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“I’m not good!”

There’s nothing so heartbreaking as your precious little boy telling you he knows he’s not a good person because he can’t always control his anger.

Little Man had a fabulous day at school yesterday….an amazing day at school. How do I know? Both his speech therapist and his teacher sent me texts, with lots of capital letters, what an awesome day he’d had. He didn’t have one meltdown, not even close. He didn’t have to leave the classroom at all. He advocated for himself when he needed his snack. He was actively participating in the classroom discussion without monopolizing with random information. He even helped a peer with math.

He spent the afternoon at his friend’s house, then came home and was calm, compliant, listening, engaged. I took the Princess to dance. He was fine while we were gone, fine when we got home. Then something minor sent him spinning. He stormed into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him, kicking the wall. I could hear  him breathing from where I was sitting – 15 feet away, and through a closed door. He came out after about ten minutes and flopped down on the couch, face crumpling, and tears flowing. “I’m not good!” he said. Oh, baby….my sweet, sweet baby.

He gets it in his head, if one “bad” thing happens in a day, then the entire day is the WORST DAY EVER. He also gets it in his head, if he has one meltdown or one outburst of anger, he is the WORST PERSON EVER. Good golly – sometimes, it’s more than I can take. Then he said, “I’m feeling *that* again”, code for thinking he might not want to live any longer. Suck it. I talked him down from that quickly. He gets confused between wanting out of a particular situation, and wanting out of it all entirely.

We had a talk last night when I tucked him in. I told him we all struggle, not one of us is perfect. I get angry, and sometimes I yell.  Does that make me the WORST PERSON EVER? (I write it in caps, because that’s how he says it) He shook his head no. Daddy sometimes forgets things we asked him to bring home. Does that make him the worst daddy ever? He shook his head no. The Princess sometimes falls when she’s dancing. Does that make her the worst ballerina ever? He shook his head again, putting it together in his head. Making a mistake, lashing out, losing your temper, falling down, crying, forgetting things….those don’t make us the worst, they make us human, normal.

We have variations of this conversation at least once a month.  It’s hard, and it sucks. I hate him thinking he’s a terrible person. We do get on him when he lashes out. We have to. It’s part of his learning process. We do give him checks, help him through the process of reining it back in. Some days, he’s better at it than he is other days.  I work hard to get him to understand we are correcting the behavior, we are as frustrated as he is with the behavior. We are not angry at him.

We are going to Pinterest some more ways to help him refocus when he feels himself getting to the angry point. You autism parent experts, suggestions are welcome.


6 thoughts on ““I’m not good!”

  1. Oh my heart goes out to you and your little man. We have the same issues at our home with our highly sensitive, emotional 4 year old. It can be so difficult to help them find the words for their very strong emotions. We have the problem of very loud screaming, not directed at anyone but just an outburst of emotion when very upset, which can happen for the seemingly smallest thing. We have started a nightly ritual of saying the things we are proudest of him and most grateful for throughout the day. It has now turned into us asking him what he liked most and what he felt proud of doing. We have noticed a HUGE turn around in his self-esteem. Best of luck.. it is a hard one.

    • I’m trying. It’s hard. I think all humans face dealing with their own internal goodness. I think the autism makes it near impossible for him to consistently see the good in anything/anyone/himself. It’s often heartbreaking.

  2. So hard! My son is largely nonverbal, but I can see a lot of those same emotions when he comes out of a rage cycle. He cries and holds my hand and sings through tear-filled eyes. I wish we could understand better how to help him when nothing but kicking a hole in the wall helps.

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