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#1 of 16 Old 03-17-2012, 02:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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He's two, and totally adorable. Except for the tantrums....

 

DS never had them, and a friend of mine has a child who still does at age 4. I do not tolerate the flailing, arching, screaming stuff well. DS attempted it once, after seeing his friend do it, and I told him, "We don't do that here. It doesn't work." And then we talked about different ways to express our anger and using words, and it has worked. (Not all fairies and unicorns like it sounds, but I'm trying to be brief(er).)

 

Anywho, our new foster child is GREAT at listening when you ask him to do something, and is generally happy and cooperative. But if he doesn't like something, he lets you know, even if you have no idea what it is! (Yesterday, I handed each kid a granola bar for a snack in the car. DS took the whole thing, but I broke off a piece for FS b/c he tends to shove the entire thing in his mouth and then not be able to chew, and I didn't want him choking while I was driving. Or ever, really. He had a meltdown for about 10 minutes. Screamed, cried, yelled, wouldn't use words to tell me the problem. Only shouted NO at whatever I said/asked.) My instinct is to walk away and not give it any attention, as I don't really want to encourage that sort of behavior. Then the little voice in my head reminds me that not only do we need to parent foster kids differently than our own kids, but that we may need to parent them in the opposite way (other than spanking as an alternative to GD, but you know what I mean).

 

Of course in the car, I couldn't do anything but turn up the music so DS could hear it, and we were at our destination within 5 minutes. But today I walked away when he didn't understand the snack was for everyone, and then realized after a few minutes that he might just need to be held through his tantrum.

 

So at meltdown #452 and counting, I did try to hug him. He either said he didn't like me or didn't like "it." I'm not sure. I just know that I'm at a loss as to what to do for him. I don't want to leave him alone, I don't want him to learn it's okay to behave that way. He's only two, but he's SMART and I want him to learn to use words instead, but I don't know how to go about that. He doesn't take kindly to being told his business, IYKWIM.

 

I know it's going to be a lot of work. But if there is a way I can make things easier on myself and on him without all the energy going to figuring out his issue of the moment and making it better or trying to avoid tantrums (which isn't entirely possible), I'd like to do that, so I can dedicate more energy to the hour and a half it takes to get him to bed, or you know, the rest of my family.

 

 

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#2 of 16 Old 03-18-2012, 08:00 AM
 
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 then realized after a few minutes that he might just need to be held through his tantrum.

 

So at meltdown #452 and counting, I did try to hug him. He either said he didn't like me or didn't like "it."

 


I think you are right on with the first one.... or would be, if this were not a foster child who, I would bet, is not used to niceness and company when he has those emotions. I have noticed this with kids of friends, also: They often expect the worst and compassion and touch make them really confused in those situations. It is as if they just cannot trust that the attention is in any way positive during their bursts of anger and it just makes the angrier.

 

I am really interested in seeing what others have to say. (Our current foster baby is a newborn, so I don't deal with these situations.) I think my approach would depend on how long this child will stay with you. I would at least try to stay nearby and tell him (maybe when he is calm) that in your house people are not left alone when they feel angry or bad.


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#3 of 16 Old 03-18-2012, 08:33 AM
 
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#4 of 16 Old 03-18-2012, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I didn't mean to imply that it was all b/c of me that DS didn't tantrum. I thought it was clear (but apparently just to me since I wrote it LOL) that by nature he wasn't doing that at all til he watched his friend do it, so he decided to give it a try. It wasn't a genuine tantrum by any means.

 

I do know that this is normal for a 2 year old, especially one who has just been removed from his home to a strange place and strange people. I am not trying to stop them. I am trying to find the balance between understanding where he's coming from (both in age/development and history/emotions) and not encouraging that behavior as acceptable. It is, for now, but really I have no way to know what his problem is or how to help him when he does it, so it's not productive for either of us, and I feel like it's my job to help him learn to express himself in ways that will get his needs met, rather than letting him continue to be frustrated and feel alone.

 

It seems there are two camps regarding tantrums in general: Ignore and don't reward them or hug and love and cuddle their way through them. I can't figure out for this kid which one he needs, and I was hoping to hear others' experiences to see if one way is generally "better" for a child in care than another since he's already upset and volatile and I don't want to make this any harder on him than it has been.

 

He's had a few more since my OP, and I have tried to talk him through them, and at first it doesn't work but then he comes around, so maybe he does need me there even if he doesn't want the hugs right away. (He is a hugger in general and once he calms a bit he does usually want one after a fit.) I wish we could avoid them altogether but lots of things set him off, and my 4 yo is great at triggering him. But I think that's going to be a new thread.... :(

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#5 of 16 Old 03-18-2012, 12:18 PM
 
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The two incidents you mentioned both revolved around food, is that usually what they are over?

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#6 of 16 Old 03-18-2012, 12:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes. Food is definitely an issue, but in general it's about any time he doesn't get his way, whether it's something taken from him or just something that isn't what he wanted. Like today at lunch (yes, another food thing, but really the kid never stops eating!) they had sandwiches and veggies. DS asked for dip, so I gave FS a little plate with dip on it too, so he wouldn't be upset that DS had something he didn't. He didn't like the looks of it, and started pouting even though he had his sandwich and veggies on another plate right next to it. He wouldn't stop pouting til I explained what it was, had him taste it and then take it away when he didn't like it. He actually shares toys very nicely, as DS used to at that age. But DS has become  very possessive about his stuff and forgets to use his words, and just grabs things out of FS's hands. That results in a meltdown or near meltdown, but if I can catch DS before the grab and remind him to ask, FS hands things over very easily and I can reinforce the idea of taking turns and sharing.

 

Even something like when I tell him we're all done washing hands (after 5 times in a hot bathroom in an area where we need to conserve water) he gets mad and pouty when I finally help him down off the stool and out the door. He doesn't quite melt down but he comes close.

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#7 of 16 Old 03-18-2012, 06:43 PM
 
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I think there's a middle ground between ignoring and hugging and cuddling. 

 

I think you can sit quietly with a child and let them know you love them, and you aren't going there, and you'll be there when they're done, while also making it clear that you aren't scared, or intimidated, or worried, just patient.  And when they're done, I think you can say to them "You were really mad.  You wanted the bar to be whole didn't you?" and then either "It would be nice to have it whole wouldn't it?  I bet it would, but it's not safe in the car, I'm sorry" or "You can ask me for a whole bar.  You can say "No, I want it big" (or whatever they can manage wordwise) Let's try it!"

 

In other words, I think you can show empathy for their feelings, without feeding in to the behavior. 

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#8 of 16 Old 03-18-2012, 07:07 PM
 
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I wonder if he experienced any deprivation around food that makes him more anxious around the food issue.

 

In my experience there are lots of reasons that kids can tantrum excessively. Some kids have a really sensitive temperament and have 'spillover' tantrums. A good place to read about this is Raising Your Spirited Child by Kurcinka.

 

Some kids have had significant trauma and are getting triggered by stimuli that causes them to meltdown.

 

Some kids have already learned how to persuade parents based on their tantrum (I dislike the word manipulate because I think we all try to work things in our own favor!)

 

Some kids have sensory issues that cause them to 'lose it' much more easily than others.

 

It can be a good idea to really study the problem before you try to change it. If you can get this little guy figured out before you try to get him to change what he's doing you may just save yourself a lot of difficulty.

 

Does your worker give you a home based support person to help you think it through?


 
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#9 of 16 Old 03-19-2012, 07:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, he woke up at 2 am with a complete meltdown in progress. I didn't even know if he was awake at first. He was yelling unintelligibly, kicking at the crib (which he hates) and then was trying to get his hand into his diaper. It was ugly. It took me an hour and a half when all was said and done to get him cleaned up, calmed down, and back asleep. I tried talking to him, reflecting back, "You don't LIKE it! You are angry!" That ramped him up more, so I stopped and stayed with him. DH was there too, and finally at some point (once we realized he was in fact awake), he patted him and FS started to calm a little and sat down. So I knelt by his crib and made my mad face (imitation of his frown, which has gotten him to smile a few times) and tickled his foot lightly. It made him smile, so I did it a little bit again, and he finally came out of it for a hug.

 

This morning he woke up angry again, but I caught him in time before the full monty. He was trying to get his hand in his diaper again. I ripped it off to see what he was doing, and he was itchy. (He has very dry skin and had horrible diaper rash the other day.) I got him changed and buttered up, and he was better. So maybe last night's tantrum was frustration about the itch he couldn't reach. Maybe it was that he woke up for the third night in a row NOT at home, in a crib he hates, in dark he may or may not like (I can't tell, but we did put in a night light). Maybe it was a dream about someone taking something away from him.... I have no idea what triggered it. I just know I've never seen such a little guy so angry before in my life. Poor thing.

 

I'm not exactly trying to change it, just trying to understand how to deal with it in a way that is best for him. He's not my child, he doesn't have a history with me, so I have no reason to throw down the hammer and tell him it's not how we do things in our family. If he's still here in a year, we'll revisit how strictly he has to follow all of our rules, but I know that now is not the time. I just want to help reduce the tantrums if I can so that he learn to cope. It seems like these fits just don't really resolve much for him.

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#10 of 16 Old 03-19-2012, 08:40 AM
 
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Personally, I wouldn't read too much into anything right now. This is obviously a drastic change from what he's used to and so it's prefectly reasonable that he would have trantrums, trouble sleeping, etc. Just comfort as best you can, give yourself and other family members enough breaks from the crying, and move forward. In the first month of fostering a kid, it's not about "fixing" anything. It's just about keeping them safe. If they stay with you a while, then you can start trying to delve into things a bit more. But really, tantrums and nightmares (even night terrors) can be perfectly normal at that age.

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#11 of 16 Old 03-19-2012, 08:59 AM
 
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#12 of 16 Old 03-19-2012, 09:11 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Momily View Post

I think there's a middle ground between ignoring and hugging and cuddling. 

 

I think you can sit quietly with a child and let them know you love them, and you aren't going there, and you'll be there when they're done, while also making it clear that you aren't scared, or intimidated, or worried, just patient.  And when they're done, I think you can say to them "You were really mad.  You wanted the bar to be whole didn't you?" and then either "It would be nice to have it whole wouldn't it?  I bet it would, but it's not safe in the car, I'm sorry" or "You can ask me for a whole bar.  You can say "No, I want it big" (or whatever they can manage wordwise) Let's try it!"

 

In other words, I think you can show empathy for their feelings, without feeding in to the behavior. 



Great response.

 

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#13 of 16 Old 03-19-2012, 01:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes it was a great response, and helped to reinforce what I thought I should be doing. Of course, now it's day 4 and the meltdowns are much more frequent, but they are giving me a chance to feel my way through what he needs me to do in those situations. My agency worker came over this morning and so did his caseworker. CW had little to say, just watched him and left. AW offered support, asked lots of questions and asked what I do for discipline. I said we will be using timeouts but not now. Meanwhile, he was really running wild while they were there, probably b/c of what happened last time strange ladies showed up at his door. She said it's not too soon to start timeouts, so I modeled one for her to see if she thought it appropriate. I basically had to help him into a chair (in the middle of the house, so he's not isolated) and counted down from 10 then let him go with a big cheer and a hug. She thought it was fine, I think it might be too much, except that he is not used to ANY discipline at all and we need to start somewhere. Telling him not to do something several times isn't working (as it just doesn't with a 2 year old).

 

He is now crying in his crib b/c it's quiet time and I need a break from the madness. Picking up DS (who is not bio, if that matters to anyone here, thought I'd say that since it was mentioned) at school today was meltdown disaster. It's exhausting. How do you all do it??? I feel so bad for the little guy, and hate to leave him crying alone, but I don't want to keep pushing through exhaustion and end up losing it over something later.

 

ETA: And to the PP who asked, we were licensed last Tuesday (more than 2 weeks sooner than we were told it would be), got our first call on Wednesday which didn't come through and picked FS up on Thursday morning. So yeah, even though we started the process 6 months ago we thought we had more time to prepare, get organized, etc. And we were told we'd probably get babies only since there's a shortage of homes to take them. And the MAPP classes didn't cover anything particularly useful. I know, welcome to the system!

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#14 of 16 Old 03-20-2012, 04:53 AM
 
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Wow! The changes are coming thick and fast for your family! Welcome to the system, indeed!

 

I tend to agree with the other mamas here that amount/kind of tantrums you describe are not indicative of a problem that needs professional intervention - it's well within the range of normal for a toddler who has been subjected so such a huge trauma so recently. My concern is that you and your DH and your DS make it through this phase without burning out. 

 

1. You've had an objective third party who is experienced with foster kids observe and endorse your timeout procedure. That's great. Make sure that your husband and any other caregiving adult uses the same procedure. Same for any other discipline/redirection strategy. Your DS knows by now that the different adults in his home have different approaches, but your foster son needs cause-and-effect to be very consistent. 

 

2. Find a preschool program two or three mornings a week. In my state, this is covered by state benefits if the foster parents work (even part-time, even from home). Ask your AW what is available. You need the regular respite, even if you never needed it when your DS was a toddler. Even more importantly, your foster son needs to experience safety and consistency in an environment other than your home. He is not too young to learn that the world is full of adults who are worth trusting, and that school can be a refuge in tough times. 

 

3. Find time to be alone with your spouse. You two have a major new parenting stress. You will an increased need for each other's emotional support until things normalize. 

 

4. Allow yourself and your spouse to vent your frustration (out of earshot of your foster son, obviously). Give yourself permission to be just as freaked out as parents who have just brought home a new baby. Feeling like you're under siege and life as you know it is over doesn't mean that you don't want your foster child, any more than a strung-out sobbing new mama doesn't want her baby. This stuff is INTENSE. You do not have to pretend that everything is OK. You are allowed to grieve for your former life. 

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#15 of 16 Old 03-20-2012, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OMG, Smithie, I came on here to post another update and am now in tears reading your post. Thank you. I ended up sick by last night, took a Nyquil to get some sleep, and DH ended up having to do some of the middle of the night soothings. In some ways, he is a REALLY easy kid, and in other ways, well, he's two. I hated two. I need to recheck my expectations.

 

I'm so grateful that you mentioned preschool/daycare. The OT who came to evaluate him asked me about that, and I said no way. I don't believe in shuffling him off to yet other strangers when we're strangers ourselves. I said as much to his sister's FM yesterday when she called to arrange a playdate. But your words gave me a completely different perspective on it that I hadn't considered. It would give him some time to socialize with more than just DS and his own sister, and it would give me time to myself to take care of things. And maybe we do need that time away from each other instead of being together 24/7.... It's so early yet that I hadn't considered that to be an issue, but I can see it becoming one, especially if he's calling for me all night long too.

 

Which brings me to my update. He was ROTTEN yesterday! But I kept calm and just kept giving him timeouts. By bedtime, he had the hang of it and stayed in the chair a whole minute without my having to wrestle with him or keep reminding him to stay. Bedtime is still a flipping nightmare. He was calmer last night, because he had the bright idea that I should stay and sleep on the floor next to him. Um, no. Although I may get out  a mat and do that tonight, just to get some sleep. I'm trying to figure out how to manage it best for both of us. For him, best is me staying all night. For me, it's the opposite. Right now we're in the middle where he cries til he's so exhausted he falls asleep, then wakes in the middle of the night several times, needing to be rocked back to sleep again. Since he's so big, I can't let him sleep on me and then move him to the crib, so I don't take him out at night when he cries, just hug him and cover him up and then stay with him. But last night, he kept waking up as soon as I left the room. And then he was wide awake for over an hour. So what's the alternative I'm missing? I know that lots of people here (me included) don't think it's CIO to let a child this age (2.5) cry himself to sleep, but under these circumstances I'm thinking it is. He may understand, but he also needs some extra reassurance and comforting. In a few months, maybe I'll feel differently, but we're in week 1, and I can't just leave him alone.

 

That being said, quiet time is a success so far today! I changed him, rocked him, talked to him about what was going to happen, and put him in his crib. Of course, he cried. But I gave him two books to look at and told him to read, and that I'd be there if he needed me. He's been reading happily for 20 minutes, with only one interruption to try to get me to read to him. I gave him a third book and left. He called out for more after awhile, and I called back to read the dinosaur one, and haven't heard anything else. So even if he doesn't nap, which I'm not sure he should (maybe he'll sleep better at night without a nap), at least I have enough quiet time for myself to gather my thoughts, ask you all for advice, and maybe even do some laundry.

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#16 of 16 Old 03-20-2012, 08:04 PM
 
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Is there any way to find out from the birth parent (or whomever he lived with before coming to your home) if he actually slept in a crib, in his own room?  When my second foster son joined the family (at 16.5 months) i put him in the crib the first night and he immediately jumped out, and looked at me like he had no idea why i put him there. He ended up on a twin mattress on the floor  (both the crib and the mattress were in my room anyway), and eventually i just coslept with him, which im not suggesting to you since its totally against the rules. But i found out from both parents (who did not live together) that neither used a crib with him, so he was totally horrified at the idea of sleeping on his own. Now at age 4, i think he'd be able to do it if he had to, but my other son if for some reason he had to go live in a strange home....i could totally see him waking multiple times each night freaked out. As it is, he insists on falling asleep with me wrapping my arms around him and singing a specific song. And both boys will often wake up at least once during the night. (They are both four. )

 

I think its important you get him used to sleeping on his own because what else can you do? But i think some of what you're seeing might *possibly* be a child who just is not used to that type of sleep arrangement. He'll get the hang of it eventually!


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