As you probably already know, Baxter’s always been physical. He’s been on the high end of normal when it comes to his need for proprioceptive input, and sometimes I think he would’ve been diagnosed with a mild sensory processing disorder had I not intervened very early, consulting with OT colleagues at various junctures.

We were pleasantly surprised by his ability to sustain attention and self-control in kindergarten; in part, I suspect this was due to the three recesses they got in his full-day kindergarten.  Still, we were impressed.

There are always minor comments from his teachers about these things, but it’s never too big a deal.  Considering he gets 10 minutes of movement a day, I’m amazed at how well he does.

But I think all that holding it together at school comes with its price.  The price is a lot of need for movement and input the rest of the time.  I can understand this and sympathize with it.  It’s why we go to playgrounds after school rather than many after school clubs, and why we value his twice weekly soccer experience so highly.  And it’s why we have a gym mat and sensory equipment in our playroom that come out on cold or rainy days, or when he has friends over.  He is so happy when he’s had lots of movement time that he catalogs each event for me before bed some nights, grinning. It’s important for him.

I feel like his need for movement and input is over the top right now.  Significantly.  He’s excited about summer vacation and I know that all of the endings and schedule changes that occur at this time of year can really throw kids off.  But at some point he does have to learn better impulse control.  If I see him walk up to one more friend and flick the kid’s hat off his head or slam into him sideways, I’m going to lose it.  I try to watch the other boys, to see where the norm is, and to watch their reactions: some of them are getting downright irritated.

One lesson Matt and I learned this year has been that, quite often, if you just find a way to let Baxter know how important something is (say, writing down all of those homework assignments or listening to all of the steps in his teacher’s directions), he rarely needs another reminder. But I feel like I’ve talked about this with him enough times in the past week without any results.  I know he’s impulsive, I know he can’t always help it, but it’s time for him to start trying and my intuition is, he is ready to start helping it.  I believe in my heart that he can control himself more than he used to, some of it has just become a habit.

I tried to decide what to use for this particular parenting job, and finally chose a strategy that goes against my normal aversion to negative feedback.   Baxter will be given two dollars in quarters at the beginning of each week.  Every time we see him being physical in an out-of-bounds way (which has been – and will continue to be – defined clearly for him), he loses a quarter.  Whatever money is left at the end of the week is his to keep.

I asked him about this idea after dinner tonight.  He loves it, mainly because he’s imagining that in just a few weeks he’ll be out shopping for Pokemon cards or a new Webkinz pet.  I warned him, however, that this won’t be easy.  I told him that he probably won’t end his first week with $2.00 in quarters, much as I’d like him to.   But I also said that I know he can do it, and a week will come when he will have his $2.00 and it will add up for him.  Of course this won’t go on indefinitely, but I find with these things that once the child has met the goal and “cashed out” (literally, in this case), it’s easy to drop the motivator. And if he proves me wrong and starts controlling those poking, hat-slapping hands and constantly moving feet right away and begins robbing us blind?  More power to him.  His friends and his brother will thank me.

And if I’m wrong?  Then we go to Plan B.  Which you will be required to help me with.


10 responses to “Slap-happy

  1. I love your quarter idea! Keep us posted on how it is working!

  2. As you know, money has become a HUGE motivator in this house. Good luck, and good luck to Baxter. I can exactly picture what you are talking about, and I can see the looks on his friends faces. Yes, that kind of proprioceptive need is something we are constantly working on as well. I’ll be curious to hear how this all goes.

  3. Well, you know I understand this behavior all too well! Scott would have never been diagnosed with SPD if he wasn’t a behavior problem. Baxter is fortunate to have a mommy who understand all this stuff!!

    I think your plan sounds great and I am interested to see how it goes. I think for Scott, if he lost all his quarters the first week, he’d be done, figuring he couldn’t meet the expectations But that is him, he has a very low frustration threshold.

    As far as impulse control goes, Scott usually does better if he is with older, more mature/controlled kids and if he is in a structured environment. The end of the year, out of the norm, extra hoopla business is certainly making it difficult for him to keep it together. Not as much at school, though, fortunately, just here, at home (we are so lucky!!)

  4. What a great idea! I can’t wait to hear how it works and what steps you take to help Baxter begin to exercise more/better control. We’re not there yet but I am taking notes! 🙂

  5. Lori, I agree…Baxter would give up too if he ended the 1st week with no quarters. I’ll be sure that doesnt happen even if I have to give him some extras as rewards for good control. BTW, this morning I watched him zoom up to his brother, stop himself just before smashing into him, saying, Just kidding!!, and then run in to count his quarters!!! Hooray!!

  6. Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you what a relief it is to me to read this. Chee does a similar kind of slapping. My gut tells me it is indeed a sensory seeking behavior, but I didn’t know anyone else doing it. What Chee does is she goes up to COMPLETE strangers in the grocery store and hits them and then yells, “Oops, sorry about that!!” (And laughs and laughs.) And of course, being that she’s a child, her hand swings out at about waist level on a grown man, so just guess what part of the anatomy she’s hitting. Of complete strangers. Typically older men.

    I have NO idea why she does this (other than again I think it’s sensory seeking) and not sure how to help her stop. Your plan for Baxter would not work, she’s not there yet.

    Anyway, seriously, Jordan, I am so glad to read this because it confirms for me that it is a sensory seeking kind of thing and she’s not just fascinated with doinking strangers in the grocery store.

  7. I think I have the 2yo girl version of Baxter! Sounds like you are all up to the challenge. Love that you’re handling this in such a positive way with him, calling on his internal motivation in the moment and a delayed reward. Go, Baxter!

  8. goodfountain, I’m so glad this helped. I will email you offline with some ideas I have about this “doinking” Chee does (awesome word choice, BTW), but I definitely think it’s sensory seeking.

    HeatherK, if you have the 2yo version of Baxter, hats off to you!! I remember it well. Oh, not that he wasn’t a smart, charming, delight-and-a-half, but it was so hard to calm him down (movement outside or books inside were our only hope – thank god he slept well!!). My Dad refers to Baxter’s 2nd birthday party as the one he spent in the “penalty box” (calming down in his room after – let’s use goodfountain’s word – DOINKING every other kid over the head repeatedly. Honestly, what we’re dealing with now is small potatoes compared to those days, but I suspect over the years there will be cycles of having to address it as it manifests itself in different (and, thank goodness, milder) ways.

    And, on an end-of-the-day note…Baxter told me that he held himself back from being overly physical twice at recess and it “wasn’t that hard”, and I was amazed by his self-restraint during soccer tonight (where he is surrounded by other doinkers!!). He kept stopping himself or not responding when someone poked at him, and then looking at me to see if I’d noticed. He’s so aware of it and doing great today. I’m glad that he really is ready to work on this. Phew.

  9. Pingback: The power of the Sensory Diet « goodfountain

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