The Disengagement Technique
Disengage, yes you can!
Meet Bri, a mom who tries to balance it all including her child’s meltdowns. Bri came to us because she just didn’t know what to do anymore. Her 12 year old son’s impulsive reactions were just too much to handle and were pushing Bri over the edge. She was exhausted, crying way more than usual, felt irritable, and was heartbroken because she was afraid her son was lining himself up for a difficult future. When we asked Bri exactly what she does when her son is melting down she said she tries to talk it out. She asks him to stop and when he doesn’t, you guessed it, a terrible yelling match erupts and everyone is crying.
Bri obviously knew her parenting strategy didn’t work but she didn’t know what else to do. Whenever we think about parenting strategies we always say, “less is more”. The ADHD brain doesn’t need lots of words and drawn out discussions, it needs clear direction and ways to stop itself in its tracks when things are not going well.
The Disengagement Technique is our #1 go to strategy because when you disengage you shut down the back and forth argument that never ends. The ADHD brain finds the back and forth of an argument very stimulating even when the emotions involved are negative ones. Think about it, does your child need to have the last word, do they get stuck in their point of view with little regard for anyone else? This is all very stimulating to the brain and without someone else putting the brakes on the argument it will continue.
Effective disengagement involves a conversation with your child ahead of time to explain this technique. Help your child understand their ADHD brain by discussing the extremes of ADHD. Help your child understand that when their brain is melting down the best strategy is for you to let them know you are disengaging which means you are not going to respond. It might mean you will be walking away and going to your own quiet space, taking a walk, or locking yourself in the bathroom. If you think your child will follow you, discuss that your response will be to say nothing and to continue removing yourself from the situation until your child is calm. You may need to recruit other family members if possible and/or get your child set up with a counselor to work on strategies for managing frustration if their reactions feel like they are too much.
Try using the Disengagement Technique when your child or teen gives you attitude or for incessant talking back. This will take practice and repetition so start using it today!
Don’t forget to talk to your child about the new strategy!!!!
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