Yesterday, I was making Rafal’s school-day schedule. His schedule is important. If he doesn’t have it, he freaks out, sometimes even with it, he does.
We planned to do some yard work. Jerry told the kids to work on some school work until he was ready to work outside.
Rafal took one look at his list and said, “What, I can’t do all of this today! I thought we were going to work outside. Why do I have to do all of this?”

“Because, it’s a good day,” replied Jerry.

“We’ll do some of the schoolwork after the yard work,” I said with a smile.

Rafal’s response? Anger. Indignation-one of his vocab words for this week.

He had finished his Bible study, so I got out his math. He suddenly forgot how to find common denominators, which we had been working on for two weeks. Not to mention, it is review from last year.

He slammed things around and said, “I have no clue how to do this!” He closed his math book and said, “I just won’t do it.”

Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child, argues that outbursts “arise from developmental delays in three areas: flexibility, frustration tolerance, and problem solving.” He calls them “lagging skills”. When a child doesn’t know how to be flexible, he cannot adjust to changes in schedule. A change can send him into an angry tizzy.

Rafal’s reaction to the schedule change (even though he had a blast raking/blowing leaves) was anger. The anger prevented him from remembering a math skill. What he really was saying through his outburst was, “I am not flexible. I don’t know how to handle this change in my schedule. I don’t know what to do.”

Many children have this inflexibility issue, some call it inability to change gears, or wanting to control the environment, whatever you call it, the anger can cause problems for the whole family. Children born prematurely, raised in an orphanage for a period of time, FAS or RAD children may have this “lagging skill”. It cannot be lectured out of existence. I know, I’ve tried logic, it doesn’t work.

The solution? Patience. I have to work on not getting frustrated myself-not being flexible to his inflexibility! Second, I have to help him work on this skill. He has made progress. Yesterday, he slammed shut a math book. A year ago, he would have run off into the woods behind our house and hid.

This afternoon, I talked to him about trying counting to five after he was asked a question that would alter his schedule. For instance,when we were out doing yard work, he had the broom. Hunter asked for it ‘for a sec’ to finish the remnant of a pile on the sidewalk. Rafal went crazy yelling “no” and he grabbed a log from the firewood stack and launched it at Hunter. Okay, not so great at the flexibility or the problem solving. After he calmed down, we talked about his exaggerated reaction and how the counting could help.

“Would letting Hunter use the broom for thirty seconds kill you or hurt you?”



“Right, that it why it is better to count and think before hurling a log at someone.”

He laughed. Progress.

2 thoughts on “Inflexibility

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