Therapy. So many people seem to do it, but somehow there is still a stigma attached to it. So here is why we took PCIT family therapy, and how it changed our lives.
Our child has always been spirited. The child who challenges all adults. The one who throws epic tantrums over the smallest of thing. A child who must get their own way or all hell will break lose.
One day we hit our breaking point, and we took our child to the doctor because we were desperate for help. We felt there must be something wrong with our child and we needed help. Fast. I had worried about and researched all kinds of conditions but our child didn’t seem to fit into any of them. Still, we were at breaking point and we couldn’t continue the way we were going.
This is how we ended up at therapy, and how therapy changed our lives.
We were referred to a psychologist who specializes in a family therapy called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, or PCIT. PCIT is a rigid program which teaches both parent and child acceptable boundaries specific to your family and your problems. For us, it was tantrums and refusal to do things when asked. I mean epic tantrums and pure militant refusal rather than run of the mill stuff.
PCIT Session 1-2
In our first sessions we were taught how to successfully implement ‘special time’. Five minutes daily spent alone with each child where we were to ask no questions, to mirror what our child said, to complement small things, to use no negative language and to let them know we were present.
Special time was a big hit!
We were tested on our ability to remember the rules of special time. We both passed the first time, but if we had not passed then we would have spent more time refining the technique before we could move onto the next steps.
PCIT Session 3 – 4
Once special time had been implemented and practiced at home for a week we started on the hard stuff. We had never liked time outs and honestly never felt our children would sit even if we chose to do them. However, we were desperate so we went with it.
Mr Bear (a giant teddy) showed us what happens if someone has to take a timeout, when he refused to put away a lego. He sat on the chair until he was quiet and then he was allowed to come back and play. We had to engineer situations where we asked the children to do something. If it wasn’t done, there was a warning and then the children had to go to timeout.
Our doctor talked us through everything and her coaching was invaluable. Without her guidance we would never have seen the benefits of effectively using timeouts.
PCIT Session 5
We created a set of house rules. Our house rules all fell under the heading of ‘Do not hurt’ but included things such as ‘hitting hurts me’ and ‘unkind words hurt my feelings’. We soon learned that we could include so many things under the umbrella of ‘do not hurt’.
Once again Mr Bear showed us what happens if you break a house rule, which is immediate time out without a warning. The children have responded so well to our house rules, and will even tell us now if we break one!
PCIT Follow up sessions
We were taught how to do timeouts in more unusual situations, such as in a park or at a store. We were given the opportunity to run through scenarios we felt worried about and our doctor gave us the tools to deal with those scenarios. She gave us open access to return to her or to email whenever we needed her help.
Life after PCIT
Our children are so much easier to manage following our PCIT sessions. We know the sessions were really about us and giving us the tools we need to effectively parent, but we are happy.
Our lives are changed.
The children have very clear boundaries and fully understand what happens when they overstep those boundaries.
Sure, we still have tough days (weeks!) but we understand better how to deal with them. We step up special time when things get hard and the kids feel special which in turn makes them behave better. We give clear and concise warnings and they know the behavior we will not tolerate. PCIT has been nothing short of a miracle for our family.