I have occasionally shouted at my son J so loudly that my throat hurt afterwards. This is not something that I am proud of.J is a lovely even tempered, generally happy boy, who is affectionate towards me, and friendly and outgoing with others. He can also be very stubborn, and once he’d settled in with me eight years ago, he embarked on what sometimes seemed like a dogged quest to take total control of all our interactions. Because I am stubborn too, and get tired, and am much less patient than I thought I was when I set out on this journey, I sometimes threw my therapeutic parenting techniques to the wind, and just got cross and shouted. I don’t need to tell you that no one feels good when this happens. (Later on we did get some great help from CAMHS around the controlling behaviours, which I will write about another time).
What I found deeply frustrating was that 7 year old J wasn’t picking up on any of the clues that I thought showed perfectly clearly that I’d had enough. I always felt that if he did, and just backed off a little, things wouldn’t escalate so dramatically. I expect other adoptive parents have sometimes felt the same.
Over time, I developed three not very therapeutic techniques to slow the pace, which worked for us:
J didn’t register a ‘normal’ frown at all, but if I got down to his level, and pulled what was almost a comic book frown, with my forehead deeply creased, he ‘got’ that and it would usually stop him in his tracks.
The Man Voice
My gruffest, lowest voice, occasionally used, also worked wonders. I did have to stop worrying about the looks I got in the supermarket.
The ‘Third Person Singular’
Saying ‘Mummy is getting cross’ rather than ‘I am getting cross’ as a warning was also very effective. I don’t know why.
Do any of you have particular expressions which you use to slow things down, so everyone can catch their breath and change course?
I wrote this for the Adoption Social’s new place to share our tips and tricks, The Things We Do.