Ken Shyminsky, a former vice president of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, draws upon his personal experiences as an teacher and student with Tourette Syndrome to help children with TS and related disorders. He also has Tourette himself and is the founder of the website Neurologically Gifted.
Rage tends to make family members feel hopeless and out of control. We began our discussion in Neurologically Gifted’s article Rage 1: About Rage. Preparing a plan to deal with rage in the home puts an end to those feelings of hopelessness. With a predetermined plan, you will have responses and strategies that you and your family can rely on. You will now have something you can do about it.
When preparing to take on rage in our home, we stepped back to observe carefully what was happening. We watched for triggers for our son’s rage, how it occurred, and how we responded. In doing so, we were able to uncover our own (ineffective) default behaviors. (See Neurologically Gifted’s Article Rage 2: Look, Listen and Focus).
Once we had identified the behaviors in our family (rage, triggers and responses), we sat down with our son to discuss those patterns. We openly and honestly discussed our feelings. With care and support, we helped our son explore what he felt before, during and after a rage episode. We made it clear to him that this was a family problem and that as a family we could find solutions and improve our situation. (See Neurologically Gifted’s Article Rage 3: Talk About Rage.) With this critical step completed, it was time to for us to make a family plan to get control over rage in our home.
Make House Rules
- Make rules with your child. Ask them what rules they think should be included. Prompt them by letting them know that the rules will apply to everyone in the family. Ask them how they would NOT want to be treated by others. Ask if there are things they would like to change by making a rule. Discuss with your child why the rule is important and the natural consequences of non-compliance to the rule.
- Guide your child through the rule making process. Keep rules simple and concise for easy recall.
- Do not over-burden the process with too many rules. Choose your battles, picking only rules that apply to your greatest challenges. Over time, your child will become better able to self-regulate their emotions and responses. As your family begins to experience progress you will be able to change your focus and rules to address other priorities.
- Keep rules obtainable and focus on safety. For example, a rule prohibiting swearing is not realistic for a child with coprolalia. A rule prohibiting anger or frustration isn’t appropriate either as we all have feelings. In such a case, the family rule could outline acceptable ways (and places) to express anger and frustration. You want your child to be successful, gain confidence and learn to apply skills for managing their emotions throughout this process.
- Keep copies close by for quick reference. Having the rules posted in their personal space as well, will allow the child time to review expected behaviors and natural consequences of prior behaviors. In our home, we placed a copy in our son’s bedroom, and referred to them at bedtime when we debriefed the day’s successes and challenges.
- When referring to the rules: Give kind and gentle reminders. Reminders could include what the family (including the child) agreed would promote a safer and more peaceful environment. Referencing the rules on paper takes the blame/authority away from the offender/enforcer and places it on the family rules. A child is less likely to express anger towards a predetermined rule, rather than to being told to stop what they are doing by a parent. Avoid trying to catch your child breaking the rules or to use the rules in a punitive manner. You are attempting to use the rules to guide them in a predetermined way to modify their rage, not to punish them. Continue reading