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He wants to go back in time

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

This is such a specific thing that I doubt there will be many been there, done that stories exactly, but maybe someone will recognize a larger pattern and have some suggestions.

 

My son just turned 3 and has a HFA dx. Most of the time he’s a pretty joyful, easygoing guy. My parenting approach is based in connection and empathy. But there’s a certain meltdown that I’m really not sure how to handle, and I’m wondering if this is one of those instances of needing to adjust my parenting philosophy to better support the specific child in front of me.

 

What happens is that when he has to make a choice (do you want to play with your trains, or help me make dinner?), and then we reach the results of that choice (dinner is ready and he didn’t help) he desperately wants to go back and make the other choice instead. The meltdown is painful and despairing (definitely not at all testing or manipulative). He’s very verbal and it’s very clear what’s upsetting him.

 

It can even surface days or weeks after the fact – he’ll suddenly bring up some seemingly inconsequential thing and not understand/accept that we can’t go back and do it differently.

 

I’ve tried empathizing (you wish you had helped with dinner instead of playing with your trains, you’re sad and mad because you wanted to help make dinner), just holding him, redirection, giving him anchors to ground him in the present moment (breathing, what we see right now, feeling the hug that we’re having right now). Everything seems to escalate the upset. It just makes him so miserable, and I'm at such a loss.

 

Help?


Edited by baltmom - 2/3/13 at 12:40pm
post #2 of 7

What a sensitive little boy!  My first thought for you is something I learned when my son attended a waldorf toddler program years ago.  One thing they teach parents is to give no choices to very young children.  It initially feels counter-intuitive to gentle parenting, but, their belief is that choices can easily overpower a developing ego.  They site examples such as what you described, or even offering choices for three different kinds of cookie, or a choice for an activity.  They taught that parents should present what will be done or what will be eaten, as a way to shoulder the responsibility for the choice.  As a child's ego develops then they are better able to shoulder that responsibility.

 

Your son has a special way of showing his discomfort and he seems very in touch with his feelings.  I believe many children are uncomfortable making choices even if they don't show it the same way as your son does.  It takes them out of the "joyful" imaginative place that waldorf education fosters.  Both my children (my oldest has HFA too) attended waldorf style preschools and they have such a zest and joy for play and a great enthusiasm for life.

 

So, my suggestion is to try to take as many choices out of his day as possible and discuss what you will do as "this is what we will do today, this is what we will eat today, these are the toys we will take out today etc."  Within that is the freedom for him to be imaginative and playful.

 

Hope this helps.
 

post #3 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by livinglife View Post

What a sensitive little boy!  My first thought for you is something I learned when my son attended a waldorf toddler program years ago.  One thing they teach parents is to give no choices to very young children.  It initially feels counter-intuitive to gentle parenting, but, their belief is that choices can easily overpower a developing ego.  They site examples such as what you described, or even offering choices for three different kinds of cookie, or a choice for an activity.  They taught that parents should present what will be done or what will be eaten, as a way to shoulder the responsibility for the choice.  As a child's ego develops then they are better able to shoulder that responsibility.

 

Your son has a special way of showing his discomfort and he seems very in touch with his feelings.  I believe many children are uncomfortable making choices even if they don't show it the same way as your son does.  It takes them out of the "joyful" imaginative place that waldorf education fosters.  Both my children (my oldest has HFA too) attended waldorf style preschools and they have such a zest and joy for play and a great enthusiasm for life.

 

So, my suggestion is to try to take as many choices out of his day as possible and discuss what you will do as "this is what we will do today, this is what we will eat today, these are the toys we will take out today etc."  Within that is the freedom for him to be imaginative and playful.

 

Hope this helps.
 

 

This is wonderful advice! Wow. Just wow.
 

post #4 of 7
I agree with giving far fewer choices. I also would try giving simpler, less emotionally-laden choices when you do let him choose... think, "red cup or blue?" instead of "cook or play?"...

DS has similar meltdowns about his choices at times, and wants to go back & make the opposite choice... Not long ago I noticed that in the past I have been inconsistent about following through with choices. So if I said, "Do you want red or blue?" and he said blue but later wanted red, I'd usually give him blue -- switch it out or just give him both. It worked at the time, because he was learning about changing his mind, and the choices were simple & not really of any consequence. But I noticed in the long-term that it kind of altered how he thought about choices, and he didn't quite understand that some choices have more "permanent" consequences. So then if I said, "It's almost bedtime, do you want to play longer or take a bath?" and he said "play," then when it was bedtime, he'd start crying & crying and saying, "But I wanted a bath!!! I wish I chose bath!! Can we start again so I can choose bath?!?!!?" And like your DS, for him it wasn't anything manipulative, just a sincere level of despair/disappointment & a lack of understanding about not being able to change his mind about some choices. So, what I started doing was being more firm about even the smaller choices... not letting him change his mind, not indulging him, although at the same time expressing concern & empathy for his feelings. I'd say things like, "I know, you're sad you can't have both, you wish you chose red, next time you can choose red." The consistency really helped him make the mental shift in understanding choices/consequences, and saying "next time" helped him understand that THIS choice was done & over but that he could make a different choice in the future... that eventually he could have both things he wanted.

In your example, you said you asked him if he wanted to play with trains or help cook dinner. That's a tough choice for a 3 year old because they both sound fun and it's hard to choose between 2 great options!! I think you could give him the same sense of autonomy without making him feel like he has to choose. So when it's time to make dinner, you can simply tell him you're going to make dinner. Sometimes he might ignore you & keep playing, and other times he might pull up a stool and ask to help. He can still have the same options and power to make his own choices, but if you're not framing it as a choice it might take some of the drama out of it. I know even this isn't a fail-safe method... I know my own DS often has some plan in his head and when things don't end up the way he'd planned he tends to get really upset. Sometimes I ask him what his plan is: "I'm going to make dinner, what's your plan?" and if he says something like, "I want to play but I also want to help you cook dinner," then I'd let him play for a bit and then call him over for help chopping mushrooms. Knowing his plan helps me to help him implement it.

I'm really glad you posted this because I had no conscious awareness that I was doing any of what I just wrote lol!! (DS has a way easier time with me than with DH so it's really helpful to me to identify & share with DH all those subconscious things I do to help him throughout the day so he can do them too.)
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thank you to all! So interesting and so helpful.

 

So this may muddy the waters a bit, but it isn't always such an explicit choice as the example I gave. In fact, that particular situation only turned into a choice because when I used to do what you suggest, crunchy mommy - just let him know I'm making dinner  and leave it at that - then he would get really upset if he kept doing what he was doing and then realized dinner was made and wish that he'd come over to help, so I made it explicit to try to help him realize that was the point he needed to switch if he wanted to.

 

But it also happens with things where there's no direct choice at all - like if he takes a bite of sandwich, and then wants the sandwich whole again. I understand this is part of wanting things a certain way, but what he seems to get stuck on is the part where we can't go back and fix it. It really seems like he sees such an obvious solution, and why can't mommy just do this simple thing I'm asking?

 

For all of those reasons, I like the idea of being really consistent even with the little things, to help him make that mental shift about understanding consequences. Ugh, though, because it keeps the peace so well when it's something little and I can just make it better.

 

I really like the fewer choices idea, at least in theory. I also feel like most of our day is already pretty much that way, and that I offer (simple) choices to ease the way. Now we're putting on coats and shoes to get in the car. Are you going to bring the train or the dinosaur? There is so much resistance to any sort of transition, whether there's a choice or not! And wishing he could have chosen a different path whether one was explicitly offered, or not. Eg, after we get where we're going, "I want to stay home."

 

So nice to know we're not the only ones after all smile.gif

post #6 of 7
How about a picture schedule for your day, and some social-story kind of things for parts of the day?

So part of your daily schedule could always include him helping with dinner. And whatever else he tends to look forward to or get upset about missing. He could even help you make the schedule so he fully understands the plan (and you will better understand what he's expecting to happen).

And for something like the sandwich, I'm envisioning a "social story" (minus the social, I guess!) or picture sequence where you show how he will get a whole sandwich, and then he will take a bite out of it, and then he will take more bites, and then there will be just crumbs left, and then he will put his plate in the kitchen.

Maybe just getting more predictability will help him wrap his head around it and mentally prepare for what will happen?
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm going to try the picture schedule. I haven't used this yet because he's so verbal that it never seemed it would be helpful, but I'm beginning to understand that his use of the words doesn't necessarily mean full comprehension of the concepts. Our days are very predictable (I work full time and he's in daycare full time, so our morning and evening routines don't have much room for change) but maybe he will feel better being able to predict the predictability, if that makes sense.

 

Thank you!!

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