Really Bad Day, Needing Support!Warning: This is long.
I've had a VERY bad day today. Very bad. I guess I just need to vent.I guess there are two main (disorganized, scattered throughout the post) issues here, intertwined:
1) My son's violence has increased in the past week or so. I am at a breaking point. Neither time outs nor the gentler approach (time ins, talking, negotiating) are working at all. I don't know what to do.
2) Today my son was diagnosed with MRSA--medication resistant staph--and I can't get him to take the medication. This was expected as he has NEVER willingly taken any medication, no matter what I've tried. I don't know what to do.
It seems lately that we haven't gone more than a day or two of decent days without then heading back into many many bad days. My son is very sensitive to stress and drama in his life and going on around him, so anything that happens seems to set him off. The problem is that we always seem to have things happening, crazy things, things that don't happen to most people (like the break-in situation).
This week my son was already acting up. Things are worst on Sundays and Mondays, which are the two days I have at home with him. Neither one of us go to school/work on those days. I am always optimistic, thinking we will have fun and go to the park, go to the zoo, the children's museum, etc, but he often says he wants to stay at home. This would be fine except that when we stay at home, all he does is cause MASSIVE trauma--hitting, screaming, tantrums, out of control--all day, and he just ends up in time out after time out because he is completely and 100% out of control. This is how our lovely week started. I try all sorts of things (diversion, exercise, being silly, having him punch pillows, wrestling, etc etc etc) to keep things under control, but it just never seems to work for me, or it might work for 20-30 minutes, but then it's all over and we're into hell.
So, on to the related (but also different) issue. . . . .
Yesterday I noticed some bumps on his tummy that looked like acne, almost, but sort of odd. They were very red and had white tops, like a whitehead. In the morning he had two or three, and in the afternoon, he had five or six, so I was a little concerned that it was spreading. He didn't have a temp, but I called the doctor anyway, and they said it could be staph infection and made an appointment for him to be seen today.
Usually I don't tell him he's going to the doctor until about 20-30 minutes prior to the appointment because he freaks out about the doctor. He doesn't want to get on the scale (screams and cries), doesn't want to have anyone touch him or look at him. It's not even a fear of shots. He just hates the entire thing. So he knew that he was going to the doctor today because he had heard me on the phone, and ALL DAY (until the appointment at 3:00pm) he screamed and cried about not wanting to go to the doctor's appt. He was screaming things like, "I don't want to go! I hate you!" which is his new theme lately ("I hate you"). I was really kind, sympathetic, and understanding and said, "I know you're scared, but it will be ok. You won't be getting any shots. It won't be a big deal. She will just look at your tummy and probably say it's fine." I tried and tried to convince him it would be ok, to empathize with his feelings (I know you're scared. I will be right there with you. It will be ok), and to make him feel better. I even tried pretending I was the doctor and he was the patient and we acted out how it would go. He'd laugh for about two minutes, then immediately start screaming again. I told him it was important, that he had to go to get it checked out and make sure he was healthy. Nothing was working. I tried REALLY hard for hours.
His anger and frustration escalated into violence towards me, and he started hitting, punching, kicking, etc, like just coming up to me and hitting me or punching me in the back because he was angry. So, following what my son's therapist has taught and what most people have said is required with a kid like this, I put him in time out, or tried to. These days he will never go to time out, so I have to physically pull/drag/carry him to time out. Carrying him to time out is dangerous and almost ensures that I will be slapped or punched in the face. Since he is so disregulated emotionally, he won't stay in time out either, which means I am supposed to do a restrained time out, holding him in a chair. While I hold him in the chair with his arms wrapped around him, standing behind him, he thrashes, says I am hurting him (even though I try to hold him as carefully as possible) and he tries to bite me, spit on me, or hit me with his head if I get close enough. Excuse my language, but it's f-ing miserable. Just miserable. He will even intentionally pee his pants at times. When I let him go to the bathroom, he will refuse to go and/or lock himself in the bathroom, and then when he's back in time out, he will say he has to pee. It becomes a power struggle. It's just absolutely terrible.
I have reached a point this week to where I feel like NOTHING is working, at all. When my son was younger, I was all about attachment parenting. I believed in "time ins" instead of time outs and would sit on the couch and talk to my son about his behavior. This is what I believed was a gentler, kinder approach, and what I wanted to do, but his behavior continued to get worse and worse. When he was finally at the point of bashing other children's heads into the wall unprovoked, I sought professional help. I was told that part of my son's behavior problems were caused by my laid back approach to discipline and that I hadn't given him serious enough consequences. I was told I needed to give him time outs and make him stay in time out, to hold him (if he wouldn't stay) until he was completely exhausted and had "burned out" all of that terrible aggressive energy. I have held him in time out for hours at a time. IT'S NOT WORKING.
I have also tried talking, problem solving, trying to calm him down, to sympathize, to be loving, kind. I've tried avoiding what causes these meltdowns, but sometimes it can't be avoided. For example, he can't NOT go to preschool because I have to work. He can't NOT go to the doctor when he has a problem that needs looking at. As parents, we all know that there are things that must be done.
None of these approaches are working, and I am just completely at a loss. Occasionally I get optimistic and get this burst of energy and just think I can do this, but I don't know if I can anymore. I don't know what to do. I feel like I am trapped in an abusive relationship, and I want to break up and leave, but I can't. I know he is a child, but it's still incredibly difficult being hit, kicked, spit on, and slapped, sometimes multiple times per day, along with being told that I am hated, he wishes I would die, and I am ugly and fat. It's just terrible. I know it's terrible for him too. But when I found out I was pregnant, I was so excited, as I had always wanted to be a mother and was told I was infertile. It seemed like an amazing, wonderful gift had been given to me. That things have turned out this way (at least so far) seems so incredibly unfair, especially since I am dealing with this completely alone.
So, today I was putting him in time out for hitting me, and he was refusing. He was in the bedroom and I decided to kneel down and tell him just to come to time out and it would be short and easy, and then he would be done, no big deal, and as I was explaining this is a calm and loving manner, he just slapped me on the face as hard as he could.
And, God forgive me, I slapped him right back.
I feel like crap for doing this. (I would use a stronger word, but I don't think it's allowed.) I feel like the worst person on the planet and a terrible mother.
It just came out of me in an instant. All the anger that has been boiling inside just burst out of me, and I lost control. I just couldn't take it anymore.
Of course I believe this is 100000% wrong. I was raised by violent parents, so sometimes I feel like it's just stored away in me. I was spanked/beaten until black and blue (called "spanking"), slapped, and told that I should have never been born. I never wanted to be anything but loving and patient with my son, but he makes it SO hard to be the kind of parent I want to be. It's honestly like living in hell.
I realize now that I am getting at my breaking point more and more regularly. I am yelling, losing my temper. I think it's because I truly feel like I have tried everything, including trying time outs for more than a year, consistently, EVERY TIME he did something that hurt me, himself, or others, or seriously damaged property, and while I've seen a slight improvement in behavior, it's not what it should be. His behavior is still bad enough to be completely unbearable. I am so sick of living like this. I am so sick of thinking, optimistically, every time, "I have the whole day off with my son today! I wonder what fun things we can do?" only to have our "fun activity" be a 6-8 hour physical fight.
My son's therapist and a friend of mine, who is also a therapist, (along with countless parenting books, including Transforming Your Difficult Child, which was recommended by many people) told me that if I would just stick with time outs and be consistent (putting him in time out every time and keeping him there if he was resisting or continuing to do the same behaviors) he might really fight it and it might even get worse for a few weeks, but then things would be so much better, even amazingly better. It's not happening. I am really at a loss about what to do. I absolutely HATE being in a physical confrontation with him, restraining him. It sucks. It feels like we are in a physical battle. But I've been told that if I don't do this, he will only get worse. I've tried other approaches, and they don't work either, and I feel like I can't just ignore his behavior if he's hitting, punching, slapping, and kicking me. He's only four. What about when he's eight or ten? He will be bigger than me! (I am only 5'2".)
After the entire violent blow-up between the two of us, of course I was really distraught and crying. I told him I was very sorry, that it wasn't ok for mommy to hit him, but that it ALSO wasn't ok for him to hit mommy. We hugged and cuddled. Later, I asked him what mommy should do when he hits me since he didn't like time outs and that didn't seem to be working for us. He said I should just tell him to stop. I said, "Well, but if you've already hit mommy, I can't tell you to stop, because you've already done it, so what should happen?" We came up with a plan that if he did something he shouldn't, what if mommy told him to go to his room and sit on his bed for a time out? He smiled and seemed to like that idea. I said, "What if you were really mad, what would you do?" He didn't know, so I asked him if he could hit the windows or throw his toys? He said no. I said, "What about if you hit your bed or pillows and kicked your legs?" He said yeah, and I agreed that this would be a good way to deal with being mad. We then practiced him pretend "hitting" me and him getting sent to sit on his bed, and he did it. We practiced him being angry and hitting his pillows and bed. But then later in the evening, when he, once again, hit me, I told him to go to his bed and he wouldn't. I've tried sending him to his room before, but it's never worked. (FYI, it's feet away from me, not upstairs or downstairs, or far away, and very brightly lit and safe feeling.)
So, back to today, he was diagnosed with MRSA--the medication-resistant form of staph infection. His doctor said that he needed antibiotics, and if it wasn't treated, he would likely develop huge abscesses that would have to be lanced, and it would be painful and even dangerous. MRSA can be deadly.
Of course with my son, NOTHING is easy. When he was younger (age two onward, after I stopped breastfeeding), I could slip most medication into a bottle of soymilk. (Once we weaned, he BEGGED me not to take away his bottles and was so devastated not to be able to nurse anymore that I felt sorry for him and let him continue to have that comfort. I only stopped because I needed medication for a serious skin disease I have, and I waited so long to stop BF that I had to have extensive surgery and almost skin grafts!)
Now, there is no way to get medication into him. He was prescribed an antibiotic liquid. I did try to slip it into a drink he was having, but he could taste it and asked me what was going on. I told him that the medication was in his drink and explained that he needed to take the medication and that I would help him. He started screaming in anger that he would NOT take the medication. I told him I knew that it was really hard, but that mommy would help him, and we'd try whatever we needed to try (sugar, honey, hot chocolate, chocolate syrup, whatever!) to help him get it down. I decided to give him a spoonful of sugar, the medicine, then some chocolate soymilk. Of course I was thinking this is terrible for him to be eating straight sugar, but I was desperate. He wouldn't even try a tiny drop of the medicine. He just screamed and cried and said "I am not doing it!"
I tried to convince him gently, and again said that I would help him and we would do it together, but he refused. I begged and pleaded and said I was worried about him getting worse if he didn't take it. He refused. I said if he didn't take it, he would probably have to have antibiotic shots at the doctor's office. I didn't say this to be mean, but hoping that he would realize that it may very well be either take the medicine, or get shots. I told him I didn't want him to have to get shots, so please let me help him take the medicine. No go.
I've been thinking that his behavior has been so unbearable lately that maybe I need to see about medication for him to help with his behavioral problems, but now I wonder how that would even be possible.
I've tried (begged, pleaded, offered any kind of treat you can imagine) to get him to take medication before when he's had a high fever or has been in pain with a sore throat when he is sick. He can be sobbing in pain with the worst sore throat you can imagine, and he wouldn't even try to take Tylenol or anything.
Of course I could try to force him to take the medication, but aside from the ugliness of that scenario (holding him down and forcing it into his mouth? no thanks), it wouldn't work anyway, as he'd just spit it out or vomit.So, I have questions
1) What would you do about the time out situation? Would you just give up on time outs? Nothing seems to be working at ALL. Am I missing something? Some people say I have to stick to time outs, which are not working; others say I need to talk and negotiate, which is also not working. I've tried each method for months to years. We are still doing a points log and have been doing this daily for over a month, but it doesn't seem to motivate him much on most days. I am desperate. I don't know what else I can try. Have I tried everything? Is it just time to give up and resort to #3 below?
2) Any thoughts on the MRSA medication issue? Do I just call the doctor and say he's refusing to even try meds, no matter what I do, and just see if he can get antibiotic shots? The idea makes me ill, but I know this can be an extremely serious infection. I don't want to see him with huge abscesses, being held down and screaming while they try to lance them. I feel completely stuck on this!!!! He can't swallow pills and won't even try anything. I know that no matter what I try to do to convince him, he won't try it. It's so upsetting. I don't want him to be hurt or upset, but this needs to be treated.
3) If you think that obviously nothing is working behavior-wise, so he needs medication, how would I even get him to take medication? Even writing those words is upsetting to me, but I guess if him NOT taking mental health meds means we are physically assaulting each other, that's not a good situation either. Somehow I have to find a solution!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just know that medications aren't magical and have many serious potential side effects. He's only four years old.
I am just scared, sad, overwhelmed, and feeling like crap. And I really don't have anyone to talk to about this, at least not anyone I know. A couple of you have emailed me privately with your phone numbers, but it seems very odd to call a complete stranger with an emotional crisis. I just don't know how long I can go without some help here. Some people have suggested respite care, but I already have him in childcare 4-5 days a week, so it's not like I am with him 24/7. I just need more emotional support than anything else.
Ok, I guess I am more than done. I apologize for my disorganized ramblings. I am just too tired to go through and edit this into something that makes better logical sense!