Let’s jump into some awesome strategies that you can try out and implement if you find useful.
How could ‘no’ be positive, you ask? Easily!
Example: Old version of a ‘negative no’ (likely to start conflict)
Child: “Can I have ice cream right now?“
Parent: “No, it’s almost dinner time.“
Example: Positive ‘no’
Child: “Can I have ice cream right now?”
Parent: “You can absolutely have ice cream after dinner.”
Sound a bit different? More positive, isn’t it? The outcome is still the same and in alignment with your original standpoint (no ice cream now), but it is delivered in a much less confrontational and positive way. This technique is beneficial for those little ones diagnosed (or suspected of being diagnosed) with behavioural issues such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) and Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).
This technique is very helpful as it clearly defines the expectations and in what order and sequence things need to happen. This is absolutely brilliant for children with ADHD, ADD and ASD. Keep your statements short and sweet. Using as few words as possible helps to get your message across.
Here are some ‘First, Then’ examples:
“First dinner, then ice cream”.
“Bath first, then bed”.
“Pack blocks away first, then put them on the shelf”.
This one is similar to ‘first, then’, except you are putting more onus on the child as to when the task happens. You are still setting clear expectations, but there is less pressure or perceived demand in the instruction. This is extremely helpful for those little ones diagnosed with ODD and PDA.
Some examples are:
“When you have cleaned up, then you can play outside”.
“When you have finished your homework, then you can watch tv”.
When you are yelling at your child to “stop running!” for the 1000th time and they ignore you, it is easy for you to feel super frustrated. The key to success is all in the wording. Ever heard the term ‘selective hearing’? Well, in this case, it is kind of the case. Children sometimes only listen to parts of instructions or phrases. This is especially true for children with ADHD, ADD, ASD and other sensory processing disorders. Move from telling your child what they can’t do (which is reinforcing it as they are hearing it) to telling them what they can do.
Try some of the examples below:
“Quiet voice, please”
“Use gentle hands like this” (and demonstrate)
This is something I observe happening in society every single day. Adults frame directions as questions to children to ‘soften the blow’. Adults have learned the subtleties of this over time and see it for what it is – an expectation or direction. Children (especially autistic children) often take these questions literally and answer them literally and then wonder why the adult gets angry, then tells them to do it anyway. Everyone is left confused and frustrated and, more often than not, resentful.
A real-life example of this was I took my eldest daughter to the optometrist. The optician said to her, “Would you like to come look in this machine and see what you can see?”. My daughter replied, “No thanks.”. The optician turned to me openly confused and literally did not know what to do. I then said, “Well, you asked her a question. You asked her if she wanted to, and she said she doesn’t. We will have to respect her response and move on to the next test without doing that one. If you want her to do something, you will need to tell her what to do, not ask her if she wants to do it as you are then leaving it open to a ‘no’ response!”. You could have heard a pin drop, but my daughter felt respected and backed up by me, and the optician had a free lesson in how to phrase things more appropriate for children (especially an autistic child as mine is!). Remember – you are your child’s best advocate!
More examples you can try are:
“Would you like to clean up?“
“Can you take the rubbish out?“
“How about we do XYZ?“
“Time to clean up now. Thank you”
“I need you to take the rubbish out now, please”
“We are going to do XYZ in 5 minutes.”
Be sure to phrase things in a ‘black and white’ way so that your instructions are clear (ASD folks are super literal, remember). Always follow through with what you say you will do, so be very intentional with your wording! Children are like mini lawyers and will use your own words against you and find loopholes in ambiguous wordings – or at least my children do!
Things won’t always stay calm and connected with rainbows and butterflies. At some point, someone is going to lose their cool. We are humans. It’s what we do. Here are strategies that can help.
If your child has flipped their lid:
Connect then Redirect.
This is a brilliant technique developed by Dan Siegal and discussed in length in his book ‘The Whole Brain Child’, which I believe every parent or parent-to-be should read. In summary, this technique works by first connecting with your child emotionally (appealing to their ‘right-sided brain’), then redirected logically (appealing to the left side of the brain). Below is a very brief adapted summary of his work, but please do read ‘The Whole Brain Child’ for full understanding.
STEP 1) Connect
Connection Strategies – The Connection Cycle: Help your child feel ‘felt’.
STEP 2) Redirect
Helpful Redirection Strategies
If you have flipped your lid (it’s ok, it happens to the best of us!):
Rupture then repair.
This technique simply means that you repair your connection and bond with your child after a ‘rupture’ in the relationship has occurred (you yelling at them, being unreasonable etc.) After you have lost your cool or acted in a way you now regret and realise you could have handled better, approach your child in a calm, genuine way and utilise the following:
Wow, you are nearly done with this module! Well done. Let’s do some quick reflection homework.
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