Wednesday, July 29, 2009


All of the advice I have read about responding to tantrums and meltdowns stresses the importance of processing the situation long after the event, when the child is calm and emotionally available to listen and learn from what happened.

And when I read advice like this, I picture a cozy, intimate conversation where the parent and child are talking through how it feels when bad things happen, and how bad feelings are normal and how we're going to try something different next time.

Maybe something that won't result in an "ouch report" in your friend's cubby.

I know how to have this conversation. I'm good at it. I know how to talk in "I" statements and talk about how our bodies feel when we're angry and validate emotional experience and brainstorm ideas.

But as awesome as I would be at this conversation, I've never had it with Ben because he seems absolutely allergic to processing.

This morning, we attempted to talk about a difficult experience that happened yesterday in what we thought was a tender, non-judgemental, parenting book way.

When we do this, or attempt to revisit any kind of difficult event, Ben reacts as if we are pelting him with garbage.

He tenses up his body, shuts his eyes tight, winces, and squirms to get away.

That's assuming one of us is holding him in our laps. If we're not, he'll simply ignore the conversation and walk away.

It's not that he doesn't have the language talk about it. He's got the words now. He can - and will - describe situations where he caused trouble at school in full, grammatically correct paragraphs.

If there's been an "event" at school, when I arrive, it's as if he's been brought in for questioning and he's fessing up: spilling it all to the cops in the interrogation room, leaving out no detail.

Then, for him. It's over. Gone. History.

Trying to revisit the situation seems nearly impossible.

I'm not sure if it's a language processing thing - conversational language is tough for him unless the subject falls within one of his areas of interest - or an emotional thing, or some combination.

So this morning, after watching him squirm and wince as if being tortured, I just handed him this card. He read it aloud and got up from the table and skipped away.

stay calm index card.jpg

As a hyperlexic boy, he's always been able to process written words better than conversation. Maybe some part of this will hook into his brain like commercial jingles and movie quotes and dialects.

And maybe today he'll say, "It's okay."


jaki said...

Once again I am amazed at your ability (read: LOVE!) to find unique solutions to situations with Ben... and how well your solutions fit Ben!

Deirdre said...

It's somehow very difficult for younger kids to process this kind of feedback. I recall telling Liam that he had behaved very badly and he laughed and laughed and said nothing. A few minutes later he was on his bed crying hysterically for half an hour.