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 . .