20 September 2018

Pathological Demand Avoidance - Reducing Your Child’s Anxiety - PART 2

Does It Really Matter?

I am a little overwhelmed that there were so many people reading the introduction to - Reducing Your Child’s Anxiety - and also so sad that so many of our children are struggling so terribly. I sincerely hope that the strategy I am about to share with you gives you an extra option in your tool box and a little hope that something, anything, just may work to help reduce your childs evident stress and mental exhaustion so that they can gain some relief from their anxiety. 

Sometimes when you try a new way of parenting or some different strategies your child’s anxiety may increase a little before you see any improvements, and I want to reassure that this is completely normal. Its a different way of parenting and things are changing and it can be a little confusing for the child to comprehend straight away that actually they can control this and they can trust you. Its not about allowing your child to get away with everything - although sometimes when you’re tired I totally understand that it can feel like that at times or that people are judging you for your parenting decisions. 

This is YOUR child. YOU make the decisions in the way that you help manage your child’s difficulties and if it works then don’t allow anything or anyone to challenge what works for your family.

There are three steps to the parenting style that we use and they need to be used in the correct order, consistently from day 1.

STEP ONE - Choosing Your Three Non - Negotiable Rules.

The most important thing Is to sit down with the people around you, who live with you, or have parental responsibility and work out the Three (maximum) issues or behaviours that you would like to turn around, or change or eliminate. You cannot have more than three because if you do you’ll be back at square one and things get complicated and theres too much to tackle at once. Creating three non-negotiable behaviours, or challenges that are essential and have some sort of consequence - and this could be a natural consequence (which i’ll explain a bit more about later

The consequence should be treated with caution though. You shouldn’t consequence a child with things that are involved with a sensory diet, or is a repetitive or calming activity that your child uses as part of their routine, and this is where consequences can become a bit complicated. 

You don’t want to introduce these non - negotiable behaviour “rules” (pssss don’t call them that to the child it will only increase their anxiety) - and then take away their I-Pad which helps them sit still for more than two minutes, or keeps them calm in stressful situations and then end up not only stressing your son or daughter out, but punishing yourself and your family at the same time. 

Take away their pudding, or their after School treat. (as long as that isn’t routine based also) You see, this can be quite confusing and the structure of this can be changed and alternated as you wish and as you grow together. You all want to be comfortable in the knowledge that your child isn’t distressed, and the family aren’t all walking on egg shells.  

For example - When Lola becomes violent, which is our top non - negotiable I make sure that the others are okay before I remove Lola from the room and take her to her bedroom. That is her consequence. However, because Lola doesn’t like to be on her own and will not stay there I have to be with her. I use no spoken language and avoid eye contact. Sometimes I’ll make myself busy with tidying around but other times I will sit there and wait until I know she’s going to be responsive to physical contact. Then I will calm her down before I speak to her about what happened. Sometimes this part of the process can take the longest, because she may not be responsive to verbal communication for a long time afterwards and so in these circumstances I will leaver in her room, put her TV on and allow her some time to process whats happened on her own. Violence is NEVER accepted in our house and I know that I am fortunate enough to be in a position where Lola is not stronger than me, and has very rarely been violent to me directly, so this advice may not be of benefit to some people who have older or much stronger children than myself, but you can adapt these techniques to suit you and your child as long as its benefitting you. 

I will always have a conversation with Lola about what happened and sometimes she doesn’t remember, which is quite common for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder particularly when they’ve been violent as part of a meltdown. 

So choose wisely, and carefully and be realistic. We want this to succeed, and for it to succeed you need to lower your expectations considerably for this to have the desired effect. Remember what it is you’re aiming for and the key point to remember when implementing these ‘non - negotiables’ is that anything else is considered IGNORED. Ask yourself continually “does it really matter?”

“Does it really matter?” - If she hasn’t brushed her hair.

“Does it really matter?” - If she is wearing shorts instead of the pretty dress you picked out for her for a princess birthday party. 

“Does it really matter?” - If he wants to lay in the middle of the room on the floor in the way of everyone else lining up cars or books. 

“Does it really matter?” - If he wants to wear odd socks. 

“Does it really matter?” - If she always has to be the first one out the door. NOPE

“Does it really matter” - If they asked for ham and you made ham, but now they want marmite. 

They need to see that not everything is a demand. By using the examples above I hope that you can the positive instead of the negative in them and that is key to changing your mindset and your language. So he wants to wear odd socks, at least he got them on! Yes she did ask for ham, but if it encourages her to eat on time then hell I am going to make another with marmite in it. “DOES IT REALLY MATTER?” is a question I find I ask myself almost automatically now, and that also came with the notion of “If you’re going to end up saying YES, then why bother saying NO in the first place.” Honestly I cannot stress the phrase of “DOES IT REALLY MATTER?” any more importantly than I have.

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Lots Of Love....

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