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#31 of 42 Old 11-20-2007, 03:01 PM
 
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Originally Posted by dharmamama View Post
You keep mentioning hitting. Desta does not hit me. She gets sullen and pouty and gives me the silent treatment. It's really hard to say, "The game will be over if you give me the silent treatment" because she doesn't do that until after the game is over. She complains about how the game was "not fun" and "too easy" after the game is over. It's not like she's three years old and throwing chess pieces at me.dm
I wasn't suggesting she hit you. I was giving an example of the kind of boundary that I think it is appropriate for parents to draw. Complaining something was "not fun" just doesn't sound that bad to me. Maybe something is lost in the translation of posting online, but I can't imagine telling my child I refused to ever do an activity they value again because they said it wasn't fun or too easy after. Again, something may be lost online, but it may also be good to get your thinking in check and make sure that it really is that awful.

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If I play chess with Desta, I am not "feigning interest" (which I don't think I would want to do anyway, as that's disingenuous). I'm doing something to try to make her happy. I don't think that's feigning interest at all, nor do I think your example of your son going to the knitting store is "feigning interest" in your knitting. Going to the knitting store with you is being kind. dm
Maybe we mean something different by feigning interest. I think asking for someone to tell you more about something they are interested in and you are not can be feigning interest and it can also be an act of kindness. When my son checks the sports scores I will ask him if there were an unexpected outcomes or if there was any big news. I don't care about sports. Not even a tiny bit. You may call that disingenuous, I call it maintaining a relationship with a kid who doesn't always connect easily with others. I think that is part of my job as a parent and I can see that it is means a lot to him. That doesn't mean I'm required to spend all my time reading sports books so we can talk about it, but it does seem like giving some time and energy to finding ways to appreciate what he does is an okay thing to do.

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I sat down with Desta and said, "Every time we try to play chess, it ends badly. Neither of us enjoys the game. I want us to have fun together, not get angry with each other. So for two weeks, we will choose other games to play, and you can play chess with Daddy or [best friend]. After two weeks, we will talk about it again." Desta said, "Ok." And that was that. She seemed fine about it. We'll see how it goes.

dm
That sounds great. I'm glad you didn't say no more ever. We did this a couple of times with certain activities calling it a "vacation". It does seem to allow a chance for stuff to settle and improve.
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#32 of 42 Old 11-20-2007, 03:19 PM
 
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I sat down with Desta and said, "Every time we try to play chess, it ends badly. Neither of us enjoys the game. I want us to have fun together, not get angry with each other. So for two weeks, we will choose other games to play, and you can play chess with Daddy or [best friend]. After two weeks, we will talk about it again." Desta said, "Ok." And that was that. She seemed fine about it. We'll see how it goes.

dm
This seems like a very rational solution, and one with the types of clear boundaries and expectations that reactive kids seem to deal with best.
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#33 of 42 Old 11-20-2007, 03:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Maybe something is lost in the translation of posting online
I guess so, because it's the combination of sullenness, in-your-face pouting, flagrant silent treatment, and long-winded grumbling that's the problem.

My Ramona, who is five, will tell me, "That wasn't much fun, Momma, you said it would be fun!" if something doesn't go the way she wants it to. That, I can deal with.

Being followed around the house by someone who is going out of their way to let you know how honked off and huffy they are and nastily repeating, "That was NO FUN! That game was TOO EASY!" well, that I can't deal with, at least not when it comes regularly and repeatedly.

I am Desta's whipping girl. Everything that has ever happened to her that she didn't like is my fault. Every negative emotion she has ever had is my fault. Anytime something doesn't go her way, it's my fault. If a fly were to come along and poop in her soup, I would be punished for it. Yep, she's an angry, angry kid. And yep, she has entire freightliners worth of stuff to be angry about. But I can't continue to be her nonstop emotional dumping ground. I don't believe that's healthy for her, and you can bet your hiney it's not healthy for me. As much as I try not to take it personally, it's very difficult to live day in and day out with someone who is constantly either seething or oozing anger at you. My goal is not to shut her down. It's to teach her appropriate ways to deal with her anger. Repeatedly abusing me with her anger is just not an option.

Ever since she got to us, Desta has been very good at setting up situations where she gets to wallow in her misery. She also used to set up situations where she got to knock her brother (also adopted from Ethiopia, but not at the same time and not biologically related to her) down, figuratively speaking. Yeah, it probably met some "need" of hers, but it wasn't a healthy way of meeting that need, so we had to put a stop to it. We have worked to teach her other ways to handle those emotions. We have been only partially successful, but just because our solutions haven't entirely worked doesn't mean we should just go back to letting her knock her brother down all the time. And I've come to feel the same way about this chess thing and about her anger in general. Yep, she has to get it out, but certainly not by using me as her scapegoat all the time.

Anyway, this thread has been very helpful to me, so thanks to everyone who responded.

dm
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#34 of 42 Old 11-20-2007, 03:57 PM
 
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What moving, introspective thoughts, dharmamama. Life can be so dang hard.

I hope this doesn't sound wrong...but yk when we talk about deschooling...how it takes one month of freedom for each month of schooling to 'detox'? Well, in the scheme of difficult life situations, for me, deschooling may be important personally, but on the scale of 'difficulty', deschooling rates a negative number.

So, if we talk about figuring out how to get on with living when we are thrust into a family after not having one...or becoming a family of a certain increased number in one day after years of being a family of a different number...and each person with their own 'stuff'...how long per year of life do we get to adjust, to feel sad, to feel excited, to feel worried/nervous/angry?

I mean, these life challenges rate a high number...an infinite number. A year of life to adjust per year of life we lived a different way? A decade? Maybe we should get a whole lifetime to learn to love and adjust and contemplate and cry? Maybe we have to dig deep to love ourselves and give ourselves permission to be hugely affected by huge changes. Maybe you get to feel sad and angry and put upon -- because you *are* her whipping girl. You are the only one the whipped child can turn to. I know you know. And I want you to know a lot of people know and care that it's such a challenge for your family.

So, if it means anything at all, your family has a very massive cheering section. Global, even. And nobody is keeping score, and nobody, but nobody, should dare think they could do better.
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#35 of 42 Old 11-20-2007, 04:16 PM
 
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I don't have any words of wisdom, just a hug. And I believe UU Mom is exactly right. Desta was in an institution for a long time, and she had a very challenging life. Unlearning all those behaviors that were adaptive in an institution, but are detrimental in a family is going to take a long time.

Every post I read about your interactions with Desta impresses me, even if the outcomes aren't exactly what you were looking for. Kids don't come with rule books, and post-institutionalized children can be so much trickier.

I dealt with my dd's attachment issues when she was much younger, and so it was easier. I think that to some degree, you do need to follow your gut. Some of the things I did with her that were the most successful, would never get the MDC stamp of approval. My dd was a master manipulator, and I needed to learn how to stop it, because many of the behaviors were just counterproductive for her, in spite of her apparent "need" to repeat them.
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#36 of 42 Old 11-20-2007, 04:38 PM
 
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((((((((Hugs))))))))

My neice is 12 and she is the queen of pouting. Becuase she was the only girl in our family for many years and because her mother is a train wreck everyone allowed it to continue. It drives me batty. For example on her birthday last year her Grandma (mil) made her a cake. But only wrote "Happy Birthday" instead of adding DN's name. DN pouted all night... sullen, arms crossed, silent treatment pouting. So I feel your pain.

I think telling Desta no is ok. Yes she wants to spend time with you but there are healthy ways to do it. I think given her cog/emotional developement she needs clear boundries of what kind of interaction is acceptable. When my sister was little she had to be taught that she could not always win and that no one would want to play with her if she threw a fit. It is the same with Desta she needs to know that following you aroung and being hurtful is not ok. For her to learn to give up some control you will have to exert some. She will balk, but in the end it will make her feel more secure.

By the way I really admire that you always seem to seek out the best for your children. You dont seem to worry about what is pc or vogue. You put their needs first and I think that that is awesome. I always come away from your posts with the knowledge of how much you love and respect your children.
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#37 of 42 Old 11-20-2007, 05:38 PM
 
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I am not comfortable with a parent rejecting a child's interest when they are reaching out with it when the relationship is so vulnerable. I'd rather see this as an opportunity to learn.
I dont think Desta is reaching out, to share an interest with her mother as a way of bonding. I think Desta is setting her mother up, manipulating the situation, in order to be angry with her mother, thereby preventing bonding. This isnt about chess, its about manipulation. Kids with attachment disorder are really good at pushing their parents' (mostly, mother's)buttons...finding out what that one thing is that drive's the mom crazy...and then doing that incessantly.

DM, i think your very clear communication to Desta about the boundary you are setting regarding playing chess with Desta was a good idea, and hopefully it will help!

Katherine

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#38 of 42 Old 11-20-2007, 07:37 PM
 
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It's important to remember that Desta doesn't have the social awareness or skill set to redirect her needs into more appropriate interactions. Manipulation is all she knows. If that doesn't work - in her world - she's out of luck. And that is intolerable to her, as it would be for all of us.

I think shutting her manipulations down needs to be done in the context of shifting to a more mutually pleasing interaction.

A simplified analogy to this is when my 3 yo starts getting into mischief, I know it's because she wants/needs my attention. It's never about the toy or the game or the whatever. It's about her needing her mama and running up against a brick wall in terms of how to make that happen.

Right now Desta has a deep groove in her psyche that leads her into conflict or seductive behavior to gain emotional human interaction. When I'm lonely, I act friendly and interested in other people, and that successfully engages them. When she's lonely, she's learned what it takes to keep people engaged with her - and that's fighting with them, or actively and aggressively working their emotions. The paradigm of mutual interaction and affection doesn't exist in her world.

So I don't think the heart of the matter is so much the logistics about how, when and why of chess playing. Rather, it's about 'this moment feels yucky between Desta and me. How can I change this encounter to make it feel warmer, kinder, more connected? RIGHT NOW.'

Maybe walking over, smiling, kissing her on the forehead and saying "You goofball. I'm such a lousy chess player and you always beat me. You know that! Hey, I was thinking of making some cookies this week. I can't decide between peanut butter or oatmeal. What sounds good to you?" So a transition from power struggle to working together.

Teach her that there are different ways to engage you aside from adversarially (and believe me, I know you already do that and work on that every day).
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#39 of 42 Old 11-20-2007, 07:53 PM
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So, if it means anything at all, your family has a very massive cheering section. Global, even. And nobody is keeping score, and nobody, but nobody, should dare think they could do better.
:
I really admire you, for becoming Desta's mom, but more for the care and thoughtfulness and effort you've put into being the best mom you can be. I dont think anyone who has been here witnessing your journey can possibly question this.

Dar

 
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#40 of 42 Old 12-07-2007, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So we had our two-week moratorium on playing chess. Several times Desta came to me with that knowing smile and asked, "Momma, will you play chess with me?"

Each time I reminded her that we were taking a two-week break from chess and that she could play with her best friend or her dad.

On day fifteen, the first words out of her mouth were "Will you play chess with me?"

I said, "What do you think has changed in the two weeks we didn't play chess?" She said, "What do you mean?" I said, "How will playing chess now be different from playing it two weeks ago? Will you still get angry with me for not being very good?" She said, "Probably." I said, "Well, I would rather spend our time together doing things we enjoy, not things that cause us to argue and be angry. I saw you enjoying chess with [best friend] and with Daddy the past few weeks, and I even saw you play with Efram and Ramona. I think it would be best if you stick to playing with them."

Desta said, "Ok," and we made muffins together instead.

She hasn't asked me since.

dm
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#41 of 42 Old 12-07-2007, 11:55 AM
 
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Thats great, dm! I'm glad she was willing to move past this activity, and do something more enjoyable for the both of you....i think she was testing you, and it sounds like you "passed"!


Katherine

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#42 of 42 Old 12-07-2007, 12:47 PM
 
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That is great!
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