My blog post last month described how to “respect the switch” as it relates to your child’s unwanted behavior. While your frontal lobe may be developed, it still protectively shuts down when you experience more stress than your coping strategies can handle. Your “switch” is likely going to be “dim” as opposed to shutting completely off, which means you’ll have access to come coping strategies in most situations.
If you are interested in learning to respect your own switch, you’ll first need to learn to recognize the situations, people, tasks, or behaviors that trigger your “switch” to dim. If you can recognize it at the first sign of dimming, you are more likely to turn it back on than allow it to turn off.
It may be that you get a pit in your stomach before certain activities or before you interact with certain people. If may be that you find yourself delaying or avoiding situations or people. Maybe for you, you notice yourself raising your voice when your child or another family member engages in a specific behavior. For others, simply being in public when your child engages in an unwanted behavior may be enough to flip your switch to dim or even off. Or is it when your spouse disciplines in a way that is different than your parenting style or approach? The rush of trying to get your children out the door on time, happily, fed, dressed, with all essentials needed for the day can be enough to dim a switch.
For me, I find myself using ineffective strategies to manage my son’s behavior, because when I’m tired, hungry, stressed, or rushed, I am more likely to resort to ineffective ways of managing behavior, such as giving too many instructions or simply talking too much contingent on unwanted behavior. So I have learned that when I’m tired, hungry, stressed, or rushed, I need to be more aware of my switch. Awareness alone helps me to regulate my behavior when my switch is dim. I can then prevent my switch from turning completely off by taking a moment to breathe, zip it, and reevaluate the situation:
Is this an emergency that warrants a response from me at all?
Could it be that my response is exactly what is maintaining this unwanted behavior?
What do I want my child to be doing right now instead of engaging in unwanted behavior?
When would be a better time to talk to my spouse about the way we discipline our children?
How can I rearrange my morning routine so we aren’t as rushed?
Are my expectations for my child’s behavior reasonable?
Do I need to temporarily decrease my expectations for this situation?
Is there another way that I can manage this situation when my child’s switch is back on?
The “light switch” technique is only half the battle in terms of ensuring our response doesn’t make things worse. To overcome a pattern of unwanted behavior, be it our own or that of our child, we need to also consider what new skills need to be taught to prevent future occurrences of unwanted behavior.
If you, for example, notice that you are more likely to yell at your child when you are rushed and you decide to rearrange your morning routine to allow for more time, be sure to pay attention to your switch during your morning routine for the next week. Is your dim switch now staying on? Was your switch likely to turn completely off in this situation in the past, and now is just dim? Maybe you’ve experienced some improvement, but not resolve or relief? Often times, we reveal that there are specific things your child is or is not doing, that could be triggering a dim parental switch during these times. What skills does your child need during this morning routine to prevent unwanted patterns of behavior? Compliance with instructions given? Independence with routine? Quicker task completion? The key to your switch remaining on may be teaching your child some new skills. Not sure how to teach these skills quickly? Schedule your introductory, assessment phone consultation today to learn how we can help.
Jamie Waldvogel, MS, BCBA
CEO/Founder, Behave Your Best, LLC
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.