Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feelings

We had a huge blow out with Tortuga about a week ago over nothing. That is usually the case. He gets set off over seemingly nothing. This time it was because he hadn't completed a task before dinner and he thought I was preparing dinner so he got mad that he had to complete it before dinner. The task would have taken about 10 minutes MAXIMUM. Instead, he spent 4 hours getting worked up, shouting he hated me, was going to "kill and destroy" me, write on the light switch plate and wall (in very small writing) that he hated me. Then he announced screamed that he didn't want to live here, we treated him like "trash," we treated Corazon like a "jewel," and we should just call the police to take him away to a better home. We tried to ignore him which made matters worse. We tried to talk him into using his calming strategies. C. finally went upstairs and confronted him which escalated things and he got physically aggressive with her. With a little assistance he finally attempted one of his strategies to calm down but it didn't work for long. Then he started ALL over again.

At his last request demand to leave this house and for us to get someone to get him out of here, I finally got into the discussion and agreed and then I picked up the phone to make the call for him and he fell apart.  He started begging me not to call, cried, apologized and said he changed his mind. We were at the point where we weren't sure we had changed our mind. The younger kids were totally freaked out, Corazon did her best to entertain them and finally Milagro fell asleep in the midst of this so she was spared the last of his blowup. Once we sorted through the debris we fed him dinner and put him to bed with the understanding that he would need to "make it up" to all of us. He didn't want to talk about it at that time and we needed time to figure out appropriate restitution. It is ALWAYS our experience that if he doesn't do appropriate restitution he will spiral downward for days on end. It is also our experience that if he doesn't think the restitution is appropriate (i.e. "harsh" enough in his eyes) then the spiraling continues.  Corazon has usually been the same way. She would always think up a harsher consequence for her misbehavior than we would. She still does it sometimes but it seems to happen only when she does something really awful whereas before it was pretty much on the same level whether she tried to hurt a pet or stole a cookie.

About an hour after Tortuga had gone to bed I heard noises from his room through the monitor. He was crying. Actually he was wailing, moaning, drooling, and crying. I went into his room and asked what was happening and he said he was afraid. He was afraid of leaving our home. He was afraid of going someplace else. He was afraid he had done something really awful that he could not fix. He was afraid to lose us. He was afraid that we "believed" he might hurt us when he "knew" he would "never really do it." I talked him through some of this and had him answer each of his fears with what we have told him--we won't send him away but he may choose to leave us, he had made a huge mistake but mistakes are fixable when we take responsibility and do restitution, he isn't going to lose us, and the biggie, because we don't believe he will actually hurt us intentionally but accidentally or in a rage is another story which is why we have worked so hard to diminish his rage. He calmed down after about 25 minutes and as I said goodnight he said "Goodnight mom. I really love you a lot." I told him I loved him and as an afterthought he added "Thanks mom." I asked him what for and he said "talking to me. It really did make make feel better. I didn't think it would but you were right, it did." I was dumbstruck surprised and I am sure my mouth was hanging open as I walked out his door and set his alarm.

The next morning he was in a great mood even when I told him his restitution would include his not participating in "family time" for the next three nights. (Of course he also dreamed that I was going to die and he was the only one who knew this. But he claimed he was very sad about it.) During family time he would have the choice to lie down or sit under his weighted blanket in his room. His task was to work on not getting angry (although acknowledging other feelings-sad, disappointed, jealous, frustration, etc. would be appropriate) as he heard us play board games and Wii, read stories, make cookies and most significantly miss out on the celebration of Pollito's anniversary. While this may seem harsh we talked about it and decided it was the best decision. In the past we have usually postponed important celebrations or outing until everyone could participate. I have lost count of how many events we have postponed and I had decided that we would not do this again for anyone. He seemed disappointed and upset but held it together as I told him what his consequences were. I should also say that I think he is entering the "Social Needs" level of  Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs/Hierarchy of Motivation. (That is it's own post but I have referenced this before when talking about how we went back to convincing him we were meeting his Physiological Needs.)  He would be giving us back the time he took up with his "tantrum" over the course of these three days and he would be working on managing (and identifying) his feelings.  This is work we started to do more intensely over the past couple of months.

He has started to recognize his feelings of disappointment, sadness, frustration, and anger as distinguishable from one another on a more regular basis. His response to them however is usually the same anger response we have gotten in the past. I have been working with him to understand how those feelings are different and when they are appropriate so we all try to label our feelings. In other words, "I was so sad when P. left yesterday and I wanted to cry." Or we might say "Corazon is very disappointed because she didn't get to play on the computer. She is acting mad at me because I won't let her use it but she knows the only person she should be mad at herself for losing that privilege. When Corazon is disappointed she pouts and acts mad but she no longer tantrums like she used to." Right now his facial expressions rarely match his feelings and actions so we have been probing those as well.

When our friend was here he wanted to play the guitar for her to show her what he has learned. When I finally told him he could do it (after asking a dozen times at the wrong time) he frowned, smiled and then started laughing and frowned again. That was a good opportunity for him to practice identifying his feelings and for me to tick him off.   He was able to tell me that he smiled because he was happy, laughed because he was nervous and frowned because he was afraid to make mistakes because he hadn't been practicing as much as he wanted to be sure he was ready to show off his skills. I noted that the frown came first and he denied it at first. He also almost lost his temper as we tried to work through this exchange but he didn't and that is huge progress. This past week we introduced a new exercise. He (and Corazon) are keeping a feeling journal. I create them on a regular basis (I want to say daily but I am not that together) and they take the form of mad libs (but they aren't really funny). I script out the journal entry with fill in the blanks for feelings, thoughts, reasons, examples, etc. They fill them in and then rewrite the whole thing into their own journals.  So far they each have about 6 or 7 and while they did them under duress while whining and complaining just yesterday Tortuga said to me as he CHEERFULLY got his assignment "you know mom, I think I actually like doing this!" Fancy that.

2 comments:

Sarah said...

Wow! I am exhausted just reading this. You have done so much amazing work with your kids. You are a great mom. :)

Mama Drama Times Two said...

I find it true that for a few of our kids their restitution is always harsher than ours. Whatever it takes to absolve themselves completely so they can move one...

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