Chainsaws, Revelations, and Rewinding It All

The Explosive Child. I’m only 3/4 of the way through and it’s already helping my child and I communicate better together. Javan hit my legs from behind with a toy chainsaw today. That still sucked as much as it would have before I began learning how to implement this new communication technique, but the difference is, I never would have known why he did it. Mostly because it doesn’t make any sense why he does these things. To me. But to him, with his black and white, rigid thinking, it makes perfect sense. Now that I’m learning to keep my observations neutral and keep asking questions, his real ideas are coming out. In the past few days I’ve learned that my son is way, WAY more rigid in his thinking than I ever thought possible, and that he is way, way less impulsive than any professional has ever assumed him to be. “Impulsivity” is a word that practically every therapist, teacher, or friend has used in reference to this kid. We didn’t know the half of it.

Remember the urine soaking that I received as my punishment for inflicting a stomach ache on him? Not impulsive. Calculated. He calculates every move he makes. And he does it for revenge. Retribution. He’s not evil, although I have to remind even myself of this often. He just can’t understand other people’s thinking processes well enough to know that we don’t deserve his justice system. He doesn’t have a clue what’s going on inside anyone else’s head, how to figure that out, or how we know what’s going on in his head. More importantly, his black and white thinking leads him to believe that we must always know what’s going on inside his head. After all, how can you know something half the time and not the other? Thus, when we’ve inflicted unknowing discomfort or inconvenience to him, he thinks we know it. And deserve punishment.

Today’s toy chainsaw incident. Not impulsive (which I immediately assumed it WAS, since I saw no escalation leading up to it). Calculated. That happened less than ten minutes before we needed to leave the house to pick up his dad from work. I wasn’t ready to talk about it before we left the house, so he stayed in his hammock (i.e. thinking spot) until it was time to leave.

After a few minutes of driving, I said, “OK. I think I’m ready to talk about what happened. Are you?”

“Yes.”

Deep breath. “Why don’t you go first.” (Not my usual plan. Did NOT know what to expect. What he said next blew my mind.)

“I made two bad decisions and I shouldn’t have done them and I’m sorry.” (This sounded genuine, not memorized and repeated.)

“Two bad decisions? What were they?”

“Hitting you with my hard toy and coloring blue on my mattress.” (He apparently had gotten hold of a blue highlighter and colored a teeny, tiny mark on the underside of his mattress while he was in his thinking spot.)

“Why did you make those bad decisions?”

“I was angry and I was happy that I did those things.” (He realizes that when he feels angry, it feels good to do mean things that he later regrets.)

“What made you angry?”

“That you didn’t get my my food.”

“I didn’t get you what food? You didn’t ask me for food.”

“Yes, I did. When we got in the car.”

“We just got in the car. But that was after you made the bad choices. I don’t understand.”

“Notthis time we got in the car. The last time. Before we came home.”

“Ooooohhhhh. You mean when we were in town earlier and you wanted me to stop and get you a snack. I said we could have a snack at home. Is that right?”

“Yes. But you didn’t get me my food.”

“OK. So. Earlier you asked me for a snack. I said you could have one when we got home. But I didn’t get you a snack when we got home. And when it was almost time to go get Daddy, you got mad because I never gave you a snack. Is that right?”

“Yes!”

“Javan, I forgot that you had asked me for a snack. I forgot that I was supposed to get you a snack when we got home. Why didn’t you just tell me you wanted a snack instead of hitting me?”

“Well. You didn’t tell me you didn’t remember.”

Stunned silence. There is nothing I can say to answer that. His thinking is so rigid. So instead I just said, “Next time, when Mommy does something that makes you angry,talk to me about it. Don’t hit me. Talking is always better than hitting.”

“OK.”

Discussion over. But there was a further revelation coming. When Daddy got into the car, Javan immediately recounted the two things he’d done wrong and said he’d already been punished and we’d already talked about it. This is his usual way of greeting Daddy, so it can just be out of the way for good. But he didn’t say, “I hit Mommy with my toy chainsaw.” He said, “I hit Mommy with my trap.” It took me a while to realize that he had not said, “I hit Mommy with my crap,” because he still sometimes mixes up the /k/ sound and the /t/ sound. Trap? What on Earth was he talking about?

“You know, the trap that I made with my truck and my owl hat and my chain saw.”

Oh. Goodness. The chainsaw had been tied to a winter owl hat with long braids coming down from the ear flaps and there had been a small toy truck looped in it too. What I had mistaken for playing with toys was, in fact, a plotting of revenge. He had to come up with the “trap” and put it together, which involved somehow tying the braids together with the toys on it. This took some forethought. And then he implemented his plan when he was sure that I had no intention of feeding him before we left the house.

I will never be able to get him to understand why people do and don’t do things. What people do and don’t think. He will probably never get it. I can’t prepare him by teaching him every possible situation in which someone will not think or do the things he wants them to think or do. In order to prepare him for this situation in that way, I would have to have sat him down for a talk some time ago and said, “OK, Javan. Here’s what you do if Mommy says you can have a snack when we get home, but then she does NOT give you a snack when we get home.” Sounds ridiculous, huh? Laughable. That’s been my strategy until now. “Here’s what you do when this happens or that happens.” There are endless possibilities of what can and will happen that he won’t understand. So, I have to teach him to talk about things that anger or confuse him. I’ve been so busy trying to teach him what to do to be successful, that I haven’t even realized I’ve never heard his side of things in so many situations. That’s why I’m so glad I’m reading this book. It is teaching me in a simple, formulaic way how to find out what is going on in that head of his and address his point of view instead of only trying to enforce my will against his. Because when I do that, he doesn’t learn anything. And I usually lose anyway.

This next observation I’ll leave you with is just an interesting side note for kicks. I’ve noticed over the last week or so that Javan keeps asking me to “go that way” when I’m trying to talk with him. I was not at all sure what he meant. Was I standing or sitting in odd places? I would try moving “that way” and he would get frustrated and say, “No, not like THAT!” Then he progressed to saying, “Left. Go left. In your talking. Go left!”

“HOW DO YOU GO LEFT IN YOUR TALKING?!?!?! Do you want me to move to the left while I talk?”

“NO! UUUUUGGGGHHH!!!”

A few days ago, I got it! He is trying to REWIND ME! On a remote control, the left arrows mean rewind. He wants me to back up. Repeat myself. Duh! Ok, got it now. Less frustration on both sides. The only time we still run into trouble with this is when he can’t understand that I only rewind so far. A few sentences or so. I don’t remember everything I say. Do you?

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