In the webinar I hosted last night, the issue of "Changing Scenery" came up, and I wanted to expand on that concept to bring about better understanding.
When a child gets stuck in a negative behavior or as BCLC calls it, a "negative feedback loop", the point is that they are truly STUCK. They do not know how to stop, or how to change the direction they are going.
That is where we parents come in. We have to guide them to a place of felt safety so they can let go.
Many children who are "stuck" suffer from PTSD and truly "feel" threatened when they act out.
This could be on a conscious level or a sub conscious level.
Changing the scenery is NOT a logical linear act. For us,
Because bad behavior in our minds = consequences. "You do this, I do that." It is a tit for tat scenario. So just "deal with it"..... "If you don't want consequences, don't act out!"
We can find ourselves becoming drill sargeants passing out consequences in a continuous flow and suddenly we become combatant enemies.
If you don't want this, I know I don't, then how can we bring about permanent change?
Get out of the loop!
So, how do you do that? You change the scenery. When I say "change the scenery" I am not talking about taking somebody shopping and buying them gifts to make them stop yelling at you.
That is called bribery! That is what you see in the grocery store when a child is screaming at the top of their lungs and the parent opens the crackers or chips the child is demanding and gives it to them to make them stop. This is not only bad for the child, it is also modeling stealing, because those chips have not been payed for!
Changing scenery has a purpose. The purpose is to get the person who is stuck, out of stuck mode.
Just like a car that is stuck in the mud and needs a tow truck to pull them to safety, our children need us to pull them into safety.
Rocking, walking, going to a park to breathe in the fresh air and smell the flowers, can breathe new life into a very weary child and a very strained relationship.
If this action takes them from a place of rage to a place of safety and love, you have begun the first steps towards healing.
Even with a child who says, "I don't care!" as they hurl words of pain towards you. Your response to them, putting yourself aside, and getting them out of that loop will bring them to a place of caring.
So I ask, if a child is raging for hours, and you have a tool to use to bring calm back into their life, why not use it? Is it rewarding bad behavior to take a walk? I don't think so.
When we think this way it is because we are not looking at the whole child and only focusing in on the negative behavior. The behavior is there for a reason. The child is dysregulated. To participate with them in a regulating activity can bring them to a place where their brain can function well and when they are ready, give you opportunity to lead and guide them. You can do this through role play, offering new tools to help them keep from going into full meltdown, and reassuring them you are on the same side.
Consequences that are not natural, do not connect with the illogical mind or even with the logical mind.
A child will not be able to connect, "Because you didn't do your homework, you have to go to bed 15 minutes early. Or, "Because you were snotty to mom, you lose your video games for the day."
These types of consequences don't really teach and lead to understanding and improvement. For the dysregulated child, they can actually cause the child to spiral further out of control. They may feel that they are being singled or mistreated.
Relationship is of utmost importance. Building relationship through natural consequences can lead to a stronger relationship. If you child didn't finish homework, the natural consequence is a bad grade.
You can offer compassion to them, and then say, "You know, I just bet you can do better next time!"
"I know you don't want a bad grade!" "Maybe we can study together tonight." And suddenly, homework is no longer a battle, but driven by the child's desire to do well.
If a child talks back or uses snotty talk, of course it must be addressed. But for a child who is stuck, how you address it is so very important.
We have used the "change the scenery" tool now and then. It is not something we have had to do often, and I want to emphasize that behaviors do change. Healing does take place and you will not be in a mode of constant meltdowns and upheavel forever.
Things will get much better as relationship solidifies.
Also remember that grief can come in waves, and sometimes old behaviors can return briefly.
It is then we can get caught off guard and not do what is best.
A little about our own words:
"Good for you! You calmed right down!" "Thank you for rocking with me. I love it when we rock together." "Why would you act like that?" "How dare you talk to me like that!"
As you learn about your child's struggles, remember that your words of encouragement go a long way in helping them to healing. Words of discouragement can cause them to remain, stuck.