My DD is 4 1/2 years old. Since she was 1 she has shown a real need for order and rules. For example, we set up her easel and gave her some markers to use. When she finished, she had to put the markers away with all the caps going the same direction. If you tried to interrupt her, she would get very upset. This was before she could talk. And we never showed her how to do this, or stressed that it was important.
Recently, she has been getting very upset if her evening routine is changed in even the smallest way. We always brush our teeth together, and I usually put a little water on the toothbrush before we put on the toothpaste. One night she had a melt down because I put the toothpaste on first, and THEN ran it under the tap water. I tried to tell her that it doesn't matter which order you do things in, but she could not be convinced. She was completely distraught, so much so that I had to brush her teeth for her and carry her to bed.
Also, in the shower she has some specific routines that are very important to her. She has to wash her feet in this certain way, and rinse between each toe two times. One night we were running out of hot water, so I just quickly rinsed off her feet and turned off the water. She got so angry she started hitting me, saying that her feet weren't clean. I told her that she had used soap, and washed them well, and then rinsed them. They were certainly clean. But she was really upset. I might have turned the water back on and let her rinse them the way she wanted, but she started acting out badly -- screaming and hitting me. I felt I needed to remove her from the situation, so we went to the bedroom and she had a time out. She was SOOOO upset that she was basically incapable of getting ready for bed, even after 10 or 15 minutes. She wouldn't put on her underwear, because she said her feet were dirty.
She would try to run back into the bathroom to rinse them, but I didn't let her. (Maybe that was a mistake, I don't know.) She started just repeating the same phrase, "can we do everything the same?" Over and over and over. When I asked what she meant, she said she wanted to do everything the way we normally do it. It was just so important to her that we follow the routine, and not vary from it at all.
There are other things, but these are just a few examples. I'm wondering if anyone else has experience with this. Is this just a developmental phase? Will she grow more flexible on her own? My husband and I have started varying her evening routine in little ways, and she definitely protests but eventually accepts it. I don't know if we should be doing this or not. It sure can be exhausting, and I don't want to introduce meaningless conflict into our lives.
Any help or advice is greatly appreciated.
ETA: My daughter has been having stomach aches and acid reflux. The doctor has put her on two different medications, which seem to help a little but not completely take away the symptoms. These stomach aches are more prevalent in the evening. The reflux can happen any time of day. Of course, I am concerned that they are related to her behaviors described above.