Interested in what your thoughts might be to help a toddler with severe aggression issues. My DD has an extreme inability to regulate her emotions, especially anger. She has no words, and has displayed this sort of extreme crying fits since she was a mere 6 weeks old (or longer). Any "programs" or simple advice you may have to help us teach her to manage her feelings?
A child who is angry -- meaning "severe aggression issues" -- is a child who is frightened.
I'm interested in your characterization of your daughter as having extreme mood swings since she was six weeks old. Many, many six week olds are very high needs and cry a lot. They can also go from happy to crying instantly, which is I guess what you mean by "extreme mood swings." So that seems completely within the realm of normal to me.
I also would be reluctant to label a two year old as having a hard time regulating emotions, since the frontal cortex is not developed enough for a two year old to do much to regulate her emotions. The later they are to develop words, the harder it is for them to regulate their emotions, both because they get more frustrated, and because putting our feelings into words has a calming effect.
However, I have certainly seen toddlers on the more aggressive end of the spectrum, who lash out more quickly and more often. What's the best way to intervene? I would recommend the approach pioneered by Patty Wipfler at Hand in Hand Parenting, which supports the child to express all that fear. Children who get past the fear can relax, not be so tightly wound and worried, and no longer lash out at the slightest provocation. Here's their link:
(Some info deleted for personal reasons)
There are mental health concerns on both maternal & paternal sides, and every doctor we've been to thus far thinks her behavior is far from "normal" and want to label her as "defiant", explaining it as "she just has an angry personality". To me, I don't accept this. She's obviously got some traits that were "inherited" through poor genetics, sure... but we were in hopes that with proper parenting and environmental differences she'd better adjust and be able to move forward somewhat... but even with all that she hasn't progressed in speech or "anger management" in the last year... should we be looking into perhaps more medical testing?
Thanks so much for explaining. Screaming for 23 out of 24 hours a day -- WOW! Of course, that is not meant as aggression on her part; she is expressing her own pain, not being aggressive. But what a lot of pain. It makes sense that something is beyond the range of usual here -- either inutero drug exposure, or even abuse in the first week of her life, as you say.
I have worked with kids who were exposed to drugs in utero, and in those cases it almost certainly affected brain development and caused lags in emotional regulation. And if there are genetic mental health issues, those could show up fairly early.
But I don't believe people are born with in an "angry" or "defiant" personality. I think she may be genetically and biologically inclined toward reactivity and fear, which produces aggressive behavior. I do encourage you to check out Hand in Hand, as I mentioned in my last answer to you, which specifically helps kids who are lashing out, and which also supports parents. I'm sure you can use all the support you can get, although you've already earned your angel wings just from the first months of screaming.
I'm also concerned that she hasn't progressed in speech. She might well need more than speech therapy -- some additional testing. I don't think genetic testing would give you much info, because the expression of genes is often determined by environment.
As far as parenting practices go, you obviously have a VERY challenging child, so compassion and empathy are critical, along with limits as necessary. In addition to reading the Aha! Parenting website, if you haven't already, and Hand in Hand.org, I would also recommend that you read Heather Forbes' books.
And, crucially, make sure to get yourself some support. You are doing very hard work.
Thanks! I love her bunches and would like to see her relax some more, and I find it hard to believe after almost 2 years we still haven't seen anything but very mild improvements followed by regressions. What were you thinking in lines of more testing for her speech?
BTW Thank you for all the resources! We've read some Heather Forbes books and B. Brian Post's Behavior Breakdown, etc, which have been very helpful! So I don't mean to sound like we're hopeless... because we aren't. But as a mother I want to be sure that I am doing EVERYTHING I can for her, so as she grows, I should be growing too in skills to constantly be "one step ahead" so I'm there to help her adjust to the changes that just come as a normal part of life.