Thursday, September 3, 2009

I found this great article on "Anger Management Techniques":

Our children are facing much more pressing types of daily stresses than most of us ever dealt with in our childhood. Just think of the kinds of horrific images our kids are exposed to on the nightly news: riots, hate crimes, random shootings, bombings, kidnappings, senseless murders. We're also seeing a troubling increase in bullying, name-calling, and prejudicial slurs among school children. (Not that you would allow your little ones to watch the news...but somehow they still get the info. anyway) Do these issues affect our children? "You bet they do," says Dr. Michele Borba, author of the new book, Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing (Jossey-Bass Publishers, July 2001).

"The single greatest trend I've seen as a consultant to hundreds of schools over the past ten years," Borba says, "is the marked increase in anxiety and anger in our children. We shouldn't kid ourselves: the steady onslaught of stress and violence images is taking a major toll on our children's emotional and moral well-being."

What can parents do? Teach children the critical virtue of self-control so they know how to handle their emotions appropriately when faced with frustrations. In Building Moral Intelligence, Borba gives parents the following five strategies to teach children self-control so they can calm down and learn to handle their anger.

1. Model coolness when facing problems. Showing you can keep your cool, even in crisis, is an important way to help your children learn self-control. You send a clear message: "It may look like a crisis, but by staying cool, I'll be in a better position to solve the problem." Example is always the best teacher: "I need to take a deep breath and stay cool before I call the bank. I can't understand how my account is so overdrawn."

2. Develop a feeling vocabulary. Many kids display aggression because they simply don’t know how to express their frustrations any other way. They need an emotion vocabulary to express how they feel, and you can help your child develop one by creating a "feeling word" poster together. Here are a few: angry, upset, mad, frustrated, agitated, furious, apprehensive, tense, nervous, anxious, irritated, furious, ticked off, irate, incensed. Write them on a chart, hang it up, and when your child is angry, use the words so that he can apply them to real life: "Looks like you’re really angry. Want to talk about it?" Then keep adding emotion words to the list whenever new ones come up in those great "teachable moments" that come up throughout the day.

3. Identify anger-warning signs. Explain to your child that we all have our own little signs that warn us we’re getting angry, and that we should listen to them because they can help us stay out of trouble. Next, help your child recognize what specific warning signs she may have that tell her she’s starting to get upset. For example, "I talk louder. My cheeks get flushed. I clench my fists. My heart pounds. My mouth gets dry. I breathe faster. "Once she is aware of her signs, start pointing them out to her whenever she first starts to get frustrated: "Looks like you’re starting to get out of control." "Your hands are in a fist now. Do you feel yourself starting to get angry?" The more we help kids recognize those early warning signs when their anger is first triggered -- usually when they first show signs of tension and stress -- the better able they will be to calm themselves down and learn to regulate their own behavior.

4. Use self-talk to stay in control. Experts suggest that another way to help kids stay in control is to teach them to say affirmations-simple, positive messages-to themselves in stressful situations. Here are a few kids that can learn: "Stop and calm down," "Stay in control," "Take a deep breath," and "I can handle this." Suggest a few phrases to your child, then have her choose the one she feels most comfortable saying; help her rehearse it a few times each day. You might post the words she chooses throughout the house as a reminder. The more your child practices the affirmation, the greater the likelihood she will use it during a difficult situation in which she needs to stay cool and in control.

5. Teach abdominal breath control. Learning to breathe the right way -- especially in stressful situations -- is one of the most effective ways to stay in control, and so it’s an important technique to teach kids. Experts advise you to teach the relaxation method with your child sitting in a comfortable position, her back straight and pressed into a chair for support. Then show your child how to inhale slowly to a count of five ("one Mississippi, two Mississippi," and so on), pause for two counts, and then slowly breathe out the same way, again counting to five. Repeating the sequence creates maximum relaxation. The trick is to help your child learn to breathe very slowly and deeply and then practice it over and over in a calm, relaxed setting so that she can remember to use the technique during a stressful time.

Teaching kids to use self-control is just one of the many attributes of Dr. Borba's new book. The book covers this and literally hundreds of other ideas, stories, techniques, tips, and parenting strategies to help parents build moral strength in their children. Borba's practical, step-by-step advice will guide parents along their most important role: raising good, moral human beings.

The following video shows my 11-year-old son, Anthony who is on the spectrum, working through a friendship issue:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Son Has No "Masks"

So to preface this post, I need to explain that I'm reading a book titled "Excuse me your life is waiting" by Lynn Grabhorn. It teaches that we are all "magnets" either bringing negative or positive things into our lives by the feelings and energy that we're putting out. If you walk around in your daily activities with a very negative attitude and approach to things the thought is that you'll receive nothing but negative experiences. "The electromagnetic vibrations I send out bring everything into my life. Good or bad. No exceptions." So in essence, like attracts like.

So great! So I like this idea and the first day I try it I'm really getting some positive things to come into my life through my business and with my relationships. Great! It works, and I'm only in chapter one! This is for me!

Then it it always does. My 11-year-old son with autism announces today, as we are leaving for school, that he'd like money to go to the book fair. Sure! I want to promote reading rather than the Wii or DS, so I give him $10.00 to buy a book. He's already packed about 10 books in his backpack loading it down to the point where I wouldn't want to carry it around, but he's fine with it.

On our drive to school he is happily discussing one of them from the back seat. It's going to be another great day I think. We're off to a good start.

We walk up to the gate and are greeted by the usual joyful exuberance of Ms. Gray. She's so wonderful to my son. She seems to have a genuine interest in him and his well-being. She throws her arms around him in her usual upbeat manner.

Anthony proceeds to tell Ms. Gray that he's going to buy a book at the book fair today. And that's when it all turns to poop! My stomach! It wrenches and tightens up inside of me! I know that my sweet little boy is about to explode not caring who sees! Poor Ms. Gray stands in a helpless state as her happy Anthony becomes a raging ball of fire!

We tell Anthony that we'll go to Barnes & Noble, something I had already told him the day before, but he doesn't hear us! He throws his backpack down shouting "I'm outta here!". My mind goes through so many different emotions and fears all at once, as I try to run after him to bring him back. "Oh my God, Susan! Everyone is watching! Once again you and Anthony have become the entertainment for the group. I want to run away and hide, but I can't! I need to hold it together! I need to be the "eye in the middle of the storm". This is not a little 3-year-old whose tantrums are expected as the norm. This is an 11-year-old boy who comes up to the shoulder of my 5'6" frame! They see right through me! They know that I'm a terrible mother. That I don't have a handle on my son! I can hear the screaming internal judgments coming from my little audience! "Why can't she control her kid! My God! He's acting like a baby! Where's the discipline in that family?".

I can't listen to that now. I've got to get ahold of Anthony and bring him back to the gate; back to his backpack he threw to the ground. I quickly tell him "Anthony, we will not be doing this today" (brilliant right?). "You will go back and pick up your backpack and get to your classroom, and we'll go to Barnes & Noble to find a book later".

I watch him slowly walk through the gate and up the walk. All the while realizing that it's my fault. I set him up for this meltdown by not making sure the book fair was still happening. If I'd check before we left the house this morning I could have avoided our "little show".

Then there's the pain and intense disappointment I know my son is feeling, and I collapse into myself as I walk back to the car.

So much for being a positive "magnet" today!

I call the school to warn them of his turmoil, and they assure me that they know all about it! He's already tantruming again in the classroom and needs to be removed to calm him down. They don't seem happy at all. "Perfect" I think to myself. "Now I've got them angry with me as well".

It's now 12:30 pm as I finish my thoughts here, and you know what I think?

Who gives a damn! Who cares what the rest of the world thinks? This is my SON and this is how he expresses himself. He does not worry about the outward appearances that we all get so caught up in. I can guarantee you he's not sitting at his desk right now thinking "boy I wonder what people are thinking of me. I'm so embarrassed." Nope! I'll tell you what he's thinking: He's thinking about Barnes & Noble! His main objective is to GET THAT BOOK!! His heart and mind are so pure. He doesn't put on any pretenses. He doesn't wear one face in public and then another, much different one at home. He is who he is. He is "perfectly Anthony". There is no guess work with him. You will always know right where you stand with him. No guess work involved.

He spends so much of his time trying to peer deeply into peoples eyes (literally getting close to their eyes to find the true mood of them). Why does he do this? Because the "normal" world wears so many different masks. We have masks for work. Masks for home. Masks for friends. Masks for acquaintances.

Anthony wears no mask. His honesty is brilliant and his heart is true. His expressions are strong and very clear to navigate.

Today he has been MY teacher. I will take off my many masks. I will walk exposed for the world to see me in all my fears and feelings of inadequacies. Today I will know my friends who are true. My friends who will not run and hide. Today I am purely me. Today my son will have no guess work around my feelings, and he will feel safe.