Children come in all shapes and sizes, as do parenting guides. One of the cardinal rules of parenting is to praise a child for a job well done. Fortunately this is a natural instinctive rule that matches the facial expression of delight and possibly a hand flourish or a hug. It all fits together perfectly, or rather it does for many parents.
Other parents need to learn to suppress the facial flicker, so that no hint of pleasure registers. Dead pan is hard to achieve and takes a great deal of practice. Sitting on hands is highly recommended to stop them from leaping out and behaving in a completely predictable yet thoroughly inappropriate manner.
Perhaps you have experienced this too with your child?
Perhaps you haven’t?
For this particular kind of a child, acknowlegement of a job well done is a trigger to destruction. Before the first word has left my lips the picture is trashed, the Lego is hurled, the Magnetix are squished.
Initially it’s counter intuitive.
There can be many reasons for such behavior and sometimes knowing why can help. For some children it’s a question of realizing that they are growing in competence, which also means less reliance on a parent. This realization is scary. Often it is more complex or more simple. If you are unable to fathom the true reasons for their abhorrence of praise then it is wise to keep our own counsel. Here, we admitted defeat a long, long time ago but to praise two children and effectively ignore another, is extremely difficult.
I appreciate that this is a bit of a niche issue.
Somehow it just doesn’t seem right to force a child, or anyone for that matter, to accept unwelcome praise but looking ahead I knew that a time would come when someone would praise him. He’d be at work, in one of those little cubbies when the boss would walk in: “great job on that report Mac!” And what would follow? A tirade? I didn’t like to imagine any further; rightly or not I decided to plow ahead anyway.
I picked my attack time with care.
The best time to attack children is when their defenses are low. Mine are usually most malleable just before sleep, at bed time. My first attempts were miserable failures and effectively destroyed the peaceful night time routine I’d been engineering since their birth. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, he allowed me to sow a few seeds of praise. Three small descriptive words about his character which were not false but not self acknowledged. That shaky start was over seven years ago. Gradually the list of words has grown, as has he. It’s quite a lengthy list now. I take care to keep it in the right order as the wrong order also provokes meltdowns. Every once in a while I make a proposal for a new candidate to be added to the list but it has to be appropriate.
Like many autistic people, their receptive language, [what they understand,] is so much greater than their expressive language, [what they’re able to spit out.] Over the summer months we had so many visitors, guests and bodies around the place that my son began to shine. The ‘meet and greet’ was less prompted and stilted. He delighted in sharing his toys, showing off and generally engaging everyone with his antics.
So I wait until darkness because eye contact is often the kiss of death to anything new.
“I was thinking…..”
“I was thinking…….”
“I was thinking maybe we could add a new word to our special time?”
“It begins with E.”
“Ah well yes you are getting big but I wouldn’t describe you as enormous just yet.”
“Hmm also true. I didn’t think of that one either but have another go.”
“How about we steer away from the physical and move into personal qualities, like kindness?”
“Kindness don’t begin wiv an E.”
“So true, so true, but I can’t think of anything beginning with E that isn’t the word I’ve already thought of without giving the game away.”
“Aquatic starts with an A, but close.”
“How about……ENTERTAINING! What do you think? You’ve been so great with all of the playdates and so friendly and helpful……all the people who have been coming and going……”
“Yeah………I love havin company over.”
“How about a C word?”
“Which C word would you like?”
And that’s the first time he’s come up with his own label – self taught, self initialized and possibly selfless.
Works for me.