When things are difficult in my house, I can't always explain WHY things are the way they are. But I am always trying to figure it out. Sometimes this is (practically) harmful. Sometimes it's not necessary to figure out WHY a particular cherub is freaking out. Sometimes the most important thing I can do is simply be there.
Most of the time though, when I can figure out the "why" behind the behavior, I can help make things better. For TT he often regulates, and stays regulated, if I can help him understand why Mr. Wonky came to visit in the first place.
Starting a couple days ago I began asking the cherubs what they would like to do on the Forth of July. Bart wanted to go see the fireworks. TT did not. He doesn't like loud noises and fireworks bother him. However, he wouldn't exactly say that he didn't want to go see a fireworks show. Basically, he just wouldn't participate in the conversation. So, I registered his "vote" as neutral.
As a family then, we began making plans to go see a show. Simple stuff. We'll bring some junk food, sparklers and blankets to sit on. It will be fun. I told all the cherubs they could choose whether or not they wanted to go. I offered to buy ear plugs for TT. I tried to make it as low key as I could. TT still wouldn't say anything about what he wanted or didn't want.
And here we are on the Forth of July. The little cherubs woke up this morning and turned on the TV. Mr. Amazing and I slept in a bit. When I came downstairs around 8:30 I made breakfast for everyone. Life was good!
Then the TV went off and Mr. Wonky made "his" presence well known. TT started totally freaking out. First it was little things. He couldn't seem to engage in play. He was a little bit whiny. Then he got out the Nerf guns. I told him that the gun needed to stay upstairs and he needed to play nicely.
Fast forward about 10 minutes and I heard Dude whining, "TT, don't shoot me." I rounded the corner to see TT about 2.5 feet away from Dude pointing a very big Nerf gun directly at him! I redirected by taking the gun and telling TT to go downstairs. (Simply to put TT in a different room from Dude.)
Mr. Wonky took over. TT began screaming, "I wasn't pointing it at him!" He flipped and flopped himself all the way downstairs. TT honestly believed in his wonky state that he hadn't been pointing the gun directly at Dude. Despite the fact I saw it all very clearly, he insisted he hadn't been doing anything wrong. Once downstairs, he walked over to the couch and started throwing pillows around our living room. Knowing TT the way he does, Mr. Amazing knew that TT needed to be redirected again or the violence would escalate. It would move from pillows to furniture. Mr. Amazing sent TT up to his room.
I met TT in his room and offered to comfort him. He would have none of it. So, I went back to my room to finish getting ready for the day.
Then it hit me.
I figured it out.
It would be easier for TT to get grounded from the fireworks than to ask for ear plugs or say he didn't want to go to the show.
And this is where therapeutic parenting looks oh so different from "typical" parenting. With a "normal" child (if there is such a thing) it would be common to punish the child for the outburst and (in this case potential) destruction of property.
I knew that would not be the approach to take if I wanted TT to feel better the rest of the day. So, I went back in to his room and told him I had it all figured out. We've been doing this kind of parenting long enough that he knew what I meant. It scared him a little so he rejected my attempts to comfort him. He stayed under his pillow and blankets on his bed. Speaking calmly and slowly I explained to him through the blankets that he was trying to get himself grounded from the family event tonight.
At first he screamed, "no!" back at me. Quickly though he calmed down and came out from under the blankets. I told him that he needed to bring his comfort blanket with him and come sit in my room while I finished getting ready. Then, I'd take him out and he could pick out his own ear plugs.
As quickly as Mr. Wonky came, he left. TT and I went to the store and he picked out the exact ear plugs he wanted. Having that control over the situation really helped him! Then we picked out a couple junky snacks to bring along tonight. Then we went out to lunch together.
Therapeutic parenting looks so different. Yes, my kid through a huge temper tantrum and he got "rewarded" by getting some one on one time and a lunch out. But the wording is all wrong. I didn't reward my kid for doing wrong at all!! Instead, I met his need and we stayed connected as a family. I brought him in closer to me.
He knows what he did is wrong. He knows that his outburst wasn't an OK thing to do. He knows he's not allowed to throw things in the living room. (Pillows may be thrown and punched to his delight in his bedroom. But I'll be honest, I'd like to keep my TV in all one piece in my living room.) TT knows right from wrong and he doesn't need a half-hour lecture from me reminding him.
Don't get me wrong. I still screw up this therapeutic stuff all too often and dole out unnecessary lectures. But this morning, it went right more than it went wrong. And since we got back from lunch TT has been playing nicely with his brothers for the most part. I'm confident that the rest of the day will go off without a hitch.
This kind of parenting certainly keeps me on my toes. I feel like a detective most of the time....trying to figure out the why behind the behavior so I can best meet the need. But when I get it right it feels so good.