What are the triggers of outbursts and meltdowns? What is the meaning behind them and what really goes on in your child’s mind when the anger, shouting and aggression starts? Here is a short list of the most important things every parent should know about the outbursts children have when suffering with Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome. This list is far from exhaustive, however what it will give you is an idea of what causes PDA aggression and anger and the best way to handle outbursts.
- Outbursts of aggression have their roots in stress and anxiety; this means that as much as your child may want to shout you down over the avoidance of a request, like tidying up their room or brushing their teeth, the outbursts are usually a tactic to distract the request and thus avoid doing it. The best way to handle these outbursts is to play the PDA at its own game and use indirect requests instead or direct ones. In other words, use open-ended questions or make the request sound like a game or a competition. ‘Bet you can’t brush your teeth as fast as I can.’ Or ‘Do you want to tidy up your room now or after dinner?’
- Outbursts may occur to cover up feelings or embarrassment or not understanding the rules; children often will throw themselves into a shouting or aggressive outburst when they are unsure of what is expected of them, over something they don’t want to take responsibility for or when they feel embarrassed about what they are doing or being asked to do. The best way to handle these moments is to lessen the importance of the request or action you wish them to take. Lower the expectation and shrug off the request, no matter how important it is to you. Once your child sees that it is not such a big deal, they are more likely to respond to an indirect request and take responsibility for it.
- Outbursts may occur when the child is worried about something which is not worth worrying about; children with PDA can often worry about things that you and I wouldn’t really think was worth a big deal worrying about. They can hide this worry inside themselves and will often be over-concerned about a situation which has come and gone, often feeling the emotion of feeling let down, annoyed over something, overly cross with someone, when we have already forgotten about it. PDA children are very thoughtful and can be very considerate even though they appear not to show they care, they actually do. The best way to handle these situations is to reassure them there is nothing to worry about and change the subject or move onto another activity. Another thing to note here is tell someone about the incident and say how well you thought your child acted, and let them overhear. PDA children like indirect praise like this.
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Michelle Hatcher is the author of the Progress Pentagon parenting courses and founder of the best-selling : Unleashing The Positive Mind Masterclass. She is a certified CBT Therapist, NLP Practitioner, mother of 15 year old Jon who has Autism and PDA and certified Life Coach.
She is also a member of the Complimentary Medical Association, the International Alliance of Holistic Therapists
and The Association of Integrative Psychology. Her autobiography, How To… uncovers the secrets of Autism and how to overcome it plus it tracks her life as a mother of an Autistic child, how she developed her best-selling courses using CBT and NLP with Autism. She is also a public speaker on Autism Awareness.
She lives in Wiltshire with husband Nick, son, Jon and three cats; Apple, Missy and Augusta.