If you haven’t yet gotten the opportunity to learn to “Pretend You Are A Light Switch”™ approach to preventing and responding to your child’s unwanted patterns of behavior, this blog post is for you!
I had the opportunity to serve adults with Traumatic Brain Injury while in graduate school. I served mostly men, aged 18-22 in motorcycle and car accidents. I learned about the frontal lobe of our brain, which doesn’t finish developing until we are 18-24 years old, and is responsible for our ability to reason, solve problems, and think abstractly, and to do so when experiencing stress. So for the individuals I was serving, the frontal lobe wasn’t yet developed and now had been damaged. Neurologists have shown that, when we experience stress, that part of the brain protectively shuts down, so as to prevent further stress. If the brain continues to receive stimulation when the frontal lobe has shut down, the “fight, flight, or freeze” protective response is activated.
As a parent, it is important for you to understand that your child’s frontal lobe isn’t yet developed. Therefore, when your child experiences stress, and you continue to give instructions, ask questions, yell at them, send them to their room, attempt to move them, etc., you are effectively activating the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. The unwanted behavior continues to escalate. There isn’t much you can do once you’ve activated that protective response to turn it off. Many parents refer to this as the “point of no return.”
For those of us with a developed frontal lobe, your child’s stressors may seem silly to you, with a developed frontal lobe. Dropping one’s spoon off of the dining room table when strapped into a high chair and unable to understand object permanence, your child may think that spoon is never coming back! Being told to move onto a less preferred activity when your child is having a great time playing with a given activity may be enough to turn his/her “switch” right off. If you then continue to give instructions, lecture, him/her, threaten removal of privileges, or any other continued interaction, you are likely to activate his/her “fight, flight, or freeze” response.
When we say your child’s “switch” if off, we mean that his/her frontal lobe has shut down and is attempting to communicate to the world that it has received as much input as it can process at this time. To respect the switch is to refrain from further verbal interaction when your child’s switch is off. To respect the switch is to effectively prevent the “fight, flight, or freeze” response from activating. We teach parenting trendsetters like you to respect the switch for the little, minor, unwanted behaviors throughout the day so that you prevent escalation to the large episodes of unwanted behavior.
We’d be honored to teach you this strategy with your child as young as 18 months. We offer behavioral consultation designed to teach you this strategy, and many others. Our goal is to teach you strategies to put out any current “fires” in your household, as well as how to prevent them in the future. You can purchase your introductory assessment phone consultation to determine the appropriateness of our services for your family’s needs.
I look forward to serving your family!
Jamie Waldvogel, MS, BCBA
Behave Your Best!
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute a behavioral consultation relationship between Behave Your Best, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as behavioral consultation and should not be construed as behavioral consultation.