Compulsive Aggression... reaching the end of my rope! - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 16 Old 03-29-2010, 09:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not even sure where to begin... My dd is 3 years old and what I have always termed "spirited" as is defined in Raising Your Spirited Child. She is very high energy and has little regard for personal space. She has an intense need to engage others with physical contact, which often hurts. This can range from tackling hugs to knocking a friend over because she simply cannot go around them to biting, pinching, and hair pulling. My days are filled with a constant barrage of in my face actions. She has drawn blood on a few occasions. I feel like I'm constantly protecting myself or someone else from her intensity.

Most of the time I think she has no idea that what she's doing hurts others. Other times it appears blatant. All the time it seems compulsive- out of her control.

I constantly am reminding her to be gentle. I have her make amends as best she can when she has hurt someone. I tell her that what she did hurt. I remind her that people don't like to be hurt. I draw on past experiences where she has been hurt as teaching moments. From 16 months on I have constantly uttered kiss don't bite, hug don't hit, give or put down don't throw, take turns don't take, kick balls not people. On and on. I've read myriad books from Playful Parenting to Unconditional Parenting. I've tried removing her from situations, I've tried time-ins. I've used my own body as a shield to protect others. I've followed her every move at playgroups and on playgrounds trying to prevent her from hurting others. We talk, talk, talk...I constantly ask her why she does what she does and she says, "because I wanted to." I say, that hurt, did you want to hurt? And sometimes she says yes! I know that empathy takes a while to form (research says as late as 7 years old), but I feel like she's the only kid in the room that acts like she does! She doesn't seem to care.

I take her out of the house as much as possible- often twice a day- to parks, playgroups, the zoo, museums, the library, etc. I've tried surrounding her with infants to nurture and older kids to rough house with. Up until recently she was an only child, so I spent much of my day filling her cup. Constantly. I constantly engage her, try to redirect her, to channel her energy.

Dh decided to take away the 1/2 hour of Sesame Street she sometime watches in the morning as a consequence for hurting someone. This did not work and just took away my 1/2 hour of quiet time. I really feel this type of punishment is lost on her. Once the TV was taken way, she felt free to continue hurting. Taking TV away on subsequent days made no sense because she doesn't have the concept of time like that.

So the behaviors continue. I would blame the recent birth of my second child, but the reality is this is nothing new- it's been happening off and on since she was about 16 months old. It feels worse now than before, perhaps because I am unable to attend to it as I once was or perhaps because her little brother is turning her world upside down or perhaps because she's approaching 3 1/2 or perhaps because she may be cutting her 3 year molars. I could perhaps this to death, but the truth is I can't trust her with other kids. I can't leave her alone in the room with her baby brother for more than 10 seconds (yesterday he got bit when I turned by back for one minute). I am exhausted.

These behaviors have often left me feeling disappointed and sad in the past, but now I'm feeling anger toward her. I know this could have something to do with my general exhausted state of being a new mother of two, but I am just so tired of it!

What in the world to do? My neighbors and family members are telling me to spank her. That it will only take a few times and then all I'll have to do is warn her of spankings. This feels barbaric to my AP nature. Solve hurting behavior with hurting? Will this just perpetuate the aggression? Will she think "mommy spanks, so I can spank my friends?" When I balk at spanking the next suggestion is time-outs. True time-outs where she sits alone supposedly thinking about what she did, uncomfortable in her isolated, motionless state. This feels like love withdrawal not to mention that I don't see her sitting still at all. I'd have to physically restrain her. When I balk at time-outs, they suggest a reward system. Gold stars each day she doesn't hurt and then a reward when they add up. Isn't this teaching her the wrong message? I only treat people nicely when I'm rewarded?

So, please, I beg you... who has BTDT? Who has a child that was like this and outgrew it? Or did you find a great solution? A discipline technique? Some sort of therapy? Diet adjustment? Does it sound like something else is going on here or is this the far end of normal for a 3 year old?

TIA!

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#2 of 16 Old 03-29-2010, 10:15 PM
 
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Hugs to you, Mama. It sounds like you're doing a great job and that you are being very gentle and patient with her.
I wish that I had some words of wisdom for you, but unfortunately, I am in a similar position, but my DD is now 7.
I must say, though, that 3 1/2 was a particularily challenging age to deal with, in my experience.
One thing that has sort of worked for us is to remove dairy products (and some other things, but I think that dairy was the biggie). It is really hard to keep up with though and so it creeps back into her diet often). Have you ever considered any dietary triggers for your DD?
I am interested as to what others have to say though as I could use some advice myself...
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#3 of 16 Old 03-29-2010, 10:29 PM
 
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I haven't BTDT, so forgive me if this isn't helpful, but what about a time out that comes from a less punitive place? Not, sit here and meditate on your sins, you bad girl, but a realistic

"You cannot be part of the group if you are purposely hurting others. You can come back when you can stop hitting."

You can sit with her, provided she's not hurting you--but I would see this kind of time out as a mechanism to get control of her actions--not a punishment.

You will get a lot of other perspectives on time outs--some people here use them and find it effective, some people here don't and have very good reasons why not--but for me, at the end of the day, it came down to what my child responded to, and what worked best in handling situations that needed to be addressed. You're the parent and the only one that can make the call as to what she is mature enoug to understand.

Also, with so much physicality, it sounds like she could use some kind of very focused physical activity. Instead of a playgroup, how about gymnastics or soccer? Can she play nicely in that kind of situation?
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#4 of 16 Old 03-30-2010, 12:12 AM
 
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I wonder if she's overwhelmed with all the social options? If, in trying to give her an outlet, all she's doing is getting more and more wound up and more and more aggressive?

My DD1 is 3.5 years old and also intense and spirited. However, she's never intentionally hurt anyone. She forgets her own power and strength sometimes, and has in fact knocked me down while hugging me. But if I give her a chance to do that for fun (and not in an aggressive way), she laughs and laughs and we have fun doing a little "roughhousing."

I wonder if she is almost trying to tell you it's all too much? Maybe she needs a way to be physically active without being surrounded by other kids? What about walks in the woods with you and the baby in a sling? What about the playground at less busy times of day?
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#5 of 16 Old 03-30-2010, 12:58 AM
 
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Have you ever looked into Sensory Processing Disorder? (esp. the sensory-seeking variety). There's a great book called "Sensational Kids", by Lucy Jane ******. See if you can get your hands on a copy, and especially check out the chapter about the sensory seeking preschooler. You could also check out the Special Needs forum here - there are lots of mamas with kiddos with SPD. My middle DS (age 3.5, coming up to 4) is VERY much like what you are describing. He does have SPD (primarily sensory-seeking) and some other special needs as well. I am not saying for sure that is the case for your DD, but it might be worth looking into.

good luck I know it's NOT easy!!!
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#6 of 16 Old 03-30-2010, 02:56 AM
 
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#7 of 16 Old 03-30-2010, 02:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Three~Little~Birds View Post
Hugs to you, Mama.
I must say, though, that 3 1/2 was a particularily challenging age to deal with, in my experience.
One thing that has sort of worked for us is to remove dairy products (and some other things, but I think that dairy was the biggie).
f...
I HAVE BTDT, My DS is now 8, that 3-4 yr range was HARD. What helped was taking ANYTHING artificial out of his diet, dairy, sugar and soy, most processed foods, and being REALLY vigilant about it. After a bit,it made a HUGE difference. Others were labeling my DS as ADD ADHD, ODD, you name it, he wasn't very well liked by anyone except me those yrs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by madskye View Post
I haven't BTDT, so forgive me if this isn't helpful, but what about a time out that comes from a less punitive place? Not, sit here and meditate on your sins, you bad girl, but a realistic

"You cannot be part of the group if you are purposely hurting others. You can come back when you can stop hitting."

You can sit with her, provided she's not hurting you--but I would see this kind of time out as a mechanism to get control of her actions--not a punishment.

You will get a lot of other perspectives on time outs--some people here use them and find it effective, some people here don't and have very good reasons why not--but for me, at the end of the day, it came down to what my child responded to, and what worked best in handling situations that needed to be addressed. You're the parent and the only one that can make the call as to what she is mature enoug to understand.

Also, with so much physicality, it sounds like she could use some kind of very focused physical activity. Instead of a playgroup, how about gymnastics or soccer? Can she play nicely in that kind of situation?
This is also how I did timeouts, not as a punishment, but as a REAL timeout~~ Most times I would tell him that he could come find me or return to what ever activity when he was feeling less aggressive. I also found teaching some breathing techniques helped us both.

I AM NOT a big fan of tv for children, BUT it was used a but while we were transitioning.....DS would SIT and WATCH, and I could take a breather or cook dinner, or, or , or...... you get the idea..... We are now a tv free home. No cable, just a DVD player for our once/twice a month movie night.

I also found that energy work and reiki helped ALOT!!!!!!!! Asking his guardian angels for help too :-)


Hugs mama, it gets better!!!!!!......My DS is now a brilliant strong willed 8yr old and doing very well in school, after being home schooled until he was 7 due to just these problems.

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss
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#8 of 16 Old 03-30-2010, 03:27 PM
 
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Hugs to you. This is so hard, I know. Besides being physically and emotionally draining, there is the social isolation and feelings that go along with feeling bad about how the child is behaving with or around others who just don't understand.

I also wanted to mention looking into Sensory Processing Disorder. The Out of Sync Child is a great book to start with...you'll know early on in your reading if this fits your dd.

Also, another book to mention is The Explosive Child. Ross Greene gives awesome advice and a method for Collaborative Problem Solving that can really work. However, your dd may still be too young. I'm sure, however, there is something to gleen from reading this book. His site gives a lot of info (with videos) as well.

Hang in there! I believe it is important to be continue to be gentle...I just don't think the punitive approach works on most children like this. It just doesn't have an effect and, sometimes they become even more aggressive!

--Jennifer
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#9 of 16 Old 03-30-2010, 06:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for the responses so far! I have put all the recommended books on hold at the library. I was beginning to think about SPD, but hadn't had the chance to really look into it, so this will be a good start. I see that Carol Kranowitz is from Maryland- she's even giving a talk near me in May. We'll see if my dd fits the profile.

I have considered just isolating ourselves until she passes through this phase- if it is a phase! But she is such a social child. She loves her friends even though she hurts them. She wants to see them all the time, she wants to go places all the time. When we stay home she talks incessantly about doing things out of the house or asks repeatedly who is coming over to play today. If we do not go anywhere or see anyone, she will either get into mischief around the house (which is exhausting in a whole other way) or will sit next to me and suck her fingers and play with my hair (her calming mechanism). She seems just plain sad when we aren't being social.

I don't feel like she's overwhelmed by social situations because she can alternate between physical moments and calm moments. She picks and chooses whom she gets physical with. She doesn't hurt random, unknown children. She hurts her friends and family, the people she's comfortable with. So it seems to me that she's comfortable when she's doing the hurting, if that makes sense.

I sort of wonder if we are hanging out with the wrong type of people, too. We attend AP playgroups through our local AP Yahoo Group here in the Baltimore area. While of course I love to be surrounded by like-minded and attentive parents, this can be a curse more than a blessing when it comes to my dd's actions. Every little infraction is micromanaged. It makes me think if sometimes the kids were allowed to work it out a little more on their own if she would understand better what effect her actions have. Like if she were allowed to get kicked or bit back in retaliation for her actions. Sort of a peer enforced natural consequence. But at AP playgroups, these behaviors are quickly taken care of and the offenders are often ostracized or at least it can feel that way.

Anyone have any thoughts about the type of social interactions that are helpful?

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#10 of 16 Old 03-31-2010, 11:45 AM
 
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Jaimee,

I know girls are dif. than boys with their maturity level and vocalizations... Could you give dd something to do INSTEAD of hurting..... for instance, tell her you want to play an awesome game today.... tell her that each time she gets excited enough to hit/hurt, that instead you want her to SING, a loud boisterous hand clapping ditty, John Jacob comes to mind :-) Do it WITH her too....... Her friends could get in on the act too...... THEN after a time or two of this, you could tell point out to her how MUCH MORE fun it was to be singing instead of hurting and that now her friends are SO much more happy ...............

This could also work another way too, by say shadowing her and then when you see her get ready to hurt, you could scoop her up, and start to dance with her and sing!!!!..... TOTAL distraction..... This sounds like a lot of fun!

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss
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#11 of 16 Old 03-31-2010, 03:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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While this type of playful parenting does work in the moment (and was what I did when she was younger), it is absolutely impossible to keep that kind of parenting up all the time. Distracting her will prevent the behavior that time, but it won't get to the root of the problem such that I can trust her in future situations. And I just can't distract her 24-7 until this phase passes (again, if it is a phase!). With the new baby in tow, I can't be climbing up on the big toys anymore or following her every move as she runs around happily with her friends. Not only is it not healthy for me (I need a break sometimes!) but helicopter parenting isn't good for her either (and it would be just that because I never know when it's going to happen). She needs help making better decisions and/or controlling her impulses. I guess I'm looking for tools for these things now that she's older and has some ability to reason.

And why in the world does she act so much worse with me than with other caregivers- even dad? Is it because as a SAHM, I wear out and become less consistent? Or because she hears it all the time from me and it has lost its effectiveness?

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#12 of 16 Old 03-31-2010, 04:42 PM
 
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well it was just a thought I KNOW your frustrated and most likely sleep deprived, I can see it. this IS a phase she WILL grow out of it)..... O what else I wanted to say was.... YES, sometimes we DO need to be helicopter parents,( not fun or practical for the long haul, but yes,sometimes it's got to be done). and sometimes the act itself is reinforcing.... Applied behavior analysis, and ABC or,Antecedent, behavior, consequence might be good places to start.... this is NOT just a thing for autistic or MR kids. I am also on a yahoo group that uses this for parrots. AND the "consequence" part isn't really about punishment, even tho some websites will make it sound that way. It really is about the "outcome" or what happened before/next. try these links.....

http://www.behavioradvisor.com/ABA.html

http://www.schoolbehavior.com/behavior_abc.htm

I CAN tell you that IME, ALL kids behave worse for their own parents than for ANYONE else. I'm a nanny and it never fails, that my "charges" are better for me than their parents and my own kid doesn't listen to reason.... THIS drives me nuts, esp. when I'm trying to get EVERYONE on the same page and he's off marching to his own drummer....

Can you afford a sitter? or a pt nanny? someone to take either the baby or the toddler? so you can focus on the other? would you be able to arrange with hubby some YOU time when he's home?

One trick that worked for me when my DS was younger was to take naps on the couch while he watched TV.. yes this was done out of desperation, but it worked. I've been a single mom since before he was born and have had no family involvement since ds was born. or you, maybe you could do this when it's the newborns naptime, you both sleep and dd watches tv? just a thought.

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss
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#13 of 16 Old 03-31-2010, 05:26 PM
 
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Originally Posted by madskye View Post
I haven't BTDT, so forgive me if this isn't helpful, but what about a time out that comes from a less punitive place? Not, sit here and meditate on your sins, you bad girl, but a realistic

"You cannot be part of the group if you are purposely hurting others. You can come back when you can stop hitting."
I would second this. this is what we did with our kids (well, our daughter, I think ds hit/hurt someone on purpose about 2 times in his whole life). Our dd doesn't sound as intense as yours does, but she's definitely spirited and when she's really upset she lashes out (a lot like her mom ).

I had confirmation the other day that this has not harmed our relationship. A neighbor was over and the neighbor, ds and dd were playing in his bedroom. They'd been squabbling, and then I heard "Ow!" from ds, and 2 minutes later, he'd sent dd out of his room and told her she couldn't play there. Dd came down and wailed and cried first in dh's arms and then in mine. After about 5-10 minutes she said to me "I did something I'm embarrassed to tell you." "Oh?" "I hit T." "Oh, is that why he sent you out of his room?"

Dd knew is was wrong and felt bad about it. She got the connection between being sent out of his room and hitting. We talked a bit about other ways to handle it, how it sounded like there was a lot of arguing going on. Then she asked if she could go back to his room. I asked if she was feeling calmer, she said yes and went. Ds let her in and things were fine.

So, this time the 'time out' wasn't time alone in her room, it was time away from the kids she was having trouble with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mama2Xander View Post
Have you ever looked into Sensory Processing Disorder? (esp. the sensory-seeking variety). There's a great book called "Sensational Kids", by Lucy Jane ******.
I was about to post the same thing - not so much for the pinching, etc. but the constant barreling into people and seeming to not know where other people's physical boundaries are.

One thought: If you create a 'cool down' spot, put something like a mini trampoline or a balance board or a hoppity ball in there for her to get some of her sensory needs met. Or hang a lycra swing from the ceiling. That way it really isn't punishment, it's teaching her to get her sensory needs met appropriately.

I highly recommend Sensational Kids. It's a good book, and even if she doesn't have SPD, it's got some good ideas for things you can try.

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#14 of 16 Old 03-31-2010, 09:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was doing some more reading on SPD and took a look at this checklist...I'm not sure if it's a good one or not, but I only see 1 or 2 red flags from these lists.

She is up in everyone's faces ALL the time, but she isn't at all clumsy or barreling into things because she doesn't notice them. She runs into her friends to purposely knock them down and she's actually quite agile and has astonishing balance. She does have trouble controlling her impulses, but she's actually great with transitions- very flexible. She had trouble going to sleep and staying asleep as a baby/toddler, but right at 2 she started sleeping through the entire night and now she is able to put herself to sleep just fine.

So, right now with what I know, I'm thinking she probably doesn't have SPD, but that it's entirely possible that exercises for SPD may still be helpful for her. I'm definitely still going to check out all the books that have been recommended and see what I can glean from them as well. I'm especially curious about sensation seeking.

*ETA: I found this site and she DOES have most of the sensory seeking behaviors.

I like the idea of the non-punitive time out. I will try it more forcefully next time this behavior occurs at a playgroup. I often remove her from the situation, but usually we return shortly after a small talk. Perhaps a longer removal will work much better. Also the idea of a cool down spot that is equipped with some sort of calming and/or appropriately stimulating prop is a good one.

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#15 of 16 Old 03-31-2010, 11:02 PM
 
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Hi, we've been there and done that. I'm keeping this short because my keyboard has been modified by a 2 yo. My wife and I think your dd is seeking your attention with her rough play. When she plays rough, you become a helicopter parent, and she gets lots of attention. Instead of so many social interactions, try some special mother-daughter time.

Here are the books that really helped my family:

How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk by Faber and Mazlish

Siblings without rivalry by Faber and Mazlish
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#16 of 16 Old 04-01-2010, 10:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree that her recent mischievous behavior (peeing in our back yard, putting toothpaste on the mirror, etc.) are attention getting behaviors. And these are a direct result of the birth of her little brother and my not having as much time to give her as I once did. Her compulsive hurting of others is not for attention. She simply cannot control herself. She has an intense need to be physical and I do think that this is sensation seeking now that I've seen the checklist. I've read both the books you mentioned and while I agree they have great information, nothing in them is working for us. She still gets plenty of special mother daughter time. I am with her all day and am constantly engaging her- reading books while we nurse, playing with her while her brother naps, including her in household chores, and taking her all sorts of places (her brother in a carrier). I can only minimize the hurting (and mischievous) behaviors if I keep her busy, busy, busy.

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