Whilst I have come to understand more about PDA, meltdowns and the anxiety which drives much of my Son's behaviour, there are days when the frustration of trying to get him to do simple things becomes more that I can cope with.
Times when it all gets too much, when I snap and yell back - this is immediately followed by remorse, tears and an overwhelming sense of guilt for not having retained control of my emotions. Recently I had one of those days.
Dad, who is the centre of his world, was away last weekend for a much needed get-away and downtime. We had given plenty of warning before Dad left, and he knew that Dad would be just a phone call away if he really wanted to chat.
Finding it tough with Dad awayOn Saturday morning he rushed into the room looking for Dad, before the sun had peeped over the horizon, and was ok when he was reminded that Dad was away. Apart from never-ending requests to head off to Legoland we managed to get through the day with relatively few difficult moments.
By Sunday it had got too much, and he had retreated behind the sofa cushions inside his duvet cover (actually inside, with the buttons closed up) refusing to change out of his pyjamas and pull ups (he still is not dry overnight, but that is another story) - literally cocooned from the world.
I tried every tactic I could think of to try coax him out so we could get on with the day
- When ... then
- Let's have a race to see who can get dressed first
- Reading a story to sister (his favourite activity) upstairs to tempt him away from the sofa as I know he can't resist a good story
- Giving him a list of possible activities, asking what he would like to do
- Talking about random topics to see if any of them would peak his interest, and distract him
- Ignoring him and waiting for him to come out
A stand off during a "We need to go" momentAfter more than 4 hours he was still sat firmly behind the sofa cushions. I knew that if I didn't get him out of his pull ups it was likely that he would end up soiling himself, and this would lead to additional struggles as I would need to clean him up and he always resists this.
With an hour and a half till the shops closed and very little food in the house, it was important that we headed out to do the weekly shop. With pressure to get going, and a day of not being able to get him to budge my stress levels were going through the roof - and my creative parenting, patience and mindfulness went out of the window. I had entered into the land of demands.
- Come on out, help Mummy so we can all get some food for later
- If we don't get to the shops, there won't be any food for dinner
- More begging and pleading
- Why can't you just ...
- If you don't get dressed in the next 5 minutes, you are going to loose your screen time today
- You need to get dressed now or we will be late
All of this just made him worse, with the tension between us escalating. I continued to push and he pushed back. Eventually he was at crisis point - calling me names, making threats, and kicking & punching me.
When it all goes wrongHe yelled, and I yelled back - shouting at him to stop kicking me and trying to prevent him from hurting me. We were both in meltdown, and I felt myself being taken over by frustration and anger, with my shouting increasing in intensity and my body tense. There came a point when I could see that the tone of my voice had shaken him, instantly my anger disappeared and was replaced with guilt and shame. I had lost control.
The emotions that swept over me as I listened to him in his room ranting about the injustice of having a mother was too much for me to bear. I sat at the top of the stairs sobbing - crying for not having been the mother he needed at that moment, for the daily challenges that push us to our limits and for the many simple things that we never get to do as a result.
The constant pressure of dealing with demand avoidanceI feel the constant pressure of needing to be a super-parent and always get it right, as I know my Son can't help his behaviour when in these situations.
The guilt of not being able to cope with his demand avoidance and loosing control is something that is hard to ignore, as I feel that I need to do better in order to help him. All of the advice mentions the need to remain calm, and here I am pushing him to his limits and triggering a meltdown because I can't control my own emotions. I feel like I am letting him down at the time he needs me most.
I know that I am not alone in feeling this way, and maybe part of the acceptance that I now need to face is that there will be times that I don't get it right and that is ok.
For more information on PDA, and strategies to use, check out the PDA Society website.