I was reminiscing yesterday with Little Man, about when he was somewhere around 3 years old, and was giving me a hard time about getting in the bath. At this point in his life, any and all transitions between activities or anything at all, were a struggle. Getting him out of PJ’s and into clothes could often lead to a meltdown. Going from in the house to in the car and buckled into a car seat, was often an exercise in misery. Getting out of the bathtub or leaving a playground took hours. And because I didn’t have hours to wait, I’d haul the kid out of the tub or off the playground, in full meltdown mode… on a regular basis. Note to parents of similar kids: when you pick them up, be sure to hold their back to you so you don’t get the full brunt of the kicks. Such is the life of a toddler with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). And such is the life of a mother of such kid.
Fortunately, when the Little Man was about 14 mos. old, I was introduced to Positive Discipline; a parenting philosophy that saved both me and my son from more anger and anguish that I care to imagine. It got me to look beyond the behaviors, to see what was motivating my son to do what he did. And PD gave me a tool box with several tools to use in various situations.
This one particular day that I was having trouble getting my Little Man to take off all of his clothes and get in the tub, I had a chance to try out one of the more fun parenting tools. I had stripped him down to just wearing his long-sleeved shirt. Everything else was off. The kid was being stubborn and wouldn’t take off his shirt. (I now know, that with his sensory issues, it’s often a very big deal to take off a warm and comfortable shirt, only to be exposed to cold air or a cold new shirt). The power struggle started to amp up, and my agitation started to ramp up. Then it hit me: do the unexpected. Yes. That was one of the tools I had learned. Do the unexpected!
I grabbed the kid and plunked him into his bath, shirt and all. Then I got his shirt all wet and began to soap it up. The scowl on his face turned to pure joy and laughter as he joined me in getting all wet and soapy. The only difficulty this created, was that for the next few baths, he insisted on wearing his shirt, so it could get wet along with him. That was ok by me. And in time, we went back to bathing without clothes on.
Pushing against someone only invites them to push back harder. So, when you are in a tug of war with your child (or anyone else), once you drop your end of the rope, the struggle is over.