When my sibling group of six moved in 7 years ago, I devoured any and all books about trauma, attachment, and adoption I could find. I had thought I was prepared from my experience being a live in houseparent for teen girls and working in a residential facility for children with predatory behaviors. I was no where near prepared for the level of defiance, aggression, peeing, sexual acting out, and violence that was now my every hour of every day life. I quickly found that not all the wisdom I was reading would work for us. I began to pick things from each of the books and come up with my own thing. In other words, I have no idea where I got this from or if I am a genius like the Moms say. Don't burst my bubble, I'm going with the genius thing.
One of the many things that became apparent with the kids besides their inability to trust anyone, their need to destroy anything of value, and the clear need for boundaries, was that they would lose their crap when I would tell them “No”. Being frustrated and completely, thoroughly exhausted, I had a hard time saying “Yes” about anything. I wanted to scream “No” at the simplest requests. That began the cycle of “No” (me), giant tantrum of destruction (them), sobbing (mostly me), and then the “I Hate You” (always them). That and the year long lice infestation, we were struggling.
I don't remember exactly how or when it came about but I made a conscience effort to stop saying “No”. I was determined to find a way to say “Yes” to everything. Surprisingly, it wasn't that hard. I found they were much more willing to do the things I needed them to do if I was agreeing with them. They also were beginning to like me, just a little. While I am aware that is not a part of parenthood, try being hated, truly and deeply by the children you are willing to sacrifice your sanity for. This was a perk that made life worth living. I began to feel like we were going to make it.
I'm sure you're thinking, good parents can't just agree to everything. You are right. I always add my own spin to the request. “Yes, of course, absolutely you can watch TV as soon as your chore is done.” We both win. It works for all sorts of things. It is simple but it works, even for my kids with extreme control issues.
Before I knew it, I was agreeing to all sorts of things. Staying up 30 more minutes, wearing shoes without socks, and even having dessert before dinner and no one was getting hurt. I was stopping to think about why I wanted to say “No” to something and figure out a way to say “Yes”. Who is it going to hurt if they draw with chalk on the porch? It can be washed off. Why not eat all the Halloween candy in one day? Sick for one instead of two. Can't every mom use a makeover from their 5 yr old and have pictures to prove it? I began to relax my expectations and they began having fun.
I decided to give them choices when I needed them to do something. The worst thing first (to catch them off guard) and the thing I want last (my kids always pick the last option regardless of what it is because they can't remember the other options). “Would you please clean the entire kitchen or would you rather just unload the dishes?” or “I need someone to clean up all the dog poop in the yard or scrub the toilets, which do you want to do?” When mine started to catch on, they were healthier so now I make it more of a joke. Instead of cleaning up the dog poop, I can tell them to clean up squirrel poop. I have only had one kid spend an afternoon looking for squirrel poop. I was more than happy to scrub the toilet that day for them while they looked and looked. I needed a place to regroup so I could keep a straight face anyway.