This is the first post in our “Proactive Parenting” series.
Proactive parenting is a simple method to help you and your child avoid the proverbial anger mountain. Imagine a bell curve or a gentle slope. At the bottom of the slope you and your child are happy and calm. All is well.
And then…time to move on to something else (or as we teachers say, “transition”). It might be as simple as asking your child to stop a preferred activity in order to eat dinner or run an errand. Your child resists and up the mountain you go. And you watch, helpless, as a simple whine or refusal quickly escalates to a full-blown meltdown. Before you know it your child has scaled anger mountain and you’re not far behind.
Often times this quick escalation is due to anxiety, which is commonly experienced by children during transitions. Still, this is not the time to engage with or talk to your child. It is the time to offer gentle support. Think about the last time you had a disagreement with your spouse: You are raging mad and your spouse tries to explain why you shouldn’t be angry (blah, blah blah.) Chances are you aren’t listening, their words aren’t “sinking in,” and the sound of their voice makes you want to scream. BINGO! That’s how your child feels.
So implement some “proactive parenting” tools that will stop your child’s trek up anger mountain before you all begin that exhausting journey. Children on the autism spectrum generally hate surprises. Try the following strategies to make transitions smoother:
- It may sound simple but remember to prepare your child for each transition – no matter how routine or insignificant it might seem to you
- Try using a timer or a naturally occurring break
- It is helpful to use simple language such as “one more turn and then….” or “two more minutes and then….”
- Make the dwindling time visual if you can, by holding up your fingers or using a Time Timer or Waitstrip Visual Timer App.
It may seem like a lot of pre-planning and work, but once you get in the habit, you go through your “transition plan” without even noticing it. Besides remember all the time and energy that goes into that trek up (and then down) anger mountain. Head off meltdowns at the pass, by implementing thoughtful transition warnings in your every-day life.
Read the other post in this series: Just Say “No?”