It is great to be back home after a week on the road doing seminars. At the end of the day I always ask my audience what is a take away that they feel they will use right away. What comes up over and over again is the idea of the 5 S’s.
What are the 5 S’s you ask? Great question. They are steps that we, as parents, teachers, bosses, spouses, etc. should all do to allow others, and especially children who struggle on a daily basis with social and behavioral skills, need to incorporate into our interactions.
I did not develop these S’s (and I hate to say I am not sure who did) but they are powerful. The more you can make them into a part of your daily routine of interaction, the better you will allow others to be their best.
So, with no further ado, here they are;
1) Stay Calm
Now that was extremely hard for me to learn. I am at my foundation a Screaming Irish Mother. You know the type. She has 3 phrases that are used frequently. “You do it because I said so”. ” If you are going to cry, I will give you a reason to cry.” and “Don’t come to me looking for pity if you hurt yourself ‘cuz I told you not to do it.” This is not helpful for developing processing skills in children. It definitely didn’t work with my first child (the Mother’s curse by my mother to me). I had to learn more about her and myself in order to change my style of parenting. It was hard but it worked. And the biggest part was learning how to be calm, rather than immediately reactive.
2) Slow Down
This is so important! Most challenging children have problems with processing. The faster we present information to them, the farther behind they get. And when they start getting behind, they get stressed. Stress further slows down processing speed. That is why when you begin to yell at a child, it appears as if they are intentionally trying to defy you. They look like chickens with their heads cut off as they dart around trying to comply. Or they begin to shut down, either in an argue mode, or a emotional meltdown of crying.
3) Speak Less
This is also so essential. Choose your words carefully. An individual with processing problems gets lost quickly with a large amount of information presented all at once. Chunk your message into a series of smaller messages. And then after each check for comprehension, not just the ability to repeat what they heard.
Too many times we make requests, or provide information that is very complex, either in vocabulary, or in the level of subtext that needs to be assumed in order to be fully compliant. We see that all the time with children labeled as ODD. We say, “Pick up your coat.” The child picks up his coat only to dump it on the couch or on a door handle. This is not what we wanted – but we DIDN’T state what to do with it. When we call the child on this we get the response “But you didn’t tell me to do that!”. Most challenging children are very literal and concrete in their interpretation of language, so their brains by default go to “This is what she wants. If she wants anything more she would have told me.” Now when asked, they can come up with possible scenarios of what may have been wanted, but they don’t know which one was expected, so they naively believe that what is said is all that is wanted.
5) Stop and Wait
This goes back to the concept of processing. It may take the child several seconds to go through mental gymnastics in order to make sense of information provided to them, questions asked of them, or sensory information received. Too many times we get after them in 1-3 seconds after telling them to do something, assuming that they are being noncompliant or lazy. We then get a response from the child that is based on anxiety, but is interpreted as being defiant and after that all “h..ll” breaks loose.
Take time to think about these 5 S’s. How do you do with them? Is there room for improvement?
If you would like help with this and other areas of parenting your challenging child, consider my Member site. You can get information about it along with the video training on the distractible child by going to this link: The Distractible Child.