Make Your Next Anxiety-Filled Meal a Manwich Meal

Doodicus races radio control cars on the weekends with his dad through an RC club. He’s been doing so for at least five years. While he likes the actual driving, he leaves the pit work up to his dad as he prefers to pass the time on the park’s playground equipment or riding his bike on the walking path. Sparring Partner in turn makes sure to replace the shocks, charge the battery, change the tires, etc., on the car based on how he reads the track or Dood’s driving performance.

A couple weekends ago, they raced on a ridiculously hot day (in my opinion, they should have cancelled, that’s how hot it was). They couldn’t keep the dirt track wet enough as the 100+ temperatures just instantly sucked the moisture out of it no matter how heavily they watered between races. They eventually gave up watering, which meant the track became supper hard and supper slick.

Now for a little racing blah-de-blah stuff that actually does end up relevant, so bear with me: If you’ve ever watched a car race, whether it’s something like NASCAR or Formula One, you may have noticed that instead of having “nubby” or treaded tires, they are completely smooth. The reason is simple: the smoother the tire’s face, the more contact it has with the track’s smooth surface; the more contact, the more control. Now let’s look at Rally Racing or Off Road Racing. Those tires have exaggerated treads, studs or “knobs” to provide grip on an uneven and unstable surface.

Back to RC racing: the exact same principals apply except it’s scaled down considerably. They normally race studded tires because it’s a dirt tract, but on this particular day, the track couldn’t be kept in the condition they would have preferred in the time they were allowed. And to make a long story short, Sparring Partner changed Dood’s tires from studded to slicks. However, because Dood wasn’t use to the handling of the slicks, he accused SP of sabotaging his car so he wouldn’t do as well.

Doodicus went into a tirade of tears and yelling and there was absolutely no way we could get him to understand that SP was only to help him out. Even when we asked, “Why would we want you to do poorly?” he could not get beyond the idea – the IRRATIONAL thought – that his dad’s actions were not to help him.

Now hang with me, because I’ve got a similar story that revolves around Sloppy Joe’s.

Doodicus is a terrible eater. Fruits and vegetables haven’t passed his lips voluntarily in years. “Weird” foods are off limits, i.e. casseroles or crock pot meals. He prefers plain, unadorned food: steaks, pork chops, the occasional hot dog (but it must be XYZ brand in html color #CC3333).. Sometimes he’ll even eat a hamburger or a *gasp* taco! It’s exasperating. Once he confessed to liking Sloppy Joes at daycare, so I happily bought a couple cans of Manwich. I personally love Sloppy Joes. They’re easy to make and easy to use for left-overs. The first couple of times, they were a hit. Then one ill-fated night, he took a couple bites and suddenly clutched at his throat in a melodramatic way, “There’s onions in here!” He refused to eat them from that point on. By the way, there were no onions.

Fine, whatever, kid. Everyone else in the house likes them, so the other night it was on the menu (hahaha! we don’t have a “menu”! Our meals are based on what’s in the pantry and my mood du juor.). Sparring Partner thought he could help diffuse what battle there was sure to come by actually reading the ingredients from the can to Doodicus to prove that there were no onions involved.

That seemed to have worked as he sat down with the rest of us and dug in, taking first one, then two and then a third! bite of his Sloppy Joe. And then IT happened: “Mom! You put onions in here!” “No, I didn’t.” “Yes, you did! I bit into one. I can FEEL it!” The exchange devolved into yet another teary tantrum, complete with dramatic gagging and threats to throw up. He even went so far as to say the company who made the mix were putting onions into it and not listing it on the ingredients.

At our appointment with Dr. Rita yesterday, somehow this story came up. He looked at Doodicus and asked him calmly about why he didn’t like the sandwich. “I know I think there’s onions in it!”

Back up and read that again: I know I THINK there’s onions in it!

This is an Irrational Response.

“Uh…duh,” you might be saying, but get this: whenever you try to rationalize with someone who definitely holds irrational thoughts, you keep that irrationality alive in them. If Dood was rational during that race, he would have eventually responded to our explanation for the change in his tires with, “Oh. I didn’t know that there are different tires to help me when track conditions change.” A rational child who might have exclaimed, “You snuck onions into my Sloppy Joe!” would have quickly realized that some rogue Manwich employee was not going around throwing bits of onions into the mix before it was canned.

However, trying to rationalize with Dood means he must try harder to believe his irrational thoughts are true, which leads to us trying harder to rationalize with him and the vicious vortex of suck becomes ever deeper and broader and encompassing.

When Dr. Rita explained that to me, I literally gave myself a face-palm. WE are maintaining the irrational thoughts Dood has every day! “This is a different brand of bacon! It tastes funny!” “No, Dood. See, it’s in the same packaging as the last time.” “You are just taking out the new bacon and putting it into the old package!” “Of course we’re not doing that! Why would we?” “To get me to eat it! It’s not the same!” and wouldn’t YOU want to convince – to rationalize – with him that you are not trying to pull one over on him?

Instead? When he brings up an irrational thought (You’re trying to make me lose! You’re putting onions in the sandwich! You’re buying the wrong kind of bacon!”, we are simply to respond, “No, we’re not. It’s time to race (or eat),” and that’s it. If he persists, which Dood WILL do, we are to respond: “You already know the answer.” or “I’m not going to answer that,” and what should eventually happen is he’ll realize the world will not end if he does end up eating an onion, or coming in last at his race, or getting dropped off on the west side of the school as opposed to the east (another irrational argument that has recently come up).

If you don’t have a child who suffers from anxiety or other challenging behavioral issues, this post probably won’t make sense to you. But, oh, if you do, I hope you had a Lightbulb Moment as enlightening as I did. And I have Manwich to thank for it.

12 thoughts on “Make Your Next Anxiety-Filled Meal a Manwich Meal”

  1. We went through the same sort of educational process but it was really to do with the power structure in our family. If we got dragged into the anxious behaviour/thoughts it gave over the entire family dynamic and power to the one who was anxious. Distancing ourselves and expecting him to deal with it himself gave him far more individual power but took away his power over the family (if this makes sense)
    DinoD

    1. The whole idea makes me think of how I’m constantly telling Dood that it’s pointless to argue with his barely four-year-old sister. Right now she believes that watermelon will make her throw up because of the unfortunate timing of the eating of said watermelon just minutes before her throwing up. Dood understands why she got sick, so he will try to explain stomach viruses and the ‘flu to her. DO NOT OVER-EXPLAIN. DO NOT JUSTIFY. That’s the way it is and that’s it. “Take it or leave it”, to quote Dr. Rita.

      So far I’ve learned that whatever you think is true with a “normal” kid isn’t true when it comes to ADHD. Don’t punish for their bad behavior; reward whenever they’re good. Don’t rationalize with a child who thinks irrationally. The gears in their brains just don’t turn the same way.

      You have no idea how hard it is for us to process the whole concept as well.

  2. We have had those issues too, with Zachary and with my stepdaughter. But – the way my husband has always looked at it is – if Dood’s questioning how you cooked the meat after you’ve told him otherwise, or what bacon you bought after you told him otherwise – then he’s actually calling you a liar, which is disrespectful. My husband likes to focus a lot on honor, and calling someone a liar questions their honor. SO – big no-no in our house, and actually I think that has really helped with our older son, who is now 14, to understand who he needs to be as a man.

    1. This is what gets us worked up in our house, too. SP and I were raised NOT to question our elders or face the belt. So when Dood “questions” us, it’s hard not to consider it an insult. But that’s not what he’s doing. He’s not calling us a liar. He believes what HE believes. That’s irrational thinking, not disrespect.

  3. So you’ve been to dinner at our house, then? :)

    I feel your pain. Glad that Dr Rita was able to give you a tool to help diffuse those arguments. We may see if they work here…

  4. Huh. I never would have connected those two – trying to rationalize with him when he’s being irrational means you’re somehow giving credence to his irrational ideas. It makes sense, in an odd way, though.

    But I have questions. Does HE realize he’s being irrational when he gets like that? Because if he doesn’t realize he’s being irrational, when you don’t answer his concern, will it make him feel unHEARD and escalate then? Or is that the whole point?

    1. In some cases, he may not know that his irrational argument is truly irrational but it’s more of his unwillingness to be swayed from whatever stance he has taken. That’s why we are not to feed into it. For example, he’s now angry that Dad is making him race in the “pro” classes instead of the “novice” because Dood has logged enough hours. He races in the pro-class and because he’s not as good as they are, instead of realizing that with experience he can keep up, if not out-race them, he instead holds onto the thought that his dad is out to make him look bad.

      That thought will not become irrational UNTIL such point he realizes he IS getting better BECAUSE he is racing in the pro-class.

      On the other hand, this onion business…well, he may believe for all eternity that I was sneaking onions into his sloppy joes (just wait until he finds out that onions are in the taco seasoning *MIND BLOWN!*) and he may never comprehend that it was irrational.

      His defiant behavior means that the more we try to reason with him, the more he needs to make himself believe that HE is right. Whether he is “right” or just being “irrational” doesn’t matter. As the child, we don’t “owe” him a justification for what we do to keep him out of harm’s way or to be happy.

      1. You know, you just gave me my own manwich forehead smack. I spent most of my life arguing with my irrational mother, frustrated that I never “won” – even though my arguments were logical, and in a lot of cases, RIGHT.

        My mom is still irrational – for example, her newest thing is that she’s totally stressed over when she needs to get thumb surgery, because “I can’t travel with a cast on my thumb!” and “I can’t have people stay with us when I have a cast on my thumb!” – but it’s much easier on me AND her whenever I don’t argue it.

        Almost like giving them a chance to save face.

        Good stuff!

  5. Maybe it’s because I deal with irrational people on a daily basis, but after a couple tries, my response is “OK, think what you want.” A few people I know will come up with some wacky arguments and will carry them to extremes. Don’t feel badly, though – it takes a while to realize that you can’t argue with irrational people. You can recognize irrationality, but it takes practice to stop arguing with it.

  6. I have to say, the bit about “some rogue Manwich employee” made me snort at my desk. I have anxiety issues and I, too, sometimes believe what I think to be true – I’ve never heard it put that way but it’s so very true. When I BELIEVE that something I think is true there is generally no talking me out of my belief no matter how absurd. A prime example is that I have never – and will never – tried salt water taffy. Why? Because it’s made with salt water. You can tell me it’s not but I know I think it is.

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