One Sunday afternoon, Jerry’s dad took out a box of wooden blocks to play with Jerry. As dad opened up the box, Jerry came running, he took out his favourite rectangular-shaped block and started lining them up in a straight line. Dad wanted to join in the play, so he took out a square-shaped block and lined it at the back of Jerry’s blocks. In that instance, Jerry angrily shouted “no square! Rectangle!”, and threw the square block away. Dad patiently explained, “Square also has four sides. A little different is okay.” Jerry then responded, “no! Only rectangle!”
Afraid Jerry will go into a full tantrum, Dad followed Jerry’s rules and took out rectangular blocks from the box. Before dad could place it on the line, Jerry snatched the block and pushed dad’s hand away. “It’s mine!”, shouted Jerry. Dad did not give up and continued to stay with Jerry throughout his play by helping Jerry to find rectangle blocks from the box. No matter what Dad suggested or said, Jerry refused to listen.
During the block lining activity, it is clear that Jerry was in control of the whole game, and dad was merely the follower. There was no mutual engagement between Jerry and his dad. Dad left with no opportunity to guide Jerry and felt like he needed to seek support to build a better relationship with his son. He then approached an RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) consultant for help.
In RDI, Jerry’s interaction with his dad was videotaped and assessed by the consultant. Through the RDI coaching sessions, dad observed his communication style with Jerry and how he can improve to strengthen his relationship with Jerry. Dad learned to slow down his speech and pace with Jerry and on top of that, focus on progress more than results. Because of that, Jerry is now able to co-regulate better with dad.
After six months of RDI, dad changed his guiding styles to allow Jerry to learn how to engage in activities mutually. Before any tasks, dad would carefully plan out the activity to prevent Jerry from getting distracted. From the type of objects used, the pace of speech, and the type of actions, to challenges, all these are properly planned and curated according to Jerry’s capability. When Jerry felt safe and secure in an RDI learning environment, dad found Jerry more willing to do things with him and more flexible towards his suggestions.