Welcome to Our House - The Analogy ©

Having a baby is special. For some, it’s a lifelong dream, for others, a wonderful surprise. Either way, many of us have thought about taking this journey and whether it’s planned or a pleasant surprise, we all have preconceived ideas about what our child will look and be like. But what if it isn’t what we planned or expected? This is a short story I have written for parents who have or are expecting an exceptionally special child.

Welcome to our House – An analogy

After many months of dreaming, you finally decide it’s time. You are going to build that perfect house of your dreams. You have saved and saved, and now it’s time to put your plan into action. You find a wonderful, perfect piece of land in the city. It’s exactly what you are looking for – because it’s the plan that everyone talks about. You envision the all brick house sitting on luscious green grass, surrounded by a white picket fence. Inside is a marble foyer leading into a family room with beautiful oak hardwood floors. Granite lines the kitchen counter tops and there is an island sink in the middle. Upstairs has four perfect bedrooms and the master bedroom has an ensuite bathroom and an enormous walk-in closet, of course. It’s truly a dream come true, and it’s only a matter of time. You purchase the land and think to yourself, in nine short months, you will have it all.

But suddenly your agent calls to tell you, the land is not properly zoned, and the city has not approved it for building your perfect home. They have instead, given you land in the country, where an old country home sits. You are absolutely devastated, your dreams vanishing right before your eyes. You know you can’t back out now, you need a place to live, and despite it not being what you wanted, you know that somehow you will manage and that you can continue on.

You tell everyone what has happened, and everyone is disappointed, some even offering their condolences. You know that everyone else has a nice city home, and that was what you had planned, but you have to come to terms with the fact that you must learn to live in the country.

You go to see the property every month until closing and something funny happens. You start to fall in love with the place. The air is fresh, it’s peaceful and serene. There’s a pond on the land, and the house, though not a new all brick home, is quaint, and has lots of hidden potential. You soon realize it’s not a awful place, it’s just a different place. It’s slower paced than the city, less noisy and flamboyant, but it’s beautiful none the less. And in the process, you soon realize you may even get to meet some new and wonderful neighbours.

Its closing day and you suddenly find yourself full of anticipation, but you are still a little worried. After all, it isn’t what you had originally hoped for, and the house may need some repairs. But you are determined to accept it, and tackle everything one step at a time. You open the front door, and suddenly you are thrilled with what you see. The house is lovely, and has lots of character. The rooms are smaller but it’s decorated with beautiful attention and detail. The kitchen has marble instead of granite, and the bathroom has a soaker tub instead of a Jacuzzi. There isn’t a walk-in closet in sight, but the rooms all come with an indescribable view. Somehow, you just know that it was always meant to be and that this is now home.

This is my analogy of what it will be like for people who discover that they will be caring for a baby with Down syndrome. For us, it is not a terrible place to be, it is a journey full of surprises, milestones and discovery like any other child. And as the story suggests, sometimes it’s only a matter of ‘point of view’, and surprisingly, once you have been there, you don’t want to be anywhere else. The journey, like all others doesn’t come without some bumps in the road, but once you find your way, it’s all about the place you discovered, in most cases - quite by random chance
Author: Sandi Graham-McWade, Copyright

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Friday, January 21, 2011

My Journal - Week 74 (21Jan11)

Terrible One and a halves or Two's!!??  
Discipline starts now!!!

Hunter is only 17 months old, but it would appear that age is certainly not a factor in determining when the "trouble" starts!  One thing about Hunter is, despite his lack of words - he is very vocal in expressing his emotions.  He is also quite aware of when he is doing something that he shouldn't be.  Add those two behaviours together and you can have a recipe for a tantrum of sorts.

Hunter is now at the age of discovery and testing limits.  An example of some behaviour that I am not liking very much is his hitting faces and biting arms and shoulders (ours not his).  Now, understandably it's very easy to explain WHY he is doing either of these two "problems" but the solution is not as simple as just saying "NO".  Nor is the solution black and white.  The hitting I have realized is Hunter's way of trying to get our attention, regardless of whether he has it or not (for food, attention, fatigue or whatever it is at the moment) and the biting started with teething.  In psychology and general common sense (both of which I have backgrounds in...) I know that patience, consistent discipline and understanding are the basics for dealing with behaviour modifications.

Discipline requires us all (as parents and caregivers) to do the same for the learning to be effective.  If an unwanted action occurs, all the responses must be the same so the child understands that the behaviour or action is unwanted.  It's clear that it isn't okay for one person to demonstrate being upset and another to say nothing.  It sends a mixed message that no one person would understand let alone a child.
Saying it nicely, “Don’t do that” is not enough.  The message must be obviously clear so that in each instance Hunter knows it is NOT okay to do it.  But lately, our showing a discontent emotion for his negative or unwanted behaviour hasn't been enough.  If I raise my voice, he now raises his back.  If we tell him "No" in a stern voice, he holds his breath, turns red and literally shakes - fists closed and all!  This kind of response is one I have never seen in a baby!  And I should elaborate, I am not even sure where he got that from, since one would think that he could only do something like that by imitation, and no one in our home has ever done something like that.  This reaction that Hunter has (as weird as it is) is simply bizarre and cute all at the same time.  But, it's clear to me and makes me understand he comprehends by reaction and that he is responding to our displeasure. 
What is frustrating however is, despite our discontent look or look of complete displeasure, he is not changing his behaviour.  I am aware that every child reacts differently to discipline and no one model fits all.  Some children simply need a look and they can burst into tears.  Some, a raised voice is enough.  Some are resistant to all but physical discipline.  I don't think any person has all the answers, and that any person can criticize how another parent disciplines their child.  I think when it comes to parenting and discipline, just like any other investigation of how something works, you have to start with the least invasive methods and see what works.  I do however believe as a rule, excessive anything is not okay.  Everything has limits.

With the onset of new behaviours it appears that the people of parenting magazines and online resources also feel that this is the key time to provide me with information on this very topic.  Just today I received an email from Pampers.com which actually talks about Discipline at this age.  I found it ironic since today has been one of our troubling days.  Hitting, biting, screaming and all in one day.

The Pampers team seem to discuss and put a lot of stake into what most parents today are using as a discipline tool.  "TIME OUT'S".  Funny, today I think I needed a "TIME OUT".  They explore the idea of starting to introduce the "Time Out Chair" or "location" and how consistence with delivery is key.  If not one time, or one hundred times, you must keep at it until you reach the level of success for that specific "punishment".  Any deviation or buckling can cave the whole effort and stall the entire process of learning.  Worse, it can create rebellion.  They explain even at this age (18 months or so) the teaching of the "time out" can be effective, so long as you are consistent in the punishment and also the delivery.  For example, if there is an unwanted behaviour, minimize the explanation to "No" and if the unwanted behaviour is repeated, then announce what was done wrong IE: "You are not to hit your sister and you must have a Time Out".  At this point you are to remove the child from the unwanted behaviour (and area) and start the time out.  If the child moves from the location (perhaps a chair or corner) then replace the child and explain the Time Out starts all over.  At the age of 18 months, the time must be short enough (example, one minute) to redirect the attention.  The advice on how to do this is strict to the parent though, as they explain in order for effectiveness, even if the child has to be placed there once or one hundred times to achieve the full minute, it must be done.  They advise once the time has been met, bring the child back, give a hug and move on with life.  Do not talk about the problem again.  At early ages, it serves no purpose to bring the topic back up, as it will only confuse the child.  The idea (while targeted for the age of 18 months up to the age of 5) is that isolation from the event or parent is what modifies the behaviour.  If it is impossible to keep a child in a chair or there are issues of abandonment to consider, it is advised to move rooms and not to communicate with the child for the length of time.  It is noted, NO child should ever be left completely alone or in a dangerous location.  Once the punishment is over, talking and normal communications should resume.  The child in essence learns that unwanted behaviour has negative consequences - but it is warned that if there negative consequences achieve more attention then normal good behaviour, your child will soon learn that acting inappropriately gets attention.  So it is mentioned that there should be an understanding of better behaviour gets good attention and negative behaviour gets bad.  It's important to ensure that you are normally giving your child "well" attention, and by that they also indicate it is better to spend 20-30 minutes a day playing on the floor with your child to potentially avoid a child associating negative attention for getting any attention at all.

After all this psychology, (and in fact I have been doing some of this without even having read it in the first place) I may try timed - time outs.  One thing that I was actually pleasantly surprised to read in the Pampers article was that they did include a section regarding children with delays.  They do want parents to be cognisant that you have to adjust your discipline on understanding of behaviours rather then chronological age.  And that makes the most important sense.  So we shall see how it goes now that I am somewhat studied up on discipline.  I just hope that everyone in our household can ensure that it's the same and consistent.  Nothing is worse then having one parent trying desperately to discipline using a certain method while another one or caregiver is doing something completely different.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Oh...the terrible 3's starting at the terrible 17 months!!! Let me know how the time out works. That Hunter is one smart cookie


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