Escalating and Deescalating

I was asked by a new reader to write about how we have handled aggression in our home when it has occurred.

First off, let me say that every child is different, and the reasons for the violence or aggression will be as individual as the child.
One thing is for sure though; children who have suffered trauma, be that adoption, International Adoption, drug or alcohol exposure,  abuse, neglect, rejection, violence and more, are more susceptible to problems with self control and anger.

When our girls were littler, we would soothe them by rocking them, singing to them,  and having them sit close by us.  We would do our best to stay 2 steps ahead, reading ahead what we thought might cause a melt down.  We would also prepare them ahead of time for any activity that might cause anxiety that would lead to a melt down.
It took a lot more organization  on my part, but it was really helpful.
A few examples might be:

1.  We are planning to go to the park after breakfast.  So before we leave, we will need to get dressed, brush our teeth and take out the trash. Then, it will be time to go to the park.

2.  In 15 minutes we are going to leave the park.
In 10 more minutes we are going to leave the park. Is there anything you haven’t done that you want to do?
In 5 minutes we are going to leave the park.
It is time to leave.
High Five for leaving!  You are awesome! You did great!
(Don’t give a chance for a meltdown)

Our older child was much bigger and stronger when she came home.  She was also  very hurt.  Her trauma was HUGE and honestly, we didn’t know if we were going to be successful in helping her.
We did go in with our eyes wide open.  And it was scary taking that step.

If you read my post below this one, “On Being Fake“….. there is information in there on what we did to make her feel welcomed.
However, she would constantly compare how we talked with her vs. her sister, how much food we gave one compared to another, if she had the same amount of pants, toys, or if we took somebody out for a coke and she wasn’t with us.  All these “injustices” in her mind would cause a major meltdown.
We THOUGHT many times, even being experienced adoptive parents, that we were de escalating. When in fact it would have the opposite effect.
It was perplexing.
I am glad that I journaled every detail, because I could go back and read and then see how she responded to our efforts.

What we found was that “TOO MANY WORDS” would cause her to escalate!  You know why?
Because when a child is operating at the level of the brain that fuels emotion, they are not thinking rationally.  Reasoning did not work because she couldn’t hear us.  And having to think about all those words,especially many words she still had not mastered was very difficult.

So, we would be calm and kind, and be talking and she would blow up.  It took us a while to figure that out.
What we found was have a look of compassion, and just holding her, NO WORDS calmed her very quickly.  She could instantly begin to breathe with us.  We might just say, put your head to my chest and listen to my heart beat and let’s breathe.  It was like a little coaching.   She learned this concept when she was calm, so the introduction was not during the heat of the moment.

We gave her the breathing tool for her tool box.  If you don’t  know about the tool box, I have written about it on this blog, here.
It has been a great tool for us too.
Kids like the idea of feeling a sense of “control”…. picking a tool to calm down gives them control!
So instead of us saying, “Calm down!”
We simply say, “time to get a tool!”  and THEY choose how to calm down.

We found with our youngest daughter, that she needed time to cool down if she was really upset.  She picked a place to be calm.  At first it was outside in the bed of an old pick up truck. LOL  She loved that quiet place.  Eventually though, she has picked her room.

If she chooses to go and calm down in her room, she cannot do it by just walking away from a conversation.  She must say, “I need to go calm down for a few minutes”, and THEN she can go.  (because just walking away is rude)
It has taken us a while to accomplish this, but we have!

For your son, he may need you to role play  what you want him to do.
This works especaially well for children who have impulse control issues.
Sometimes they just learn better by role play.
Sort of like a reinforcement of what you have told them verbally.  SHOW them what it looks like.
So reverse roles and you pretend to hit the dog and let him tell you not to.
OR you and your husband can do both roles and he can watch one of you be him, so he can see what he is doing that is not acceptable.  Make it humorous and then try to get him to participate.

If you can get him to participate, then walk through the scenario with him actually being himself…. Have him pretend to come at you or a pet, and then walk him through what you will say to him, if you will hold him or require that he sit by you.  Rock him and gently tell him you love him and that he is safe.  Keep doing that…. repeat… repeat….repeat!

New habits WILL form but they take time!
Congratulations on trying a new way to reach your precious son!
It REALLY does work!

I strongly urge you to use a journal to write down your thoughts and the events that have happened.  This will be VALUABLE information for you so that you can learn how to help him.

One more thing…. For one of our children, we would sit with her and teach her how to handle the chickens and animals in a gentle way. We also provided plenty of nurturing toys,  like dolls and stuffed animals and we practiced with those.

I also recommend reading my post called:
Understanding the Fear Factor

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