So we've gone through three weeks of our Kazdin's Positive Parenting Reboot to keep Christopher from throwing a tantrum. We have learned a couple of important lessons thus far.
1) We're not done yet. We've made significant progress. In fact, I would have been shocked three weeks ago how much better things are now than they were then. But we're still dealing with a hair trigger temper and a quick devolution to 5 year old hell.
2) OH MY GOSH. If there any indication that positive parenting works and punishment focused parenting does not, it was our own N=1 design last Friday. For some reason, Christopher started off on the wrong foot stealing Bridget's bagel at breakfast. I told him he would only have one opportunity to earn points that day instead of two. He screeched and screamed and I took the second opportunity away too. ((This is a good example of how I had been parenting before)) I realized I had just experienced a brain fart and gave him one opportunity back. That afternoon, he demanded two opportunities and I said No. That night, he got mad at us and would only sleep on the ottoman at the end of the bed. I should have ignored him ((MORE LATER ON THIS)) and instead I tried to engage him. He gently (but it still happened) slapped me on the face. I grabbed his arm and forcefully told him not to ever do that again. He screamed that I could never be a mother with that tone of voice. He then became hysterical, screaming and kicking and throwing and sobbing.
I'm giving you that example to show What Not To Do and What We Have Been Dealing with.
He and Dave went to bed elsewhere and I slept with Conor and Bridget. About an hour later, I couldn't stand it and switched places with Dave. ((It's a commune around here on weekends)) In the middle of the night, Christopher and I woke up and kissed and made up. In the morning, he told me that he had been very, very sad the night before. I had re-read Kardin's book and realized that my approach to take away his opportunity to be good was probably not going to win me mother of the year. Not doing that again.
3. Who the heck knew IGNORING was so freaking effective?!?!?!?!?! He was doing his "No, I'm Not!!!" where he basically refuses to do anything we ask the other night. So we all left the room. He was refusing to go to bed and Bridget, Conor, and I just left. Dave came in about 15 minutes later and told him it was time to brush his teeth and go to bed, and he hopped up and did it. I SHIT YOU NOT!!! Right????? Afterwards, Dave and I just looked at each other and went, "How positively reinforcing is THAT?!" For us, yes!! Ignoring is a good thing. Christopher told me "No, I'm Not!!!" the other day and then immediately backed down. I will freaking take it.
4. Three weeks in, we're already starting to taper out the points and rewards system. He received his fancy new Lego set for being good for 2 1/2 weeks and earning enough points. Since then, we've run out of treats for the goody bag and we're just sort of doing the practice and points as we need to. I need to read up what is next. I don't know, but he's not All Done yet.
So, yeah. Big steps forward here. We haven't changed any underlying cognitive processes here. I am suspecting that Christopher is extremely sensitive and instead of directing his pain inward, he directs it outward. I think it means that for most of our parenting, we're going to have to focus on helping him do right instead of punishing him for doing wrong. That doesn't mean punishments are out. But it means focusing more on rewarding what we want to do than relying on threats of punishments to stop what we don't like.
I'd love to hear how you all are doing on your parenting challenges.