Friday, July 1, 2011

The Dreaded "No" Meltdowns

This post has been sitting in the draft box for a few weeks.  I'm truly not good at explaining stuff so please bear with me....

Our kids hate the word "no".  Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.  I used to think it was just an excuse to have a wango tango event.  Now I think it's more of a trauma response.  We already know that cause and effect is severely damaged in traumatized children so we can't expect them to respond correctly as a NT.  ESPECIALLY if it's a stressful situation.   BUT when J came home she was 5 and she was verbal so I expected her to understand what no meant.  Oh boy! Was I ever wrong!  When you've had about a million other homes and too many changes, and too many hurts and too many scary things happening it just doesn't work that way.  No, in their mind, means the end of the world because they think there will NEVER be another "yes."  The amygdala engages and all hope is lost.  They say "game on."  It's just one of the millions of things that I wish that I understood before I parented trauma.  I could've saved myself and J so much trouble and shattered eardrums. :)

Try to say yes to everything you can within reason.  I really have to watch myself because I will get in the habit of saying no just because....I'm too tired or I really don't want to be bothered or it's Wednesday, or whatever.

Please don't get your panties in a wad.  Hear me out first.... I KNOW there are times you have to say no AND that's it's really important that they can handle it and obey it immediately.  Sometimes it life and death.  As in...."no" when they're about to run out in the street, or touch a hot pan, etc.  BUT when you can say "yes" and when they're regulated, maybe you can try the things below that worked for us to take the sting out of "no".

We made up another word to use instead.  One of ours was hippopotamus.  Yes... I know it's crazy to use another word when it would be so much easier just to say no.  But it sounds funny and it would interrupt the spin into the amygdala and most of the time she could handle it.  Not always... but seriously people if it worked only for one day I would take it.  When hippopotamus stopped working we used supercalifragilisticexpialidocious cause that was even sillier and then she'd try to say it and couldn't and then we'd both be laughing.  (P.S. if you're both laughing you are both winning.)  Sometimes I let her pick the word that would represent "no."  It gave her some control and it was always interesting to hear her choice.


We practiced, ad nauseum, using the representative word or the dreaded actual "no" when she was regulated.  Lots of pizazz to enforce when they are strong enough to actually hear the word and accept it. Sweet treat rewards during practice never hurt either.  Your hand to their mouth with love.

Model it: Turn the practice around and let them tell you "no" and model the appropriate response.  Yes, you may feel silly but find the fun in it.  Use your imagination and make it fun.

J is attached and her responses are appropriate most of the time but still, even after 5 years, if she is not regulated or stuck in her amygdala due to a stressful situation she can STILL have a hard time with no.  STILL.  I have to keep reminding myself that sooooooo much was missing in her first 5 years that this may be a pattern for her.  It may be something she adjusts too eventually but it's up to me not to expect her to have the exact response a NT child might have.  She's doing the best she can and sometimes I have to adjust my expectations.  It is frustrating and there are times when I think "she just be over all that stuff by now."  That's just me being ridiculous.   Then I have to remember how far she has come. 

We've come a long way baby!

If you've got any helpful hints on what you've done to ward off the no wango tango please share.  I can use all the tips I can get in my arsenal.


Colleen said...

We don't often use the word no here either, though at 22 months home and age 9 she is much better at regulating in the presence of "no". Another thing I learned during my Montessori teacher training was the value of speaking in the positive. I recommend the Positive Discipline series by Jane Nelson. It takes practice but being affirmative and positive has really helped minimize my dds stress reactions.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

I was highly dysregulated a few weeks ago and really frustrated with my daughter. I said, why do you keep doing these things that don't work? Has this (wango tango) ever worked to get what you want? No. So stop doing it. Why don't you try something that DOES work? I

I may or may not have had an elevated volume at the time. Anyway.

To my shock, she pulled right out of the wango tango and said, "can I please have/ do/ whatever?" I about fell over. Now for a few weeks when she goes into that state of having a fit, I tell her, what will work right now to get you what you want? BANG, she does it.

I was going to post about it on my blog. Maybe I just did, but on your blog, lol (a little long winded!)

Kelly said...

Jackson and I are working on handling no right now. He is doing so much better most of the time. You are so right when you said that they think there will never be a no again. That is sooooo Jackson. He hits that negative dead end and there is no way out....but that is where I am trying to meet him. What we are trying right now is to stop and think about something fun that we have done together that is completely off subject. It takes so much effort and thought process for me to redirect because he wants so bad to go back to the negative issue at hand. Tonight I used our trip to Disney and started asking him questions about his favorite things and rides...And we very, very narrowly escaped a rage but WE DID!!! Yippee. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. :)

Kerrie said...

This has never worked before but for some reason it is now: I grant her 15 minutes of (semi)unsupervised outside time with sibs whenever she uses her Calm-Down card at my prompting. And I almost never use the actual "no." It's more like, "after dinner" or, "next time," or "in 15 minutes." Of course, if she want the release, she just keeps pushing, but sometimes it works.

Erika said...

Nice to meet others who don't say "no". I am so creative about it - I say all kinds of things that mean, "no", but I don't say it. We also sign it and that works REALLY well. Odd. But you do what you gotta do, right?

BT said...

It took us awhile to figure this out too. We try to say yes as much as possible especially now that P's healing has progressed so far that he is often capable of hanlding privileges and freedoms that were unfathomable even 12 months ago. Even the conditional yes that Kerrie mentions (e.g., "yes, as soon as your bed is made"...) is way better than a no. These conditional yes's didn't work for us to avoid wango tango until after quite a bit of attachment took place. Before that, we did use substitute words. We also used "let me think about it for a few minutes" a lot, and he seemed able to take that without going into the amygdala mindspace. For really urgent situations, we introduced "danger." Also some hand signals, such as one finger up to signal everyone's going to take a minute and breathe. We also had a lot of conversations -- still having them -- about saying/hearing no and it not being an end-of-the-world thing or something that has to represent that everything in life is about to be shaken up, and we talk a lot about RAD lying to you and trying to convince you that "no" means end-of-life-as-we-know-it, but that is just RAD lying and we can use our strategies to help us remember to identify RAD's lies and what the actual truths of love and safety are. Also, in the beginning before P was attached, before he had any of his cause and effect thinking and before we were at a stage where we could reason with him, we would often preface "no" with an "I'm about to tell you something you won't like to hear and you might feel like raging and that is okay, you just go ahead and rage. Dad and I love you through anything and we can handle whatever you need to throw at us right now." Ha ha. RAD never wants to do what it's been given permission to do!

Barb G said...

Love this post, Lisa, especially the words you came up with to take the sting out. I blogged about this a few weeks ago, and linked an excellent post from another blog that explains about nos and yeses with our kids. Here's the link to my blog post that links the other:

Yeses really work. You've just got to be creative with the nos to turn them into yeses! You are doing GREAT! (((hug)))

Last Mom said...

I ask her, "What do you think?" sometimes when she asks something silly like if she can have ice cream as she sees me preparing dinner. Then I follow up with either, "Nice try, though!" or "That was really good asking." and tell her that she can have ice cream after dinner.

"No", "don't", "stop", etc. are huge issues with her when she's struggling. When she does a good job accepting it, I try to praise her.

She asked me something over the weekend and I was thinking of this post and just said, "Hippopotamus". She was so baffled that she forgot she was gearing up for a begfest and moved on.