Wednesday, February 3, 2010

more on anger

Corey left this comment yesterday well actually she emailed it to me because blogger did want to let her play… I started by just making the list at the bottom but then I thought I would talk about each of the boys individually because they are both really different and push me in really different ways now – it’s a long post but in my humble opinion I think worth the read because I know that Corey and I are not the only 2 who yell.

Ok. So now I want to mooch off of your parenting classes and find some solutions. Because I think that the thing about our kids is that they are MASTERS at button pushing. Today V and I were talking and she told me that her #1 goal is to annoy me. This is clearly what she puts 110% of her energy into. So no matter how stellar of a parent I am (HA!) there are going to be times when I am going to flip my lid. I hate this! I know that when I get angry (and yell), that she "wins".. because she gets the messages that she so thoroughly believes (adults cannot be trusted, they will turn on you, etc) reinforced.

But the question is, I guess, how does one stay cool when needled 24/7?


So just to be clear I do not ever stay cool 24/7, I lose my temper and I think that there are advantages to kids seeing that anger can be expressed and then things can be fixed up and everyone can move on.

What I am trying really hard to do is not get mad when they are pushing my buttons, when there goal is to make me yell at them because as Corey said it reinforces for them that I can not be trusted to keep them safe. I am also working really hard at being clear with them when I know that their goal is to make me angry about how they are making me feel. This now works with Calvin and not with Fudge, Calvin will listen and respond but Fudge is not yet at a place where he feels empathy.

So how do I do it, it has been a lot of trial and error. I am always changing things up and trying new stuff. Here are some of things that are working right now.

After a whole day at home yesterday Calvin needed to make things bad at the end of day, it was all going to well. It started off innocently enough and he kept popping into the kitchen with little things to do and say. I mentioned to him that I was trying to get dinner going and I needed him to stop, he kept on. I told him again that I was busy and that even though he wanted more of my attention he was going to have to wait. He could not do it, he could not leave me alone, finally by time 5 or 6 I told him that I was getting really mad and that he was doing a really good job trying to get me angry, he had 2 choices, he could choose to back off and let me get dinner done or he could keep it up and I would lose my temper.

He decided to back off ( and moved on to annoying P), this works with him as long I do it calmly. It usually sounds like this “Calvin I know that you keep doing ______ because you are trying to get me angry so that you can some attention. Well it is working, I am getting really angry at you and if you keep doing ________ I am going to end up yelling at you and there will be consequence. I need you to make a choice right now, either you can keep it up and I can get angry or you can make a good choice and back off. When I am finished doing dinner we can talk if that is what you need or you can a hug but right now I have to finish this.”

It is almost as though hearing that his behaviour is getting my attention is enough for him, his goal is to push my buttons and once he hears me say that I see it/hear it’s enough. It took a long time to get to the place where he makes the choice to back off, I used to say it and it would be like, ok, bring it on lady, yell away and then I would and then he would end up writing lines or washing floors for being defiant and to make it up to me.Finally he decided just hearing that he was making me angry was enough.

It is a completely different story with Fudge, he pushes back and pushes back and then when I finally yell he says - you shouldn’t yell at me, it means you are not in control. (I told him he could say it and he throws it back when ever he can) Often with Fudge I find myself getting more frustrated than angry and often I have to walk away or send him away before I kill him. He can stand there and stare at you with defiance in his eyes until you explode, you can ask and demand answers and he just stares ahead and makes crap up. When it comes to this issue he is way more RAD like than Calvin. Calvin used to do this but has moved on – thank God because Calvin would also rage when confronted.

The only thing that works to keep me calm with Fudge is to keep revisiting the issue over and over until he is finally so bored of being talked at that he tells the truth or admits defeat. When he is trying to push my buttons or does something wrong I confront him, he gives some made up crap answer and so I send him away (this is to keep me calm), there are a variety of places that he is sent to depending on the issue. I call him back and try again and again. Some days by the third or 4th time I and yell and then find myself yelling, “see you did it, you pushed hard enough and now I am yelling and that is not going to get us anywhere. So go sit on that stool/stair/couch/floor and when you are ready to talk to me/tell me the truth/explain your choices you let me know.” He has sat for well over an hour before, he is stubborn and he does not want to admit defeat, ever.

I stand firm and he sits until he does it, sometimes he get a little prodding – dinner is in 10 minutes and if you are interested in eating with the family than you need to talk to me first otherwise you are eating alone.

I would say that part of the reason that it is harder with Fudge is that he lacks any ability to link cause and effect, I mean none and even if I talk to him like I do to Calvin he still continues to push it. This is not his fault but it is still really hard to deal with and I think that this behaviour alone causes me to loose it with him more often. I have a really hard time knowing when he is being defiant on purpose and when something was a lack of understanding/thinking it through. That being said though yelling causes Fudge to be more defiant and more angry, it is like yelling at a rock, not a tear is shed, not a muscle is moved he just shuts down. It gets me no where and yet he craves it to feed the negative self talk that goes on in his head.

I am working on it, each and every day and like many things sometimes it is 2 steps forward and one step back. I have few other tricks too…

  • I keep skittles in my pocket and when I feel myself getting ready to yell I throw a handful in mouth, can’t yell with candy in your mouth and if I can just get past the urge I can usually keep myself calm
  • I turn around and do something (dishes, sort socks, whatever) so that I am not looking at Fudge’s angry eyes but I keep on talking while I calm myself down.
  • My kids can read, I stop talking and get a piece of paper and start writing instead, they read it and write back.
  • I laugh at them, at the chaos that is our world and that I am this angry over something. It makes them really mad but it works for me and if I stay calm I can calm them.
  • I walk away, I say I am too angry and I walk away. Then I go back when the urge to bang their heads together has passed.
  • I stomp my feet, I am not kidding, it feels really good sometimes.
  • I think about the Calvin and Hobbes comic when Calvin roars like a t-rex at everyone and have a little internal growl remembering when my friends and I did that in the halls at university as a steam release.
  • I stop talking to them and call P, this worked well the other day after I yelled over the tap, then I was still really mad but not yelling and got to use that classic line – you think I mad wait till Dad gets home, it was really true, I was mad but he was way more angry.
  • I cuddle them and keep talking, this works better with Calvin as he craves my touch and it settles him.
  • I let myself cry, it is ok to let your kids see you cry and tell them that I am so angry/frustrated/annoyed that I need to get it out.
Nothing works all the time, I do lose it and yell but I don’t yell everyday anymore and I think that we will all be better off in the long run for it.

What works for you? How do you deal with constant button pushing?


Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Ha, The Husband and I were comparing Teena to Calvin from "& Hobbes". It is close, and that is scary.

Is is so difficult when there is this little person putting all their effort and energy into getting on your last nerve and they know exactly how. And, they don't have anything else to do. It is exhausting just trying to keep from yelling.

But I do have a "process" when I am making dinner. It is a prime time for "bugging" behavior. I stop whatever can I am opening, noisily set everything down. Make a big show of walking over to the child, strong eye contact, and tell her firmly w/o raising voice etc, I am making dinner. Do you want me to stop to talk to you or do you want me to keep cooking so we can eat. The answer is always keep going. Okay.

Hey, I just realized I have something that works! GO ME! LOL!

BT said...

For a long time, I justified my outbursts by telling myself that it was healthy for my kids to see that sometimes people lose their tempers and can then make things right. I do not mean to offend you or imply that you are justifying. In my case, I definitely was. I finally had to face the fact that my kids did not seem to be gaining anything positive when I yelled. In fact, it seemed that RAD "won" when I lost control. I just proved to our RADling that all his internal beliefs were correct. So now my goal is zero yelling. But to give you some idea of how successful I am at this goal, my new year's resolution -- once again this year -- is zero yelling. I made it through January this time around -- just barely, but I made it.

Most of the time, the strategy I use to avoid yelling is: deep breath, remind myself my kid is hurting, depersonalize the situation, and then use a dialogue along the lines of "right now, you are practically begging me to do something nasty to you. I am really sorry that RAD is telling you that would feel good. Can we figure out together what is hurting inside you?" This is typically met with a belligerent response about "nothing is hurting; you're wrong, mom; etc etc" to which I want to explode. Then I make myself say "I am not going to argue with you right now. I love you too much for that. I am walking away." (That last part is straight out of Love and Logic.) Or sometimes, copying Christine at welcome to my brain dot net, I have started saying "I'm right here." The first time I used that one, my P's face had that classic look of utter shock like "what is going on now?" It totally changed things up. Since then, it has yielded some interesting results: P leaning against my body, P's shoulders visibly relaxing.

Anyway, the hardest point for me, by far, is that one blink-of-the-eye moment in which I have to get really conscious about making a choice: lose it or control it. Sooooo hard.

The dinner prep interruptions: I agree these are prime times for flare-ups. I'm convinced it's because our kids know we are a relatively captive audience just then. We are stuck in the kitchen available to be bugged and we can hardly accomplish our particular goal anywhere else in the house. I also think there may be something about that time of the day that just makes kids want our attention then. Not sure. Anyway, P interrupts like crazy at those times. On nearly a daily basis I get on eye level and explain to him that I need to feed our family, does he want a job to help (he often accepts this offer and we work together), or would he like a quick hug, or would he like to grab a chair and sit on it in the kitchen doorway and read or sing to me or listen to the radio news with me. Sometimes these things work, and sometimes the interruptions go on and I think I'm going to lose it. Then we ask him to go lie flat on his back on the couch (where he's still in teh midst of things) and put his stuffy on his belly and practice breathing deeply without making the stuffy fall off. And I do a bit of my own breathing in teh kitchen.

Hard hard hard hard hard.

Sorry to have gone on so long, and I hope I didn't sound too righteous because I am far far from perfect.

K said...

Love so many of your ideas - esp the hug one and the writing one
I think your plan of just saying "i hear you" is sooo smart

Mom 4 Kids said...

YES! Candy in my pocket! I am all about candy, why didn't I think of that? Good one!