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Arrrgh! This behavior *MUST* Stop...

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Dd has developed a new habit that is driving dh and I absolutely bonkers. A bit of background:

1) She is 3 (need I say more?)
2) There is a new baby... 3 month old ds
3) She has developed new actual fears since we went to the hospital to have ds and her grandparents stayed with her for 2 nights. I know this is part of being three and normal. Most of her fears revolve around things she imagines (mostly this catch-all bad guy called the "pokey man" who looks like a cactus, and a fear of windows and stairways... all very normal)

Now to get to the part that is driving us bonkers. Pleeeease lend me a hand and give me some suggestions for this. Dh and I are very gentle and quiet people. We have occasional arguments but are usually the silly/goofy types. I am reading "Playful Parenting" right now and it really fits into my style.

Dd will not let us talk to one another! We will start to try to have a normal, friendly adult conversation , say at dinner (though she does this at other times, including when Dh occasionally has her for a minute or two at work in his studio while trying to video conference with his business partner... or even just take a second to tell his partner he'll get right back to him) She will start covering her ears and screaming "Scaaarrryyy! Mommy and Daddy shush. Don't talk!"

We give her soooo much positive attention, even with the new baby. I am a SAHM and dh works from a studio in our garage. We usually respond to the screams by turning to look at her and asking her firmly but gently to please quiet her voice. Mommy and Daddy are talking. Often, Dh will let her sit in his lap, but it doesn't make any difference, and she won't stop. She genuinely seems upset, but it feels like such a manipulative behavior! She keeps doing it no matter what we do and it wrecks our ability to have a conversation at all. If we keep talking and try to ignore, she keeps yelling and starts to cry... making it impossible to keep a single blasted thought straight. This usually makes the baby start crying, which then makes dinner turn into pandemonium (not that I'm asking for help with that part... just explaining the awful chain reaction that happens every night for dinner). As I said, she's done it to dh too... not even letting him take 2 seconds to tell his partner he'd be with him in a sec. She flips out! Sometimes, if she gets really upset, she pees her pants. (She did that while we were watching a World Cup game together as a family and dh and I were trying to talk about the game, even though she was literally sitting right there with us and we were talking to her too) She doesn't get in trouble for this, but we do calmly maker her clean herself up and put on new pants, with assistance from one of us.

I can't take this behavior, but don't know how to put and end to it. Obviously she is looking for attention, but she can't demand it 100% of the time. Talking to her about it doesn't seem to be working, and upsetting her just ends up in a puddle of pee on the floor. Grrrr! Please help!
post #2 of 18
Originally Posted by tammylsmith View Post
Obviously she is looking for attention, but she can't demand it 100% of the time. Talking to her about it doesn't seem to be working, and upsetting her just ends up in a puddle of pee on the floor. Grrrr! Please help!
This, to my vastly untrained eyes, looks a lot more like a sensory issue than a true behavior issue. Has she shown any signs of being overly sensitive to noises, light, textures, foods, etc? Is it a brand-new behavior, or an escalation of an on-going pattern?
post #3 of 18
Don't worry! This is totally normal and will soon subside. She's had a major change in her life and it seems like she's expressing her emotions through behavior instead of words. Maybe try to put words to her behavior for her so that she can gradually begin to talk about her feelings of being left out instead of showing you with disruptive behavior.
post #4 of 18
A couple of thoughts:

Set the kitchen timer so that she can see how long you'll be talking for. Start with 2 minutes or so.

Offer her some ear muffs if the talking bothers her. Something like this.

If this went on more than a week, and I was sure my child was getting enough attention, I'd give her a choice: Wear ear protectors or go to your room and listen to a CD while mommy and daddy talk.

I will confess that I most likely would have a very very short fuse with this.
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
I hadn't thought of the sensory issue before. She is highly imaginative (like dh was at that age) and can have issues with loud or sudden sounds (or sounds she perceives as eery/ominous though I am like a hawk with TV, even harmless shows like Little Bear have had a few episodes where the music or tone scared her), and has before the baby was born. She can be a nervous child, which comes from dh's side of the family (MIL's family is the very sweet but high strung type) I try to be patient, but it is a mental place I cannot even fathom, since I am a very laid back person.

Another good example I can think of is when we go over to her grandparents' and we are all sitting around the table talking, and we laugh about something. She puts her hands over her ears and gets very nervous. It doesn't happen every time, but it definitely happens often. I hadn't thought of the ear protectors before. We could try that. We have tried having her play in her room, but she must always be near us, pretty much underfoot (kind of like a cat). If she senses that we are trying to move her away or walk away from her, she panics (and the new thing is peeing her pants... she didn't do that before.) I am trying so hard to be patient, but it is exasperating!

My fuse is becoming short with this too, but getting angry and raising my voice or trying to physically put her somewhere else just freaks her out even more.
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
I also wanted to add that sometimes, it is very blatantly attention-getting behavior and she isn't upset at all. I think there are a few issues at work at the same time here.
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Ok , sorry but I just thought of something else too. Her noise issue is situational to the type of sound, not necessarily the level. (meaning I think it is psychological and not fear of loud things) We took her to see the fireworks and she enjoyed them. I can't think of other instances besides talking or laughing when she has reacted this way.
post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
Ok, LAST time I reply to my own replies, but the idea of having sensory issues hadn't occured to me as the root of this problem. Then I really got to thinking, and realized dd has issues with strong smells, pain, temperature and rough fabrics/textures like sand on her skin. I did some poking around online and found a quiz:


That really hit the nail on the head. This is a sensory issue. She is a "highy sensitive child." Now I know where to go with this, and will talk to my pediatrician about it. Thanks for the help! It won't solve things right away for me, but at least gives me an idea.
post #9 of 18
My son started doing this around age 3 as well. He wants to be the only one talking. Period. We're still working on it and he turns 4 in 10 days. LOL.

We do lots of "wait your turn" and such. We found that you really have to stop this behavior quickly or it escalates.
post #10 of 18
for sure get an eval by an occupational therapist. is seems like sensory processing difficulty. and its possible that her trouble adjusting to having a new sib is bringing it out even more. GL!
post #11 of 18
Before going to your pediatrician, I would recommend reading two books:

1. The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron
2. Sensational Kids by Lucy Miller

The first describes highly sensitive kids, the second describes kids with sensory processing disorder (SPD). I've got two kids, one 'just' highly sensitive and one with SPD. Being highly sensitive isn't necessarily a matter for the doctor (or really, occupational therapist, since they're the ones who treat SPD).

A good place to get started on SPD is:

I will also add that I'm wondering that there may well be a behavioral component to this. If she refuses ear muffs and still won't let you talk, is this about attention? (I will say that dh and I didn't get much conversation in when our kids were the ages your kids are, but we did get some.)

I'll also say gently that you seem afraid that she'll cry. If she's a highly sensitive child, or even a child with SPD, she will need help regulating her emotions. At the same time, in order to regulate her emotions, she has to feel them. Are you still trying to prevent crying (as you would in an infant) or are you letting her experience her powerful emotions and walking her through them?
post #12 of 18
I agree with PP that she seems very sensitive, and that maybe there is a bit of a behavioral component going on. It sounds like she doesn't mind people talking, but only gets really upset when you and your DH talk to each other.

My DD is also 3, and we struggle with her not wanting us to talk. She's fine until DH and start to have a conversation. Then it's, "Mommy, don't talk to Daddy." Or she interrupts with a conversation of her own. She's spirited and VERY persistent, so it's tough sometimes.

I think so much of it is age - they want your full attention. A spirited and/or sensitive child will make it even harder for you to talk to each other.

The other recommended books sound great... I'd also recommend "Raising Your Spirited Child". Some of the sensory issues you mentioned are addressed in the book in the section about sensitivity.

Oh, and wanting to always be near you... to the point of almost tripping you the way a cat would... yeah, our DD does that too! We call it "catting" - I didn't think anyone else's kid does it too!
post #13 of 18
Interesting. My child is 7, but she still hates when we talk. She doesn't scream or cry, but she is very annoyed if my DH and I talk to each other at dinner (even if we talk to her as well), or if I talk to my mom. She wants to be the center of attention. It is to the point where she doesn't like doing family things (going for a walk, going to the beach). She only wants me OR DH to go. And if we both go, she says she'll only be happy if we don't talk to each other. I always thought it was such weird behavior, but I think she just feels left out or something. I have even noticed that if DH and I are talking (ex: when he gets home) she will position herself in a way so that we can't see each other! I thought it had something to do with being an only child and a triangle relationship or something. :|
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
I agree that she is a sensitive child with a desire for attention. She is a very strong willed kid, so I'm sure at least part of this particular issue is behavioral (accentuated by the sensitivity and sibling issues). We aren't really afraid to let her cry. She escalates into full flip out mode to the point where I can't even think straight. The only way we could continue to talk at all would be to remove her from the room and put her in her room with the door shut. We have tried that for extremely brief periods, but I'm not sure it is really effective because the it doesn't seem to stop or even slow down the behavior. She hasn't refused headphones. We haven't tried those yet. I'm not sure if that would work or not with her, since the volume isn't the issue.
post #15 of 18
As someone who has a bit of a sound sensitivity problem, let me assure you - it doesn't always have to do with volume. It could be pitch or speech speed or even if you and your husband interrupt each other conversationally. I know I sometimes feel out-of-control or like my brain is overheating when those things happen sometimes. It's like being bombarded.
post #16 of 18
One idea is to help her become aware of her feelings by acknowledging/validating them.


"You wish that we would always talk to you too. It's hard when dad and I want to talk about something besides you, isn't it?"

So the goal is to help her feel like you at least understand her point of view, although you can't grant her wishes. You can offer hugs and such.

But definitely I think you should find a way to continue the conversation, so she doesn't have lots of success with stopping the talking between you two.

One idea is for you to leave the room, go to another room and close the door to talk and then come out as soon as you're done. This is a "decide what you will do, not what the child will do" technique from Positive Discipline. You decide that you will not stay and continually be interrupted. You will go to another place where you can talk.

You can tell your child, "We're going to talk in the bedroom where we won't be interrupted." (or whatever language she will understand)

So the idea is to do this calmly and respectfully, but focusing on what YOU will do, not what SHE will do.

If you do decide to do this, my guess is that it will take 3 -4 days of consistent implementation to see results. And I know that it will be extremely difficult to do this at the dinner table, but I think this will send a stronger message that you telling her to stop her behavior.
post #17 of 18
Thread Starter 
Interesting idea Kelly. I have tried removing dd, but haven't tried removing myself. We will have to try that one perhaps. I have tried to validate her feeling using similar words, but she flies into a full blown, tantrum, practically foaming a the mouth (she has had several wetting accidents simply from getting herself so worked up over the fact that we haven't stopped talking yet when we tried to ignore her). She also seems legitimately scared during all of this, with tense body language and eyes darting to the windows.
By the way, I did try headphones when she did it yesterday, but she refused them.

Interestingly, today we were at a friend's house for dinner. They have a 5 yo dd and when my dd started up and crawled under the table, we ignored and she initially started to escalate, but then sat for awhile under the table (I wish we had a table at home, but we all eat around a counter top she can't crawl under) and came out on her own to join the bigger girl. Wish we could borrow a big kid to eat with us every night for dinner and get dd out of her fit!

This happens:
1) most frequently at dinner (our house, grandparents', and has happened at friends' houses as stated above) while seated around the table
2) when dh is at work in his studio, and he and I are talking next to his computer desk
3) when one of us is on the phone
post #18 of 18
random thought, from one who, reading what you wrote above, remembers liking to be under tables and desks as a child -

could she have a little safe space/quiet space inside the kitchen or wherever you eat where she could escape from the sound for a few minutes, at her own discretion, but be more able to see and hear what is going on than if she were to put on headphones (a box made into a little fort, or something like that, maybe?)? maybe it could stand in for being under the table?
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