Ruth Ayres hosts a weekly celebration at her blog. I appreciate this invitation to reflect on the positives of my week.
This week I’m celebrating my very favorite therapeutic parenting technique, outcrazying the crazy. It’s a technique I used a lot two or three years ago, but I haven’t used it recently. To be honest, I’d kind of forgotten how amazingly helpful it can be.
Therapeutic parenting coach, Christine Moers, explains the technique in her video, When Our Kids Are Stuck:
Here’s the basic idea. Kids who come from hard places easily get stuck in certain patterns, feelings, behaviors, thoughts. Right now, even though my son is processing feelings that are logical and reasonable given his past experiences, the ways he manages those feelings often don’t work and he gets stuck in old patterns of fight or flight rather than productively engaging and processing using his new tools. I was at my wit’s end this week in the middle of an interaction that was quickly escalating. I was using all the calming and regulation techniques I know, but nothing was working. He continued to escalate. I began to despair. And suddenly, I thought of Christine.
Outcrazy the crazy.
It was worth a try.
“Oh my God!” I said. “What was that? Did you see it?”
Instant brain shift.
“What? I didn’t see anything.”
“It was right there. Didn’t you see it?”
“No.” He looked at me suspiciously. “You’re just making this up.”
“Oh no!” I said. “I’m serious. Shh!”
I put my finger to my lips and began a very exaggerated stealth-creep towards the corner of the school building.
“Don’t follow me!” I said. “You’re going to scare it away.”
I snuck around the side of the building and waited for him to join me. Which he did in just a minute.
“What did you see?” He asked, genuine curiosity in his voice now.
“I don’t know,” I said. “It was like a raccoon, only bigger. It came right around this corner. I can’t believe you didn’t see it. I think it climbed that tree.”
We spent several minutes examining the tree. He threw a couple of rocks into the leaves, then he shook his head.
“There’s nothing there,” he said disgustedly. “You’re just making this up.”
He turned to walk away, then turned back to me.
“Are you coming? Let’s go get some ice cream.”
A couple of hours later, we were right back in the crazy. It was getting late. He was sitting outside, refusing to come inside. I didn’t think I had any more therapeutic parenting in me for the day. I considered my options. Sitting on the floor in the bathroom crying seemed like the best choice. But I dug deep. And wondered if outcrazying the crazy could possibly work a second time.
“I need something to juggle,” I told my husband.
So I grabbed a stack, went outside, and proceeded to try to teach myself to juggle. With cups. In the dark.
Worked like a charm.
“You’re terrible,” he said. “What are you doing?”
“I’ve had a lifelong dream of learning how to juggle.”
“No you haven’t. You’re trying to distract me.”
“Actually, I’m just trying to juggle.”
I could see the eye roll even in the dark.
“Oh forget it,” he said. “I’m going inside.”
Within five minutes, we had a movie on and he was snuggled up next to me on the couch.
The thing about outcrazying the crazy is that it’s good for everyone. Forcing myself to come up with something unexpected and unpredictable to do that wasn’t crying, yelling, despairing, or curling up in a fetal position under the bed made my brain feel better too.
Any given outcrazying the crazy technique can usually be used only once before the child catches on and gets mad rather than regulated. So stay tuned for me to develop sudden lifelong dreams of learning how to yo-yo, kazoo, and paddle ball.