Monday, April 5, 2010

The Anger Response

Blink has always been the kind of child with, shall we say, strong feelings.  It wouldn't do him justice as a person to describe him as an angry child — that wouldn't touch his brilliance, his sense of humor, his creativity.  But the truth is, he is angry a lot of the time. Anger is his default response.  It's easier for him to start yelling than it is so sort through complicated emotions and communicate nuance.

It's no fun to live in a household full of angry outbursts. (Trust me).  So this is an area we've been working on a lot lately.  Blink's therapist suggested we label his angry behavior for him. So I've been simply saying, "That's yelling, Blink," telling him it isn't allowed, and telling him what he can say or do in the situation.

To tell the truth, I've been working on this for months -- it's hard to internalize new responses to situations and summon forth a new boilerplate response when my adrenaline is skyrocketing from dealing with the explosive situation. But slowly, it's starting to feel (more) natural and normal. I've made great strides in distancing myself from the situation.

Something clicked for me this weekend. Blink was upstairs in the playroom, alone, playing with his legos, and had been for quite a while. It was a gorgeous day and I called up to see if he wanted to go play outside.

"NO!!!!" was the thunderous response.  As if I said, "Blink, would you like to go to get a painful medical procedure done?"

I paused for a moment and said, "You sound really angry. Did it make you mad that I asked you if you wanted to go and play?"


"Uh, no, I think my throat is kind of scratchy and that's why it sounded like I was mad," he explained.

"Oh, so you didn't mean to sound like you were mad?"

"No. Maybe we can play in a few minutes."

"OK, sounds good."

And then 5 minutes later, he came outside to find me and we played basketball for 15 minutes.

This little encounter renewed my goal of not getting personally invested in his anger, labeling it for him appropriately, and helping him see when it's the wrong response.  It's like his wires are crossed and everything diverts to anger. If I don't add my own intensity to it, he can (often) find a course correction.

In other news, Blink's school re-evaluation results meeting is today. I'm nervous. I'll feel a lot better once this is done.

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