Monday, May 11, 2009

mom one, punkin zero

One of the biggest lessons I've learned since working in a special ed preschool room and raising a special needs child is that every behavior serves a purpose. It sounds simple, maybe too simple, but it's true. Every behavior has a payoff, and those that get a bigger payoff will occur more often.

As adults, we smile at customer service representatives to try and change the outcome of our request. We say hello to get another person's attention. We play with our kids to avoid washing dishes. We turn on a movie because it will make our children sit still. We write blog posts to get comments.

Babies cry so mom or dad will pick them up, they spit out food to let us know that pureed asparagus is disgustingly craptastic, and they lean in to give us slobbery kisses because it makes us squeal.

As parents and caregivers we often say things like, "He hit her for no reason!" or "I don't know why he keeps whining and clinging to me" or every time I tell him to complete a task, he flips out." There is always a reason. We don't act simply to act; we want to gain something from our actions.

Behavior is a form of communication. And when expressive language lags, non-verbal communication escalates. Behavior always serves a purpose, whether it be to escape or delay a task, to gain attention, or to get a reward.

For example, Punkin was a very cheery kid this afternoon. He played and worked with his respite worker and even asked her to stay when I came home. He continued to play until I told him it was time to eat dinner and turn off Handy Manny, at which point he turned into a raving lunatic. He never said, "I want the movie back." Instead, he shoved his plate away from him, ran into the living room, and sobbed while I ate dinner. After some time he calmed down and I let him know that he had to sit down. Then he smacked me, yelled no at me, and was generally unpleasant to be around. He continued to cry alligator tears for a while until he realized he WASN'T getting up. So he ate his fruit and vegetables, tried one bite of the casserole, and was set free.

Ultimately his crying DID delay having to sit at the table, but since he spent that time flipping out and without access to preferred items, I really didn't care. It's easy to let the meltdown suck me in, make me adapt TOO much. But I refuse to cook more than one meal at a time and I refuse to let a 4-year-old decide our ENTIRE schedule. Sure, I have to keep him in mind, but ultimately I am the boss. Also, I won.


Punkin's Oma said...

Your decisions today will make future ones easier.

Keep up the good work.

Love Ya,

fragilemom said...

Great job. I tend to be the same way. Meal times for us are not always pleasant, but I usually win. (I know, it's not about the winner, but it does feel good!) Love those kids!

Holly's Mom said...

Is Pumpkin at a Developmental stage where you can reason with him, Like tell him the longer he has a fit the longer he will have to wait until he gets Handy Manny Back, and the quicker he eats the faster he can go play.. Am I just fooling myself to think one day I can have that type of logical conversation with my child and we won't have to do battle?

the other lion said...

He wouldn't understand me reasoning with him, but you may be able to have that conversation with Holly some day. He would understand a pictures, though, and I may need to break those out again. I tend to leave him alone during huge meltdowns when over not getting his way because I'm afraid that if I talk to him more than just to say, for example, "Come to the table" he will see the attention as positive and think "I scream, mom comes and talks to me."

Jana Nickle said...

I do the same with my kids. I figure if they dont want to eat what I make, thats fine, no snacks or desert the rest of the evening. They certainly wont starve. I learned this on Dr. Phil. And on Supernanny, she says that giving them any kind of attention when they are in time out just rewards their behavior. So I totally agree with you. Keep up the great work and thanks for all your advice.

Anonymous said...

You are doing a great job!!!
I love you,
Aunt Patty

FXSmom said...

u r an amazing mom. so many people don't get this! :o)