Autism Program Bonus Lesson #1

Bonus Lesson #1 - I get Frustrated When I Try New Approaches  & Nothing Works

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Transcript of Bonus Lesson #1 below:

In the week one video, I talked about how we can get fixated on a ‘picture’ or expectation of how something is ‘supposed’ to be and how we start to get frustrated when things don’t go to our plan.

The reason we do this is because somewhere along the line we have attached our self-worth or a perception of self to that picture or expectation.

For example,

“My child behaving a certain way will mean I’m a good parent.”

“Being able to change my child’s behaviour will mean I’m doing a good job and am on the right track.”

“If I can just get everything to go smoothly, then I’ll be able to relax and get some rest for once.”

“If my child is being disrespectful or rude, I must be doing something wrong.”

“If my child can start learning certain skills, my life won’t be so hard.”

In all of the above statements, whatever is happening has been personalised.

That is, I’ve made the event mean something about me.

We not only get rigidly attached to the picture of how things are ‘supposed to be’, but when they don’t turn out that way, I make a value judgement on what it means about me or my life

It’s this thinking that often triggers the ‘stack until we crack’ and your conflict with reality.

Because of the emotional response and the amygdala hijacking that takes place once we’re emotional, we struggle to see any other rational viewpoints, or a solution focussed way out of it.

Remember when you’re in emotions of stress, the rational part of the brain goes offline.

Think about what happens when you come across a new approach to help your child with a behaviour that needs work.

You find a strategy and you go into rigid thinking.

“This strategy is going to be it. This will work. The OT or psychologist said this would work. This is going to the answer we have been looking for.”

You start imagining how much easier life is going to be when your child responds to this new strategy, skill or technique.

You diligently do everything you’ve been told to do.

You get your hopes up.

You desperately want things to go in that straight line to reaching the desired outcome as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

Then, nothing.

Or very little response.

Or it goes completely pear shaped.

Or you child doesn’t give two hoots about your new little strategy and completely rejects it.

How do you react to this?

Are you aligned with the reality that learning is going to take time?

Do you approach this new strategy with flexibility, realising there is going to be trial and error with anything that you do?

Or do you get attached to the outcome and feel stressed when it doesn’t go to plan, personalising it by feeling you failed at implementing it, or failed your child because it didn’t work?

You can imagine that once you start to personalise how the approach didn’t work, that the missing out lens isn’t too far behind – eg “Nothing is ever going to change. Why do I even bother”, followed by the could/should lens – “It shouldn’t be this hard” and the Right vs Wrong lens – “I just can’t seem to get anything right.”

And where do you think that thought momentum is going to lead you?

But what if you could recognise the momentum of this negative thinking and the conflict with reality you’re in, and jump out of the world of you and your thoughts and into the world of your child?

You might say, “Okay, stop. You’re in conflict with reality. The reality is the technique hasn’t worked this time, so what are we going to do about it?”

Firstly, let’s get curious. Why didn’t it work?

When you get curious about why something hasn’t worked, instead of judgemental about it, you may start to ask better questions like "What is my child's behaviour trying to tell me?"

Or “Were there any parts of that technique that did work?”

Or “Did I get any further information from trying that technique that might help me to know what else I could try?”

Or “Did I try this technique at the right time, or is there a better time that I could try again?”

You see, their behaviour is not even about you.

All behaviour = communication.

Your child's behaviour is trying to communicate what's going on for them.

In week’s five and six we’re going to be looking more in depth into your child’s behaviour specifically, but keeping in line with this week’s theme of being aware of the thinking that triggers your stress, we need to get you to jump out of the world of you and jump into the world of your child to discover what's going on for them to be behaving this way.

When you jump into curiosity your approach will naturally start to shift.

You start to go into observation mode, watching their behaviour for clues instead of personalising it.

You start to look for patterns in what they're doing or the repetition of particular words they might be using that offer you more clues.

What needs are they trying to get met by behaving this way?

Is there a payoff to their behaviour – meaning, how does it serve them to behave this way?

Do they perceive that this behaviour will lead them to a pleasure in some way, or help them to avoid pain?

If I am personalising their behaviour, maybe they are personalising someone’s behaviour too?

Maybe my child is feeling hurt or sad underneath their behaviour?

Is my child struggling to learn something or showing me that they aren't able to do something and need my help?

You see, when you release your attention from their behaviour meaning something about you, you free up your ability to use your rational, reasoning, conscious part of the brain to ask these important questions and drill down to the real reason why your child is misbehaving.

Very often when the reasons why are discovered, parents often know instinctively what they need to do to change their child's behaviour.

And if they don't know how to help their child, they are now clear on exactly what skill they need professional assistance with to help their child.

Now the goal gets a lot clearer.

Having tried this technique, you now received more information that can help you to refine the technique, change it or try again later under different conditions.

Flexibility is going to be your best friend here and that will come a whole lot easier when you stop personalising the behaviour.

The reality is that your child is behaving the way they are because of where they are at in their physical, mental, emotional and cognitive development and change doesn't just happen overnight just because you have a new technique.

At the best of times change requires repetition and consistency and that’s if you’ve got the right technique to match the underlying reason why your child is behaving that way in the first place.

A child's learns over time and the reality is you won't always be able to change a behaviour because you've changed your approach over just a few days.

You know, they reckon that Thomas Edison tried 1000 different times to invent the lightbulb before he was successful. Michael Jordon lost 300 games, missed 9000 shots and 26 times he was given the ball to take the winning shot and missed!

Everything in life comes with hit and miss and way too often we rely on positive outcomes to define our moods, and then get upset when things don’t go our way.

Whenever a parent is struggling with a child’s behaviour, we are always talking about two topics – you and your response – ie your thoughts, feelings and behaviours; and your child and their response – their thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

We need to isolate the two and resolve those challenges independently and you will find your approach to your child's behaviour automatically starts to produce the outcomes you're looking for.

How to put today’s lesson into practice

Notice when you have become attached to a certain outcome or expectation you have on your child’s behaviour.

This could be because you have a new technique you are trialing or one you’ve been practicing for a while.

Notice when you have gone into rigid thinking or if you are attaching your self-worth to outcome and shift your thinking to a more realistic viewpoint.

It’s okay that you want a certain outcome, or that you’re striving for a particular outcome, but you want to do so with a flexible mindset that isn’t going to personalise the event if it doesn’t go to plan.

Remember, whatever happens as you implement different strategies to help your child manage their emotions or help improve behaviour, that you are always receiving information that can give you clues about why your child is behaving the way they are, or more information that can help you fine tune the approaches you are using.

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