Control Issues

We are finally all healthy and hitting all things summer pretty hard. Swimming, bike riding, baseball etc. are filling our days well and we are loving it. But with the set weekly routine of school past us I find once again a few hiccups along our days and the majority of them seem to come from a want or need for Damion to control any and all situations. Damion continues to become more and more vocal, which is of course wonderful. But pairing that with an already astute awareness of his surroundings has brought some vocal pushback throughout the day as we do things not always 100% to his liking. His objections are thankfully nowhere near the standards of our “Meltdown Mania” like two summers ago, thankfully we have made large strides since then, but working through even those smaller bits of defiance on a daily basis can still become pretty tiring after a while.

As always, we do what we can to help him understand his day and to help prevent issues when possible. We still follow our own advice from last summer to get through those “Slow Day Struggles”, especially when it comes to making his summer daily picture schedule. He is to the point where he honestly wouldn’t need the pictures anymore as we can verbally give him a run down for the day and he can understand and remember the entire days plans just fine, but he still loves having the schedule to look at, so this mom still accommodates this fairly small request.

Some of these control issues begin right at the start of the day when making the list. He will often look over my shoulder and try to make additional requests based on things he wishes would be added or removed. Sometimes a gentle reminder that Mom is in charge of the list and that “I’m not taking requests” is enough to stifle any pushback. But then other days he seems more upset as he wants to be in total control of deciding what the day ahead will bring. At which point the mom disincentives start to come out. I begin first by telling him that if he can’t remain calm, I will remove a preferred item for the day. If that doesn’t work, I have had to start getting up from the computer and stop making the list all together, telling him we will just do our day without the list. He really likes having the list, so this method has worked quite well so far.

 Unfortunately, the control issues are not limited to just the morning schedule assignment. They branch into plenty of other aspects of our day from things as simple as I decided to drive another way to get to a location, to what we are planning to have for dinner or even what specific station I listen to while riding in the car. Damion would love to be in control of each and every tiny aspect of his day and sometimes even of what other people like his siblings are doing. Just the other day we had to take two vehicles to get to a destination and he got to pick who he would ride with, but then he still got mad that his sister chose to ride in the other car instead. It has become quite the event dealing with this little person who wants to control the world. So, what have I done to fix this problem?

Well, to be honest, I haven’t quite figured out a perfect solution yet, and I have a feeling this may be one of those issues that are never completely resolved. I imagine Damion will always cling to having a sense of control over what is going on. It is just my job to teach him that he can’t have that control over everything, and hopefully we will come to a happy medium where he is ok with that, or at least learns to have an appropriate reaction when he is not ok with it. For now, I try to pick my battles when I can. I don’t try to stir up trouble on trivial things and let him make his choices when it won’t have a large impact on the day. But I also do my best to stay firm and when I say no to something, not waver on it. I will continue to just incentivize the good reactions and show him that having those bad reactions not only will not get him what he wants but may result in having a “want” taken away for the day.

Letting go of control is an issue that I know a lot of people face, even people not on the spectrum. Which is why I have a feeling that the want or need for control will never be completely gone for Damion. But there is plenty of room for progress at least. The days of having these fights over each and every thing that Damion does not have control over feel long right now, but I am hopeful just like fixing the issues that we ran into each summer before, we will work hard and hopefully by next summer I will be looking back thinking about how far he has come from the summer before. In the meantime, if you find yourself with a “little control freak” at your house this summer too, I hope you can find some comfort knowing we are on the parent struggle bus together. We can both take some deep breaths, maybe drink a glass of wine on occasion, and do our best not to let it ruin having a great summer with our kiddos.