Friday, October 25, 2013

It touched a nerve!

I always tell my team that it is important to stay professional, not let the things that people do get to us, not to get upset, and to continue offering our help to the best of our ability. Well, against my own advice this week I got upset.
I entered a session and the mother of our client said “I hope he’s OK today, he didn’t sleep from 1 am to 4:30 am.”

“What did he do from 1 to 4:30?” I asked.

“He played,” she replied with a smile on her face. I guess she thought it was funny.
In my head I was shouting “This is not funny. How is it possible that you let him stay awake that whole time?” It’s a good thing she could not hear my thoughts.

It is simply not OK to let a child stay awake in the middle of the night. If he cries and screams, as difficult as it is, you wait until he’s done and take him back to bed. It may seem easier to avoid the power struggle, but in fact it is not.
Yes I recognize that it was 1:00 AM and the mother did not have the energy to fight with the child. But, in allowing him to get away with this, is she really making things easier? For one, she ended up sleep deprived because she was not able to fall asleep again. Second, her son was now sleep deprived too, which in turn leads to behavior problems, difficulty learning, disrupting the classroom, etc. Lastly, it taught him one more time he can get his way. No wonder this child throws tantrums at school, including aggression, when he doesn’t get what he wants. “Why they don’t let me, at home I get everything I want when I want. Perhaps I have to be more assertive,” is what he is probably thinking.

I’ve been working with this family for over two years, educating this mom on behavior management and best practices when it comes to helping children with special needs. So I guess I must be the worst behaviorist ever. I quit! (Just joking, TES).
Children need to learn that there are rules, routines, laws they have to obey, the same way that you and I do on a daily basis. Letting them play instead of sleeping at night is simply not good parenting. Good parenting is setting rules and limits, and teaching children that they can’t always get their way. They are children so they will always try, and always test the limits. You might think it is “easier” now to give in, because you’re tired and don’t want to fight. But it is not. You are just making your life harder.

If the goal is to avoid tantrums and you want to take what you think is the easy route, then I suggest you let your kids stay home, eat junk and play video games when they don’t want to go to school; do not take them to the dentist when they cry; and allow them to skip the daily shower. Would you describe that as good parenting? I didn’t think so.

We discussed all this in previous blogs:

  1. “The Power of Structure and Routines” ( ): “Routines: A predictable and consistent daily schedule (time-space-people in charge). Lack of predictability increases anxiety, which leads to problematic behaviors.”

  1. “Limits and Consequences” ( ):  Limits are set to help your child to understand respect for himself and the world around him.”    
Deal with that tantrum now, even if you are tired. Think that it is an emergency, your child got hurt and you have to help him no matter how tired you are.

Good parenting; that is the easier way.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA

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