One of my children (not naming names) has gotten into a habit of sorts. This was likely not intentional but it is not beneficial to her and is counterproductive to keeping peace in the family. This habit grew for a long while, as it was difficult to actually identify and express accurately. Have you ever thought something was just not right, but it was hard to put your finger on exactly what it was in any given situation, or rather as with us, recurring similar situations that were problematic? This child has a habit of being less than friendly and perceived as rude, especially by our youngest son who you may know is deaf and is a real handful (if you get my drift). Facial expressions are very important in communicating to him so although she might not say anything rude, it is there in her face and in the absence of friendly words or tone. (Remember the saying, “if looks could kill . . . “?) She recently admitted that she has decided not to show her teeth when she smiles. (This is another issue; she had problem baby teeth but now her permanent teeth are beautiful – – a delayed reaction to earlier days I guess.) Therefore, it seemed for a while like all the conflicts stemmed from my son’s behavior since she hadn’t said/done anything. But I began to notice that he would often start off in a playful, friendly manner with this particular sibling and that it would quickly escalate. My daughter wouldn’t respond to him so he retaliated. Or her response would always be in the negative, not at all receptive of the younger son’s initiation of play.
Over the course of time I have often intervened by telling her to respond nicely/friendly/playful – – all with little if any progress. Tonight, I suggested that she think of some words she could use that would be friendly, make a list and practice since it seemed to be so difficult for her to think of anything friendly to say. She also has FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) which may explain in part the difficulty of connecting her behavior to what others think. Later, I was thinking that it might be good advice for me as well, as I tend to get so exasperated with these constant episodes and my patience — and friendliness — wears a bit thin. Since we homeschool, my assignment for the week for all my students as well as myself is going to be to write out and practice friendly phrases we can be armed with when faced with the temptation is to be less than friendly or rude to our family members. I will start and we can brainstorm some good ones for our particular family. Then we can practice them, perhaps with flash cards or a poster of friendly phrases. We may need to add ASL and copy them a few times over to get the new habit going. Homeschooling, with or without special needs, is a great vehicle to address needs that are particular to one person or family member. Perhaps you would like to think of some friendly phrases of your own, especially if there is someone whom you have a hard time being pleasant to. Let’s face it — some folks are harder to connect with and some just tend to push our buttons. Planning ahead may be just the thing to keep conflicts from erupting into arguments.