facebook twitter blog Pinterest

How the Movie Buck Changed Me as a Parent

July 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Monica Lee, MD

I get really frustrated with my son. He is five and has autism, and it has been really difficult for the last three years. He was diagnosed when he was two years old when he started to lose words. A friend noticed and sent us a long e-mail about how he needed to be tested. At first we were taken aback, but we knew she was right. It took us several months to make sure he didn’t have hearing problems. We got him ear tubes and sedated him for a complicated hearing test. Then we had him see a neurologist and a psychologist. But we still couldn’t believe our son had autism. So nine months after the first diagnosis, we finally saw a more “traditional” pediatric neurologist than the first “maverick” one and got basically the same diagnosis.

At least that helped explain why he never asked for anything with words, but would pull our hands to what he wanted. But what hurt the most was when he was stubborn and didn’t want to do something that we thought was necessary, like brush his teeth or get into his car seat when we had to go somewhere. He didn’t have the words to tell us why. When he was younger, we just kind of made him do our bidding. I remember when we would have to hold him still to brush his teeth. Or the time when, unbeknownst to us, he put a piece of foam in his ear and, weeks later, I could smell something rotting. We had to straitjacket him for the doctor to remove it.

A friend made me watch a movie one day, and it changed my perspective on getting the behaviors I wanted. The movie was Buck. It is a documentary based on the real-life horse whisperer. It is about a man who was severely abused as a child and who used that knowledge to help people train horses. He uses only gentle persuasion and never a hard hand. He gently tugs the reins to help guide the horse to his bidding. Anytime he sees a violent and fearful horse, he recognizes that the horse has been abused. The friend who showed me the movie is a golf instructor, and he uses the same principles as a guide in his life and with his clients on a daily basis. After watching this film two years ago, I have let go of my frustrations and tried to use only gentleness and reasoning when dealing with my son. I think it has brought us closer together. Now when I want him to do something, I whisper gently in his ear and am patient if he doesn’t want to do things the first, second, or third time I ask him. The trick is to make him understand that it won’t hurt, and that it is good for him and might actually be fun. He is less frustrated, and so am I.

My son now gets intensive applied behavioral analysis therapy six days a week, and he is showing improvement on his monthly evaluations. The therapists use the same positive reinforcement principles I’ve learned to guide behavior changes because science shows that they produce longer-lasting change than negative reinforcement does.

I think that this principle of positive reinforcement can be used to improve any child’s behavior, including those without learning or behavioral challenges. Some ideas of positive reinforcement include:

  1. Giving a reward for A’s on a report card.
  2. A hug and a kiss for any kind act they might perform, such as sharing toys.
  3. Taking a child to a homeless shelter to give to those in need so that they understand the intrinsic feeling of good that comes from charitable giving.
  4. A monetary reward for chores they might do around the house.

There are so many ways, can you think of others?

About the Author: Monica Lee, MD, is a mom to a 5-year-old son and ob-gyn practicing in the LA Metro area.

 

Comments

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!





*

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.