Sunday, April 21, 2013

For kids with anxieties: worry bullies

Do you like my little depiction of a "worry bully" over there? I think that's kind of what they look like sitting on someone's shoulder. 

One of the most wonderful things I have discovered when researching things to help Brady (and myself!) is the idea of "worry bullies." I talk about it more in this post about books to address behavior issues.

I think anxiety as a motivator for some kids is often lost on parents and teachers when dealing with a seemingly stubborn child or a meltdown. In our case, if Brady gets anxious about something, he will become very upset, not listen to anything you say, throw a fit, act out without realizing why he's doing so, and do whatever he has to not to deal with the anxiety-inducing thing.

Thank God myself and my husband recognize this so we can be patient with him and talk him through it. Punishing a kid for anxieties will always fail and backfire and not help at all. Anxieties are terrible things. They zap rational thought and induce actions a person would not normally ever do. I think sometimes people forget a kid can have them too.

The idea of a "worry bully" has helped us a lot with this. We read the book referenced above and, ever since then, reminding him of what's happening helps him see it as something tangible he can push away. I've seen Brady tell the worry bully to go away, squash it, stuff it in a "box", and then be fine. How powerful is that. I personally have used this idea for myself too since I struggle with anxieties. And it helps me to be able to tell him that mommy has worry bullies too. Then he doesn't feel alone.

Anxieties have affected his response to reading at school. Teachers may assume it is him being stubborn, disobedient or not wanting to do his work. But the truth is reading, for now, makes him very anxious and so he resists it. Anxieties affect his participation in music. He tells me he gets "stage fright." Another time he REFUSED to participate in London Bridge because he did not want to be "trapped."

Understanding what he deals with means I can 1) help him learn the skills to cope with it and fight it and 2) remind his teachers there is more to what he does than what's on the surface. If you address only the behavior and not the root of it, you will get nowhere and the child will suffer.

And we'll keep fighting those worry bullies - ugly little guys! - every day of our lives.

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