Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Helping D (part 2)

Me: A, do you wan- 
JUST A???JUST A???NOT ME???
T: K, how was-
IT'S A PARADE!!!IT'S A PARADE!!! 
Radio: In today's new- 
MARCH!MARCH!MARCH!MARCH!
Dog: Woo-
BOOM !!!BOOM!!!BOOM!!!

We call it "blocking." He tries to intercept any attention that may go to someone else or something else. He's VERY loud.

Talking about it and consequences haven't worked because even negative attention is attention. So now we are trying ignoring.

I have two main issues with ignoring. One, he has already experienced the ultimate "ignoring" in his life. Ignoring him, especially when he's clearly feeling anxious, seems like the opposite of what we should be doing. Two, if you're going to ignore, you have to be prepared for the inevitable escalation. You're going to have to ignore ear-splitting, house-shaking tantrums.

But... it's working. We've created a point system. He gets points for "Letting grown-ups do what they need to do." We catch him allowing us to attend to other people and things and reward that behavior, and we give no attention to his attempts to block us. It's only been a few days, but I already see a huge difference. I can tell he's working it out in his head. He says to me, calmly, "You're listening to the radio. You're paying attention to the dog." "That's right," I say. "But I'm still thinking about you."

It makes my life easier. I hope that his newfound calm is helping him, too.  

15 comments:

  1. Great plan! I've been apprehensive to use a behavior plan for our son... Does D earn a reward with his points?

    Thanks for sharing!! (as always!)

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    1. Are you apprehensive for the same reasons I am? (Even though we're doing it, I'm not convinced it's the right thing to do. Even though it's getting results.)

      We are filling up a chart and when he gets to the top he will get a special treat. We're not sure what it will be yet, but I think it needs to be a big deal. Right now he just likes coloring in the squares.

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  2. Ugh, this is a tough one. Yosi goes on high alert when he hears the theme from the radio news and his volume shoots up. He views the phone as serious competition even though I don't even use it every day. I've tried getting down to eye level, touching his arm, totally focusing on him and saying that I need to make a call/ finish this so I can put it in the oven/ etc. and then we will do X. Sounds great huh? But it doesn't work. Sigh. D gets lots of focused attention from his very devoted mommy, so ignoring for short periods might be just the thing. Here, it results in Yosi resorting to dangerous and/ or seriously destructive behavior.

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    1. I am lucky. D is just loud. He hasn't escalated to dangerous or destructive. That's a tough one.

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  3. I'm glad you seem to be getting some good results! I think it's really hard for us adoptive moms to use some methods that other parents wouldn't hesitate to use. It can be SO hard to try things knowing their backgrounds and with ever-present attachment worries. I'm hoping you continue to have forward progress in this department and that D doesn't feel the need to be so loud and interruptive. You are right that it will help him, too, to be able to understand that you doing something else doesn't mean that you aren't thinking about him and loving him.

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  4. My son has been home for three years, but he still does this. It is very frustrating. I like the reminder to catch him when he is being more respectful. So hard to do, though! I, too, have very ambiguous feelings about rewards. I am glad it is working for you.

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    1. Before becoming a parent, I thought I'd be all about internal motivation. But being "good" is such a culturally determined thing. My kids need me to teach them what it looks like before they can internalize it. So I've ended up using rewards (mostly verbal, but occasionally point charts) a lot more than I thought I would. I am trying to guide them toward internalizing e.g. how many points do YOU think you earned?

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  5. I agree it is hard to decide how/if/what on the reward front, but it sounds like he's old enough to understand the basics. I love your response to him, I'm sure that helps a lot. We've seen this behavior with our son a little and it sure gets frustrating fast. I'll have to try that response and see if it gets a different reaction.

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    1. I'll be interested to hear how it goes.

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  6. Here's why not to be overly apprehensive about ignoring the undesirable behavior. If he can shout over the conversation and get your attention, he has power over you. Power over you means you are not strong and therefore he doesn't feel safe, which means he's going to keep on pushing the boundaries to find out if he's safe or not. By ignoring the behavior -- as counter-intuitive as it is for those of us with attachment-challenged children -- you have established a boundary and thus showed him you are strong. Because you are strong, he is safe. He therefore feels reassured, which is leading to his calmer behavior. His shouting is an attempt to find out if there is a boundary, and if so, where it is. You are showing him, and he feels comforted knowing that it's there and he's not stronger than you. And we have found that catching T doing something right (HEY! you didn't race to be the first one in line. Look at you -- you're third from the end! That's TERRIFIC!" has been hugely successful. HUGELY. Good work, mama!

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    1. Thanks, Karen. That explanation makes a lot of sense. Makes me feel better about ignoring him, when it's framed as showing him the boundaries and making him feel safe.

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  7. Yes, good work mama. I used to work with foster kids who came with few consistent boundaries and who did not know what to expect in a "normal" family situation. Consistent rules, clear definitions of appropriate behavior and parents who kept doing what they said they were going to do over and over again really did help. Using a "neutral voice" when addressing negative behaviors also works well sometimes. Every kid, every family is different. it sounds like you have found what works in your situation with this specific child. Hang in there. Recognizing the positive behaviors as they appear is great too. Hang in there.

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    1. Thank you! It's really been amazing how quickly he's responded to this. Today when I tried to talk to my other son's school secretary, D started crying/screaming/hanging on me and I just said, "points" to him and he shut it off like a switch.

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  8. We have avoided a reward system to this point, too, but I'm feeling like something has to change. I'll be anxious to hear a long-term report. :)

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