The term “adult” has shifted from a noun into a verb in today’s nomenclature. The act of “adulting” means to behave as a grownup is expected to. Being a grownup myself, one might assume I could accomplish this so-called “adulting” like a pro. After all, I’m only a handful of years short of forty!
When parenting children who have experienced complex developmental trauma, things tend to get turned upside down. Probably, parenting is a process that can get the best of anyone. Adopting older children continues to be a strange and (at times) confusing journey for me.
My children come from a background of fighting for survival, fighting as a way of communication and fighting as the tool to get their needs met. In other words, Carl is masterful at drawing people into an argument and/or shouting match. He is good at the power struggles. He’ll make a great lawyer or reality TV star someday.
In therapeutic parenting the point is to stop struggling for power. You and your child are supposed to work together to find solutions. Its the two of you vs. past trauma as opposed to parent vs. child. In order to do this one must be proficient at “adulting.”
I’ve written before about Carl’s struggles with food insecurity. This comes in the form of hoarding food or binge eating high-value “junk” foods that we don’t usually keep in the house. Luke bought frozen pizza roles at the grocery store and it’s been a struggle every day since then. Carl wakes up in the night to eat them (even still frozen) or begs to have them at breakfast. He will stomp, scream and shout to try and get access to them. It’s our job to teach him that these behaviors will not earn anything for him.
Part of the therapeutic approach of Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is making compromises. If your child is asking for something rather than demanding it, then you should try for a compromise or some form of “yes.” In theory it fosters connection and teaches good interpersonal skills.
I wish I could say that I “adulted” through the latest pizza role drama like a pro. Usually I do. Last night, on the seemingly 35th consecutive day of nonstop pizza role negotiation, I snapped. I pretty much had a mom-tantrum.
The pizza role struggle looked like this:
Carl: Demands pizza roles 10 minutes before dinner.
Me: Reminds him to ask instead of tell. Offers to discuss this after dinner.
Carl: Tries to bargain from 20 then 17 then 10 pizza roles.
Me: Begins to grow a burning hatred for said pizza roles. Evilly fantasizes about throwing the entire stupid jumbo bag into the outside trash bin.
Carl: Eats dinner by shoveling an entire plate into his face in under 5 minutes. Does not gag. Politely requests 10 pizza roles.
Me: Ignores growing hatred for pizza roles. Asks for a compromise. 5 pizza roles to start with after Carl showers. If he is still hungry in 1 hour he can have another 5. In between he should try fruits and vegetables which are always readily available. Pats self-on-back for using a compromise like an awesome therapeutic adult. Score 1 for Supermom.
Carl: Follows compromise with the exception of doubling the amount of pizza roles and attempting to shove them all in his mouth at once to avoid detection. Ends up with burns inside his mouth.
Carl: Yells at me for noticing this but not the other times he has stolen food. Yells at me for starving him and never letting him eat. Yells at me because his mouth now hurts from being burnt.
Me: Loses all semblance of adulthood and therapeutic calm. Yells at Carl that he better complete his chore (empty litter box) right away.
Carl: Shouts, “Why do you have to get mad at me every single day?!”
Me: Shouts, “Why do you feel the need to lie to me every single day?!”
Carl: Corrects me by retorting, “That’s not lying that’s cheating! I didn’t lie I cheated!”
Me: Begins a disturbing descent into madness.
Carl: Cleans litter box while yelling. Accuses me of getting mad over food. Turns red and continues yelling about how much I suck as a mom. I should be mad about cheating instead of lying. Refuses to put trash bag of litter into outside trash bin. Reiterates that I suck as a mom.
Me: Proceeds to suck as a mom. Raises voice about lying and breaking compromises. Threatens to revoke television privileges.
Carl: Runs into his room (forgetting new plate of pizza rolls) and locks the door behind him.
Me: Grabs litter trash, forgotten plate of pizza roles and entire jumbo bag of pizza roles from the freezer. Storms outside and dumps them into the trash bin.
Carl: Turns on his SMART TV in the safety of his room.
Me: Unplugs the internet router, effectively ending Carl’s TV time.
This was not very adult of me at all. I gave myself a time-out. I went to my room with my adult coloring book with some gel pens. It’s actually a very soothing activity. I gave myself the remainder of the evening off. Carl eventually apologized to me over the walkie-talkie. My only response was a weary, “copy.”
It took me a few hours to regain composure. Eventually he radioed in an “I love you. Goodnight.” I was finally able to swallow my burning hatred of pizza-rolls to blurt a half-hearted, “I’m sorry too, kiddo” over the walkie.
For the rest of the night this “adult” colored and watched Hallmark movies about nice families who do not fight to death over a stupid pizza rolls!!
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
***I am not affiliated with, nor do I represent, TBRI or Sasha O’Hara coloring books in any way. Click on the links above for more info.