De-escalation with a neuro-typical adolescent

Lying in bed reflecting upon a reasonably successful parent’s evening (for my neuro-typical adolescent) I decided it would be helpful for him if we were to go out for a chat to discuss a way forward with his studies.  He’s very able, but adolescence seems to have administered a hefty dose of nonchalance towards his education.  By that I mean he’s cruising; he’s fortunate to be bright but in my opinion he needs to start putting some work in so that he can meet his potential.  And, I believe, it’s my job as his parent to assist him with this.

So, the following morning, as I dropped him off at school, I explained that I was going to take him out for a coffee and chat later that day.  I took great care to impress upon him that it would only be the two of us (ie. no siblings, and definitely not the traumatised one who may draw all the attention towards herself); and I chose his favourite coffee shop to ‘host’ the chat.  I was clear that I was quite happy with what I’d heard at parent’s evening – I was keen to get across that this was not a punishment, rather it was a start of collaborative work between us – something he usually enjoys.  I calmly told him the time we were going to leave home.  When he said he wouldn’t meet with me as he had plans with his friends, I stayed quiet.  After a pause, I restated that the time we would leave home to go to the coffee shop.

When I got home that evening, I was very surprised to see that he had not gone out with his friends, he was in his bedroom ‘chilling out’.   After dumping my work stuff and collecting my daughter, I went out to do some food shopping.  Before I left, I reminded my son the time that he and I would be going out.  When I’d packed the car with the shopping, I called my son to say that I was on the way home and asked him to be in the hallway with his shoes and coat on, ready to depart for our chat.

Upon arrival at home, my son was nowhere to be seen – he was still in his bedroom, shoeless and coatless.  I called him from the car, he said he was ready and would be out in a minute.  I waited 15 minutes; then I left.  5 minutes into my journey to drop my daughter at her club, I had a call on my mobile.  I asked my daughter to answer it (as I was driving); she put it on loudspeaker – my son was rudely requesting my return to the house to collect him.  I reminded him that he had not been ready on time, despite my helping him by reminding him several times; then I said goodbye.  I dropped my daughter at her club, the phone ‘pinged’ … a message from my son, asking me to return and/or answer my phone.  I returned home, he was sat in the sitting room in coat and shoes.  He demanded I take him ‘for our chat’.  I explained he’d missed the opportunity and that I was not now prepared to go out for the chat.  I offered him a chat at home.  That’s when it all kicked off …

For the next 45 minutes, my son oscillated between pleading and telling me how he’d “sacrificed going out with” his friends to spend time with me and how much he was looking forward to going to the coffee shop and spending time with me chatting about his education AND telling me in no uncertain terms how awful I was treating him and that he’d done nothing wrong.

I dealt with this onslaught by being as quiet as I could be, unless my quietness escalated him.  Then I used the communication model – something I’ve never done with him before as I was convinced that he would find it patronising.  However, he was so dysregulated, he didn’t notice that I was repeated his statements to him; he just said “YES”.  I survived my (quite heavy Dr Marten boots being thrown – not at me, thankfully) and I blocked my ears (metaphorically speaking) to the expletives I had never heard him say before (although he had threatened to do so on many occasions).

Throughout the 45 minutes I moved rooms twice.  Once I moved from the kitchen to the sitting room, then after 45 minutes I moved to my bedroom.  This was because my son was calmer and I was no longer concerned that he would hurt himself and I wanted to (a) have some distance from him so that I could remain calm; and (b) watch a tv programme uninterrupted!  Hitherto, my son had turned the tv off 3 times – when I thought he was calm, I turned the tv on again but he was not calm enough, he turned it off.

Shortly after I went to my bedroom, I heard my son go to his.  A few minutes later, when I felt calm enough to do so, I took my son a chocolate bar as a reconciliation gesture.  I didn’t say much, just “would you like this?”, he said “yes please”.  I knew things were ok then.

About 20 minutes after the reconciliation gesture, my son came to my bedroom and stood by the bed.  I asked him if he’d like a hug.  He lay down next to me and we hugged.  Not much was said at that stage, we were just together – repairing the relationship.

You may be wondering why I decided to resist my son’s tardiness, particularly when I knew it could escalate him.  It is because I love him and want the best for him and he cannot make sound decisions at the moment.  The hormones raging through his body, plus peer pressure, girls, academic pressure are disabling him.  It is my duty to do whatever I can to help him through adolescence just as I am helping my traumatised daughter make good decisions with her life.  Both of them, for different reasons, are impaired in their decision-making abilities; both of them have experienced trauma, also for differing reasons.

And – I am going out with my son for our chat later this week.

This blog was written by a parent.

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