As a Grief and Relationship Coach, I work with people enriching their relationships with others, some as a transition from life to death; others with people alive and well. This is an example of how I help my clients “deal with difficult people”
You can’t change them. You may not be able to cut them out of your life. You have to learn how to live ‘with them’.
Now mind you I am using this example not to exploit my son with special needs and to open people’s minds about a different perspective and to check your ego at the door.
Recently, I was at Little Caesars with Nicholas and my granddaughter, Lily who is 3. We go there sometimes after cheer practice and pick up a couple of pizzas ready to go. This particular visit was much busier than usual. There was an actual waiting line.
Upon entering the store to the right of the counter is a drink case in which they sell big 2 liter bottles and personal size bottles. Well on Nicholas’s defense when we shop at Wal-Mart, he is rewarded with a drink upon checkout if he’s been a good guy. So…. Nicholas thriving on ‘routine’ immediately associates we are at a store and he wants a drink.
He asks in his way by pointing to the case, signing drink, and has the query look on his face combined with a hopeful, soon to be satisfied smirk. I say ‘no’ we have drinks at home, we are just getting pizza today. He says nooooo, shakes his head back and forth and looks down. He asks again. I say no. He’s NOT happy. He is growling his noooooo loudly now. While having Lily on my hip, I get close to Nicholas and firmly talk in his ear prompting him to make good choices and be a big guy with good behavior. Needless to say THIS circumstance is going to escalate and a meltdown is about to begin.
He now is determined to get that drink and begins to open the drink case. I am forced to stand in front of the drink case to block it. It doesn’t end pretty. He punches the glass door. I get a little firmer and sternly tell him not to punch the glass and MAKE GOOD CHOICES. Mind you I am not raising my voice. As if he was a toddler, he drops to the floor in fetal position and is crying and screaming.
Now, please keep in mind, I am not playing a power play with my parental authority and simply being the boss and saying, “no drink, because I said so”. I only had enough money for two pizzas and tax in my pocket. I had no debit or credit card with me and no extra money to pay for the drink. Nicholas is not going to understand that!
So, here’s the picture and I want you to ask yourself how would you feel? What thoughts are going through your head? What’s your body doing?
We are waiting in line in a very small pizza shop. The place is pretty packed with a mixture of people including other kids. I have a three year old on my hip and my 20 year old son (who’s about 5’4”) is on the floor having a meltdown. Our name is called, our pizza is ready. I go over with Lily on my hip and pay for the pizza. I have Lily on one side and pizzas in the other hand. I say to Nick is an upbeat inviting voice, “Come on, big guy, pizza is ready it’s time to go home and eat and get a drink.” No, go.
So, I go to the car. Put the pizzas on top of the car. Get Lily buckled into her car seat. Put the pizzas on the front seat. I turn to go back into the pizza store and notice most of the people inside are just staring at me. I go inside and go over to Nicholas who is still on the floor in fetal position and his loud screaming and crying has turned this steady “waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” I try to pick him up by his arm and he resists. Well, he’s too heavy and too strong for me to just lift him up and hike him over my shoulder, so I have work with him and coax him enticing him with encouragement words to make good choices, get up and let’s go home. He finally gets up and gets in the car.
Ok…. How are you feeling? How does your body feel? Are you tense; fuming; feel like punching something? How does your ego feel? Are you embarrassed; pissed off; ashamed? Do you feel like you are being judged with all the stares? A situation like this can be very toxic. You could possibly become irritated, frustrated, angry and think things like, “Not now. Not again. Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this to me?” You might be getting mad at the other people for staring. You may even go as far as throwing the pizza in the car and plopping Lily in that car seat without realizing you are being aggressive - guess what, it’s not about ME/YOU!
When we are not in control of a situation that goes the way we do not want it to go, a need is not being met. And everything and more that I just mentioned about can be a habitual, reaction. We react and respond with a sense of flight or fight desperateness. Feeling helpless, frazzled and out of control.
Many without my coaching may react this way: Start yelling at Nicholas, pitch a fit ourselves thinking how dare you defy ME! Our body language becomes hostile and some may even get physically aggressive with their kid on the way to the car. Inside the car, there could be yelling and belittling and flying off the handle. Now you are driving and we wonder where road rage comes from. Get the picture?
With my coaching some may learn to choose to react this way instead: Keep calm and firm. Be patient with Nicholas while encouraging him to make good choices. In reality, he’s not going to stay in fetal position for ever. This is a temporary situation even though it feels like it’s going on forever. Once in the car, saying nothing at all, or reiterate that that behavior is not acceptable and I know you are capable of being a good guy and making better choices. Taking a deep breath before driving off. Maybe turning on the radio for music to distract or turning the music off for quiet depending on your comfort level. Being in the moment, knowing you have to get home safely. Saying a prayer for patience.
You see when someone is being difficult with you there is a need that isn’t being met for them! It’s not about you. Nicholas wanted the damn drink, period. Was his behavior acceptable? NO. Was it something I could control? NO. Was it going to last forever? NO. Fighting fire with fire gets us nowhere and only gets our own blood boiling.
You may not be in control of the situation or another person and YOU CAN be in control of yourself. Would you rather drive home from this experience full of rage and adrenaline or drive home frustrated yet with a sense of calmness?
You may not have a special needs adult child and you can see how this shift in perspective, patterns and behaviors can indeed make a big difference in the moment, your day and your life.
Now, here is one of the best benefits you get with me as your coach…. Reflecting and thinking back to what just happened. What good came out of that? I like to believe that there maybe was another person at Little Caesars who witnessed this, who maybe is a parent too, and was taught patience and acceptance. Maybe God utilized me and Nicholas as teachers to help another. You see we never know what gifts come out of our struggles. Sometimes the gifts are for others. How cool is that? YOU ARE NOT VICTIM – YOU ARE VICTORIOUS!