Manic Behaviour: Our Boy with Electronics

The next installment of reintroducing electronics into our nine-year old Hare’s life…

For why we took it all away in the first place, check out:  No Electronics Here: Why we cut Electronics from our Children’s lives.

So, the Hare turned nine early January and we gave him the dvds of ‘James May’s Toy Stories.’ He got to watch the first programme where a plasticine garden is created for the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s not a very exciting programme, sorry James; but it’s also not violent, rushed or any of those other things which parents might dodge with screen time choices.

That night the Hare couldn’t sleep. Now, in fairness it was his birthday, he had also eaten a lot more ‘rubbish’ food than normal, had lemonade (unusual) and some horrid looking red drink. (Red food colouring is one of his triggers.) So, we couldn’t say that the non-sleeping was due to screen time alone. He was a bit manic the next day, but again who was to say that wasn’t him coming off the ‘junk’ food high or because of the late night…So a week later, he got to watch another episode.

Immediately afterwards he had big dark rings under his eyes. And his speech was like a tommy-gun – fast and hard. He couldn’t make eye-contact easily – his eyes kept slipping all over the place when he spoke to me, and he was violent toward the Owl – in a random, I don’t know what my body is doing kind of way. His movements weren’t smooth or purposeful, but manic and like he wasn’t really in control of himself. And he struggled to get to sleep that night. He was clearly experience some degree of stress…a lot to be honest. He took a few days and nights to calm down to his usual gorgeous self. His reaction was so intense, that I said he wouldn’t be having any electronics the next week. He was fine with that decision, and understood his reactions were not acceptable behaviours. He can logically and rationally discuss the whole thing, when he’s not under the influence.

The problem we now have is: he has to learn to manage for himself. (Which is why we were reintroducing it slowly.) He is nine. Electronics are pretty much everywhere. We can’t/won’t be there to hold his hand and keep him in a quiet, non-pixelated environment all his life. He needs to learn to manage for himself – either by managing his reactions or by avoiding electronics. But like all addicts, it’s a struggle. Factor in the fact that he is nine, and it’s nigh on impossible. And allowing him some has been like opening a flood-gate – he just wants more and more.

Some is not enough for him. Some gives us a stressed child with revolting behaviour. But some also means he has more of a connection with his peer group, and isolating him from his peers isn’t something we want to do.

So, tell me…please – what would you do?

Part Three available here: Re-Introducing Electronics: Part Three – Calm?

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About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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12 Responses to Manic Behaviour: Our Boy with Electronics

  1. Hi, I suggest allowing the electronic experiences that he most wants so he still fits in with his peers. Carefully screened by you of course. Combined with slowly reintroducing him to these experiences. Maybe once a week? Twice a month?
    What makes your efforts most admirable is that you recognize that he needs to learn to manage his exposure on his own. So many people can become radical with these things, yet you seek the healthy balance. That’s the most important thing!
    Cheers!

    • kloppenmum says:

      We had to be radical in the beginning; as his behaviour was extreme, and his reactions after a little exposure were as bad as his reactions after a lot. I like the idea of what he most wants…We’ve started with the once a week idea…hopefully he’ll learn to manage!

  2. hakea says:

    wow!

    i think if he was my child i would go back to no tv. it’s an extreme reaction isn’t it, and i understand your concerns.

    is the show he was watching a half hour or hour? maybe you could break it down to watching smaller amounts at a time, eg 10 to 20 minutes, and build up. but that wrecks the continuity.

    i’m thinking some kind of biofeedback exercise whilst he is watching. sit with him and support him to monitor his breathing and pulse and feelings of anxiety. maybe if he feels himself starting to get revved up he can go to an activity that soothes him, and when he returns to normal he can go back to the show.

    slow, deep belly breathing is a really useful thing to teach kids (and adults) to help clear the mind.

    i’m also wondering if he could tolerate relaxation exercises before and after the show? at playgroup i get the kids to do an activity called ‘robots, towers, jellyfish’. robots they tense their muscles, towers they stretch, and jellyfish they relax. it helps them recognise the difference between tense and relaxed. i’ve got another exercise for older kids, i’ll have to look it up for you.

    i hope this helps a little bit. i’m interested to see how you work through this one.

    hugs

    • kloppenmum says:

      Wow, thanks. With all the research I’ve done, I never even thought of doing some bio-feed back exercises. I will definitely give them a go. He didn’t enjoy massages…which I used earlier on, they just irritated him -so hopefully the jellyfish, towers etc exercises don’t do the same. I have a great relaxation book for kids, I must dig it out again.
      I know it looks like a really out there reaction, and it is – but I wonder about some other children I see in playgrounds etc, I reckon they’re all going through the same thing, but it hasn’t been picked up on yet. His temperament is meant to be about 6% of the population…He does a lot of biking, sometimes even before school and this ties in with getting rid of adrenalin – and that does help. He is just so damned ‘open’ to his environment, it’s a bit scary – especially now we’re almost at the tweeny stage… thanks for your support and ideas. I will definitely let you know how we get on – I’d love to go back to none at all, but I doubt it’s really feasible – this day and age.

      • hakea says:

        i saw the same kind of irritation when i was working with kids with severe autism. they couldn’t manage all of the sensory information flooding them, they couldn’t choose the information to ignore and the information to focus on, and it resulted in aggression.

        they were beautiful kids, they just needed some strategies to calm themselves. and most kids with autism find water soothing.

        what i observed was that the teens were difficult to manage but as the kids got into their late teens they started to integrate all the bits of themselves that they struggled with. they started to understand themselves more, what they could cope with, and what to do when they weren’t coping.

        i’m not saying your son has autism, i’m just explaining why i thought of the exercises for your son to tune into himself and start to manage himself.

        your son is lucky he is has such reflective and caring parents.

        • kloppenmum says:

          Thanks, we think he’s lucky too. Interestingly, he is very like his paternal grandfather who spent his first four years of life in war-torn Holland, and we originally followed traditional parenting advice – the results of which have been compared to post-traumatic stress disorder by some researchers. I think he has more of an ADHD reaction myself, and the Owl originally is highly, highly, highly sensitive: couldn’t stand much sensory info at all. I really believe both boys will be fabulous older teens and adults…but we have to get them there in one piece!
          …Water, I missed your bit about water the first time I read your comments…great, thanks.

  3. Mama B says:

    Wow… I don’t know. Its a difficult situation. But he does have to aclimatise himself to it as you said.

    I think you got some great suggestions and some of them I will repeat what I would do is reintroduce it slowly, restrict viewing time and content and make sure he clearly understand the rules. Maybe have a timer there as well. I would suggest not having satellite tv channels only dvds you buy. And for electronic games only on weekends after homework is done because my son is useless if he’s played any electronics during the week.

    • kloppenmum says:

      Thanks, I think you’re right. And I appreciate all of the ideas everyone else has passed along, too. Thanks for taking the time to have a look and comment. It’s an interesting situation! 🙂

  4. hakea says:

    Here is the relaxation exercise I promised you. It’s from the Second Step programme…

    Stand tall.

    Take a deep breath and tense your muscles, make them tight all over.

    Let your breath out and relax your muscles.

    Take another deep breath and tense your muscles.

    Now let your breath out and relax your muscles.

    Close your eyes and count slowly to 10 with me.

    Reach for your toes and hang there.

    Pretend that you are an elephant and swing slowly from side to side.

    Now reach for the sky, stand up on your toes.

    Hold it there.

    Now relax.

    • kloppenmum says:

      Thanks for taking the time to find this. It looks great. I’ll give it a go and use a bit of bio-feedback next time he watches the screen and keep you posted. Cheers and all that.

  5. janekatch says:

    I wonder if you could have him help you make a plan for how to reintroduce electronics slowly– with the understanding that if it doesn’t work for him, you will have to re-evaluate and make a new plan. That way he can eventually learn how to see for himself whether he has had too much, just enough, or can take more in. That’s your goal to keep in mind, I think.
    My kids grew up with no television for a long time–years–and they learned how to feel bored and then figure out what they really wanted to do. Now one is an actress and the other is working on public health policy in Washington DC. I think they both learned to know what they are passionate about by having to figure out how to play!

    • kloppenmum says:

      That’s a great idea, thank-you. I agree that we want him to be able to self-monitor, and I am passionate about the amount of time children get to truly play. Thanks for commenting ( it makes me ridiculously happy when people do so).

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