Thursday, December 17, 2009

Yingy and Yangy

The last two weeks have been SO yingy and yangy in our house ... ebby and flowy ... the goody and the baddy.

We downplay Christmas as it is, but with children who are attaching, even more so. Usually special occasions/events/holidays are a time when we just buckle down and ride the hurricane. Then, on the other side, we can have healing conversations.

This year has been different. It is just two days before "Christmas at Grandma & Grandpa's," and my kids from the hard places are more regulated than they were two weeks ago. So, we are doing lots and lots and LOTS of therapeutic stuff in the middle of the behaviors ... because ... well, we can! That is not the norm at all, but for whatever reason, they are regulated enough for this particular moment in time. So, you go with it!

Last week I confronted Rocky about a poor choice (unless, of course, you think clogging your RV park's public toilets with toilet paper is not a terribly negative thing to do). Poor guy. The only people at the park right now are middle aged people or grandparents ... and only two of them ever use the facilities when they want to spread out in a bigger shower ... and he had JUST been down to use the restrooms earlier and did not say a thing about there being wads of tp under his butt ... and everyone at the park which might use the restrooms were gone to work ... and, ya' know, contractors who work hard all week and own homes in other places, they're the kinda' people that shove extra toilet paper in the potties for fun. :)

But yes, he tried to blame it on the grandpa's and contract bosses. He BLEW UP. I did my best to help him. "Honey, your reaction is telling me you are needing to cover up something. Why don't you go do such-and-such until you're ready to talk." Much yelling and beating of the head and stomping of the feet and going to the field and then screaming at the mom and swearing he'd rather live with a person who beat him instead of me and plenty of accusations that I never believe anything he says ever and I expect him to be perfect.

Multiplied by a few hours.

By the time all was said and done, and he had returned from his flat-tire bicycle journey to "find a policeman and tell them what a bad mom you are!" ... he had earned 14 days of restriction.

The following day, my attaching daughter refused to spell. And then she refused to use a kind voice while we talked. Eventually she forgot that crying, screaming, yelling and throwing things all over the room would earn some a lot of restriction. I was kind enough to remind her.

My son had 14 days. My daughter had 11 days. He (after having one day of trying to do some payback) has spent the time working his TAIL off. He has been amazingly respectful. When we are talking about a poor choice or I'm questioning him on something, I will say, "Okay, before we start, why don't you take a deep breath, hold it and then let it out slowly." That kind of stuff. AND HE HAS BEEN DOING IT! Then, he can talk clearly. He has been able to confess to things and accept whatever correction comes with it, and move on. HE WANTED OFF RESTRICTION. We have a policy (much like prison) where you can earn time off for good unbelievably exceptional behavior. He has done it. He has rocked it. He has had manners, and asked what more he can do for us after completing a task, and letting me help him stay regulated and ADMITTING HE BLEW THROUGH HIS GRAMMAR and then had a very fruitful discussion with me on how he could improve his effort on things he doesn't necessarily enjoy, etc.

And in nine days he knocked out 14 days of restriction.

He is so far along, he can be happy for himself. For the first time he is truly working hard on his anger issues and the whole transference thing.

I am so very happy for him.

Then, we have my slowly healing daughter. She is progressing, it just doesn't look as nice and shiny as her brother's efforts.

We keep peeling back her layers (I swear, this kid is the largest onion on the PLANET - we could win some serious fair ribbons with her). Yesterday we had a VERY difficult discussion for her. She knows that our home is organized in a way where any hurts she causes will always, always, always, always (did I mention ALWAYS?) result in the other person receiving something extra good. Again, she knows this. When she hurts Mom, she will either be doing an extra chore for mom, or giving a shoulder massage to Mom, or sending Mom out alone for dinner (paid for from my gal's allowance). It goes for everyone who is hurt in every situation.

However ... yesterday something clicked with me. My attaching daughter, even when she knows she loves us and she knows she can trust us, will still choose to be defiant/manipulative/controlling. The big lie which keeps playing over and over again in her head is, "If you do what they are asking - they win!" Of course, that lie also leads her to believe that if someone else wins anything, she must be the loser. Never mind logic on how those choices affect her privileges and life in general. It's very black and white for her. Do not do anything which might cause others to win.

That is the word she uses - "win." It's a contest.

So, last night, after she had once again used that word, I asked, "Do you realize that every time you make a bad choice, someone else wins?"


"You were lying earlier when you said you were ready to work quickly and correctly. You tried to hurt me. So, I asked you to hang out on your bed for an hour. And for one hour, I got a break from therapeutic parenting. Everyone just hung out. It was like a mini-vacation for me. Now, I love you and I love parenting you. So, when you're out here it's my job. It's what I do, and I gladly accept it. However, you do make it much easier for me every time I win a break from it."

Started to go through all of the other "wins" that people receive due to her purposeful choices. Kept using that word over and over again - "They win some of your allowance for doing your laundry when you refuse. They win extra computer time. They win a special treat when they have to endure listening to one of your fits." And on it went.

I worked very hard to keep my tone calm and loving because I knew what it was doing to her. She felt CORNERED. I very gently said, "I'm guessing you feel completely out of control right now." She agreed. "You don't want anyone else to ever win, and have been willing to lose things to make that happen. But you're just now realizing that all of that stuff is OTHER people winning ... and you are causing them to win something nice. So, if you are a family girl and you join us, we win (because we get YOU and YOU are great) and you win family time and extra privileges. If you push us away and try to control us, you lose ... but we still win. I'm guessing you've never looked at it that way before and you really, really, really don't like it."

Allowed her plenty of silence during this to process.

"So, have you come up with anything yet?"


"Well, if I were you, I'd be sitting there trying desperately to come up with SOME way you can hurt us but we cannot win." Her face told me that yes, in fact, that was exactly what she was doing. "I guess the craziest thing might be to just kill us all. Have you thought of that yet?"

Sheepish, embarrassed half-smile and a "Yessssss. But then you would all go to heaven and I would be in jail."

"FRICK! Do you think you'll be able to come up with ANYTHING?"

"I don't know!"

"Well, I do know that this has got to be stressing you out big time. Why don't you head back to your room and just hang out on your bed tonight. You have a lot to think about and work through. We'll talk more later."

Later we had a fun time together talking. When she is regulated she is a completely different child. Talked about admitting our wrongs and how difficult that is for every person on the planet. Also, how freeing it is and good it feels when others forgive us and we have the opportunity to say, "What can I do to make it right?" Discussed what it might look like one day when she chooses to do this with her family, and admit how now, in this new phase, it is all a choice, etc., etc., etc.

GREAT time together. And being the very prepared therapeutic mom that I am, I was not surprised at all that she has pretty much not left her room today. However, I also know she is the way she is today because of the extreme vulnerability she allowed herself yesterday. So, I will move forward (and enjoy my "win" of a break today!), and see where this takes her.

Very long post. I apologize. I really wish I could bottle some of our conversations before I forget to share. Hope this can be helpful to some.


SocialWrkr24/7 said...

Hi Christine, I rarely (if ever!) have commented on your blog - but wanted to tell you that I am so thankful for parents like you! I know too many kids who need parents who understand how to look beyond the behavior - There are too few! Enjoy your "win" today!

Brandy said...

I love your long posts. They are a joy to read.

I don't have a RADish child but I can tell you I'm filing things away for when she is older. You have a great way of sharing your parenting techniques that apply universally.

You really GET your kids Christine. It's awesome.

B said...

i want you to know that even though I don't have RAD affected children I still learn so much through your methods.

it helps me to think outside the box and i love thinking outside the box.

thank you for the long posts....i appreciate them.

love you- britt

Lisa said...

Love it. Going to win tomorrow. Can't wait.

Corey said...

Great job, Christine (as always, love.) One question about hanging out on the bed.. how do you trust her?! Or do you have a video monitor? It is rare that Vivi is away from me, because I'm certain that she IS planning my demise.

Christine said...

Corey, she has her own room. It no longer has a door alarm, but it is still very, very bare. She has earned all of this.

However, for a VERY long time, she would spend that time behind an alarmed door. She was more than welcome to rip the room to shreds. She had to live with whatever she did (and that included any bugs which would come to visit through any holes she created, etc.). I always kept a packed backpack for running away, and reminded her what would happen if she baled out a window (call the police and call for pizza!).

Anywho, I didn't have to trust her. I made her room a place where she could be crazy cakes. I still got a break. If she decides to regress back to those days, then on goes the alarm and out goes the bed frame!

I seriously french kissed that door alarm on occasions. It gave me the ability to pee and KNOW WHERE SHE WAS! Didn't care what she was doing in there, as long as I didn't hear a ding!

~Christina said...

Thank you, Thank you for the intimate details of your daily life! Having two "rad"ishes myself it reminds me that I am not alone and helps me to see there is someone else out there doing the same hard work as my boys. It gives me hope for healing to come. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!

P.S. said...

You sound like an awesome mom. I came here via Corey's place and really appreciate you sharing your story! On to read more~!

Mama Drama Times Two said...

I wonder if Mar realizes your faithful blog readers WIN also when we get to hear what is going on and what you all are working through together. I know I win (and my kids and family do too) when I learn more about RAD and your successes with therapeutic parenting. Thank you Mar and Christine!!!!

Domestic Accident said...

I don't have a RAD child either, but my son has other issues and can be explosive. I love coming here for inspiration. I want to know how you can always be some calm and therapeutic in the moment. Oh, man, I want to be consistent with that.

Christine said...

domestic, I practice.

Like - seriously.

In the shower, in the car, lying in bed. I practice scenarios in my head. I make them out as miserably as I can, and then I practice my reaction.

Just like NBA players who sit for hours and just imagine making the shot over and over and over and over.

BT said...

I love your long posts, so keep em coming. They are sooooo helpful, and you are a total inspiration.

Brenda said...

The roller coast HAS been dramatic latley here too. I am on my way to a one hour massage right now. Great job explaining

Ursula said...

Wow, Christine! I have two RADishes and one.....something. And one normal child (they have issues of their own though don't they!) I want to come and live with you and observe how you do this. I really struggle to not get angry myself. I admire you so much. Have you always been able to react this way to RAD kids?

Christine said...

Ursula, hop up three comments - that's how I do it.

I also have a post on here somewhere called "Yelling is Not Okay" that gives the process I used to stop with all the said yelling, several years ago.

Ursula said...

Yeah, I had read that "Yelling is not Okay" post and I get that. I don't yell at my kids very often, though we do have 'intense' discussions if you know what I mean. What I don't know how to do is avoid the emotional response of anger that I have when my kids are being wienies. Alot of the time, they are giving attitude in such a way that I can't put my finger on it so doing anything about it is difficult. that is what is most frustrating for me. The practicing sounds like a good idea, though I have to admit that how to do that is somewhat overwhelming in itself. Do I sound like I'm just making excuses? I'm afraid I do.

Christine said...

The practice thing goes for every situation - as well as letting your kids hold you accountable.

Have you read "Beyond Consequences?" It's not one of my favorite books (not necessarily because I don't like the approach, but I don't like the incessant marketing approach of Bryan Post). Anywho, it makes you stop and ask yourself, "WHY do have I have this response when my kid does X-Y-Z?"

One of my kids can scream that I'm a horrible mom, and I can keep my cool easily. I know I'm a great mom. I know their history. I know that is a fear response. Yet, if someone steals something as tiny as a cracker, my insides start to WIG OUT! My emotional response is off the charts.

I had to dig very deep into that. It was easy to say, "Well, of course I would freak out - I don't want my kids to become criminals!" Maybe. But for me, the deeper reason was because I was the one who felt out of control. If I cannot trust my kids to walk through a room without taking something of MINE, then I start to get palpitations. I start to overreact.

That kind of thinking and internal work has helped my calm to be genuine. However, most of my calm was NOT genuine for a very long time. The best advice I ever heard was, "When your kids are acting nuts-o, do the opposite of what you feel like doing."

That tiny little sentence has made a massive impact on me. I have never, ever FELT like being calm when I have a child describing how they want to bash my teeth in with a hammer, or asking nonsense questions for 12-hours straight.


I WANT to scream and make a devil face, and perhaps roar a little bit. So, I go CRAZY opposite. I get very quiet. I immediately think about lifting those eyebrows and brightening my face. I move or sit so that I am in a much more vulnerable spot in comparison to them (never stand over them with arms crossed, etc.)

I truly believe that my feelings during those times are nothing compared to the severity of what our children are feeling. And if I can't make the choice and do it, I can never expect them to. By practicing and deciding and DOING it, I have been better able to teach THEM how to do it.

Did that make sense? I'm trying to type this while my mother-in-law is entertaining my kids ... it's slightly loud and chaotic in here!

Ursula said...

Hmmm, there's some stuff there to chew on. Thanks for taking the time, and yes, it did make sense. I'll think about what you've said. Blessings to you, Amazing mother!

Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

Thanks again, Christine. As others have said, so much of what you share about your parenting is universally helpful for all of us whose children challenge us.

I think you should take that last comment and make a whole post of it for those who might have missed it.