Susan Humphries
Son-Rise Program® Teacher,
Autism Treatment Center of America®

All of us have moments when we are uneasy, frustrated, angry, sad, afraid, or some version of “uncomfortable” in circumstances involving our children. So let’s talk about turning this frustration into elation!

Here are some of the most common “uncomfortable” circumstances that parents tell us about:

  • My child is physically intense with himself or others.
  • My child is screaming and crying for hours at a time.
  • My child is destroying my house (breaking glass, kicking holes in the wall, throwing her/his dinner across the room).
  • My child is eating and smearing his/her poo.
  • My high functioning child only wants to talk about; (kitchen appliances, “What time is Mom coming home, ” Minecraft™, “What would happen if I ran outside with no clothes on, ” etc.)

Most people would react in an uneasy way to one or all of these scenarios above.

Taking a closer look, your initial response of discomfort actually has nothing to do with the circumstances. Your discomfort actually comes from what you are thinking or the beliefs you are holding when you witness your child’s challenging behavior.

Here are some simple steps you can use right away to stay relaxed in response to any of your child’s challenging behaviors … to help you turn your frustration to elation. These tips will help in a variety of situations. We will use the “pooh scenario” as an example.
1. Be Aware, Acknowledge and Accept your uncomfortable feeling in the momento Be aware of what you are feeling in the moment i.e. sad, angry, irritated, nervous, etc. For example, when you see your child smearing pooh, do you feel your muscles tighten? Do you start running towards your child? Do your eyes pop out of your head while you scream, “Noooooo”? The feeling behind all this action is irritation.o Acknowledge the feeling by thinking to yourself, “I am getting myself irritated.” Notice, I am saying “getting myself” vs. “the poop on the wall is getting me irritated.” You are choosing this feeling based on a belief you are having about the circumstance. You are doing the absolute best you can in this moment based on this belief. For example, you may see the pooh on the wall and get yourself irritated because you are believing that your in-laws will judge you as a poor and ineffective parent when they come over to visit. To avoid this future judgment you reacted by yelling at your child in the moment. You did this in hopes that your child will whip himself/herself into shape before your in-laws next visit.o Accept your feeling in the moment. Say to yourself sweetly, “I am getting myself irritated and that is totally OK!” This way you will be more motivated to understand your thinking. Remember, you are doing the best you can with what you know in the moment.
2. Decide that your happiness is your priority! All of the actions are based on what you believe. Here are some supportive beliefs to help you feel more comfortable right away.o My child is doing the best they can with what they know and how their sensory system copes with the world.o My loving relationship with my child is the most important thing at this moment. I only have control of my feelings, thoughts and actions. I am not in control of my child’s feelings or others’ feelings, thoughts and actions.o When I am feeling comfortable and easy, I am a part of the solution. My comfort will help me be a more effective teacher to help my child accomplish our long term goals.o When I am easy, my child will move towards me. When I am uneasy, my child will move away from me.o My child’s challenges do not diminish who I am as a parent and how much I love my child.o The more I think in supportive ways, the easier it will be for me to be happy.
3. Take Actiono Explanations are powerful for your child’s comfort and for yours. Let your child know why you want to help them and how you will do that.o Lower your energy when your child behaves in ways you do not want to encourage and be certain to CELEBRATE the behaviors you do want to encourage.o Feed yourself with supportive thoughts or a belief you want to try for the day, etc. Post them on your mirror. Set reminders in your smart phone. Read these books for even more ideas: Happiness Is A Choice by Barry Neil Kaufman, Autism Breakthrough by Raun K. Kaufman, Autistic Logistics by Kate C. Wilde.o Think of a reason to be grateful in the moment. Love all parts of your child, even when they are challenged. This way you are practicing loving of all aspects of your child; their beautiful smile, their infectious laugh, their intelligence and their autism!o Run your Son-Rise Program. This will help your child in all areas in and out of the playroom.
All of us at The Autism Treatment Center of America®and The Son-Rise Program® are cheering each of you on through your loving as well as your most challenging moments. We know that you can turn these moments into opportunities to be totally relaxed no matter what your child is doing.