Decoding, Enforcing, and Correcting Rules

February 5, 2017

Robert tries to find patterns in  our chaotic movements and haphazardly performed everyday chores. If we repeat the same, meaningless behaviors a few times, Robert treats it as a paradigm of how we should behave every time. He insists that we  follow the model he established for us based on his observations.  We usually notice that when, for one reason or another, we abandon our insignificant routines and Robert becomes restless and  tries to compel us to return to our convenient but senseless habits.

We know we cannot allow that, but all too often we are compliant with Robert’s wishes.

  1. Robert wears his socks at home while I usually walk barefoot at home.  So, when I had my socks on, Robert followed me all over the house.  “Socks off, socks off” , he kept repeating.  A few times, I took them off not really caring one way or another.  Only when I noticed how distressed Robert became about my socks, I understood that we had a problem.  So, to Robert’s dismay, I started wearing socks more often.  Knowing, however, how persistent Robert can be, I developed a strategy that would give Robert an indication of how long I would keep them on.  “Socks off, socks off” , insisted Robert.  ” Oh, you want me to take socks off, I will do that when I finish this or that (usually short activity).  “I will take them off when I get on the sofa to watch TV”.  It took a while.  But today, I can proudly say that Robert doesn’t care one way or another if I wear socks at home or not.
  2. Robert doesn’t care if I do some work in the yard or in home.  He cares  a lot, HOWEVER,  if his dad instead of working on the computer decides to do a longer project in the back yard. Dad, s venture into backyard, makes Robert extremely anxious.  He follows his dad every step repeating, “Computer, computer.” He screams with a great pain when dad keeps reinforcing a wobbly vegetable garden gate.  He tries to pull him home.  Well, he is a pain in the neck.  The only tool to  mitigate this behavior was to ask Robert to help.  “Bring me the wrench from the garage”  “Hold this”  “Put this away in the garage.”  etc.  Giving Robert small tasks  didn’t extinguish the behavior completely, but it reduced it.  Still, we could plan it better.  we could tell Robert ahead of time of what dad would do and what would be expected of him.  Of course, Robert’s different reactions to my work in the yard and dad’s work are result of his observations.  Dad works on a computer almost all the time, while I work in the yard and in the home.
  3. I used to drive Robert to his afternoon activities, but for the last few months it has been his dad who has taken him swimming and horseback riding. Everything went smoothly until one Sunday dad get sick and I needed to take Robert to his horse riding class.  No way! Robert insisted that dad goes with him.  Nothing seemed to persuade him otherwise.  We had to cancel horseback riding class that day.  And as of now we are still planning out next move.


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