Through my experience with my Asperger’s six year old and the professionals who work with him, I’ve learned two types of restraint holds. They’re both referred to as the small child restraint hold, but one is empowered with loving kindness and the other by self-righteous, domineering force. As you can imagine, they’re both similar in their physical executions. The difference is in the attitude of the restrainer. The one backed by loving kindness has a much more difficult approach, but once mastered, the remaining moves require much less effort and exertion than the hold of self-righteous, domineering force.
The approach in the hold of loving kindness is to withhold judgement. Regardless of what we may have just witnessed, we do not judge the child as being bad, evil, or inherently dangerous. The only thing we acknowledge to ourselves is that the immediate behavior must be stopped. We move in with confidence that we are capable of stopping the behavior, and infuse that child with loving kindness. In swift confidence, we hold the child, speaking soothing and gently, reassuring them that love lives in their hearts and gives them gentle hands. For a young child, distraction towards a safe, productive activity should be the focus. At this age, they’re only practicing. Whatever they practice is what will become automatic, so more time spent in friendly, happy play and less time spent on drama is better.
The hold of loving kindness has a calm and quiet nature. It doesn’t allow any party involved to feed upon the drama of conflict or competition. Our society is addicted to the adrenalin rush caused by drama and competition. It’s evident by the violent and stirring movies we support, by the rough games we invent, by the thrill rides, and the weapons we stockpile, subconsciously imagining ourselves to be Rambo – fighting our way out of any situation, but the fight never ends. We live in constant fear of retaliation – constantly pumped with that adrenalin. It’s like we thrive on conflict. We create it. We bait and blame others, and overreact. The stress is tearing us apart on both the individual physical/mental level as well as the societal level. When we exercise a small child restraint hold, if we approach it with a stressed out attitude of competition and domination, they’ll mirror that attitude and fight to the point of physical exhaustion. If we approach with low-key loving kindness, they’ll relax as we relax. They’ll become gentle as we model gentle.
The hold of loving kindness can be practiced with larger children, too, on a metaphorical level. If a child tries to manipulate you with threats, the approach is to remain calm. Don’t provide the reinforcing jolt of adrenalin with a dramatic reaction that will only fuel their fire. Don’t engage in a contest by making a threat back. Silently assess their capability of carrying out the threat, and the seriousness of the consequences if they succeed. Reduce the risk by changing the environment if necessary, and quietly inform others to recruit their vigilance and support.
Our example is our most powerful message. The tools we gather indicate our identity. How can we claim we want peace and health while embracing tools for injury and death? We must walk the path we wish them to follow. We must show them the way.