For this writing I want you to try to think of the eggshells we have come to dread walking on as part of the process of making a fine omelette.  Way before you crack and whisk those eggs there are many steps to take to prepare and plan out.  There are cheeses to be grated, vegetables to be washed and chopped, onions and meats to be sauteed and diced and herbs to be picked and scissored.  Much happens before the eggs are cracked and the shells broken. When creating that perfect Sunday morning breakfast the preparation begins even before the start of the omelette, coffee  is ground and brewed, muffins are folded with fruits and baked. We put a lot of effort into everyday simple recipes and in fact, most tasks we perform during the day become routine and part of our lives.  Do you know why they become so routine and effortless?  Because we have learned how to make them work, we have learned how to get the outcome we want, in the above case, that beautiful fluffy flavorful omelette to be the centerpiece of our Sunday morning brunch. Now focus on the eggshells left on the counter, they are delicate, fragile and hard to handle. Hmmm Sounds a lot like our kids! Walking on eggshells is the norm for families with a child or teen with mental illness.  I say families because they effect the entire family.  For some families the word “No” can set off a chain of reactions that can put themselves, their child or other family members in harms way.  A simple change of schedule, a disappointment or anything perceived as a negative in these kids eyes can cause an explosive response that can last hours or even days.  The behaviors are often terrifying not only to the parent but to the child or teen themselves. What is it about the word “No” that can send our kids into such a tailspin and bring them to that dark place?  I wish I knew.  I’ve come to the realization that it really doesn’t matter, what matters is that it happens and we need to prepare and plan out just as we would for that delicious omelette.  We need to be proactive and we need to learn an entirely new language – the language of calm.  For many parents this will be a foreign language, a language they were not accustomed to growing up and not considered the norm by outsiders.  It is a language that will not only change the way you and your child interact but will change the way your child or teen will eventually learn to speak to others in relationships as they grow older. What is this secret foreign language….. it is the language of constant positives.  Seems simple enough in theory but in practice it takes some getting used to. Let me go back a minute to the outsiders, when making that omelette do you feel the need to satisfy others in the way you plan, prepare and execute your making it?  Do you take recipes from others that have never made an omelette with the same ingredients before?  I doubt it.  One of the first things you will need to learn is to do what is best for you, your child and your family.  There are those who feel that parental authority includes being rigid or demanding in their speaking to their children of expectations.  For some neurotypical children this may work but even for them, in my opinion, it is not what we want to mirror. Some will tell you that you are spoiling your child or raising/causing a brat.  Being respectful, choosing your words carefully and developing a relationship of trust is not spoiling, it is good parenting.  I think one of the biggest mistakes parents make when trying to have parental authority is to feel that they must make demands.  I feel it far better to take a collaborative effort, include your child in problem solving and develop a healthy relationship.  Sometimes giving your child, especially one with a neurobiological disorder some control of their out of control lives actually GIVES parents control by opening the lines of communication. So what is this language of constant positives, it is a way of speaking to your child in a way that does not raise their defenses.  It is a way of communicating a negative consequence or starting a conversation about  something they will perceive as negative in a positive way. For example:If you do not do your homework you will not be allowed to play your video game. ……… If you start on your homework now you will have more time for that video game. It is cold outside today so you will have to wear a sweater………. Wow its chilly outside which sweater would you like to wear today pick which ever one you want Stop whining and get ready for school you are going to be late…….. Im sorry you are having a hard time this morning what can I do to make it easier for you I see you failed your quiz today what happened?………. I know you tried your best Im sorry you didnt do well on the quiz let’s figure out how to make it easier next time. If you don’t clean your room you are not going to the movies Saturday……… I know you are looking forward to going to the movies Saturday remember to get your room done first ok. For every negative way of approaching a topic there is a positive or supportive way as well.   Even when a child is in a rage or meltdown with those eggs cracked it is not too late.  Sometimes instead of “reacting” to their behaviors we need to just let them be and use positive (but limited) language to calm them.  This is the worse possible time to make any demands or try to have them be rational or compliant. Saying your sorry for how they feel teaches them compassion and let’s them know you get their pain.  Apologizing if you lose it, and who hasn’t, teaches them that everyone makes mistakes and shows remorse.  Helping your child or teen find their own way to calm is the greatest gift any parent can give.  Most parents are in constant pursuit of making their child happy instead of making them calm.  Teach calming first and the happiness will follow.  For our kids that are so disregulated this is one of the hardest but most important tools we can give them. So think about it, think of your favorite recipe, think of my omelette, think of the care we took to prepare for that perfect dish.  We learned the language of master chefs and incorporated it into our daily lives to achieve our desired outcome.  At first it seemed odd, a bit of trial and error with adjustments to the recipe but with time and consistency it worked. Now think about your child, think about the type of language you use when trying to get them to achieve your desired outcome.  Has the language you have been using consistently brought you the wrong response?  Why not learn a new language, just like your learning the language for your favorite recipe it will feel odd at first, it will be a bit of trial and error with some tweeking but with time, planning and consistency it just might work. Wishing you strength and calm

One Response to The Fine Art of Walking On Eggshells

  1. Wow! Eye-opening and heart-soothing… “the language of constant positives.” My mom did that. A single mom, w/ third grade education cared for her mentally ill child – me – as best she could… to the best of her ability. Thanks for reposting this, Marianne.

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