I did think though that it might be useful to describe what happens in my house when Dominik, my PDA eldest son, has a bee in his bonnet about something.
At this current point in time, Dominik's 'bees' tend to be about food or money.
Dominik was once a slim, energetic, active child who pretty much ate what he wanted and didn't gain weight. Well that is not the case anymore. Over the past 18 months, he has slowly become more sedentary and more fixated on unhealthy foods.
I am a conscious shopper. I don't buy snacks as a rule, we don't have chocolate in the house nor do we have jelly sweets, ice cream or fizzy drinks. I buy organic, whole foods and I cook all of our meals form scratch. I get my Abel and Cole box every week and we drink fresh juices and enjoy home made soups on a weekly basis. I also have never had a microwave.
My children's health and well-being is something I take seriously and it is one of my top priorities. I spend plenty of time telling Dominik about essential nutrients and vitamins and we even went so far as to give the main vitamins personalities and characteristics so my children would remember why they were so important!
Well, this is all well and good, but with a PDA child, once the genie is out of the lamp, it is impossible to put it back.
We had a very close friend and neighbour who would regularly turn up at our house with the giant, £1 Galaxy bars and share them with my three. This honestly was not a problem because whilst I may buy very little of the sugar laden foods, I have no problem with others buying it for them. In fact, my mum relishes this part of being a nan!
Yesterday, Dominik decided he wanted a £1 Galaxy bar as he hadn't had one in a very long time. This is true, it has been months since we've indulged in a giant Galaxy, but I still not want him to have one as he had certainly had enough calories for the day already.
I took a stand and said that I would not go to the shop and buy one.
That's when it began. The screaming, the crying, the throwing toys around the room, the ripping my duvet cover off my bed, the hiding under the bed, the swearing, the punching, the 'you hate me', 'you're the worst mum in the world', refusing to have the shower that had already been put off since Thursday....and the list goes on.
Yes, this is hurtful, difficult for my smaller children to witness and downright exhausting (especially after an hour and a half) but I stuck to my guns.
What I often read in these scenarios is that other parents escalate the situation...adding on punishments and retributions for the current round of disruptive (panic/anxiety driven) behaviour whilst it is occurring. I do not do this.
I sit quietly, I maintain eye contact, I speak in a soft voice, I empathise, I reiterate my point and I finally say that I am done talking about the Galaxy bar today.
This is not always guaranteed to work. As I said, this particular event happened over an hour and half at top volume. In the end he went and curled up under my daughters bed. My son went to see if he was ok. He was ignored. My daughter went to see if he was ok. She was ignored. I sent him a text message (which is sometimes the best way to communicate to him that yes, I do care, but no, I will not talk about the issue any more) and I was ignored too.
He eventually came out and instantly complained that none of us cared about him. I pointed out that we had all tried to make him feel better....which he did not acknowledge as being true, but he did drop the subject.
In the end, the meltdown was over and we all got on with our evening. I needed to nip out to the shop and while I was there, I bought him a small Twix.
I took it home and gave it to him. He was over the moon. Full of gratitude and love because even though it wasn't what he had asked for, it was an acknowledgement of his current needs (and in my mind, a reward for moving on relatively quickly from a meltdown). He gave me half of one half. Proud mummy moment which also demonstrates that it is less about the chocolate, and more about the control.
No, it wasn't what he had demanded. Yes, it was small. But, most importantly I think, it left him feeling like he had not lost face. That he was still loved. And that yes, I did indeed care.
I'm sure there are plenty of people who will see this as rewarding 'bad behaviour' but I don't. For me, it was a way to connect with him, even when he is in the dark. He knows that his behaviour is unacceptable (after the event) and he knows that it won't help him achieve his goals (after the event). But he also knows, that I love him, and that if something is reasonable, and not extravagantly over-indulgent, he is likely to get it.
I try not to sweat the small stuff. For us, meltdowns, can become small stuff if they are handled with sensitivity and empathy.
Dominik in Portugal with his precious 7Up!