Sunday, 23 April 2017

We tried Love Bombing and this is what we learnt ...

Girl Child is quite a challenging child. She has many amazing qualities - she is confident, determined, energetic, funny, articulate, bright and has the capacity for great kindness. She is also defiant, stubborn, giddy and hot-tempered. And as much as I love every part of her, the latter qualities often make home life difficult and cause issues at school.

I'd heard of Love Bombing years ago, but at the time, with me at home and only one child to focus on, I didn't think it'd be much different to daily life. Then of course Toddler came along and I couldn't really see how love bombing would work with an infant who also needed attention. But we were running out of ideas, so decided to give it a try.

The idea is that for a set period of time (usually a day or two) you let your child choose what you do together and focus your attention on them. I haven't read the book about it, but here's a good article that explains it more. It is said to have positive effects on children with challenging behaviours, so we thought it was worth a shot.

We chose a day when we had nothing planned and my husband was also around so we could tag team the two of them. If we were doing it to the letter, we should really have sent Toddler off with relatives for the day, but he is very sensitive to separation and still feeds to sleep so it wasn't practical. We did suggest that we could take it in turns staying home with Toddler so the other parent could go out with Girl Child but she was adamant she wanted us all to stay together.

So what did we do? What happens when you put a 5 year old in charge for the day?

We started the day with croissants and jam for breakfast, then headed to a climbing centre. She got ready surprisingly efficiently but I think knowing she was going climbing motivated her. We went on the train (her choice) and she had a great time, although she soon realised her choice of outfit wasn't ideal as a climbing harness and shorts don't go well together! She was also over-excited which made her clumsy. She got upset a few times when she had accidents or the harness was rubbing but overall she had a good time.

After climbing we went home. I took Toddler upstairs for his nap and Girl Child ate some Easter chocolates she'd been given the day before. A few minutes later I heard her crying and screaming. She'd wanted to save enough chocolates for us to have one each after lunch but she'd eaten too many. We eventually worked out a plan to carve another piece of chocolate into the same shape (yes, really) and I went back up to try and settle Toddler. But she kept coming up to tell me about the chocolates so I gave up on the nap and came back down to make lunch - sandwiches and crisps, with Easter nests and chocolate for pudding. Then while Toddler finally napped, Girl Child played Minecraft - except that went wrong too and she got upset again.

Next we went to a park about half an hours' drive away. Girl Child spotted an ice cream van and, of course, wanted one. She had a bit of it before realising how cold she was so I ended up carrying it around most of the time. She had a good play at the park, but then she got stuck up a climbing frame and had a massive meltdown. At this point I decided to step in and announce it was time to go. Maybe not in the spirit of love bombing, but we were all cold, she was in a state, and it was getting very stressful.

On the way home we got fish and chips for tea (and Girl Child had a tantrum because we didn't have enough money for a Slushy by this point) then we went home, ate our tea with lemonade and even more chocolate afterwards. Then came bedtime, and Girl Child wouldn't get ready for bed. She read and read and read. Even when she openly admitted she was tired she wouldn't make any moves towards getting ready. We eventually got her up to her room at around 9, and she read until 10 when we gave up and went to bed, telling her her day was over so she needed to go to sleep.

So what did we learn from Love Bombing?

Firstly, it's easy to over-hype it - both for the child and the parent. Girl Child was so excited about 'her day' that if anything went wrong she couldn't handle it. And I got over-anxious about how we would get all the practical stuff done like Toddler's nap, bedtime etc. If it had been more spur-of-the-moment then perhaps we'd have all been calmer and it would have gone more smoothly.

Secondly, it's very challenging to suspend all normal rules. I particularly felt uncomfortable letting her eat what she wanted (which was almost entirely junk food) and stay up so late - even for just one day it seemed counter-productive. Although actually it had little impact on her the next day, and we got back to a more normal eating and sleeping routine quickly.

Thirdly, it is inherently unfair on any siblings. As I said, we probably should have sent Toddler off, but that would have neglecting his need for attachment at a time when separation anxiety is a major issue. As it was he ended up getting passed between us like a parcel, his routine went awry and he got cold and grumpy at the park.

Fourthly, trying to do Love Bombing without limits is nigh-on impossible. We literally ran out of money because she kept wanting treats so we should have set a spending limit. We should have agreed how long we were staying at the park. And we also should have said that 'her day' finished at 7pm, when she normally goes to bed. That would have stopped us getting so frustrated with the process.

And did it have an impact on her behaviour? Well, yes. A bit. It's tricky to gauge as we'd chosen Maundy Thursday to do it so Easter madness kicked in shortly after, but we had a day of her behaving really quite well before things began to slide again. Similarly, back at school she had a couple of good days before going back to struggling. So it's not the magic cure-all I'd hoped for. But it was a good opportunity to reconnect and make her feel that she's special to us.

Would I do it again? Yes, but not in the same form. There would have to be time restraints in place, and it wouldn't be quite as 'anything goes' as this first attempt. I also wouldn't build it up in my head quite as much, now I know that it doesn't have the huge effect it's purported to have. But I do think she enjoyed being able to make all the choices, so I am making more of a conscious effort to allow her to make day-to-day decisions where possible.

All in all, it wasn't a total waste of time, but Love Bombing hasn't been a wholly positive experience for us, and it definitely isn't a panacea for all parenting challenges. Kids will be kids, and spirited kids will be spirited kids whatever you do. But it did show me that I can allow Girl Child more control in her life without everything falling to pieces - I just need to think carefully about how far that control extends!!

Have you ever tried Love Bombing? Would you consider it?

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