Monday, 30 April 2012

Different strategies for different situations?

I wonder how many of you manage your children in the same way no matter where you are? Do you let your children get away with just that little bit more when you aren’t at home? Or the opposite?

I know we don’t always offer the same discipline/consequences. As much as we would really like to, we don’t.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this either? I know that consistency is key to helping Mini, but I am we’re struggling.

Mini’s behaviour is improving, or at least, the way we’re dealing with it is improving. We’re more consistent and we follow through on what we say. We’re becoming more confident in taking him out again – baby steps at the moment, but out for walks, to the supermarket, we’ve ventured to friends recently, and Mini had a much wanted sleepover at Nanna and Grandad’s.. But I know that without timeout, happy faces and our other strategies, we don’t handle him as well out as we do at home.

At home if Mini screams, he goes straight onto time out. If Mini screams when we’re at the shops, what do we do? There is no time out. I know some mums create a time out wherever they are, but I’m just not brave enough to do that, and because of the way we ‘do’ timeout, I can’t just drop everything and bear hug/hold/cuddle a crying child in the middle of the highstreet, especially if I also have Dollop with me too. So if I’m on my own, he gets away with it. I have no choice  - I have to shop – we have to eat, have clothes etc (although I admit I do try to do things like this in the evenings, so it’s not so much of an issue now I’ve changed my own routines) If the NC is with us, he’ll often take Mini outside, or back to the car, to remove him from the situation.

When visiting family or friends, things are different again. I have, in the past, used time out at my in-laws house – only once, because it was awful. Nanna and Grandad got to see Mini at his worst (well, it wasn’t that bad, but probably the worst they’d seen at that time). I felt awful they had to see it. They didn’t like seeing Mini so upset. I wasn’t confident at using time out then because a) we’d not been doing it long and I wasn’t sure how well it was working and b) because I was worried that my in-laws would judge me for using a technique that they wouldn’t have.  Nanna’s very good at talking to and reasoning with Mini, but it doesn’t work for me or the NC, hence us using other techniques.
There’s that fear of being undermined too, At times I’ve asked Mini to stop doing something at a friend’s house and he’ll ignore me, so I’ll ask him again. Then friend will sweep in and say ‘oh it’s alright, I don’t mind if he draws in green felt tip pen all over my new hardwood floors’ and he’ll stop straight away. Mini then has that smug look on his face, we feel pathetically useless and friend doesn’t realise that he/she has just undermined us.

Now there’s a bit of a debate…is it best to stop (as we’ve previously done for our own sanity) all contact with the outside world so these opportunities just don’t present themselves? Mini doesn’t get stressed, we don’t get stressed.
Do we make a concerted effort to go out regardless of the possible behaviours that might occur? And if this is the way forward, how do we cope on those days where Mini is less….willing to co-operate comfortable in the situation?

I kind of think the overall decision about going out or not can only really be made when we find out why these situations bother Mini.  We think that part of it relates to his worries about being moved on to a new family (although we don’t know quite why he feels like this). It seems to us that often  Mini’s less desirable behaviours occur when he’s  in (or after he’s been in) a situation where he feels under threat of this happening.  So do we use these opportunities to re-assure both whilst we’re out, and afterwards, that this won’t happen? Or do we avoid those traumatic situations altogether?

Only time (and therapy!) will tell….


  1. What a difficult dilemma and one I'm not qualified to answer as I only have my own experience. One thing that I am tempted to say is that if you're having success with techniques at home then it's worth doing them out and about so that Mini knows that rules are rules and they don't change when you're not at home.

    We use time-out wherever we go (and 1,2,3). I've had kicking and screaming in the shops (one memorable one in Waitrose!) and I've taken Katie to one side and put her on time-out. I stand a little way away from her and ignore her. I've even sat her on the floor whilst we were queueing in Matalan once because her behaviour was pretty awful. If things were really bad and esculating then I would leave the shop but there would be a consequence that followed that. I do feel though that that, for me, is a last resort. Katie has to learn to express her emotions at appropriate times and she knows I won't tolerate it in a shop! We always discuss why she had a tantrum after the event which she finds useful and I'm able to listen to her. I remember once we were in Accessorize at Christmas and she had a full-blown tantrum. She was still in her buggy at that time so my time-out then was the buggy. I man-handled her into the buggy (which required some effort on my part). No sooner had I done that, when a Shop Assistant came over with some stickers to "cheer her up!". I very clearly stated to the lady that there was no way I was rewarding this behaviour but thank you for the kind thought.

    I do often have some sort of treat lined up if I'm expecting Katie to behave in the shops for some time though and that can be removed if her behaviour isn't acceptable. We go to Costa for a babychino, which she loves so it's a good incentive.

    I use time-out at friends houses. I have found parents are pretty supportive of other parents who are handling a situation. That's certainly been my experience. I had a mum come to show me some support once in a shopping centre when Katie was kicking and screaming outside Claire's Accessories LOL

    I hope you get some support to help you with techniques out and about. I do wonder though if Mini knows that by behaving in this way outside of home that he will ensure an outcome that he wants i.e. to go home. A sort of negative attention behaviour. Katie is very good at the negative attention technique (have to keep my eyes on her!). I will also say to have confidence in yourself. You are doing a great job xxxx

  2. I ditto most of the above. If Bonzo shows signs of faltering in shops etc, I stand to one side and just ask him to sit quietly - if he refuses (which he doesn't generally as he realises this is me getting serious), then I take him outside the shop and do time out.
    Generally, shopping he is ok as he enjoys it (weird!), at other people's houses I try to do the same as I would at home - not always easy as many friends are far more relaxed about some behaviours than I am!!
    With my parents I have to grin and bare it, as whatever I do will be greeted by sighs and 'oh, for heavens sake, he's only 4'.
    For me, behaviours are worse when he feels my attention is being removed from him, or going deeper, probably assumes that visitors mean new home - after all, I visited him in his home before, in his mind, removing him. I am now using your 'grab bag' when visitors come - a sticker when he let's me talk, and plays happily nearby.

    You can only do what you think is best. You are doing a great job.

  3. Can you not use a portable smiley/grab bag scenario for when out?? x

  4. Re shopping - I would say limit this as much as possible. I do all my grocery shopping online, and any shopping that can't be done online (what little I do!) when my child's at school or is with my partner, or in charity shops where there are toys he can play with. It is simply unreasonable to expect children to behave the way adults want them to in shops. If you must take him to shops, talk about it beforehand - acknowledge that it's difficult for him. Try to make it fun, into a game for him - a treasure hunt or something. Get him involved. If he does behave badly, don't feel you have to act immediately. Again, acknowledge his feelings, and state your own (without blaming). Talk to him about his behaviour later when you're at home and he's calmed down. He won't listen or learn anything whilst he's having a meltdown anyway, but again, do this in a way that acknowledges his feelings. Problem solve - ask him what he thinks might make shopping easier.

    Re going to friends and grandparents - it's probably just being out of his familiar surroundings, his comfort zone, his normal routine that's throwing him, and not necessarily any specific fear about you abandoning him, so I would again talk to him acknowledging his feelings around this; "Does it feel different being here?", "Perhaps you like being here, but miss being at home too, and that feels confusing", "I'm here to take care of you". He probably also finds it difficult when your attention is diverted away by other people - I know my child (and me!) really struggles with this.

    The important thing to remember is that it's not about making yourself or anyone else feel like you're dealing with it, but about you helping Mini to deal with it. You already know Mini has difficulty managing his feelings and controlling his behaviour. He needs your help with this, and he needs to know he has your unconditional love, and reassurance (not to mention saintly amounts of patience!). You can't punish or bribe his feelings away. Timeouts, happy faces etc will not make these feelings go away, but only increase his level of anxiety and make him feel that his feelings are bad, so he is bad, he's not loveable because of his feelings and his behaviours (which he can't control).

    Does this make sense? Jo

    1. Thanks for your comment Jo.

      It does all make sense, although I don't agree with everything you've said.

      As I say in the post, I have changed my routines so Mini rarely has to come to the shops with me now, but there are other occasions where meltdowns occur (at the park, when out walking). I cannot, and will not, spend all my days at home. And of course, that's not healthy for Mini either. Over the last four years I have tried the ideas you suggest - making games of it, treasure hunts, shopping with his own list/trolley. I also acknowledge and name his feelings - so he knows I'm listening and to help him learn to verbalise his own feelings. But the reason we're at this point, the reason I'm seeking help and the reason I write this blog is because those things haven't worked.

      I don't agree with your statement about Mini being out of his familiar surroundings when at friends/family. After 4 years, and very regular visits and occasional overnight stays, Mini is more than familiar with his grandparents house. He has 'his' room there, his toys, he knows it better than I do, his routines are maintained. And I don't agree in your belief that he doesn't have a specific fear of abandonment in those situations. When he says to me (as he has done) 'I'm scared you're going to make me live with another family or leave me with someone else' I believe he means it. He really does feel that and it is a specific fear.

      I'm not suggesting in this post that I should punish my son for his behaviour (which I know is caused by his unmanageable feelings and inability to self-regulate), but what I can do is reward him when he is able to manage his feelings and behaviour. I can reward him for making good choices. That could be in the form of a reward chart, a treat, a hug/kiss or thank you.

    2. Just to be clear, I don't presume to make any 'statements' about what might be bothering Mini - just a suggestion. My child is also very familiar with his grandparent's house, but still gets disregulated when we're there, so just thought I would suggest this as a possible cause. I hear what you're saying though about what Mini has said to you and you of course are the best judge of what is going on for him!

      I'm also not suggesting that you spend all your days at home.

      I realise you're using 'timeout' more like a 'timein' but if Mini doesn't like it (as you've said elsewhere I think), and you're seeing it as him 'getting away with it' when he doesn't get one in the shops, then it's a punishment. Rewards also will not really help him manage his feelings - just another side of the same coin - if he fails to earn the reward he will feel punished.

      I know we're coming at things from very different angles so I appreciate you reading and responding.