Monday, May 7, 2012

It's all about the timing

Over time I've realized that much of life can be summed up by horseback riding illustrations. Most recently, my son. Or more specifically, my actions toward my son.

I love him dearly, mostly. Early last week, after asking a few questions and watching my kids for 15 minutes,  my son's pediatrician offered me Ritalin (for my son, not for me - I get wine).

I've tried many parenting approaches that I've gotten from friends and/or books but nothing has really worked. We have taken him completely off of artificial color and flavor which has helped a lot. But not enough. We have seen glimpses of the amazing person our son can be (and let me tell you, he is amazing!), but nothing lasting longer than a few minutes here or there. It is so frustrating.

Since I have more of a tendency to try the natural approaches I started reading about options. One of the books I picked up was Ritalin Is Not The Answer. Love it. Surprisingly it has very little to do with Ritalin. He explains why we should not use this particular class of drugs on our children, but most of the book is a new look at parenting and discipline. Especially for those kids that tend to have the ADD/ADHD behavior patterns.

I've ridden horses for 30 years and my passion is dressage. One of the keys to getting a horse to do what you want is timing. If you squeeze your left leg when the horse's left hind leg is on the ground the horse will push off with more impulsion and you will have more power going forward. But, if you squeeze when the horse's leg is in the air, the horse will step further forward and you will get a longer stride, thus extending the gait. It's all about the timing.

Reading this book I'm realizing that, parenting is all about the timing. The first step in the process the book lays out is positive reinforcement. This is a key point and one that, if left out, will hinder (or completely ruin) the outcome. But, it must be done at the right time. We must reaffirm our children when they are acting in a pleasing manner. Shocking I know! But seriously how many times do I not actually do that. For example, when my child is falling apart and puddling (those times when they are a mess on the floor), I see it as a time when I need to let them know that I love them, but that their actions are not okay. When, in fact, I should not give them my attention. And, certainly not tell them that I love them. This is a good time for a time out.

On the other hand, any (and every!) time that they are doing anything positive I should comment and complement them. We started this pointed positive feedback with my son last week and within a couple of days we started to see quite a difference. My first fear was that we would create kids that believe that our love is conditional. Instead, what I'm finding is that my son is getting more confident and secure in our love. He is also becoming proud of what he can accomplish instead of believing that he will just naturally misbehave.

Now, lest you think that in the past we have never said anything nice to our children, let me clear this up. I have always been a believer in being positive with my kids. I am just finding out that I haven't been doing it at the right time. I have now become more immediate and more sensitive to their actions at the time of the positive reinforcement and I am getting different results. It's all about the timing.

The second step is the discipline piece. Basically this is a time out, but done in such a way as to use the child's boredom against them. It is working beautifully.

I found myself a little misty eyed this weekend as I realized that, for the first time in months (if not years!), I was really really enjoying my children. Not just making it through the day with them. In fact, I even pushed my son's bedtime back because I was enjoying having him around so much.

We have only been doing this for a few days (we started the time out phase on Saturday). So, we will see how this plays out long term and I'm sure there will be rough days and battles ahead. Yet, for the first time I feel like I have something that really works for my son.

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