I remember when Jake was around the age of 2 and didn’t talk. When he was 3 he could repeat words and make simple requests. Around the age of 6 he was able to hold very short conversations. Before this time, I wanted to know so many things. I wanted to hear about his day at school, I wanted him to be able to tell me he loved me on his own without prompting. I am mostly happy to say that he is now able to hold small conversations, express his needs and sometimes his feelings with his words. He still cries as his first resort when something doesn’t go his way or he can’t figure out the words to say. Because he is able to communicate more he is also using his voice to demand things or to test his limits. He has become extremely verbal in this area and our home seems to be in an uproar much of the time. It is like having a 2-year-old that has just learned the word “no”.
For starters, he has decided to pick the words ‘I told you’ when he wants something, “Mommy, I told you to get me more milk”, “I told you I need a snack” or “I told you to get me my toy!” Just typing this out gets my blood boiling. Like most parents I hate the lack of respect and I am often saying “don’t tell me to do something for you, you can ask nicely but I will not do what you want if you don’t use nice words.” Most of the time he will say “Oh, could you get me some milk, please?” but sometimes he will say “I told you to get me some milk, please”. Yeah, that last one doesn’t cut it. For a while he thought if he just added the please to the end it was okay. Uuuummmm, NO! Anyway, this has been going on for a while and like everything else we work on; it is slow going.
A few days ago, Jake had his trains in the bathroom sink. Allie needed to wash her hands and asked Jake to get his trains. He stood there and started telling her why he didn’t want to get the trains from the sink. Allie was getting mad; Jake was getting mad so I had to get involved. I said to Jake “get your trains out of the sink so Sissy can wash her hands.” He looked at me, crossed his arms over his chest and said “hmph”. Basically telling me no. I told him to get the trains now! He did this again all the while looking at me to see what I would do. This didn’t go over well with me and he was sent to room. The remainder of the night he was testing the limits and was constantly getting into trouble. Finally, he wanted to go to bed; fine by me! I asked him at bed time why he was not making good choices and using his words to sound mean. He looked at me and said “because I know how to do it now.” Yep, he certainly does!
Many times he is being defiant and I can see that pretty quickly (like in the above paragraph)! But then there are those times I can’t tell if he is being defiant or if he is going through the steps in order to do the right thing. I know that sounds strange to many of you but for those that have kids on the spectrum, I think you might understand. I am finding that teaching Jake to use nice words is no different from when I teach Jake a new skill. We go over and over the new skill reinforcing the technique until it becomes habit. Jake used to cry when I asked him to put on his shoes. I knew he could do it but every time he would cry. Then he would say he couldn’t do it, cry some more and finally he would put on his shoes and smile while saying “I did it!” He did this with other things as well. We would ask him to do something he would cry, say “I can’t” and then complete the task and cheer. It is/was how he learned; first crying then task. If I could read his mind, I would guess he thinks that if he doesn’t cry or make a demand first then he feels like he missed a step in completing the task. I am finding that he is doing this with his words now. Here lately he will demand that I do something and then change the way he asks without redirection from me and say “I said it nice” with a big smile.
Jake is a smart boy and knows what is right versus what is wrong. He wants to do it the way he knows is appropriate but at times I see him struggle with making good choices. He does have a lot of OCD tendencies and this is where the crying and demanding come in; he wants to do it the way we want but needs to cry or make a demand to feel at peace about it. I could be all wrong but this is the way I see what’s going on with him….
It’s a juggling act and my mind never rests unless he is asleep. I want to make good parenting choices and do the best for him; don’t we all!
If I can understand him a little more then I will be able to help him and leave the crying and demanding behind.
(This image is so on point; working with a 7-year-old that is going through the terrible two’s…it wears me out!)