Saturday, November 7, 2009

Questions, incessant unending questions....

One of the first times I realized Genea might be having more than transitional issues, is when I read about RAD and the inclination to chatter incessantly. Nonsense question after nonsense question. AHA! Went my brain- we have that!
Of course, most children go through a stage where they appear physically unable to stop their lips from flapping like pancakes. It begins to feel like someone is slapping you up the side of your skull after a bit. *Smack* Smack* Smack* and your head is going *thud *thud* thud* and all you want to do is scream shuuuuuuuuuuuut uuuuuuuuuuuup! But, you can scream shut up all you want because it will not make a lick of difference. Yammer yammer.
I realized one day that there was an identifiable difference between Teena's unending senseless chatter and Genea's unending senseless chatter. Genea could stop. Without bribing and without threatening, if I told them to go sit on different couches and be quiet, Genea could do it, Teena could not. So I began to think, hmmmm, this appears to something she is far more in control of than I would have guessed.
Lately, Genea has been on a nonsense question streak. It always starts with Mama? Can I ask you a nonsense question? So it is a two for one. And the nonsense question is almost always a "no" answer. And I hate it. I feel like I am rejecting her 95 times a day because she asks these questions all day long and maybe 5 of them I can squeeze a yes into. I am being set up, 100 times a day and 95 of those times I am being directly led to a negative. It used to be that every. single. one. of the questions that was a "no" led immediately to the Wango Tango. That thankfully has lessened considerably. THANKfully.
I think this is Genea's way of connecting with me and her Daddy. If we are being forced into engaging with her, she is alive. She exists if we look at her and respond. She is not invisible or being ignored when she is hungry or needs a hug. She has someone who might take care of her if she can just force that person to acknowledge her in some way, any way. That is my opinion anyhow, I think it is an orphanage holdover.
A few months ago, I started answering a nonsense question with a nonsense question of my own. I have 2. I reply with "Is it dark outside?" when it is light, or vice versa or for some variety I might say "Is your hair purple?", both of which make her think, then say no, then she moves on. This has been moderately successful as it cuts waaaaaay down on the Wango Tango one can enjoy if one responds with "no" too many times.
So yesterday she came home and her friend had been absent from school. She asked if she could have some candy to make herself feel better (thanks you- know- who). Of course I said, no. We don't do snacks after school. I found last year that Genea would not eat her lunch (that costs 2 freaking dollars) if she had a snack to rely on, but absolutely would eat her lunch if she knew that was all she would get until dinner (rigid thinking ya' think?). A few minutes later she asked again. My phone rang, she asked could she get it for me (always no) and asked who it was before I even answered (again, not permitted and forcing my attention to her instead of the call). So I decided to try something I had been thinking about.
I pulled out a jar of these connecting blocks, as seen above, and counted out 14. Those 14 would be the number of nonsense questions she could ask for the rest of the day and when they were gone, no more questions. Regular necessary questions did not count, though only I would determine what was necessary and not. I thought, 14 nonsense question would leave her without any more questions right around 7:00, as it would be 5:00 when we started this, and she goes to bed around 8. See how I think these things through? So I could make my point and there would be a minimum of suffering. I just wanted her to get a sense of how often she really does this. How often she makes up a question just for attention. Just sheerly for the sake of making her Daddy or I stop what we are doing, shift our attention, engage and communicate and then create a negative atmosphere when we have to say "no" to something she did not want or need anyway. There would be no consequences and no rewards, nothing at all. Just to see.
She bawled. But she understood.
The picture on top is how many she started with yesterday. Yes, there are only 13 in the picture, I took it after she lost the first one.

It is now 3:00 on Saturday. We started yesterday.
She clearly has waaaay- haaay- ayyyyy more control over this than I EVER would have thought.


  1. Wow, that is some control.. Personally that would just tick me off even more.. lol. I can handle kids doing stuff when I know they can't help it... but when they are just doing it to push buttons it..well it pushes my buttons ! lol I need to work on it. LOVE the idea! Sadly I'm sure Southern' Darlin would either lose the pieces, shove them into something or perhaps even eat them!

  2. Oh my Essie! You are so unbelievefreakingable! I'm so going to institute this plan tomorrow. I'd start now but Chatty Cathy is already in the bed.

    M & M's instead of blocks? Wondering how many she'd get at the end of the day?

  3. My talker likes to ask questions but he also has to argue everything I say. He can not just say "yes ma'am" or whatever. He HAS to have the last word. I told him it didn't matter if I was right or anything. I was mom and he was gonna stop arguing. So I may use the blocks (or M&Ms) for the arguing. I'm a quiet person so his talking drives me berserk!

  4. Lisa is right you are one brillant Mama, I am so doing that, tonight's nonese around here included a discussion about where the bread came from and when my answer was - I asked for it and it fell from the sky ( we often answer nonsense with nonsense) he starteda asking more questions, I was ready to explode!

  5. Genius. You do an amazing job parenting your kids. I have a 16 year old who does the incessant chatter/question asking. And the questions are ALWAYS crazy. And if I say "no" (to something like "can I knock the back wall out of my room to make it bigger?"), she will actually argue it and get upset. Now I always say "yes, when...". Yes, when you earn enough money to do some reconstruction on the house, we'll do this. It at least helps me feel like I'm not saying 'no' 10,000 times a day. I think kids with trauma have such a frail sense of self, they need constant engagement with others just to feel in existance. I also think the constant chatter helps keep them from thinking about the more painful stuff. Drives me nuts.

  6. Brilliant...and I have to say that I am very glad no one I know has this issue...though Maxim is big on challenging political questions. One can hardly fault that, except it is just occuring that the goal might be somewhat the same. Problem is; I really don't like to argue stuff like this, and he is never satified with the depth of my response. (While I was reading this post he came in and said, "I don't think we should have public schools; it's a form of socialism".)

  7. Fantastic! I used this with a student one year. You're both generous and thoughtful. I only gave her six!

  8. Brilliant! I wonder if it would work on my almost-4 year old? The incessant, repetitive questions drive me nuts. Even if i have answered Yes and am doing it, he still argues with me and keeps asking the same question. I counted 53 repetitions once in the car and then lost it and started yelling. This was while I was trying to negotiate downtown Houston rush hour traffic and missed my turn off. He kept asking anyway....

  9. That's a great idea!
    I didn't have the nonsense question thing with my own kids but I know parents who do. They were constant and annoying, along the lines of, "Is this my shoe?" "Do you want me to put it on?" "Do you want me to put it on my foot?" "Why? "Is this my dinner? "Is it pizza?" (It was hamburger. Clearly and obviously hamburger.) "Did you make me this dinner for me? Do you want me to ear it?" "Why?"
    It made me feel tired and I could go home. My friend was stuck there.
    The mom turned it around by asking, "What do you think?" It really helped.
    I'm guessing the "no" questions make her feel safe, even if she freaked out upon hearing "no."

  10. We did dimes a couple years ago (at about age 7.75), and I couldn't believe how incredibly it worked. Same shock as you at how much control over this we learned P had. We also did the "tactic" of asking "what do you think?" (using non-mocking tone, which is HARDER than it sounds), and also the technique of just smothering him into a hug when he asked his first nonsense question, which seemed to stop the chain of questions most of the time. I have also used the strategy of answering with a bit of nonsense of my own, as you are doing, but have tended to save that strategy for when he's done something amazing but I'm afraid he can't handle praise.

  11. We did the same thing and it TOTALLY nipped it in the bud. Our kids were allowed a certain number of questions per day. If they insisted on asking more than that, we let them know we would be ignoring the question. Talked about it openly in front of all the kids, so there was no question (and none of the, "Why won't you ANSWER ME? You're such a BAD MOM!!!").

    We still have the occasional appearance of them, but not the on-crack version we used to experience. I also answer the nonsense questions with a nonsense question ... but it always involves the word "pickle." That's our code word. "Does it smell like a pickle?" "How many pickles does it take to change a lightbulb?"

    They know that I KNOW it was nonsense. Works like a charm now. Usually we're out in public, and a quick pickle answer lets them know the jig is up. They can regulate now after a pickle something-or-other.

  12. Brilliant indeed! I am going to try this with 5 year old who is home today and driving me to early margaritas! (you think I am kidding....?) We make the oldest (age 10) write down ALL his questions before he asks them these days and it works like a charm in cutting that down by about 75%. Thank you for sharing this!

  13. Thanks for all the props! I hope it helps if you try it out! It did really help Genea to cut back I think. Now to fill her time with something else....

  14. Oh dang. I never think of anything like this. I just get frustrated and blank.

    I'm not sure my guy can grasp the concept but I'm going to try... Using lisas m&m idea may work for him.

  15. My five year old son is the same way as your younger daughter - the same questions over and over again. Obvious ones too. So it's not just you that has this go on in your home. It's also comforting to know that we're not the only ones this happens to. =)


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