Charting The Uncharted, a Post-Mortem

Understood.org's Holiday Behavior Worksheet, did it work when we put it into practice?

The holidays came and went, and we promised that as we were heading into the festive season Maki and I would test drive a strategy to help preemptively identify some potential trouble spots (behaviorally-speaking) for each of our respective kids. So, how did it go for us?

To refresh your memories, Maki and I each had our child fill out Understood.org’s Holiday Behavior Chart. We did this to help bring awareness around issues that have bubbled up in the past and how we could avoid falling into those same patterns during our winter break. My daughter and I identified the following challenges:

  • possible boredom and feeling antsy
  • feeling overwhelmed | over-stimulated
  • dealing with noise and crowds
  • misreading social cues
  • curbing her impulsivity

Maki’s son was working on:

  • overly relying on media to relieve boredom
  • better managing frustrations when things don’t go as planned

For my daughter, I feel like the worksheet yielded mixed results. The first challenge arose early, which was simply trying to get her to fill out the worksheet! Once she acquiesced, she was actually quite astute at recognizing some of the things that trigger her defensive, negative behaviors. After listing out her challenges, she needed some help from my husband and I to brainstorm solutions. This is where the format of Understood.org’s sheet is an asset. It is well-structured. First off, it has you list a challenge and what you usually revert to when faced with that challenge. Then the sheets asks you what could be an alternative to what you usually do.

This brings conscious awareness to the problem and places the control in the hands of the person filling out the form. My daughter could decide how she would like to be re-directed when she was falling into one of the negative behaviors she herself identified in the worksheet– and because, in our case, we had to help my daughter figure out what solutions were possible and appealing to her, completing the worksheet became a family project! This, in turn, helped align our family’s goals for the holiday.

The bigger challenge arose when the proverbial rubber met the road. We found it difficult to implement the strategies we all came up with just days before. When my husband and I would point my daughter to the worksheets to help remind her how she chose to be re-directed, she would flat out refuse to do what she had previously chosen as her behavior alternatives. It got to the point where just seeing the behavior worksheets became a trigger for my kiddo. By the end of the first week of our “break” (which was quickly turning out to not be a break at all) the whole family was pretty grumpy and frustrated by the situation.

The worksheet needed some muscle, something that could act as a backup or supplement to the chosen strategies. That was when the little lightbulb went off in my head. A few years ago I started using The Nurtured Heart Approach when my daughter was going through a particularly challenging phase. Back then, the approach had yielded some positive results but I was never very consistent with it and eventually my efforts in using the system petered out. I decided to revisit the system for that second week of winter break.

So, what happened? With the help of The Nurtured Heart Approach, our second week of break was vastly more positive and pleasant. Why? I think it was the recognition and expression of gratitude we showed our daughter when she was engaging in positive or neutral behaviors. When my husband and I backed up the solutions drafted in Understood.org’s worksheets alongside giving very little attention to our daughter’s negative provocations and a good deal of attention to the positive behaviors, things really shifted for the better. It seemed like all of a sudden she could see the value in using the worksheets and was eager to get more positive attention from my husband and I. All in all, the Holiday Behavior Worksheets were not enough on their own to make the desired shift in our family, but in combination with something like The Nurtured Heart Approach, the worksheets had value. Now, let us check in with Maki and see how the worksheets played out in her family over the winter break.


Maki here. For my son, managing media time became a challenge as both my husband and I wanted to relax while he watched YouTube. Is there a worksheet for lazy parents? In all seriousness, my son watched more YouTube than usual, but since we were on vacation, I was okay with it. However, we did make an agreement to watch Youtube only in 20-to-30 minute sessions, after which, he’d switch to another activity like reading and writing.

As for managing frustrations, there weren’t many situations over the break where his frustrations got the better of him (thankfully). It had been a busy semester, he was just glad to be on vacation (and so was I). The usual triggers, like feeling rushed or overwhelmed with homework didn’t come up. The only major conflict that came up was when we’d take him to the movies. Our kid HATES movie theaters! That, and watching movies in general. I guess it’s the build up of tension and the fear of not knowing what might happen next? Add that to the visual impact of sitting in front of the big screen… We will be exploring this very topic in another post! Anyway, we dealt with his adverse reaction to the movies by asking him to do us a favor. We asked him to consider how my husband and I take him to activities he likes, but that we don’t like so much. We asked if he could reciprocate by participating in activities we enjoy once in a while. He might never become a big movie watcher, but he understood. Good enough for the time being!


Well, there you have it. The Understood.org worksheets were a springboard to alternative solutions in both our families, but not the solution itself. Would we attempt to use it again? I guess we shall see. To be continued…

 

For more information about The Nurtured Heart Approach as well as other resources and support materials, visit: www.childrenssuccessfoundation.com

For a copy of the holiday worksheet and many other invaluable resources for children with behavioral or learning challenges, visit: www.understood.org

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