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Chaos - How do you deal with it?

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It is often mentioned on here that some of us have children who come from chaotic backgrounds and thrive on chaos.


I was wondering how people have dealt with it and what had worked the best?


Our position is that we have a DD (8) who loves chaos and control of the chaos. The advice from professionals and indeed from the community seems to be to set routines and boundaries, stick to them and gradually the chaotic child will begin to settle into the routines as this is actually what they are craving - Parenting.


Well, as always not all children are the same and general advice can't possibly cover all eventualities.


For the first 18 months we set strict routines for everything. We had meal calendars, getting up and going to bed routines, when to watch TV, when and what we were going to play and frankly it wasn't working.


My DD pushed back against everything from the moment she started to settle with us. Routines, as far as she was concerned, were something that happened when she was in care and she really didn't like that. In retrospect, this approach was probably causing more problems than it was fixing.


For the last few months we have changed to a less routine and more free flowing way of life, closer to how we (and I expect most people) lived before we had children. Last minute decisions on where to go and what to do, no meal plans, no routines for anything.


So now we have a calm child who seems to have started enjoying life. Organises herself, takes some responsibility, no longer refuses school every few days, hasn't destroyed her bedroom for months. Goes to bed when she wants to (Which is actually before the old routine suggested) gets herself up and dressed and often gets her own breakfast in time for school.


Now, some may say we are playing into her control behaviour and she is making decisions that are beyond her age. We seem to have found a way of living that works for our family and its quite nice to have your daughter bring you a sandwich now and again.


Right now, we are both dazzled by the transformation, and are in the mindset of "This is possibly too good to be true".


Thoughts from the forum would be appreciated.


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Well as you say all kids are different. If it works i wouldnt analyse it too much... just enjoy !

It is not as if she isnt doing what she needs to do so obviously she responds to having more responsibility so that is great and i say well done to you as parents for working it out and giving her what she needs.

I suppose it would become an issue if she was wanting to make bad choices such as to stay up all night etc and obviously there have to be some general guidelines within the home environment to make life relatively smooth for everyone as a unit but it sounds like you have a good balance here so long may the transformation continue .


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agree with Wizzy, if its working, enjoy it.


Wouldn't have worked for us but then Simba has ASD and most definitely needed routines, calenders, charts - and still does to some extent. Five years on we still have a rough plan for each work. He likes the certainty and routine of Scouts on Thursday, tennis on Saturday, fish and chips on Friday, pizza on Wednesday and so on. We are a bit more 'free range' now, we can do spur of the moment activities as long as its not too big a thing. But I still need to have the overall shape of school holidays, particularly the summer, planned months in advance or he gets twitchy,


I do think there need to be some boundaries but that can mean different things to different people and presentation of boundaries is important. I have become much better at presenting a range of choices, all of which are acceptable to me, but gives him the feeling that he is making the decision. The problems may come later when older and more independent. Wizzy's point about good choices is important. Now Simba is at secondary school, he travels by himself, he has a dinner money account, I have less control so am reliant on him making those good choices. As with most teenagers he is pushing at boundaries, he makes poor choices sometimes, but he is learning and he knows that when push comes to shove, there is a minimum I expect.


But for now, if its working for you, its working so why worry, enjoy the time building your relationships


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Thank you for sharing your experiences. It sounds like you have found ways to destress the life and I wonder if now you are living closer to the way you and your partner want to live life that you are all happier for the change.


I dont think anyone has found the pefect way to parent our very very complex children and as other mention they are all different.


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Wonder if you've thought about PDA? It would make perfect sense that she was rebelling against all those routines - for her read scary, threatening demands which she had to resist, avoid at all cost?


I have two children on the spectrum. My son needs routine. Needs to know what, when, how etc and once he knows he can relax. For him we plan in advance.


On the other hand, my daughter, whom we suspect is pda, finds it scary to know stuff in advance. It doesn't matter how much we've planned, explained etc, it just ramps up her anxiety and her behaviour gets trickier.


My son is given a countdown for bed. She doesn't because all it achieves is a longer period of avoidance and resistance. The less she knows in advance, the shorter the period of anxiety and avoidance. She will resist pretty much every request by one method or another but we've learned to accommodate that.


They're all so different!


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I have never found routines worked here - I hate them for starters and have never been able to stick to a routine for anything in my life so it was never going to come easily to me. But I also found that, while our elder daughter liked routine, it was a disaster for my younger daughter. She has PDA, like Donatella is suggesting to you. The main characteristic of PDA is 'demand avoidance' - these kids get highly anxious if there is a demand to do something and so they have the equivalent of a panic attack (which can look a lot like a tantrum). If you remove the demands, they are much more able to cope.


I had already started parenting along much more thoughtful, co-operative lines before we got the diagnosis of PDA (aged 7), mainly by reading Bryan Post and having a good look at my parenting style and what I was demanding of my children and what was needed and what wasn't. I had already found that having a more laid back style and not getting into battles worked best. The PDA diagnosis gave me more information to help me see that what I was doing was absolutely the right thing for my younger daughter.


I am not suggesting that your daughter has PDA but it is worth looking into it just because so many adopters find that it is a good 'fit' for their child. It is known as the social autism and there is a theory that birth mother or father may have it, undiagnosed, which explains why they can't look after a child.


Anyway, the thing is that you can have 'demand avoidance' in lots of conditions and you don't have to have the full blown pathological type, which is on the autistic spectrum. The book 'The Explosive Child' by Ross Greene is best for kids like this and he explains about why they find having to do things so difficult. So it might be worth a look.


My younger daughter is doing fine - she is 18 and about to start an apprenticeship. She doesn't steal or do drugs or anything scary like that. If I had kept battling with her, who knows.


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I think that's very much how we were parenting our birth children - its not giving into controlling behaviour in that case but helping the child develop as responsible mature individuals. However I have one that causes untold chaos - AD - its actually improving - but very little helps. Except time. Her room is always a tip and looking for something always involves tipping out drawers etc. Food left around - and worse - you get the picture. She has ADHD - as has one of yours I think - but medication hasn't helped - nor does routine - we've always had reasonably predictable routines - and boring repetitive lives since we adopted - and none of the approaches in ADHD books help - which only serve to make me feel inadequate. I think its internal chaos which will gradually lessen with the therapy she is having to be honest. A speech therapist once referred to her garbled language and trying to learn to speak as "making sense of the chaos" which always stuck in my mind as I think that is what she is doing throughout her life - and its a long term project.


One of my BDs is dyslexic too and her room was always a mess (though not to the same extent) but over time she has sorted this out herself as do most teens I agree with Flosskirk - that battling with teens (not that yours have reached this stage) is counter productive - but maybe it depends on the kids. I think you've got it right so don't beat yourself up thinking you need to do it differently and you're showing weakness in some way by using this approach


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Ah, this is an interesting question. I agree that enjoying it whilst you can is a good way to approach what is going on. But I would also have a backup plan for when things (may) start to go pear-shaped.


My AD loves chaos - loves causing it and then doing the big "ta da" and controlling it when all others fall around speechless and marvel at her ability to fix it (or not!).


We used to give our AD at that age the illusion of choice. As in we would have already planned a day out in quite a lot of detail and then would present it as an option. So, if she said "yes" then we could then tell her exactly what was going to happen when. And if she said "no" then we would abort and stick to usual routine (not a particularly formal routine, if I'm honest, except that at weekends the park or similar would be in the mix, meals would be at a standard time, playtime / TV time was very similar, bedtime was a given).


Like many other children from similar backgrounds we couldn't tell our daughter of plans in advance as it would just stress her out and she would go into "avoid at all costs" or "destroy" mode. My son, who is almost 8, loves plans - and actively takes part in the planning. A picnic? Great, let's make a list of what we're going to take. A room make-over? Great, let's go and find paint; what colour should we look for? I'm sure that you get the idea. Totally different in outlook so now we have to cater for extremes.


We could do spontaneous (ish) things but these were also difficult for AD as if we suggested something without having planned it behind the scenes then AD would start getting anxious that there wasn't a fully laid out plan for the whole of whatever we were suggesting (hence the furious planning up front and in the background on our parts). A suggestions that was backed up by "oh, you know, we'll think of something, we'll work it out as we go along" - complete tailspin.


We have never had meal plans - life's too short, or at least my ability to plan that sort of thing is perhaps lacking. Always lots of food in the house. With AD it would have been for me to look in the fridge and "we're having xxx" for supper tonight". With AS it is "go look in the fridge and see what's there and we'll make a plan". Again totally different.


The one area that I am quite firm on for children of this age is bedtime. I wonder whether this is going to cause you an issue in the future. Both my children enjoy the novelty of new freedoms, my AD tends to enjoy them and then work out ways to abuse them. I can foresee the same happening with your AD and bedtime - could you not give freedom within boundaries? ie "bedtime is when you choose as long as it is before Xpm"? Or you must be ready for bed by Xpm but you can hang out in your room (with no electronic equipment) until you are ready to choose to go to bed, perhaps?


I don't think that you are playing to her controlling behaviour exactly but I do think that you may be allowing her to believe that she is control of herself to the extent when you want to impose control of, say, bad behaviour or reigning in bad choices, she thinks "well that's not going to happen, I'm in control of x, y and z, so I can control the way I want to behave / all the choices that I make too". I may be totally wrong but I do think that you may be in a honeymoon period with this one.


I hope it works for you, though as, if it does, it is food for thought for all.


Peahen.


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Peasenhall, if it's demand avoidance then letting her choose will work. My daughter has always made pretty good decisions left to her own devices


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Peahen, if it's demand avoidance then letting her choose will work. My daughter has always made pretty good decisions left to her own devices


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Thanks everyone for your comments so far.


It's been a six month honeymoon so far, I think we may have actually hit on something. We were trying to tackle control behaviour with our own control behaviour. As soon as we stopped controlling her through routines, her behaviour changed overnight.


We have found that playing more than lip service to "Pick your battles" seems to be the best way. We don't seem to be having the battles of the past and we are all a lot happier. This is not to suggest that there are no boundaries but that they are a lot less complicated.


It seems that where in the past she was always expecting to push against any instruction or task we set, now she usually does them before we have to ask and when we do ask there is less resistance.


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I think also there are ways of giving them what they want with you in control. When our middle son was younger bedtimes were very difficult. We'd do the countdown but it always went whatsits up. Right at the last minute he would insist that he was hungry and demand food. He controlled bedtime. His therapist at the time suggested preempting it and offer food before he asked. He got what we wanted but in a way and at a time that worked better! He's 13 now, still needs food before bed - meds worn off - but he does his own around 30 minutes before he goes to bed!


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I guess that the point that I was trying to make is that different children respond in different ways. We have tried giving my AD choices and giving her the freedom to make her own decisions. We have tried not to give boundaries that were too tight. However, when this was the case, more often than not, her choices have not been good and she has made some poor decisions. So, especially when she was younger, we tended to give her less choice as it stressed her out unnecessarily. Now that she is older we do let her make many more choices as she seems more able to cope with making them. Some of her decisions are still pretty poor but not to the same extent as when she was around 8. My daughter's nature tends more to controlling than to demand avoidance.


My AS is almost 8. Making decisions doesn't stress him out at all - he positively enjoys making his own decisions and makes good choices a lot of the time. He is also capable of discussing decisions and taking advice.


So the children are very different and we treat them according to our perception of their needs.


I think that the point about trying to tackle child controlling behaviour with adult controlling behaviour is well made and something that I wish that I'd worked out many years ago. However, we live and learn ...


Ford Prefect, if it is working for you - and after six months it certainly sounds as if it is - then that is fantastic news. Sorry if I sounded like a doom-merchant! It wasn't intentional.


Peahen.


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I think tiredness comes into it a lot as well. It takes a lot of effort to keep yourself in a state of alert all the time, that goes for the adults as well as the children. We talked about walking on eggshells around my DD a lot in the past, it felt like playing the game "Buckaroo" where any second a trigger would be pulled and "Kaboom"! At least our son, with ADHD and FAS was predictable and "Parenting" worked for him.

The truth is that we were set up to fail. The advice we had been given was all about placing our control over hers, under the banner of "Parenting" but when you break it down, it was just control. It was never going to work.

On a practical level we worked out what really matters to us and to her. We have loose boundaries/goals such as, you need to go to school, you need to sleep at some point in the night, you need to eat every now and again, washing is desirable etc. I keep thinking back to my own childhood and although I always thought it strict and punishment was very much in the 60's style, I had a lot more freedom than I allowed my adopted children.

Prep training instils a regime of child management designed to get new parents up and running without the benefit, in most cases, of of evolving your parenting with the development of your child from birth. I really don't think it was in any way adequate but it was promoted by SW's and other professionals as the only way to do it and frankly, as a new adopter you do what you are told. In our case as our children were a "Hard to place" sib group, we had weekly supervision from SW's for the first three months, reinforcing the control over control line, when clearly even then it wasn't working.

When I think back to the first year of the placement, I wonder how we managed.


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I think also its hard to give a message that controlling behaviour is somehow undesirable if you are trying to do the same - but trying to win at it - its a bit like controlling violence with violence - giving mixed messages. I think your approach is entirely the right one and if that changes in the future then you adjust your approach accordingly. I think sometimes the idea of clear boundaries can be confusing - they do not have to be written in stone - as when you parent the child is changing all the time through learning and maturing and so the parent's strategies need to adapt too. Structure can be achieved through having the same order of things you do each day - a general approach to structure - rather than set down to the last detail. Of course it does vary with different kids - if they have learning difficulties or specific emotional needs (such as autism etc) but then you adjust your approach accordingly. I suppose the difficulty comes when you don't know if that is the case and you have to try different things and remain open to trying a new tactic.


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Control for parents can seem the most sensible option as in "if I work harder at parenting these kids then all will be transformed". So the result is you put more boundaries in, you become stricter because that means you are doing something. A lot of this type of parenting comes down to making the parents feel better about what they are doing. It doesn't always consider the needs of the children or the actual outcomes of parenting like this. The kids who wont play ball with the strict boundaries etc need to be parented differently or, when they are older, they will be completely uncontrollable because you lose your Parental power over them and then what? You need to find a way of parenting them which gets you the desired outcome most of the time (or for the big issues) but which doesn't leave your child a raging, battling, angry mess. They may give in and eg go to their room or hand over their phone etc but when they are older you just can't do it.


Alfie Kohn is a good resource for a more laid back parenting style. Actually it's just as much work as being strict but it involves more thinking and reflection than laying out and then enforcing rules. One of the big problems of course is other people, who will be outraged at the lack of boundaries and punishments and who will be urging you to go back to the strict stuff. Here you need to be really firm and strong and believe in what you are doing.


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Flosskirk, is there a specific Alfie Kohn book you would recommend. Thanks


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I think it's crazy your sw was advocating a one size fits all approach! My two are very different (unrelated). I used to think the older one was controlling but I now see it as more that she likes her own ways of doing things - hard boundaries work with her, in fact, if I am prepared to really insist, but it's not my natural style, so I only go there if something really needs to be done for some reason. Otherwise I rely on rule / safety reminders. She's growing up to be fairly reasonable as long as I keep reminding her of the parameters.


Younger dd is actually both more generally compliant and more controlling, which sounds like a contradiction. Her anxiety makes her both though. But not at the same time I guess. She's also very articulate about her feelings too and has several times over the years said words to the effect of "I can't let you win." Coming down hard provokes tantrums and outright defiance. So it has to be a collaborative, supportive approach with her. Otherwise she'll just keep going.....


As for PDA I would consider that eldest is more demand avoidant but not to a pathological degree whereas youngest can seem like that at times but is in no sense on the autistic spectrum in any other way. Guess it's just "attachment / trauma" with her. Also tiredness is a massive trigger for her.


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Malta, I don't know about books but he has a good Web site


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