Are we going to the root of the problem, when we are trying to change a behavior
or a problem? Is medication going to help the way we want it to help? Is medication the answer to behavioral problems?
The pressure to put your child on medication is very real.
Medication seems to be one easy way to cope with difficulties.
But we are missing the point if we just look at behavior problems itself. We as
parents want behavior fixed. We often are worn out from annoying recurring
behavior. This is why we like to turn to behavioral therapists. We tend to rely on
them. They are the specialists. And they do a good job. With strategy in place for
everyone to work with, and often with great patience, we can extinct the
unwanted behavior. And now everybody is happy??????Not really! Very soon we
see that a new behavior pops up. What happened? We just exchanged one
problem with another. Why? We did not search for the root of the problem. What
we got as a result at best is managing and controlling what we often could not
bear to stand anymore.
When we are numb from recurring behaviors, it is difficult to quiet ourselves,
watch, observe and listen to what is really going on with our child. But this is the
necessary first step if we want permanent change.
I was incredibly busy with three children as a single parent plus working outside
the home. Dispelling pain experienced from Zackery’s behavioral difficulties was
all I could do. There was no time to think. And I was just hoping for things to
change and to become better.
The most difficult part for me and everybody else’s were Zackery’s meltdowns, his
hitting, lashing out, and sudden explosive behaviors. Many of them in public. I
was living on the edge, uptight and on guard all the time. And often I could not
even leave a caregiver alone with him, fearing for her safety.
His lashing out was assessed by every professional as aggressive behavior. Was it
really? Aggressive behavior is when someone willfully wants to hurt someone else. Was Zackery aggressive?
Defensive behavior is when someone wants to be able to keep his emotions in
check, but does not succeed. Coping with anxiety was for Zackery the root of his
behavior. And lashing out was and still is for him a poor way of handling
emotional pain. Things became better when Zackery ate regularly Pot brownies.
But what triggered anxiety and meltdowns which nobody could handle. In school,
the whole class left the room, when Zackery “went flipping”.
What was the reason for his anxiety? Restrictions! Zackery has a nice personality,
wants to please, and is very unassertive. Being denied something triggers fear. He
is not demanding. Fear is also triggered by certain people, authorities if he feels
unsupported by them.
When he is overcome by anxiety, Zackery lashes out and hits everything and
everybody standing in his ratio. Lashing out is his means of reacting to any
pressure. And it is involuntary, without intention and very difficult for him to
control. He is getting better though and is finding his own coping skills. More
about this later.
What did I do? How did I learn to cope? How did I lower his anxiety? And what
became a part of training for new caregivers? I avoided words like” no”, “you can’t”,” you are not allowed” and others like it. Restrictions trigger anxiety.
With time and trying out new ways of talking to him, it became clear to me that
distracting him before we had a problem was a good solution. And this demanded
keen observation from me. Looking for triggers, observing and listening to him
became priority. I give you one example. Zackery likes clothes. Imagine we are walking along a clothing store. He sees a t-shirt he likes and wants. I see it, too and know trouble is coming.
My proactive conversation with him would be as follows ….. continue walking
past that store …..” l know Zackery, you really like this shirt. And I know you like
red. This is your color. You would look so good in this t-shirt. You have such good taste”. I talk to him in an animated engaging way, praising him, validating his
feelings. Making him feel good and giving him the attention, he seeks. This is to
this day my way of distracting him, calming him, and making him forget how
important it is to him to have what he thinks he wants, needs and can be
Today I am an expert is distracting Zackery. His smiles and satisfaction are always
his answer to my efforts and my reward.
What did Zackery teach me? He taught me to lower m~ self defenses, to be more
genuinely attentive, observant and intuitive.