Monday, March 26, 2012

Whistle Blowing Technique Update: Moving Forward

by John and Diane
Hi Friends,
I posted a blog about a whistle blowing technique I used with my foster kids to end the cycle of verbal arguments and tantrums on March 19th titled “Blowing the Whistle on Arguing” and I just wanted to update you.

The other day I was dealing with one of my kids who has “anger issues” stemming from RAD, a history of abuse and learning disabilities. I had to redirect him on completing his chores, and he was beginning to argue with me. This was a spontaneous “room check” and I was not really prepared to deal with an outburst. I could see he was ramping up and I reached up to my throat to feel for my whistle, which I had to use with him the day before.

I didn’t have it. I didn’t want to deal with a big blow out with him, and I knew the whistle system worked well with him. I began to walk away from the situation and look for the whistle before he began to argue with me.

I went to where I thought I left the whistle, and it was gone. I asked one of my other kids if he knew where it was, he said no. Meanwhile, the “defiant” child was listening to this, and knew what I was doing.
“Why are you looking for the whistle dad?” he asked.

“ Because I am not going to argue with you, and I can see you are getting upset. I am going to have to redirect you about your room, and I am not going to listen to you yell at me.” I replied.
“I don’t like the whistle.” He said.
“ You don’t? Why?” I asked.
“Whenever I see it, I think I am in trouble, and I stop what I am doing. I feel like I should be quiet and go to my room or watch what I am saying around you.”

Interesting! I thought. My child just told me that the whistle, even without my blowing into it, is doing its job. It is a visual cue that the behavior he is exhibiting is wrong and has negative consequences (the unpleasant noise.) I don’t even have to blow the whistle now, I can just reference it, or touch it or pick it up, and the behavior stops.

Now, his caseworkers and I are going to try to move him from the whistle to a behavioral modification that he can control more. We are going to offer him the option of a cue-word like “Stop” along with a physical action, like a hand clap, to signal a de-acceleration of his anger and tantrum behavior.

So, when he becomes angry I would say, “Stop” and clap my hands once. He would then clap his hands once in response, to acknowledge the statement and to provide a physical release of his growing frustration. Then the argument will be done and the conversation over. If he continues and doesn’t respond with a clap of the hands, I would then blow the whistle.

The handclap, by the way, is also a physical tension release for the parent or caretaker as well, during a confrontation.

We are going to begin this experiment in the next week or so, and if it works, transfer the handclap technique to his teachers at school to help control his outburst in that environment as well.

This technique is really working well for my difficult foster kids, and if you have kids with anger issues I invite you to discuss the technique with your caseworkers and therapists to see if it might work for you as well.

Good luck

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