Archive for September, 2013

6 Suggestions During a Standoff

1. Change body posture (I like to get low and sit in cross legged position). Quiet your bodies gestural cues to the situation so that you appear calm (not tense) and open postured (no hands crossed on chest). This immediately shifts the energy between you and the child- the feeling of power by size immediately changes. I used to do this with my homeless youth and my clients in residential treatment when they were extremely dis-regulated (angry or feeling threatened) or when I had to tell them hard news. ONLY DO THIS IF YOU TRUST YOU ARE NOT PUTTING YOURSELF AT RISK. 


2. VALIDATE your child’s experience- “”You’re upset. That didn’t seem fair to you when _____ did _____. You want him to know how mad you are by doing ____. I get why you feel that way”.

3. State short, clear expectations with calm reassuring voice and affect. Attempt to give clear expectation while being willing to say something like, “I’m willing to compromise but we both have to give a little”. “I’m willing to find a way where we both come to a solution that feels ok” (when you think this is appropriate). Be clear with the things  “I can’t compromise on” and why. Collaborate with child first, then give ultimate choices – “Here are your two choices…”- if child/children cannot come to a reasonable and safe alternative behavior or plan.  


4. Remember your ultimate goal – to get out of the standoff- Make a Plan back to stasis. Indicate a way out/back to grace (“If we can do this NOW, THEN you can get back to ____”). Allow child a chance to process through their anger (any emotion) thoughts without consequence. Don’t get caught up on language and tone when your child’s at a 10– recognize that the goal is to bring them down, not teach them a lesson on appropriate language and tone (that lesson is for later). If you do, you will find yourself caught in a web of power struggles that have nothing to do with the initial issue. 


5. Shift attention and affect– when you shift the topic and change your affect,  you almost always break tension. The hostage dynamic, where you’re waiting for him to break and he’s waiting for you to break is suddenly changed (there’s less to lose). This is a common skill we all use in our relationships with partners (make a joke to break the arguments tense point), with in-laws (we talk about the weather when we find ourselves suddenly in the room alone), etc. hostage negotiators are constantly shifting to alleviate tension. 

Attempt a simple affect change – smile, laugh mildly, and share an off topic or aligning comment to shift/break the energy (“man I thought that boy was a bit of a bully too” ….”those keys in your pocket, I wonder what they open”…”when is that show with the square guy on tonight?/what should we watch tonight?”…”I think it’s going to be a thunderstorm/sunny day/good day to go to the park/library/bounce outside/make some tacos”-whatever might shift focus. 

6. Recognize it may take awhile. Be Patient and follow through. PARENTS – SUPPORT EACHOTHER!!

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I recently created these very simple visual routines for the morning and before bed. This is used to clarify what is expected to happen when we say “Get ready for school” or “Get ready for Bed”. Again, being clear and visual with expectations takes the ambiguity out of communication.
These visuals were made using the application “Comic Life” ($4.99, for IPAD).
Both boys created these visuals with me and chose the pictures themselves (important that they feel a sense of ownership). Parents helped with the order and preferred sequence of events/tasks. With one of these young guys, we will likely pair a small incentive chart with this visual. The incentive chart will be made up of 5 boxes representing the 5 school days of the week. Every time he completes his morning routine and is out the door for the bus on time, he will receive a check on that morning’s box. When he’s gotten 5 boxes checked off (you can decide if this has to be consecutive or just 5 total), he will receive a trip to Dairy Queen with his mother to get a “Smores Blizzard”.

Morning routine 1

bedtime routine 1

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Please steal it, modify it for your child, and let me know what type of response you get. I noticed that the initial “Hey” is the hardest piece for our kids. This story came out of the many wonderful interactions I have with the children who struggle with initiating conversation and/or play with peers. I’d love to see pictures for this story. If you find yourself so inclined, please email me any drawings you and your child dream up after reading (spectrumshareconsulting@gmail.com).

Don’t let “Hey” get in the way of Play

There once was a girl named Mattie who had a frog caught in her throat. The Frog wasn’t always in her throat. Only some of the time. Strange Frog.
He would jump right into her mouth every time Mattie thought about talking to a new friend. How was she supposed to say “Hey” with a big old frog in her throat?

She needed to find a way to GET THIS FROG OUT!

First, she thought “Maybe I’ll carry around a net full of flies…frogs love flies…he won’t be able to resist. When it’s time to say ‘Hey’ to a new friend, I’ll just release the flies from the net and Voila, the frog will jump right out”. Perfect!
At once, the girl hurried to the pet store. “A net full of extra delicious frog flies please”, she said to the pet store owner. Later that day, net in hand, Mattie bravely walked over to her new neighbor’s house. Eve was the neighbor girl’s name. She rang Eve’s doorbell and as she began to hear footsteps approaching, she released the flies. Within seconds, the flies flew straight up into the blue sky and were gone. Mattie was left standing at the doorstep, scared and stiff, eye’s wide open, with that strange frog stuck in her throat. Eve smiled and said “Hey” but no words would come out of Mattie’s mouth. She stood there for a moment, as Eve looked straight at her. Mattie turned and ran home, embarrassed and disappointed that her plan didn’t work.

Thankfully, she was a brave girl and wasn’t ready to give up yet. She really wanted to be Eve’s friend. The next day, she thought to herself, “What about a Lily pad? That won’t fly away and frogs love Lily pads”. She grabbed her mud boots and went trudging through the stinky, squishy neighborhood swamp. Within minutes, she found a big green Lilly pad sitting in the middle of the pond with a frog on it. “Oh yeah…this is going to work”, she thought. She swept the frog off and put the Lilly pad inside her boot. When she got home, she nicely asked her mother to call Eve to come and play.

When the doorbell rang, the frog appeared in her throat as expected. Mattie took a deep breath in and quickly threw down the lily Pad as the door opened. The frog jumped out at the sight of the big green lily pad, and to her surprise her voice produced a quiet “Hey”. Mattie felt Incredible, Wonderful, Great!
Eve said “Hey” back and the girls ran upstairs to play.

Mattie couldn’t believe it, her plan worked. Now she had a trick to get that strange frog out of her throat and a new friend to play with. Finally she could say “Hey”, just three little letters, when she wanted to play.

As for the frog, he’s still around…with all these summer mosquitos, it doesn’t hurt to have a pet frog (Picture Mattie sleeping in her bed with the frog sitting on the edge snatching up mosquitos).

UPDATE to Post (10/2013):
This picture was the creation of a young girl following the reading of the story above. We created what the world looked like for “Mattie” – making the story come to life. It was great!
frog picture

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