Forget about the targets you want to achieve and work towards the desired feelings instead because they will take you even further in helping your child grow.
I think like this..
- We choose to put labels on behavior. The label may be a diagnosis like Autism, ADHD etc.
- The behavior—how we act and how we speak—comes exclusively from our feelings
- The feelings—our emotions—are a mixture of different chemicals in the body.
- The chemicals—based upon our feelings—are controlled exclusively by the way we think—our thoughts, conscious or unconscious.
- A big reason for us to act in an undesirable way is because we feel stress—a mixture of emotions.
- The stress either comes from outside factors we cannot control or it is created inside our self by our own thoughts.
Stress is basically the feelings created when something is happening that you feel are difficult to handle. It is when something is happening and you have a hard time to control the outcome.
In our eagerness to try to take control of the situation we forget how we should behave. Children with diagnoses such as autism or ADHD, often exhibit classic examples of how stressful situations can degenerate in behaviors that the people around them have a hard time to understand or accept.
My oldest son has challenges with social interactions. He finds it difficult to know what to say and how to behave etc. It creates an internal stress that sometimes makes him behave strangely from time to time. One day, he finally dared to talk to a friend. They planned to go to the cinema together and see a movie. In the end, it ended up becoming five people who would go to the movies. My boy was excited and inspired.
That day he was tough at home, especially towards his younger brother. He was bossy and controlling and did not listen. He was extra stressed and nervous. He asked all the time what time was and thought about missing the bus that would take to downtown. The only thing that was in his mind was going to the movie.
Once he got home from the movie he was a happy and calm guy who was very satisfied.
If I had only chosen to see his behavior, I would have become irritated and angry. I may have even told him he could not go to the movie because of his behavior. But, I knew it was his stressed mind and nervousness that created his behavior on this day. Therefore I could handle it with a bigger smile and patience.
I knew that this day would give my son the feeling of being a little more like everyone else. To give him that feeling was worth much more than all the fights at home.
My son was aware of his difficult behavior and most children are often highly aware their difficulties. It is easy for us to focus on the behavior we adults think is wrong by blaming and shaming. Therefore it is particularly important that we can see our children for the feelings behind meltdowns, that are created by stress, instead of just seeing the “bad” behavior.
As an alternative strategy we can focus on helping children describe how they would like feel.
- I want to feel that I can better deal with new situations
- I want to feel more confident
- I want to feel more positive
Then, help your child think about what they can do to allow themselves to feel the desired feeling.
Take small steps. Add to the bar when they have had the chance to succeed. Only then can you gradually increase the level of challenge. Slowly but steadily you allow the child to grow toward the desired emotions and gain solid growth in each step.
You give them the chance to direct their thoughts and actions in the direction that makes them feel the child is moving towards what he or she desire.
By directing energy into creating desirable emotions it becomes easier to create a positive cycle of “good” behavior. As you slowly and consistently work together to actively raise the bar for achieving the long term desired feeling.
The positive spiral of emotions create a happier feeling inside, a more positive behavior and the ability to achieve much more that you thought was ever possible in the beginning.