They feel like he is completely running their lives. Everything they have tried has not worked such as:
-Having him listen to them.
-Being able to sit down to a meal together.
-Getting him to bed without a tantrum.
-Having any social activity that is successful and enjoyable.
They find themselves disagreeing over how to handle him and now realize that constantly changing their approach is only making the situation worse.
I instantly conclude the they never prepared themselves for their parental role by taking the time and responsibility to educate themselves about the role of a parent and the importance of having an agreed on plan of behavioral standards before beginning the process.
Both Paula and Alexander feel that their childhood was too restrictive and disciplined. They were hoping for a more open and interactive role with Alexander. Obviously, they were not achieving that goal and now had to go back to the beginning.
It required two sessions for them to agree on the behavior standards they want. I assure them that this was time this was time well spent and the agreement achieved was absolutely necessary.
The behavior standards important to them are:
-Respect for themselves and others, including their physical possessions
I challenged them to come up with simple phrases to get their message across.
“Please do not touch my computer – it is not a toy”
“We are going to read two books before bed time and then turn off the light”
Any and all phrases they needed are reviewed for clarity and understanding. This is an important point. Do not analyze or defend. Keep your directives clear and short!
When needed, the phrases are stated, followed by a 15 second pause so Alexander can process them and then decide if he wants to follow the request.
These phases are then state twice more and if no action is taken by Alexander, the parent follows up by taking him through what he should have done while repeating the phrase.
Whichever parent speaks up first will be responsible to follow through to completion. The second parent cannot interfere no matter what. They must be in agreement. Any disagreement will be resolved when they are positive Alexander cannot hear them.
We have a touch base sessions for a month. Both Paula and Alexander are surprised that they instantly had some success with other situations being more challenging.
They have held to their commitment to never contradict each other no matter what.
At the end of a month, they are enjoying him most of the time with a few challenges left i.e. mealtimes. They know the approach works and periodically review the phrases giving them some tweaking in the areas that are still a challenge.
The best result is that they are beginning to feel like successful parents and are getting positive comments from their friends.
Their stress level has dramatically lessened and their reward level increases.
Everyone can do this!
They key is to commit the time to arrive at a consensus goal and stick with it!