As we do all this therapy for Mr Rockstar and hours and hours of training, modeling, practicing, parenting, I wonder if any of it is really sinking in? Change seems so slow. I think this is a question we all struggle with as parents. Are my children really hearing the lessons I am trying to teach them?
Big Problem, Little Problem
When Mr Rockstar finally got back into behavioral therapy this summer, his new therapists started working on teaching him the concept of “Big Problems vs Little Problems”. In moments of calm they would pose hypothetical scenarios (my favorite was when they asked if it was a big problem or little problem if he saw his sisters playing in the middle of the street …..and he nonchalantly said that was definitely a little problem…. *Sigh*) to him to see if he could correctly identify the situation as a big problem or little problem. The idea was if he could identify big vs little problems correctly when he was calm then maybe if he was in a meltdown that was beginning to spiral out of control they could prompt him with “Mr Rockstar, is this a big problem or a little problem?” and if he could stop and think about it perhaps he could rein in the meltdown before it got too primeval for rational thought.
For months now the therapists and I have been working with Mr Rockstar on this concept. Big problems tend to be defined as a situation that is about to cause harm to himself or others, someone is bleeding or hurt badly, personal property is damaged or about to be damaged, etc. Small problems would be everything else. As you can see 99% of the situations my kids would whine, cry, or scream about are little problems. If someone takes your toy or you can’t put your socks on straight it is a little problem. It has been helpful concept to try and teach even the twins. Now when any of them start crying about a little problem, I can calmly ask them “Is this a big problem or little problem?” (This must be asked with empathy in your voice not sarcasm or any hint of talking down to the child). Once they recognize it is a little problem you can brainstorm with the child on what they could do next time to correct or prevent the problem.
It has been hard to tell if they have really been getting it. When we first started doing this Mr Rockstar usually would not answer me whether it was a big or little problem. Instead he would sulkily declare “I don’t like that question!”.
It has seemed like it has been slowly getting better but then this week it clearly clicked with all of our kids:
I don’t tend to be an emotional person but a couple days ago I had my feelings hurt by a relative. Most of our family still doesn’t seem to “get” what we struggle with. I know they will never really understand so usually I can shrug it off but sometimes it hurts so much and the pain comes out. So I was crying and the kids were confused and wondered what was wrong. After a few minutes, Miss Tomboy piped up and very sweetly said “Mommy, it’s just a little problem.” And you know what….she was right.
The other example that happened was yesterday. Miss Tomboy is emotional….often…over little things. When she is upset she just starts loudly crying. This usually drives Mr Rockstar (and me) crazy because the volume is just too loud for him to handle so then he usually starts making bear noises right in Miss Tomboy’s face (at least that is an improvement over hitting her to try to get her to stop) which of course just makes her more upset. Anyway yesterday I had put the kids in the car and Miss Tomboy dropped something she had been holding and just started crying like it was the end of the world. Uncharacteristically, Mr Rockstar calmly started saying “Miss Tomboy, are you bleeding, is someone else bleeding? Miss Tomboy it is a little problem.” And she actually started calming down by the time I was able to walk around to her side of the car.
I struggle with how expensive therapy is and how slow the results seem to be. Sometimes I wonder if it is worth it? This week I got a small glimpse of the benefits our whole family gets from it and I am so thankful for all the awesome people that have been able to speak into our lives along this journey.