"Mom, how does the Tooth Fairy fly through the air?"
"How do YOU think?"
"I think moms do it."
"But how can a Mom be a Tooth Fairy?"
"Good moms are lots of things, Princess."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Calm Down Card

Here is another of Mrs. M's little useful bits: The Calm Down Card.

Princess has a hard time processing what's said to her, and it's even more difficult when she's upset. You've got about three words before you're tuned out, and maybe not even that; she often uses screaming as a way to not have to listen. The first few times I used the card, I actually chased her around the house tapping on a picture repeating, "what comes next, Princess? What comes next?" But now it almost works like magic to help her regulate herself in a way that trying to reach her with words never would.

Yesterday afternoon Princess got out the Memory game, so I casually hovered nearby. Memory has gotten much easier for Princess, but competition brings on anxiety. I believe Princess has a deep level of shame going on. Not guilt. I have rarely seen her express guilt. Shame is different; shame says "I am fundamentally bad and nothing can make me good." So making a mistake, or not winning, or anything other than utter victory reinforces this feeling, which she expressing by attempting to make someone near her feel as bad as she does. Or so I hypothesize. I can't know for sure. She is not what one would call "a good sport." If she's winning she gloats and taunts; if she's losing, everyone will eventually pay. She's not being mean or thoughtless--I think it's a kind of defense mechinism or way of coping of maybe just lack of empathy. Anyway, I stick close when the games come out.

Princess got the Cuddle Bear to play with her. The Cuddle Bear might only be three, but she happens to be a total whiz at Memory, which probably didn't make things easier. Princess got louder and more chipper and bouncier and more rhythmic as the game progressed (and the Cuddle Bear acquired more matches): warning signs that it's going down. Then an argument developed about whether a certain card had a match. I knew the Cuddle Bear was right. If she says a card has a match (or doesn't), you'd better believe she knows what she's talking about. When the Cuddle Bear proved up, Princess's whole demeanor changed. She growled, "so?" and suddenly cards were being thrown from all sides. I rushed to step in, but without any warning Princess shoved the Cuddle Bear HARD into the computer desk. I said, "time-out; seven minutes," and marched her unwilling self up the steps. I checked out the Cuddle Bear, and then started to think about what should happen next.

When the timer went off I grabbed the Calm Down Card and headed upstairs. Normally a time-out does nothing whatsoever to regulate Princess. I use it mainly as a way to get her out of the situation while I figure out how to handle it. This was no different. Princess scowled at me over the books (not hers, of course) on her bed. I held up the card, pointed at "5 deep breaths," and said, "what comes next." She did all the steps without complaint, and I could see she was regulated. Her expression was neutral, her body was relaxed, and she wasn't saying anything about how unfair everything is. I told her to pick up the game, which she did before going on to something else entirely.

Yay for the Calm Down Card.

1 comment:

  1. You are doing a wonderful job. I think it would be beneficial to keep a calm down card somewhere for me. (Do you think Mrs. M would put that in a pfd and share?) I don't lose my cool very often but when I do, because of my 15 y/o's mouth, I start shoveling out unrealistic punishments, and then I am usually the one who is punished in the end. Anyway, thanks for sharing. :)