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My 3 year old is driving me to the breaking point! I need advice, perspective shift, or at least...

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 

Anyone else?


From the obsessions over clothing (she has a huge basket of PJs but will only wear this one particular pair and has tantrums when it is in the laundry); to the horrible out of the blue temper tantrums (I was holding a hairbrush of hers the wrong way - mind you, just holding it, not brushing her hair or even having any contact with her body at all, and it sent her into a screaming rage), to weird eating habits (one day she loves something, the next day when presented with it she screams "THAT IS DISGUSTING" and throws her plate) . . I'm just flummoxed.  She has kept me trapped inside for days on end because she refuses to wear clothes sometimes.  I have carried her naked and tantruming to the car, under my arm like a stick of firewood, and forced her into her car seat in order to pick up my older DD from school.  She refuses to wear anything but short sleeves.  We live in the north east and keep our heat on 58 most of the time, and I am just at a loss about how to get her to dress warmly. I am just finding myself really struggling with her.


The temper tantrums have lessened a bit over the past week, but they average 2, 30 - 45 minute tantrums daily.  DH and I sometimes have the sensation of walking on eggshells - like, when will the next one strike out of the blue?  (We have been temper tantrum free since 8 AM yesterday.  A record, I think!)  There is no rhyme or reason to the tantrums that I can detect in terms of low blood sugar, tiredness, illness, etc.  Her tantrums are so upsetting to my older DD that she is often in tears. During her tantrums she throws everything in sight, knocks over chairs, etc.  It just feels so violent and horrible and disruptive to the whole family, and just feels like such a disservice to my older Dd in particular.  I've tried everything I can think of to calm her down, including sitting next to her and offering to hold her during her tantrums, but she will just scream at me "GO AWAY" over and over until her tantrum peters out, as indicated by her saying "hold me."  This is one persistent kid.  One time when we were taking a walk and she busted into a tantrum in the stroller, I was trying to stay calm as I walked home as quickly as possible.  I ended up counting the times she yelled a particular phrase over and over in a row - a staggering 287! - as I sped home.


From what my mother says, I was a really "difficult child" and also had constant tantrums.  Her labeling me that way has always bugged me and made me feel slightly guilty and unworthy.  I really don't want to label my youngest kiddo as a "problem".  But I am struggling!  And I will confess, in frustration one day after a particularly difficult afternoon with her, I privately said to DH, "I am going to break her like a mule!"  I believe strongly in gentle discipline and in never hitting children (I was frequently hit and vowed never to do the same), but my younger DD has made me see why someone might resort to this tactic.  I sometimes fear she brings out the worst in me.


I have an older DD who was a more-or-less easygoing and sweet kid. As long as I met her (exceedingly high) needs, she was even tempered and happy.  Nothing could have prepared me for the behavior of my youngest.  (And she has been intense from the start - colic for 10 months, super active and risk-taking now, etc.) My 3 year old is frequently cruel (telling her older sister she is ugly, and that she hates her and wishes she would die), and it leaves my older, sensitive DD in tears.  I never believed in time outs with my older DD, finding them to be shaming, isolating and expressions of conditional love.  Well, fast-forward a bunch of years, and here I am doing them.  I ended up deciding to enforce time-outs for hitting (she sometimes is almost relentless in her physical attacks on her older sister, who is considerably older and knows not to hit back - has left huge scratches on her face, etc.) and language that I can only describe as abusive (I hate you, you are an idiot, you are stupid, I hope you die, you are disgusting, etc.) - I now give her a warning ("We do not talk that way in this family.  If you cannot speak respectfully to others you will have a time out.") and then I enforce on the second offense.  I am really struggling to reconcile the fact that I've always disliked time-outs with the fact that they in some way seem to be working.


During her first 3 minute time out in her room she took every book off her shelf (about 150 in total) and threw them.  Took every item of clothing out of her drawers, etc.  After that time out I put it all away, feeling helpless and furious.  During the second time out she hurled and broke her piggy bank into about 50 pieces.  I told her we had to throw it out.  She said, "but we can get a new one, right?" Inspired, I told her no, that was the consequence of her breaking it.  I then told her that if she continued to throw things in her room, I would take them away and place them in the attic.  She has not thrown one thing since then.


Isolating her in her room during her tantrums seems to make them shorter (the minute her tantrum breaks and she yells, "hold me!" I go in there, even if her 3 min is not up - - "hold me" is always her response after a tantrum, as if she is overwhelmed/bewildered by her own actions).  I know I feel less angry when I have a couple of minutes to regroup during her tantrums, and it's a durned sight better than having her screaming at all of us, over and over, "go away! go away!  go away! go away!"  The time outs also seem to bring some relief to our older DD .. but I am just so conflicted about this parenting tactic.  And in general, about my parenting this very challenging child.


A couple of final remarks.  (If you have read this far, thank you for bearing with me!)  My Dd is really bright, verbal and totally extroverted.  She is a minor celebrity in our neighborhood because she is so friendly, social, outgoing, and fearless (and cute - thank God they come so cute to offset the wretchedness).  She goes to preschool a couple of mornings a week and has never had a tantrum there, so she saves them for us.  85% of the time she is a delight - my fabulous little sidekick.  15% of the time I want to toss her out the window.  And yes, we have considered sensory issues - my older Dd had/has them, and while they were challenging they did not throw our lives into this kind of turmoil.  But since she can manage in preschool, it makes me think this is less something in the range of special needs and more in the range of just plain obstinate.


So please, I am really anxious to hear about any similar experiences, and looking for some advice and perspective on other ways to successfully parent my incredibly stubborn and challenging kiddo.  Thanks much in advance for any advice or thoughts . .

post #2 of 35

This sounds so very normal to me. Really. Your second child sounds like my second, and your first sounds like my first. I've talked to so many different parents with children older than mine looking for advice and some reassurance that my second child is not possessed, and a lot of them have stories like ours.


I think you are doing the right thing with the time outs, by not replacing the piggy bank, and by telling her that things she throws will need to be put away in storage until she can take care of them. As you've reasoned, your first priority is to make sure that everyone is safe from DD's rages - and that means separating her from people she could injure. Time outs solve that issue (and I've really come to firmly believe that there should be no second chances before a time out if the child is being violent, but I understand where you're coming from). As she gets older, you may be able to get her to put herself into her own time outs - if you see a tantrum coming on, you can suggest she go and cool off herself. I do this with my son - if he puts himself in a time out himself to cool down before a tantrum, his reward is that I don't enforce a time limit - he can come back whenever he feels ready to be calm. He is five and now takes me up on that offer maybe half the time.  I know you've said the tantrums often seem out of the blue, so this won't always work, but try it when you can.


For an issue like the PJs, I'd try to enlist her help laundering them. Make a game of doing the laundry together, and get her to put them in the washer herself. Then later when they aren't ready at bedtime, you can say something like, "Oh no! Do you remember your jammies were all dirty and you put them in the washer earlier? They're all wet! What should we do?" I'd give her a couple options ("Should we pick a different pair from your basket, or would you like to sleep in x?" - maybe a set of clothes that you wouldn't mind her sleeping in, or her undies, or whatever works for you and which she might see as a nice alternative to the favorite jammies). With the food issues, in our house, I'll give a reminder that we need to use our manners at the table. If the child continues to complain or otherwise throw a fit, they are calmly removed from the table and allowed to have their meal after the rest of the family is done. The family deserves to have a calm, enjoyable meal time, and a misbehaving child shouldn't be allowed to derail that for everyone else.


Good luck with your daughter. I hope the tantrums lessen for you as time goes on. I know very well how stressful it is!

post #3 of 35

Normal at our house. Earlier today I was calculating how much longer we have with a 3 year old. 3 months and 21 days if you were wondering! Clothing - socks must be pulled up all they way to the knee. And fixed about 500x a day. Certain clothes are preferred, others are shunned. No shirts with 'tight' wrists. Any buttons or zippers or other fastener must be done with out help. Shoes are our biggest problem, can't wait for summer on that one! Also, no wrinkles in clothes. That includes wrinkles at elbows, shoulders, knees. I've tried to explain that clothing wrinkles when we bend our joints but that is insanity! It is especially problematic now that she has a broken arm that is set at 70 degrees!


Food isn't horrible but I have always been very conscious not to go down that road. You get what you get. And my kid has gone a day or two with out eating. I write notes to the preschool teacher when she doesn't eat breakfast to let her know that she can have extra snack. I do find that food makes a difference for my dd but really, I can't force the kid to eat.


We have throw down temper tantrums too. For awhile I was using a car seat for them because it was that out of control. I could not protect myself or my ds. I have a bite mark scar on my inner arm from when I didn't buy her a book because she did not follow instructions at the store. I felt so extreme doing the car seat but it was a last resort (and it worked). She is very destructive, especially fond of tearing papers into a thousand tiny bits.


As for the labeling, I hear you. I don't want to say strong willed child or things like that because I find they have a negative connotation. Her preschool teacher calls her a leader. I laugh because I know what that means but I like the word much better and sometimes use it :)


Anyway, I could go on but you get the point. Our children seem very similar. I don't know what it is that makes them this way. I do hope that 4 brings more...balance to our lives. I do think that if we can help them mold their strengths they could be amazing leaders in the future. But it is going to be a wild ride!

post #4 of 35

I have one of those, too. She is four now and things don't seem too much better. We go through phases....She has brought me to my knees. I just call her my tornado. Luckily ds and dd are seriously best friends, so they stick together and I don't have too many problems at that front. But otherwise excactly all this She is extremely physical and capable and I try to give her outlets there, it helps.

I am glad I am not alone because IRL people are either in love with her or horrified by her boundless energy and I have not found many who are like her. And I agree as long as she uses this energy and will in a positive way, she will be an absolutely amazing woman and the whole world can be hers.  

post #5 of 35

Chiming in with another "sounds just like us" reply! I don't really have any advice other than what's already been said.... just know you're not alone. redface.gif

post #6 of 35
Thread Starter 

Aw, gosh, mamas, your replies brought tears to my eyes.  I think I added the second to last paragraph as a caveat to demonstrate that this kid really *is* loveable, the majority of the time.  When I talk about her I almost feel like people are listening in horror and thinking that I hate my child.  It is so helpful to hear from others. I was a little afraid after I submitted my post that I was going to get a rash of replies to the effect that time outs were abusive.  Thank you all for the support.


Owen'nzoe, thank you for the ideas and reassurance.  It never occurred to me to enlist her cooperation in cooling off.  Thinking about it, there *are* times when she goes to her room and slams the door (like she's freaking 15) and insists on being alone over something that annoyed her, then comes out 15 minutes later perfectly cheerful.  When she is calm she agrees that she does not feel good about her tantrums.  Maybe I can talk with her about the idea of taking herself away voluntarily, since she clearly wants to be alone when tantruming.  I do see this as something she might be able to use as a tool when she gets a bit older.


Pbjmama, i know the adjusting the clothing over joints must be stressful but I have to confess it made me laugh.  biglaugh.gifI am sure you will too one day.  I really appreciate the perspective on the car seat as a safe place to have temper tantrums.  10 days ago DD had such a wild temper tantrum that she slammed her forehead into the corner of a piece of furniture.  The egg was instantaneous and horrifying - literally as if someone had inserted a ping pong ball under her skin.  We called the ped and were told not much we could do but ice and not to worry unless she knocked herself out or pupils looked funny.  It went from black to navy blue to blue and green, and then as the swelling went down the bruise leaked down to her eye area.  Quite the sight.  We had total strangers commenting on it as we passed. 10 days later it is still visible.  It is helpful to hear that some form of restraint in some cases can actually be a good thing. (DD would put her hands on her hips, when asked about the bruise, and say, "Well, unfortunately, I had a really wild temper tantrum and I smashed it on a bureau.")


ChiaraRose, maybe we should start a thread in finding your tribe - parents of tornado children!


I agree that these children have many strengths and the tricky part is channeling them appropriately while teaching them some self control.  Anyhow, thanks so much to those who responded!



post #7 of 35

Boy that sounds hard.




I can totally relate to the not-wearing-clothes thing - I too have put my DD naked into the car many many times...and postponed going out when she wouldn't put clothes on.....


Personally I'd be wary of enforced timeouts - I can totally see why they've happened and I don't mean to sound at all accusatory, but I do think that the reasons you gave for not using them with your older DD would still hold. As you say, they can work in an immediate, short-term sense - but it's just possible that there could be some long-term damage to the relationship.


Anyway I won't drone on about that any longer since you're obviously well aware yourself of the pros and cons. I do think the idea of talking to your DD about the best way for her to cool off is excellent. As you say, she herself is probably frightened by being so out--of-control. So a good way to help her would be to try and show her she isn't freaking *you* out - that strong emotions are normal and natural and we just need to learn ways to express them appropriately.


And there's nothing wrong with self-imposed isolation - in fact it could really help her from the sound of things. Also, I think it was completely appropriate for you to refuse to buy her another piggy bank and to say that you'll put her things out of her reach if she keeps throwing them. I've done the same with my DD when she made a total chaos with her toys and refused to help tidy them. I see it not so much as discipling her or putting her in her place as keeping me sane! 


Anyway....good luck!


Oh one more thing: I've found Patty Wipfler's ideas on parenting very helpful. Here's a link to her articles - as you'll see she has several about aggressive behaviour: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/articles







post #8 of 35

I have 4dc, and have found that they are the most out of control when they feel their situation is out of control.  Like, if I am not clear on what goes on around here, or what is going to happen next, or how you may and may not talk to you brother, it's like they just don't know and have to try everything, and they feel wild and uncertain. 


We spend a lot of time traveling, and are frequently in new places, at odd times of day, and with strange food, etc.  It has helped all of them tremendously to be told where we are going, what we are going to do when we get there (in annoying detail), and how they are going to behave.  I don't mean that in a controlling forced sort of way.  Just a "this is what people do in these situations" kind of way.  They seem to always be grateful for the advice, and usually heed it.  I include things like, for ds, "There will be lots of people, and some of them will want to talk to you.  It will be getting close to bedtime, and you probably won't feel like talking, so you could just smile or wave.  If you don't feel like doing that, then you could just stay close and sit on my lap."  It helps them SO much to know how they are going to potentially feel ahead of time, and options for dealing with it.  THEN, when something comes up, and they start reacting, I can gently remind them, "Mama told you that you would be tired, and there would be lots of people.  Would you like to just sit with me for a while."  Sometimes, ds especially, turns into a grump and I just have to tell him what he's going to do.  Because, when we are talking about NEEDS, that's why my parent role comes in.  I'm not being controlling or authoritarian, I'm just meeting a need that he doesnt' yet have the experience to handle.  Even though he doesn't always like my solution.


Anyway, just a thought about how some kids really crave knowing what is going to happen.  The options of figuring it all out on their own is just too much.  Maybe some more structure will help her?  Maybe that is why she doesn't have issue at preschool?  There are no surprises there.

post #9 of 35
Thread Starter 

Just1More, that's an interesting point about structure.  I would say I am reasonably structured (we get up around the same time each day, snack mid-morning, lunch around the same time, nap around the same time with same pre-nap ritual, post-nap snack, afternoon is a bit of a free for all, then dinner roughly same time, pre-bedtime ritual same, etc.). I tend to be quite consistent about what behaviors are acceptable and "house guidelines."  My DH has ADHD and can't manage consistency at all, so I try hard to provide it.  But I have noticed that my DD is almost ritually structured.  She wakes up and has this funny little ritual about taking off her nighttime diaper and "freshening" herself with a washcloth, must instantly get into her clothes, etc etc.  Today my older DD is home from school with a cold and she and I are both still in our PJs.  Had tons to do today but it all involved stuff in the house.  But there's little DD, following her little ritual of getting dressed within 2 minutes of waking up.  There are other similar things she does that suggest she thrives off a high level of ritual and structure, and imposes it on herself when it is lacking.  I am so the opposite (I feel constrained the more scheduled I am - just the loose schedule we have in place is at times an effort) that I think it would be worthwhile to try more structure and to see how she does. Like, Monday is library day in the morning, or something along those lines, instead of flying by the seat of my pants in terms of the activities we do.


Her temper tantrums seem to be lessening a bit.  I spoke to a psychologist friend who specializes in kids and she told me this is what we should be seeing - a gradual but marked lessening of these behaviors as she approaches 4 (she is now 3.4) - and that if we don't see this decrease, we should seek an evaluation to see if it is sensory issues that are making things so difficult.


Anyhow, I do appreciate all the responses - even (and perhaps especially) the ones that challenge me on the time out thing.  I am truly interested in hearing from any parents who have a child with a temperment similar to my DD and who have refused the time outs, and what disciplinary techniques they used instead, to what effect.  And Wintersinger, thank you for the link!

post #10 of 35

Do you have my 3 year old dd??? I have 3 kids, two boys 7 & 9, and my daughter who is 3. My second son was a tornado as well, and yes I did do time outs, I think I call them cooling down time outs!! Never ever had a set time but they needed to calm down before coming out. My 3 year old dd on the other hand...... you described her to a T. She can be a wonderful delight, and often when its just the two of us it can be wonderful.. but that happens very little. I also run a government home daycare, I have 5 children under the age of 5. There is absolutely no other tool I have that works for her to be kind to the other kids except for time outs.. or cool downs!!! She's never able to HEAR what I say during a heated moment. I have tried everything, helping her help me take care of whomever she hurt to having quiet time on mommy's lap.. nadda... so in extreme cases where her temper is just too unruly she goes for a time out. My second son now will stomp off and cool down before coming to see me, he may come see my in tears and need to be held, i welcom the tears, his heart has softened, but the temper part has subsided, he learnt to go off and cool down, which I think is an important tool.  My first ds never had such angry outbursts like the other two, with him it was never an issue.  I'm hoping in time my dd will also learn to walk away herself when she starts to feel mad.

post #11 of 35
Originally Posted by Just1More View Post

I have 4dc, and have found that they are the most out of control when they feel their situation is out of control....
Anyway, just a thought about how some kids really crave knowing what is going to happen.  The options of figuring it all out on their own is just too much.  Maybe some more structure will help her?  Maybe that is why she doesn't have issue at preschool?  There are no surprises there.

What Just1More wrote was right on, I think. A couple of my good friends have kids like this, so I've seen it first hand and know it's not just you. I think this is a case of the parents and child having different temperaments. She is high on the "routine" scale of temperament and you and your husband are low. There's nothing wrong with either one, it's just how your brains came wired. But it can cause huge challenges for you and also make her feel very out of control. Just the fact that she's coming up with her own little routines is proof enough that she is craving that.

I also want to gently suggest that you get away from thinking about her tantrums as being "out of the blue." For her, there are very real and pertinent reasons for her to feel that way. Maybe think of it more like, t you each have your own quirks and things that bother you, but they're not the same ones. For example, perhaps holding the hairbrush a certain way is part of the morning routine for her, and gives her comfort and security to be able to rely and predict certain parts of her day. Then imagine, here comes mom holding it all wrong and messing up the routine! How upsetting! Now her morning is all thrown off and her emotions are riled up! That may not mean much for you, but try not to discount the reality of her triggers. So...one suggestion for you is to start paying more attention to her triggers and begin recognizing a pattern. I'm guessing it often will have to do with transitions and routines, based on what you said.

The other part of this has to do with her just being 3. I have also carried my 3yr old DD to the car naked and screaming! What I've found is a lot of the rebelling is them just trying to have control. So, instead of fighting over the short sleeved t-shirts, take those out of the drawer so it's only warm clothes, and then let her wear anything in there. What I've ended up doing with my kids when they are mean or physically violent is to remove them from the situation. Not time out, exactly, but I'll say "if you can't use nice words/be gentle (whatever), then you can't play with us in the other room." And I'll put them in their room with some comforting item. After a couple of minutes I'll go in and help them find ways to calm down or I'll comfort them, and then we'll came back to the person they hurt and talk it out. When a person is mean, other people don't want to be around them, so it seems like a pretty natural consequence. I would talk about it with her ahead of time so that she isn't surprised when she's already upset. Also, instead of jumping to time out, help her replace those mean words/actions with appropriate words. "I hate you!" "Oh you sound angry, can you tell her, 'I'm angry with you!'" "I'm angry with you!" "That's right. Now, tell her what makes you angry." "You wouldn't let me play with that doll!" "OK, were you sad because you love that doll? Tell her about it." Etc etc. Basically, instead of going the consequence route, it could be an opportunity for teaching. Giving her the ability to talk out her big feelings will help avoid the huge tantrums.
post #12 of 35

This really does sound normal for a 3-yr-old.  Seriously, they're all possessed.  Things that helped me get through it were:


1) Remembering that just because my DD talked and walked like a grown-up did not mean that she was emotionally a grown-up.  Not saying you aren't aware of that, just that it helped me to remind myself.  Three-yr-olds can sound like 10-yr-olds sometimes, but they're really not much different from toddlers on the inside.


2) Stop fearing the tantrum.  This one was tough.  But when you're walking on eggshells, a kid can feel it and it can totally stress them out.  When I get overwhelmed, I vent to my DH or my mom or my friends or strangers on the internet.  DD doesn't have that.  She doesn't have the support network or the words or the self control.  All she has in that moment is me.  So she blows up and goes wild and crazy and violent and then it's out and she can collapse in my arms and go back about her life.  Tantrums for 3-yr-olds are healthy and necessary.  So I stopped trying to squash them or rush through them and just tried to ride through them.  It's sort of like labor, I guess.  Fighting contractions or tantrums makes them less productive and can make it all take longer.  But if you just open up and embrace the work that's happening, you can get through better. 


3) Stop judging the tantrum.  One day it finally clicked for me that my DD wasn't being an evil little hellion--she was out of control because she genuinely had no control.  She didn't want to freak out--she just couldn't control her sweet crazy little body.  So I dropped all my desperate pleas and judgments and threats and just started calmly repeating, "I have to keep you safe.  If you can't control your body, then I will help you until you can."  And you know what?  Sometimes, randomly, DD will thank me for helping her control her body and for keeping her safe.  Because she really does WANT to control herself.  She just can't yet.


4) Find a way to keep everybody safe.  This looks different for everyone.  For my DD, what worked best was to hold her flailing body in a bearhug while I dodged her arms and teeth until she calmed down enough to let her go.  Some kids do better with a safe space or room they can go to where they can kick and throw and punch stuff until they feel better.  Some kids need to draw or paint out their rage and some need a quiet place with no stimulation. Some kids need you right there in physical contact and some need you to go away and give them some space. And some kids need all of the above and more depending on the moment. 


One last thing... don't count out sensory issues because she does fine at school.  That's also normal.  Kids let out their big raw emotions where they feel safest.  I have a friend whose DS has intense sensory issues.  He's perfectly behaved at school and always has been.  Then he comes home and explodes violently.  Constantly.  Because Mama will love him even if he's out of control.  Sometimes the stress of being "good" at school all day contributes, and sometimes the chaos of being home with other children can contribute.  Anyway, hope some of this helps.  If not, just know that this will pass, she will learn to control her little body someday, and you will all get through it. 

post #13 of 35

I've read some of the replies and I agree, in part, with the pp who said "Don't fear the tantrum."  I will respectfully disagree that your daughter is literally out of control.  She has demonstrated acute control of herself.  The one thing I've learned with kids is that in order for you to get what you want long term, you have to give up what you want short term.  Don't walk on eggshells and don't pander to her one little bit, even if she threatens to tantrum at extremely inconvenient times.  She is manipulating you, and yes, that scares her.  You need to be like an immovable mountain, even if that means you are "mean."  She will feel safer. At 3 she doesn't mean any of what she is saying.  But she gets that you and your older dd are very sensitive and she can't help but use that power.  


And I know that some here will disagree, but you are not damaging her, even if you are "mean" sometimes.  It would be more damaging if you let your lives descend into chaos because your fear of emotional damage.  

post #14 of 35
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot to all those taking the time to respond.  I am finding the responses really interesting. Prancie, I would love to hear more of your thoughts about how my DD has demonstrated "acute control."  I'm not sure I completely understand.


Spring Lily, reading your post I just found myself wishing things would go as smoothly as you described.. I have, for example, taken away all inappropriate (ie summer) clothing.  This has lead to tantrums that last, literally, hours, on and off all day.  "I WANT MY BLUE TANK TOP.  I WANT MY BLUE TANK TOP!"  Repeated 1,000 times over the course of an hour. I have tried things like suggesting the tank top or favorite sleeveless dress go *over* a long sleeved shirt, but she will have none of it.  For now we are getting by by allowing her to wear a short sleeved dress and tights.  I capitulated and unpacked her short sleeved stuff because without it, she would remain naked all day and at this time of year I have just too much to do to be prisoner in the house.  Plus, the dog needs to be walked!  So, she is in a short sleeved dress and I carry a sweater, hat, coat and mittens everywhere.  Get lots of wierd looks - it is finally cold here in New England (today 28 degrees this AM), but having tried forcing clothing on her once and feeling beyond abusive, it is an experience I will never repeat. She does cooperate for her preschool teachers in putting all the garb on before they go outside to play.


I am also really interested in your point, SpringLily, about her tantrums being predictable in some way.  I will try harder to pay attention.  It does seem irrational to me that 99% of all mornings she has never commented on the way I hold her hairbrush, but one random day it sets her off, but I can appreciate the idea that maybe even in that isolated morning she has decided that there is a new way to hold a brush, and that is her way of assigning some predictability.


Her newest tantrum trigger is very predictable (thank goodness!) but also very hard to institute/remember - when I hold or touch her, there can be *no* moisture on my hands.  This is hard because she often speeds through the kitchen and asks for a hug, or asks with assistance with something as my hands are wet.  Same goes if I have recently applied moisturizer.  This happened tonight and so she stripped all her clothes off, tantrumed so hard she smashed her hand on the corner of the counter and drew blood, and screamed at everyone within earshot that we were all idiots and horrible.  I am now trying desperately to remember this new requirement - dry hands!  All the time!


Puddle, I appreciate your point about not discounting sensory issues because she can hold it together at school.  I do know that; my older DD had some sensory stuff that interfered pretty heavily with life (esp from 3 - 5) and yet  was always perfectly behaved in school - a "model student" even when it killed her to be.  I guess what I meant was that I see sensory stuff that she has some control over as different than sensory stuff that sends her over the deep end in all manner of settings.  (My sister's little guy, for example, just loses it completely if there are odd smells or noises, which rules out almost every outing they have tried, from the bakery to the children's musician at the library, to hugging his grandmother who wears a particular perfume. She describes their world, before they became heavily involved in therapy for him, as completely shrunken and isolated.)  I feel like if my DD can control herself in a variety of settings (from public playground to children's museum, to noisy party at a relative's house, to preschool, etc), which she completely can, 85% of the time, it's something we can manage on our own, but if the issues have gotten so huge that she consistently cannot keep it together in certain settings, we need to think about getting some OT for her. I don't know if that makes sense and I am certainly open to challenge on this point - I only speak from my own limited experience with my older DD, who was sensory affected in a way that challenged us greatly, but that, after extensive chats with her ped about the reasonableness of seeking help, we decided to manage on our own.  I see sensory issues as existing on a continuum, from manageable to unmanageable and the latter meaning outside assistance is needed. Again, that is just my own experience and POV.


Anyhow, thanks so much for all of your input, ideas and support.  "Three year olds are all possessed!"  That made me laugh out loud.

post #15 of 35
Originally Posted by PennyRoo View Post

Spring Lily, reading your post I just found myself wishing things would go as smoothly as you described.. I have, for example, taken away all inappropriate (ie summer) clothing.  This has lead to tantrums that last, literally, hours, on and off all day.  "I WANT MY BLUE TANK TOP.  I WANT MY BLUE TANK TOP!"  Repeated 1,000 times over the course of an hour. I have tried things like suggesting the tank top or favorite sleeveless dress go *over* a long sleeved shirt, but she will have none of it.  For now we are getting by by allowing her to wear a short sleeved dress and tights.  I capitulated and unpacked her short sleeved stuff because without it, she would remain naked all day and at this time of year I have just too much to do to be prisoner in the house.  Plus, the dog needs to be walked!  So, she is in a short sleeved dress and I carry a sweater, hat, coat and mittens everywhere.  Get lots of wierd looks - it is finally cold here in New England (today 28 degrees this AM), but having tried forcing clothing on her once and feeling beyond abusive, it is an experience I will never repeat. She does cooperate for her preschool teachers in putting all the garb on before they go outside to play.
Hmm, I wonder if this has to do with control again. She had developed a routine with the clothes over the summer, had certain favorite ones, is comfortable with those specific clothes. Perhaps for her taking them away and adding new winter clothes feels like you're taking away her control and handing her some chaos instead. I wonder if there is some non-threatening way to get her involved in the process? Talk to her in a neutral way about the changing seasons and how it means people wear long clothes. Check out your closet and her sisters, look at some books of kids in winter wearing long clothes. Observe her clothes, let her start making the connections. Help her problem solve, "what can we do?" and see where it goes. Maybe have her help pack up the summer clothes "to keep them safe" and choose her favorite long sleeve clothes for her drawers, removing any she hates. I do this stuff with my 3 yr old DD, who is very very persistent (to put it nicely!) and it takes awhile but she gets into it and feels important and in control, so it may be worth a shot!

The other thing is that she really could have some sensory issues going on, or at least some real sensitivities. I wonder if wearing clothes irritates her skin? Maybe short sleeves & tank tops feel a little better because they don't irritate her arms. Do you have the heat on a lot, maybe her skin is drier and more easily irritated? What about putting on some lotion before getting dressed? I don't have a SPD but am very sensitive and the fall dryness really irritates me, personally, so I wouldn't rule something physical out, either.
post #16 of 35

I feel you. My 3.75 year old is driving me to drink.


DS has always been a somewhat challenging, high-needs child, but mostly in his desire to be constantly engaged. Lately, though, something has shifted. We are having the typical tantrums (that we've been seeing on and off for 2 years now in varying forms) but also a lot of aggression, mostly directed at his younger brother (12 mo). He has also become incredibly obstinate and defiant. Everything feels like a fight. If I ask him to dress so that we can leave the house, he tells me he is a baby and can't do it. If I offer to do it for him he makes it physically difficult for me, refusing to stand up, etc. When I tell him that if we cannot get his clothing on, we will not be able to go to the park/school/whatever, he tantrums. Asking him not to do something is a direct invitation for him to do it, with glee. Hitting his brother is his new sport of choice. He has forsaken his manners and often refuses to say "please," "thank you," etc, rather whining or demanding. A gentle reminder to ask in a way that helps me help him is met with screams. He seems on a rampage of destruction from the time he wakes up to the time he falls into bed, flinging things on the floor, knocking over chairs, refusing to pick up after himself (something he has been doing with minimal complaint since he was old enough to manipulate a toy).


I have watched myself turn into the kind of parent I vowed never to be. I have said things I regret. I have managed things in a way I hoped not to. I have used (modified) time outs. I have wondered how I raised such a vile human being. In the heat of the moment, I have understood how a parent comes to hit a child.


We have had a lot of turmoil in our household in the last few months (cross country move, living with my parents while we house hunted, moving into a new house, DH going away for work, 2 hospital visits for YDS) and I know this has been a huge contributing factor. It's just that now I feel like we are locked in this struggle, and I am having a hard time extricating myself.


"Perspective shift" sounds like exactly what I desperately, desperately need. If anyone has some good reading recommendations I would be grateful. I always joke with DH that when I have to get out the parenting books, things are really bad.


I hope I'm not hijacking your thread by sharing my own woes, I actually stumbled upon your post coming to ask for help myself.

post #17 of 35
Thread Starter 

No, I don't see you as hijacking - your words really resonate with me.  It has at times been incredibly difficult parenting my youngest child.  The negative feelings I've struggled with have resulted in no end of guilt and self-loathing.


Reading your post and seeing all the changes in your life over the past year, PLUS the glaring addition of a new baby, makes me wonder if it is possible for you to spend part of a day with just your little guy and you (no baby).  I would love to hear if you can manage that and if so, how it went!  I wonder if some of his behaviors are an attempt to gain more attention by acting more like his younger sibling - being dressed, not picking things up, etc.


Here is what happened to me today: DD wakes up dry.  She's very proud.  She has been having tons of accidents lately, all after I ask her to try using the toilet and she says she doesn't have to.  A second request usually results in a tantrum, then 20 minutes later an accident.  I tell her that most people want to use the toilet in the morning and ask her if she wants to do that.  "No, after breakfast," she tells me.  After breakfast it's the same thing.  She keeps putting it off.  I tell her she certainly does not need to produce something on the toilet, but I would like her to try.  She says she doesn't have to.  I remind her this has happened a few times over the past few days, and then she's had accidents.  She insists she doesn't have to go.  A few minutes later she is yelling for me.  She has CLIMBED UP on her bureau and peed on the top of it.  Urine is seeping everywhere, including all over the rug.  I ask her what is going on.  "I didn't want to get it on the floor," she says.  May I add that beforehand she meticulously removed everything, including her beloved Christmas display, from the top of her bureau.


OK, it *is* kind of funny.  Maybe I will laugh about it in a week.  After the urine smell evaporates?

post #18 of 35

I would give my right eye for this! My son has had me actually seeking to put him up for adoption. Not exaggerating, I have called people. Screaming tantrums, hours of the day. Volatile, destructive, violent, horrible. When given the choice between having a happy day or a sad day, he will pick the sad day. He will pick being isolated in his room with no toys. He will choose "I want to be on Santas bad list", etc. We make a big fuss over not only his good behavior, but any time he can tell us lucidly "I'm angry", or "I'm frustrated". No attention given for tantrums, no eye contact, just ignoring him and if it becomes too destructive to be around us, he is isolated in his room. Sometimes for hours.


He's just an awful kid, and I'm really not wanting him in our family anymore. He has destroyed our sleep for 3 years at night, and our sanity for 3 years during the day. Our daughter was a difficult baby, but never when she was old enough to understand and be given the choice between a hug or isolation. She has grown up to be amazing, and sadly doesn't get the attention, because we are maxed out by 9am.


This is from a breastfed, self-weaned,  co-slept, attached, constantly held, sang to, etc.


Doctors, naturopaths and daycare (which we had to put him in because I just can't take it anymore) workers have looked into it, and have come up with nothing. Rescue remedy didn't work on him, and stopped working on me. Same with dietary changes, allergy testing, homeopathy, etc.


I just wish he was gone. So yeah, I can sympathize.



post #19 of 35

Oh wow.  That is one for the books!  I'd be really really mad that she climbed up onto her dresser and peed on it - that seems to be pretty obvious that it was on purpose.  Not sure what I would have done, but mad would have been it!


And I agree with kids almost needing to have tantrums.  It looks so exhausting - heck, it IS so exhausting, but they are "teething" on emotions right now and need to understand their own limits to their feelings.  It's so hard but when I ride it out with them it helps us both.  My 3.5 has taken to calling me names like crazy.  "Mean old beast" is one (he got the beast thing from Dr. Suess's roast beast and won't stop with it, grr), another is saying that he hates his sister and I, another is calling us "stinky old things".  He will also shout "I hate this day!".  He has recently dropped naps altogether and with the excitement of Christmas festivities, 6 PM seems to be his witching hour.  If only I could put him to bed at 6...but alas, we struggle through 1.5-2 hours of tantrums and upset.  I will say things like "When you shout mean things at us, it hurts our feelings.  I can tell you are frustrated.  Can I help?"  Under perfect conditions, he will accept that olive branch.  Unfortunately, I don't think he's capable of that most times.  He's just too far gone in his tiredness and frustration about xyz.  Hang in there, Mama.  Three year olds are tough!

post #20 of 35

Dianna - I'm sorry about what your family is going through right now.  It sounds really rough.  Honestly, your post is really concerning to me.  I hope you are just venting and don't really want your child gone.  You need to get some perspective - you are the adult, and you are in charge of the family.  If things are so desperate, family counseling is in order.  Off the top of my head, perhaps he needs some stronger guidelines and boundaries?  Ignoring him and isolating him for hours in his room is probably the opposite of what he needs.  If everything you have tried is not working, an assessment through your local school district for atypical behaviors (a psychological exam) may help shed some light on behavioral modifications that would work on him.  Hang in there.

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