Transform Parenthood – the beginning
In my last post, I shared the beginning stages of how we transform ourselves as parents. I also talk about the impetus behind the transformation. Like I stated in that post, making the decision to transform your style as a parent is easy. Following thru is something else entirely.
Do What is Right, Not What is Easy.
Right for David is being the in the community with his peers. Public school. Mainstream classes.
It means trust where none existed before.
In addition it means that we need to be accepting of the fact that things will happen.
It means holding David accountable while basically ignoring the incident for a minimum of 24 hours, though 48 hours is better.
On his first day of school in the new district, David asked for an aide to support him. We told the school staff that there was a risk that he would steal a cell phone. David explained that an aide would help him stay on task and out of trouble. Initially it was denied.
While it may appear that we are letting David get away with whatever he wants to do, the reality is far different. What we do, if something happens, is diffuse his anxiety over being “punished”. We basically call a timeout for the incident. This is only to prevent a build up of his anxiety and by diffusing the situation, we then reduce the likelihood that he will erupt in violence or very negative behaviors that have accompanied past confrontations of any kind.
By removing as much anxiety and restricting the violent response he is able to calm himself. At the end of the “calming” period, we address what he might have done differently in a given situation. Because of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, he has little to no executive function processing. As a result he has difficulty relating consequences of any kind to a specific behavior or incident.
An example. On March 20, David stole a cell phone. He lied about taking it. Then he denied it. Following the denial he shared what were for him intact memories around the event that didn’t actually happen. This false memory is called “confabulation“. Because of the confabulation, he was charged with theft. He was also charged with lying to law enforcement.
The punishment he received from the school was immediate. Out of school suspension. Because of the timing of the event, he had a weekend between the event and the punishment commencing. We used this time to distract him and decrease his anxiety. Any compulsive behaviors we might have experienced had then been mitigated by the distraction.
For David, the suspension was a non-event.
Eventually we had court for the charges. David received six months of probation. Again, he was accepting of the punishment.
Fast forward two months later. It is now the end of the school year and his grades are in. The grade report is strong enough that he isn’t required to take finals. This opportunity to avoid finals was cancelled. In it mind it was no relation to the cell phone that he stole. It was and is entirely tied to his out of school suspension. There is no correlation between the incident with the cell phone, and the out of school suspension. He simply doesn’t have the ability to tie the two together. For most people it is intuitive, for him it is part of the organic brain damage caused before he was born.
So, what punishment did mom and I give him?
Do what is right. Not what is easy
Mom and I decided that the punishment he had been given thru both the school and the courts was sufficient. We actually followed thru with our plan to give him a cell phone. Something we had planned to do the Saturday immediately following the incident. Sure we could have delayed, but why? We asked ourselves one simple question; “What would we have gained?”
The symptoms he displayed the day of the cell phone incident are part of his disability. On the day of the incident, once I calmed him down enough to be able to have a conversation with him and help him to understand the need to return the cell phone he gave up its location.
By assuring him that we had his back, and would stand behind him, we were able to decrease his anxiety. Which also decreased his “fight or flight” instinct. All of this allowed him to respond without becoming explosively violent.
We celebrated that!!!
More to come.