Okay, will try to be as succinct as possible.
DD1 has been a challenge from the very beginning. Very HN infant, constantly screaming/crying, feeding issues, major sleep issues, never happy. Described accurately by my mom as 'born distraught'.
As a toddler, she got slightly easier once she achieved the major milestones, but was still a lot 'more' than normal. No amount of distraction/redirection worked at all - this kid was utterly tenacious. Behavioural issues, including hitting, kicking, biting, running away in public (very dangerously and not stopping) frequent and very intense tantrums. Still lots of sleep issues.
Now, a preschooler, things only seem to be getting worse. She's nearly 4. She still has tantrums - often many times a day. She is very bright, but oh so challenging. She will argue anything and refuse to do anything she's asked to do. It's so difficult to get her out the door that we don't go out nearly as often as I'd like. It often takes 1-2 hours from me saying "Ok, let's go to the park" to actually being able to get her ready to go, and that's with me playing, coaxing, cajoling, threatening - anything and everything. I always have to give her warning before doing anything, and even then, if I do something she doesn't like she will flip out.
I have been losing patience with her lately and my parenting is going downhill. In an attempt to get things back on track I formalised our house rules (5 very simple basic rules that she helped me to write and decorate the poster). Number 1 is Be Gentle - No hitting. I decided to instigate time-out in her room for breach of this rule, since it was a safety issue, and I figured she also needed the time and space to calm down. (she is not the sort of kid who will just sit/stay in one spot for a time out - she would follow me around, screaming, hitting and kicking) So, for a couple of days this seemed to be working okay - I have to carry her (45lb of screaming kicking kid) up the stairs and put her in her room and lock the door, but I felt like I was doing something reasonable and she was getting a consequence and the message that her behaviour wasn't acceptable. Her behaviour seemed to be getting a bit better.
But then a couple of days ago, she started a new thing. She would get upset with me over whatever stupid thing, and start screaming at me, demanding to be locked into her room. I would gently explain that it was okay to be sad/angry and that if she wanted to go to her room for some space that was fine. (I didn't want to have to haul her up the stairs, and I'm not crazy about locking her in her room, but it's absolutely the only way to keep her from hurting me or her sister when she loses it) So she gives me a 'look', marches over and deliberately hits me then says "Now you *have* to lock me in my room". And, I did. I didn't see any other way around it. The rule is - she hits, she gets put in her room. I couldn't let her hit without following through, but as it was I ended up basically rewarding her for hitting, by giving her what she 'wanted'.
This is just an example - this sort of stuff goes on all the time. She still wakes a few times a night, and no matter what I do I can't get her to be quiet about it. She picks fights with me first thing in the morning, before we even get up for the day, about ridiculous things. Nothing I do is ever right - she's constantly whining at me about something. I gave her too much water in her cup. I did this - I didn't do that. And then the next day, if I do it the other way she whines at me about that too. She's incredibly loud *all* the time and when I try to get her to be quiet (with games and fun!) she yells that she can't help it. If I'm ever on the phone or trying to listen to/watch a clip on the computer she goes manic, grabbing things, stomping, screaming, making more noise than you would think possible, to deliberately annoy me.
I guess I just feel like a terrible parent all the time because it seems like I just can't ever get her to obey me. I mean, I know she's 3 and some rebellion is normal - but all the time? Saying no, or flipping out over everything, all day? Digging in her heels even when it's something fun? I have read so many parenting books, the GD forum and tried all sorts of things with her - it all seems to go the same way in the end. I'm just so burned out with it that lately I find myself skipping all the 'nice' stuff and just jumping straight to being really cross and yelling, since that's where it's going to end up anyway.... But that's not the kind of parent I want to be.
I should say, that when she's not making me want to pull my hair out, she's a really wonderful kid. Really clever, sweet, funny, so creative and just lovely with her little sister. I want to have a good relationship with her, but I just seem to be failing over and over.
(Just for perspective - I use the same tools and techniques that failed miserably with her, with her little sister, and they work! DD2 starts getting into something she shouldn't, I distract her with something, or 'honour the impulse' and she's happy! DD1 would just flip out and keep going back to whatever it was over and over and over.... So, if it's partly my fault as a parent, I can be reasonably sure it's not *totally* 'my fault' since I seem to be a pretty good parent to DD2!)
Okay, that's not at all succinct - so kudos if you've read all of this! Has anyone dealt with anything similar? I'm fairly sure I'm dealing with something outside the realm of 'normal' and considering taking her to the GP for an assessment, though not convinced they'll take me seriously. What's going on here? What am I missing?