. I don't need to constantly rehash behaviors. I don't need to chastise him over and over. Let it be! He is impulsive (you don't have to have a diagnoses or a mental illness to be impulsive). Just because he knows it is wrong is not going to stop him from doing it. . . especially if it is attention grabbing and that is what the child wants.

Seriously, I was there. I know the vicious circle. I still do it and catch myself. Please take a look at your reactions and try not to escalate . . . trust me. . . it can be different.

1 comment:

Thorn said...

I love this whole post so much, but especially the "Oh, I forgot..." really struck me here as something I haven't seen other moms describe specifically on their blogs but that seems really powerful and effective. I mean, you're being manipulative and that's a big point but by using those words you're also saying "HELLO, CHILD, I'M HUMAN TOO, SO NOW GO DO YOUR HUMAN THING" and I'm not surprised that makes it work better.

Learning to step back and de-escalate is obviously the loving thing to do in any relationship (and hard, at least for me, in any relationship especially with someone who is arguing something wrong!, not that that ever happens among the adults at our home) and yet it's so easy to get caught up in fighting instead. I want to make sure I go back to this a lot, because I think you're so completely right.