During my last therapy session two weeks ago, my counselor encouraged me to stop yelling at my kids. Reluctantly, I agreed to his challenge, with the help of some parenting strategies he suggested.
Please don't judge me, I was raised by a screaming mother and it seems that my yelling is as natural as breathing. Add on to my daughter's lack of attention and sensory issues, it is very difficult for her to pay attention and follow my instructions. After a gentle approach of a calm request like, "Sienna, come to the dinner table." She ignores me. Repeat this process three times and I default to screaming. I don't like to scream, although at times I admit it is a release of my frustration and the success factor is pretty good. Screaming is the only way I have been able to get any type of reaction from her. It is like it startles her out of a gaze and she finally does what was requested, instantly - out of fear.
It has been two weeks though since I have talked to my daughter about not screaming at her any more. She seemed glad, of course and so far, I have been doing a pretty good job.
What has helped me to do this new sans-screaming method? Here is a short list of the reasons I think my screaming has left the building. Perhaps they will be tips that may help you too!
1. Pediatrician put my daughter on medication for her ADHD. I saw instant results in her behavior! Since I have always wondered if I might also have ADHD, perhaps medication could also help me?
2. Doctor put me on medication. From the first day I started taking it, I felt like my thoughts were stronger, almost like they were being funneled together. I felt like I had some self control and I felt more confident like I could take on a new approach to parenting.
3. I went on a sugar-free diet. To read more about my post on my new diet, click here. No more extreme blood sugar highs and lows. I didn't do this solely for the self-control to stop screaming, however it has been an added benefit to my parenting technique!
4. I started taking a first aid kit in my purse at all times. It consisted of gum, Band-Aids, baby asprin and Tums. This helps when my daughter "freaks-out" over small boo-boos. From my perspective, her teeny tiny scratches are no big deal, somewhat ridiculous and her over reaction to them used to make me so upset. Once I realized that they were huge anxiety triggers for my daughter, I learned that these first aid items could calm her.
5. No more PDO's (Public Display Outbursts)! One thing that really caused a fire of rage in me was when she would throw a tantrum in public. I would hold it all inside and as soon as we were in private, I would scream and yell. I am now trying a new approach. As soon as I see she is starting to rev up for a tantrum, I remove her from the public eye. We go out side, in a hallway or into our van. This is supposed to dismantle her power and give the parent more control. So far, we haven't had to use this technique. But just knowing about the strategy gives me confidence that I will use it when the time comes.
5.1 I am learning to put zero value on public opinion. Also, one of the most difficult obstacles for me to overcome in parenting my children on the spectrum is to let go of the public opinion! I have lived a life of thinking about what others think of me. God helped me overcome this worry by allowing me to experience children on the autism spectrum. I am letting go of that worry. It takes a lot of energy that I just don't have any more! Again, don't judge me. But, if you choose to judge, then, oh well. Your judgement doesn't bother me as much as it used to!
6. Stop talking about it over and over. Just do it! Instead of telling her, nagging at her to clean her room over and over again. I just started to silently take her toys away that she was not taking care of. One evening, I had a large bag overflowing with her toys. She asked me what the bag was for. I replied that I was removing them from her room because she wasn't taking care of them. I told her that I was thinking about giving them to the thrift store so that some other child could play with them. I also spent four hours one day cleaning, organizing and purging her room for her. More about organizing an Aspie's bedroom in a later post...
7. Let her be late for school and face the consequences. She's gifted and in the first grade. She is able to get dressed, eat and leave for school on time. I shouldn't have to remind her over and over of what she needs to be doing minute by minute of every morning. I have made her morning charts zillions of times. Sometimes they work but most of the time she loses the charts and relies on my nagging and screaming to get her to school on time. But, by nagging at her every morning, I have become a mute nuisance to her ears. Realizing my growing level of frustration, I have relinquished the morning drill-sergeant role. I remind her gently from time to time throughout the morning now, but overall she knows that I will not get stressed out any more about if she is late. The other day, she tested this new approach and decided to hide under the couch. I finished making her lunch, walked by her telling her I was going upstairs to get dressed so I could walk her into the principal's office. When I came downstairs, in stealth mode, I pulled her from out from the couch, put her coat on and walked her across the street to school. We then walked into the principal's office and I told her to tell him why she was late. And that was that. No screaming. No mommie-dearest! She was tardy, she will learn not be tardy.
These strategies have helped me so much so far! Overall I realize that parenting is a work in progress. I am taking monumental steps in the right direction. There are sometimes when I slip and I start to scream. And then, I say aloud, "NO! I AM NOT GOING TO SCREAM ANYMORE!" I breathe deeply. I recall my new strategies and move forward, quietly and calmly. Slowly I am realizing that I have overcome a lot. I have broken the cycle from the past of screaming and I hope to have a home filled with peace, love and understanding. I have a hope that despite the way I was raised and despite the challenges that autism, ADHD and other sensory issues bring to a family, that I can still have a home of peace.
How about you? Do you scream at your kids? What are your triggers? How do you cope? Or, have you lost hope and just settle on being a Mommie Dearest?