Toddler hitting/abusing older sister - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 66 Old 06-24-2010, 05:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My daughter is 8 and my son is 2. As soon as she gets out of bed until she goes to bed at night, my son gets all riled up and randomly hits her, sometimes with objects, and sometimes screams right in her face. She usually does nothing to encourage or incite this, sometimes she is just sitting there trying to wake up and he starts on her. However, sometimes she is difficult with him, not sharing or whatnot but he has it good, overall.

She is starting to hide, which means I get even less time with her, which was already stretched since his birth as he is high needs.

So far, my advice has been not to retaliate, which is easy for her as she has always been passive, she doesn't even yell with much conviction. They are like chalk and cheese.

I'm wondering if I shouldn't have said not to retaliate now, as she has absolutely no recourse, and sometimes it just isn't fair on her to walk away, or not possible. We are all going insane with this.

He started hitting me about a year ago, but I ignored it, and it ended up he only hit me a couple of times and then gave up. I advised her to do the same, and it worked. He didn't hit her for a long time (he did yell in her face still, though, as my mother lives with us and has a real problem with his screaming/yelling and makes a big deal of it - this, I believe, has caused it to remain long past it's due date). But now, his hits are stronger (he is older) and my daughter doesn't ignore them, even though I think this might cause them to die out - my friend described it well by saying we become their "squeaky toy", so when we react, this is very satisfying to the average toddler.

How can we help DD protect herself, yet not infringe on DS's rights, yet not have her keep having to leave the room, hide, or some other unfair solution?
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#2 of 66 Old 06-24-2010, 09:37 PM
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Have you tried time ins? For example, say "if you want to play with your sister you have to be gentle, here come with me", then pick your DS up and keep him with you a few minutes maybe letting him help you do whatever you are doing. Then remind your DS to be gentle and use a gentle voice when you are putting him back down. I've seen it work really well even with biting. My DD was still comfortable in our backpack carrier at that age. I also started telling my DD that I don't let people hurt me and hurting people is a bad idea when she was about 20 months or so. We had a "if you can't play nice, you can't play" rule and we left places if she pushed someone or threw something at someone. I like time ins because they aren't punitive but you are still defending the victims right to be safe from physical or verbal violence. I don't think teaching your DS that hurting other people is wrong is infringing on his rights. He's going to be playing with other kids and wanting to have friends so maybe just letting him hit or yell at family members is doing him an injustice. Other kids are going to smack him back or not want to play with him.

I also use time ins when I'm taking care of my granddaughter, age 3.5, and younger DD, age 4.5, at the same time. Then it's more "come help me cook/do laundry/etc. until you feel more like playing with someone". My granddaughter seems to enjoy hanging out with me, but her parents have a more punitive parenting style than I do. It's ok if the child likes having a time in since it isn't a punishment and it puts a stop to rude behavior.

We also have a family rule that if someone says "stop" you have to stop what you are doing to them. My DD was amazed that she could say one word and I'd stop brushing her hair or whatever. It's really easy to go from the concept of respecting your DC's right to say "stop" and the idea that they have to stop if some one asks them to. I started at about 18 months. At first it was more of a game, but soon it was "You can't kick daddy if he says stop. If someone says stop you have to stop."

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#3 of 66 Old 06-24-2010, 11:01 PM
 
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I've been telling my 8-year-old dd to do exactly what I do when the toddler hits me, gently take her hand and say "gentle" or "touch gently" and show what a soft gentle touch looks like. We're still having hitting, and she isn't even 2 yet so there's almost certainly a while yet no matter how we handle it, but my older dd is really good at just doing what I do when I get hit and doesn't get any more upset by the hitting than I get. I'm not sure how well that would work for you as your dd and mine seem to have very different personalities, but that's what we're doing anyway to give one perspective.
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#4 of 66 Old 06-25-2010, 12:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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DD does say gentle, in fact, DS says it - about his drumming (which is very LOUD) and often after he hits someone, so I think he gets the concept, I just don't get why he does it. It's the only recourse she has is to tell him how she feels and ask him to stop. Much of the time I can tell it is like an accident, he gets ahead of himself. When DD starts to cry, he ALWAYS (which is incredible) says sorry and gives her a kiss and usually doesn't hit her again for the day or for a long time. She always responds (even if she is in tears) with "thank you" or "that's ok" - she is pretty amazing, in fact, both of them are really. I never told him to say sorry or any of that, he just learned it by watching us. But I'd like to avoid that in the first place, as it can go on and on sometimes.

If I pick him up he freaks, so that will be a kind of punishment. He fights being picked up unless he instigates it. He was carried in some type of sling his whole life so I think it created this earlier independence, at least, that is what other cultures show will happen and it seemed to happen to us.

What happens is someone ends up freaking out on him because he just won't listen. Yelling at him or moving him out of the way a little too roughly. I wouldn't say we "let" him bully DD, but I would say we don't know how to deal with it - we tell him how we feel, remove him from her (or vice versa) and say we don't like it and I thought we could just wait this out... how long will it take?

He actually also hits DH and takes his glasses a lot which drives him so nuts he has yelled at him about it before (he has broken his glasses twice in the past), but I'm not so worried about that because it is DH. DS doesn't hit me, and I believe that is because I wasn't his squeaky toy about it. DH and DD react, and therefore DS continues.

I've taught DS the word "frustrated", in hopes he'll use it as DD seems to frustrate him a lot, and so does life in general.

Hence why I'd love for DD to try ignoring it, as reacting to this and telling him not to etc has only caused it to get chronic. But then, now he is older, sitting there while he hits you is not such an easy feat... so I'm not sure it is an option. Feeling stuck. Kind of like when a child wants to run onto the road, at his age it is best to just not go near a road because they simply don't understand "don't go onto the road, it is dangerous". But I can't keep him away from DD like the road, kwim? He doesn't have the understanding of what he is doing and I don't have the option to "wait it out" because DD is suffering.

Edited to add: interestingly, he no longer hits the dog, and hasn't for six months or so. He kept hitting the dog a year ago until I told everyone to "back off and let the two of them work it out!" and somehow DS stopped hitting him... I personally think it is because WE stopped feeding into it with reaction. The dog didn't change in any way, only our reactions did.

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#5 of 66 Old 06-25-2010, 04:20 AM
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If he doesn't like being picked up you could ask him to come sit with you and then talk about how hitting hurts and it's a bad idea to hit people. I don't think ignoring it is fair to your DD. At two I don't think just waiting this out will make it go away. Toddlers and preschoolers hit, push and throw things and some times bite when they are stressed, so unless you want to "ignore it" for another couple of years you need to teach him that hurting people is unacceptable. A child with an aggressive personality does it more. Aggression isn't bad it just needs to be expressed in socially appropriate ways. Have you tried gently stopping him and talking about why he can't hurt his sister? Have you mentioned to him that no one is allowed to hurt him, so he can't hurt other people? If he isn't verbal enough yet, sometimes just stopping a child every time they try to hit can work. Can his sister catch his hand and say "stop, you can't hurt me, be gentle"? Do the kids have their own space so they can avoid annoying each other? If so your DD could say "I don't let people hurt me" and then go play in her own space. Also these two reactions aren't as interesting as getting upset and crying after being hit. Having to play alone every time his sister prevents him from hitting her and then goes off calmly to do her own thing is a lot more boring than hitting some one, making them cry. Also it sounds like he thinks saying sorry makes it ok and it doesn't. Apologizing is good but doesn't undo the hurt.

You being like a squeaky toy is a good explanation when he was one, but now that he's two it's just a normal toddler and preschooler reaction to stress. If your DS is the only person around hitting, modeling gentle behavior isn't working on it's own.

Your DD probably gets so upset by the behavior because she feels she has to just endure it. Actually trying to teach her brother not to hit, like mamazee's DD is doing, might make her feel more empowered and not a victim in the relationship. I know your DS is old enough to understand having a family rule about stopping when people say stop.
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#6 of 66 Old 06-25-2010, 04:32 PM
 
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We have had the same problem for 2 + years now and ds is almost 4 and dd is 9.5 and dd is not passive. It's been a nightmare for us. He totally freaks out at times, while it's less than before, the feelings between them are so intense that they each trigger something in each other. I hope to get some ideas from here so I'm subscribing.
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#7 of 66 Old 06-25-2010, 05:53 PM
 
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my DD2 is younger than yours (she's 17 months) and my DD1 is almost 5... but DD2 is definately more aggressive and sometimes hits DD1. We've taught Becca to say the same thing we said when WE were being hit... "we don't hit! use gentle hands. when you hit, you are all-done-becca". and then she moves away and comes to one of us- and we give HER attention. this works great for us. i have a real problem with an older sibling being hit repeatedly (or otherwise mistreated) just because theya re older. i think it is great that my ODD can/does react kindly and patiently-- but I make sure to praise her and to give her attention in front of DD2. As soon as DD2 toddles over and does "nice nice" DD1 hugs her and they go back to playing.
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#8 of 66 Old 06-28-2010, 01:00 PM
 
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I am glad to see everyone acknowledging it isn't ok for younger sibling to "abuse" the older sibling.
My 20 month old has become aggressive to her 13 yr old sister. My 13 yr old defiantly is old enough to understand how to react. But I still tell 20 month old that is not how we treat our sissy. She hits and talks "ugly" to her. I think she thinks she is 13 and that why she talks ugly. My 13 yr old is very gentle and a great big sis. But being 13 she does discipline the 20 month old when she is watching her. So I think dd#2 thinks it is fair play lol. I just tell dd#2 that isn't how we speak to sissy we use kind words.
My dh and 13 dd horseplay alot. I started noticing that dd#2 started hitting in response to their horseplay. So I talked to them about changing it so appeared more loving. Now dd#1 laughs instead of screaming. DD#2 now repeatedly tickles her sister. If she does happen to hit dd#1, I hug dd#1 and tell her it is ok it isn't nice when dd#2 hits. While reinforcing to DD#1 that hurts sissy feelings. Even tough dd#1 knows dd#2 doesn't mean it or she just learning to express herself. I feel it is important dd#1 know that I value her feelings too. I am sure it does hurt her feelings when she is so kind and loving that kind of behavior from her sister isn't deserved.

Maybe try to give your dd positive(hugs/cuddles,kind reassuring words) loving attention in front of ds when ds hits/screams at her. Ignore his behavior but redirect his behavior by reassuring your dd that his behavior is not ok. Let him hear your words and see you gentle loving touches to your dd, without directly acknowledging him. Not to say you do not give your ds attention but saying goes "Negative attention is still attention". He probably looking for a reaction hence attention. If he doesn't receive it than he more likely not to seek it. By giving your dd the attention you are doing two thing reinforcing her value and teaching your ds (and dd) that undesirable behavior will not be a behavior worth reward. Please do not expect your dd to just ignore it and be the "bigger" person. You are in danger of teaching her that her feelings and worth are not valued.

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#9 of 66 Old 06-28-2010, 01:10 PM
 
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I"m also struggling with this, and have the same ages as yours, 2 and 8. Mine are both girls, but dd2 is also hitting, screaming at, and generally being aggressive towards her older sister almost all day long. I've tried to be really empathetic towards dd1 and affirm all of the things she does well with her sister. I also encourage her to walk away in the moment rather than retaliate, but I'm never sure if this is right. It does end the screaming for the moment, but I'm afraid dd2 is just keeping control of the situation, because she usually gets what she was looking for, like the toy or snack or place to sit.

So I'm kind of at a loss about what to do. DD1 never had a single tantrum in her baby/toddler years. It's hard for me to cope with this, I don't feel like I handle it well either.

One recent positive development is them finding a few games they both really love to play at this age. This has given a glimmer of hope about the relationship, and I can see dd2 wanting to keep dd1 playing with her in these situations, so she doesn't lash out (which makes older dd leave).

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#10 of 66 Old 06-28-2010, 05:00 PM
 
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#11 of 66 Old 07-16-2011, 08:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Still happening, and he is 3 and she is 9.5.  I came here to start a thread only to find I had this one.  That was not a great realisation.  I certainly didn't ignore the hitting but it seems nothing is helping.  I've almost been at the point of telling her to retaliate, because that is what an older brother would probably do and he might learn some caution if not respect that he is out of his league size wise.  But I am a pacifist so I'm not really attracted to that option.  I have re read this thread closely with fresh eyes to see anything I might have overlooked.  The only other option is that there is an issue with my son.  I might have to face that fact soon, as he really is emotionally out of control, and I can't go into details here, I feel too flat for how much effort that would take.  

 

I'm homeschooling and oddly, that helped since we started.  Either that or I'm numbing out to it now.  I hope not.  

 

I've taken him into our room onto our swing chair for "feelings" time.  This works if he is reacting in anger.  I actually cope better with aggressive outbursts as they seem to make sense... we all react poorly with anger and frustration at times, and I am great with tantrums and expressions of anger (hey, I gotta point out my good points when I find 'em!).  But it is the threatening with a stick/knife/etc by waving it in front of her that I can't get a handle on.  He isn't angry, in fact, he seems to be enjoying it.  I refer to it as when he is "playing her like a conductor", because as an observer, that is what it looks like.  He waves something in front of her, and she screams and yells and so on at him and he just smiles and keeps doing it. 

 

I should add here that it has been commented on gently by others that my daughter tends to overreact.  This is true, plus she is hypersensitive.  They both put their fingers in their ears when other kids seem fine with the noise levels of an event... I think they are both easily overwhelmed.  So I must add that into the equation for solutions.  I have mentioned that she might like to see if he will actually hit her, or if he is just enjoying the show she puts on.  She tried it and said, "I feel like you're going to hit me" and he calmly replied, "I'm not going to hit you."  How much truth is in that is yet to be seen but that was just today.

 

For several months I can't take him to social occasions with children younger than him, esp babies.  He pinches them really hard, sometimes getting a fistful of their back or arm flesh and pulling.  I am very vigilant with it, and when I see him making a beeline for a young one, I dash right beside him to guide him through it.  We are "that" family that others make a wide berth around, and eventually I have to literally pick him up and drag him out (of the library, park, where ever we are) for the safety and comfort of others.  If I see him reach out for a young one, I will gently grab his arm and say, "we wait until invited to touch our friends" (or something else just as lame) and if he has tried to hurt them, I will say to be gentle and he says, "I want to hit the baby.  I wanna hurt the baby.  Hurt the baby hurt the baby."  WTF??  We're a gentle family so this is just freaking me OUT.  

 

He is smiling when he does it so I don't know how much is for effect and how much he even understands of what he is saying.  I remember as a little girl I gave an arm burn by twisting the flesh of a younger girl when no one was looking.  I try to remind myself of that time so I don't start thinking I'll find three 6's in his hair one day.  

 

Anyway, ack.  So, aside from aggression from emotions (which I'm ok with, even though his emotions are frequent and intense and he won't take no for an answer) it is this torturing of his sister that doesn't seem to be emotionally based, although I'm sure in some way it is, it looks more like part of his fun.  He only actually hurts her by pulling her hair or hitting her if he is angry and part of that I'm trying to teach him to express another way and part of it I am trying to help DD see him as a baby, not as an equal as she does tend to frustrate the living heck out of him and expect more from him than he can achieve right now.  My concern is that he screams most of the time, and I feel like pulling him up on the screaming isn't fair but pulling her up on not being fair isn't fair either... if you follow.  He isn't like this with his cousin.  He is a quiet little mouse when she is around.  So he has it in him, he just has no respect for his sister.  He won't listen to her at all, and if I pull him up on something, he'll get upset and go over and hit HER for it.  

 

BTW, he still tortures the dog.  He does the same thing to him as he does to his sister by waving something in front of him like he is going to hit him with it and the dog now bites DS regularly.

 

Ok, so I'll leave it at that for now.  Any takers?  


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#12 of 66 Old 07-16-2011, 08:51 PM
 
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You really need to get on the situation with the dog and "letting them work it out" is just dangerous.  When the dog FINALLY reacts and takes up for itself, what then?  Rehome the dog if you have to.  It's unfair to let your son torture an animal.  If you can't keep them apart, find the dog a safe home because while your daughter is unlikely to one day get fed up and bite a chunk out of your son, your dog might.

 

As for the rest - that seems way over the top to me.   I'm sure your daughter DOES react in a big way, it's not the incident at hand she's reacting to, it's several years of torment and apparently she's not allowed to defend herself.  Other than freaking out, what real choice does she have?

 

Have you discussed this with your ped?  I know the tendency is to say oh, he's just three, he doesn't understand...but he does understand the dog, his sister, and babies are good targets and his cousin is not so clearly he has some understanding and self-control when it's in his interest.

 

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#13 of 66 Old 07-16-2011, 09:58 PM
 
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Originally Posted by NiteNicole View Post

You really need to get on the situation with the dog and "letting them work it out" is just dangerous.  When the dog FINALLY reacts and takes up for itself, what then?  Rehome the dog if you have to.  It's unfair to let your son torture an animal.  If you can't keep them apart, find the dog a safe home because while your daughter is unlikely to one day get fed up and bite a chunk out of your son, your dog might.

 

As for the rest - that seems way over the top to me.   I'm sure your daughter DOES react in a big way, it's not the incident at hand she's reacting to, it's several years of torment and apparently she's not allowed to defend herself.  Other than freaking out, what real choice does she have?

 

Have you discussed this with your ped?  I know the tendency is to say oh, he's just three, he doesn't understand...but he does understand the dog, his sister, and babies are good targets and his cousin is not so clearly he has some understanding and self-control when it's in his interest.

 


I pretty much agree with all of this.

If you can't keep your son and the dog separated, and he refuses to behave himself around the dog then it is probably time to find the dog a new home. When the dog finally defends himself with a serious bite you won't be able to rehome the dog: you'll have to put him down. Even if the dog never gives your son a "break the skin" bite it is still rather cruel to keep exposing your dog to constant abuse.

Likewise, the situation is becoming worse for your daughter. It sounds like she might have quite a lot of anxiety about this. I agree that it might be time to talk to a counselor or a pediatrician to try to get some more ideas for how to help your son, and also for your daughter to give her some real ways to defend herself that work.
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#14 of 66 Old 07-16-2011, 10:00 PM
 
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This sounds pretty serious to me, I think you should talk it over with your pediatrician with all the details, including about the dog, babies, and noise sensitivity. Maybe he has SPD and is reacting to being stressed by sensory information all the time?  Or there could be some other issue, but this does not sound like regular 3 year old stuff. 

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#15 of 66 Old 07-16-2011, 10:02 PM
 
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I want to add.. I'm sorry that you've been going through this. It sounds like you've tried everything, and that you have provided a gentle, loving environment. That's partly why it seems serious.. there's no explanation other than something going on inside your DS.

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#16 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 12:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Sorry, I should have mentioned, initially letting the dog and DS work it out worked, as the dog growled and snarled and DS stopped, but largely because we stopped reacting... I thought.  But whatever the reason, it didn't last, but we didn't let the dog bite DS and do nothing, or DS annoy the dog and do nothing.  It's been a long time since that technique (I started this thread over a year ago). 

 

We are on it, right away.  But it is constant at times and luckily the dog lives downstairs with my mother and brother so they are mostly apart.  And mostly it was that threatening by waving something in his face, and not actual hitting.  It's like this kid just doesn't learn and I keep trying to tell myself it is just that my daughter was so easy that he seems so, well, slow to learn and difficult, but I'm not so sure now.  

 

NNicole when you said this: Other than freaking out, what real choice does she have?

 

That is what I'm asking.  Exactly what I'm asking.  When I started this thread a year ago, things were different, but we've tried everything now and nothing is stopping it.  I'm looking for creative solutions as she seems to have no options, and like I said, I even considered telling her to retaliate... even though I don't think she really could, she is very gentle.  

 

The worst part of this I have written about SO many times on MDC but my threads went largely unanswered...  It has been hard to say the least but the worst part is his screaming.  He screams over everything.  If you asked those in my life, they would tell you that DD has pushed DS to the brink.  To show her, I once videotaped them in secret and played it back to her.  She was shocked at how badly she treated him (this was a year or so ago).  She threw a huge ball in his face, she took anything he was holding, he would speak to her and she would ignore him and this kind of thing would go on until he exploded.  It isn't one sided, and I do wonder why he is so obviously frustrated with her, it has been an extremely tough battle because they both add something to the mix.  I don't know how to fix it... DD, being older, is getting better with him.  He is great when she is not around.  I'm not blaming her, I'm not suggesting she "asks for it" and I'm not going to pull the line that the victim of aggression deserves it or any of that... I'm saying that together it is a really stressful mix.  I can't keep them apart for obvious reasons, but holy cow how I'd love to.

 

I did one month of Aware Parenting counselling over this, which was about helping him release his big emotions etc but it didn't help.  The main reason is I find it difficult to help him release at every outburst, as they are so frequent and he just tells me to "go away, I'm going to get lost" and walks away like the whole world is against him.  

 

I'm not sure what my question is anymore... but I'm fairly convinced I will be seeing an OT about this.  I've had secret concerns over him since he was a baby.  My mother is very anti-diagnosis, so I took it as a huge sign when she said, "that screaming is not normal, you need to sort this out".  But what she means is, I need to start punishing/hitting/disciplining him as she puts down his whole thing to my parenting (and yay, hasn't THAT helped).  Yet, I parented DD the same non-punitive way and she is not a lunatic. I don't believe this needs punishing, I think it needs something else.  I don't believe in punishment.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#17 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 12:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I must admit, one of my hesitations with seeing a professional is that they will be mainstream and give me unhelpful advice.  I asked my doctor for a referral to get some tests as I wondered about aspergers or allergy or something, but she said, "Oh you don't need that.  He's fine. He just needs some behaviour management, like time out and so on." I mean, she judged him in five minutes as being "fine", and then suggested time out?  That is typical, and I'm growing weary of it.  I'm sick of the pendulum of feeling that I'm not doing enough for him yet then being told I'm over-analysing and jumping to the worst conclusion.  I can't win. 

 

I want some radical who is like Alfie Kohn or Lawrence Cohen who see children as whole humans, not as dogs that need training.  

 

Edited to put pics of them in... just to make them more than words on a page, and cos I think they're so gorgeous, a facebook album.


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#18 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 03:40 AM
 
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I just wanted to say that I can really sympathize. My daughter is like that in a lot of ways, complete with hurting an older sibling, although he's only 18 months older than her. We did finally end up getting a diagnosis for her, and it's helped so much. Hang in there until you get professional advice that helps- we went through 2 counselors before we found one that stuck.

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#19 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 05:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Calm View Post

I must admit, one of my hesitations with seeing a professional is that they will be mainstream and give me unhelpful advice.  I asked my doctor for a referral to get some tests as I wondered about aspergers or allergy or something, but she said, "Oh you don't need that.  He's fine. He just needs some behaviour management, like time out and so on." I mean, she judged him in five minutes as being "fine", and then suggested time out?  That is typical, and I'm growing weary of it.  I'm sick of the pendulum of feeling that I'm not doing enough for him yet then being told I'm over-analysing and jumping to the worst conclusion.  I can't win. 

 

I want some radical who is like Alfie Kohn or Lawrence Cohen who see children as whole humans, not as dogs that need training.  

 

Edited to put pics of them in... just to make them more than words on a page, and cos I think they're so gorgeous, a facebook album.



I understand that Alfie Kohn and things like that sound good in theory but it just does not sound like that approach to discipline (or life) is working for your family.  At all.  Every kid is different, every dynamic is different and our ideals don't always match the children we actually HAVE.

 

I have a LOT of questions - how is their sleep, how is their diet, how much time do they get outside to be kind of "wild" and get all the energy out?  Do they have time apart?  Does your daughter regularly get to go somewhere and be with other kids (classes, clubs, anything)?  Appropriate sleep, nutrition, and exercise can at least give them a good start.  Time apart would help them break up this dynamic they have together.  Do you keep them busy?  Do you have things set up for them to do at the same time, but not necessarily together?  When she takes things from him, do you call her on it calmly and make her return it?  When he hits his sister, what do you do?  Do you tell him if he hits he can't play with her and redirect him to something else, while paying attention to HER and not giving HIM a big reaction?  Have you given her words to use instead of just a big screaming reaction?  Have you told her to say NO, you can not hit me and walk away?

 

We have a similar dynamic with my daughter and my two nieces (we are all together a LOT and often I'm the only adult) and I've found some things that work.  It's not perfect but it's so much better and I know it's not at all the same as siblings, but it was really difficult there for awhile. 

 

When my daughter was young, I really liked the idea of a go-with-the-flow kind of life.  We would eat when we were hungry and sleep when we were tired and everyone would negotiate everything and we would all respect each other and I would NEVER say, "BECAUSE I SAID SO, THAT'S WHY" but...that does not work for my family.  At all.  We all end up  miserable.  In fact, my daughter NEEDS really routine sleep, food, rest, exercise, etc.  My life does not match my original parenting ideals but...those things were making my family miserable.  Sometimes you have to abandon your ideals for your real life because no matter how good a theory sounds or how much we want it to work, it does not work for our children - or at least, not in the way we envisioned.  I also always thought it would be better to let the kids work out their own differences and not hover but in practice, it's been better for me to get involved and give them words to say or even separate them if I have to.  They're still just children and they need guidance and examples.

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#20 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 07:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks to both of you.

 

I wouldn't say I have a philosophy or ideals or anything.  I parent as though they are people, I respect them and I treat them as I would anyone I care about.  When I've tried formulas, it doesn't work.  I found that there are certain authors or philosophies I resonate with, but it isn't about what suits my children, it is about what makes sense to me.  I can't abide punishment because it makes no sense.  I don't reward because it makes no sense.  I don't do these things to my husband or my mother, and I couldn't do them to my children.  I mentioned those authors because they are most like me.  I don't believe any philosophy fits any child completely... but I do believe that every child fits being respected and simply treated like any other person, not like a dog that needs training.  I find all training or behaviour focused approaches to be disrespectful of any person, whether adult or child.  I believe all behaviour has an underlying emotion or issue... it's just applying it takes much more time and energy than I have.  I wouldn't get anything else done, as DS is so tightly wound.

 

A large part of the problem might be that I am not in the mix enough.  They go out on the trampoline for instance and I should be near them to guide them but I'm usually upstairs doing dishes or something.  I find I can't do it all, esp with a house with stairs that makes getting to them every single time difficult.  Good questions though, and I could probably answer them by listing them:

 

 

 

Quote:
I have a LOT of questions - how is their sleep

Excellent.  My son still cosleeps but he is solid all night.  My daughter has her own room and has mentioned waking in the middle of the night recently but then I woke her early for a couple of days and reset her body clock, and she slept through again.

 

 

 

Quote:

how is their diet

Excellent.  They eat a ton of raw food.  They prefer it.  They eat some cooked food, but they just want simple stuff.  My son only finished bfing a few months ago.  If I cook, they are less likely to eat.  Recently DS got worse for two days (hence coming back to this thread!) and I couldn't figure the cause.  I then noticed a juice I bought had preservatives in it and he had just drunk the whole lot over a period of 24 hours.  I am very careful about that kind of thing but I messed up that time because it was fresh squeezed orange juice with pulp so I was fooled.  Today he was better.  As their diet is so good, I believe small things like that are more easily noticed in them.  

 

 

Quote:
how much time do they get outside to be kind of "wild" and get all the energy out?

Outside every day, but I'm not sure anywhere is appropriate for the kind of screaming my son does.  The neighbours have actually yelled over the fence several times.  One of them asked me if he was autistic.  

 

 

Quote:
  Do they have time apart?

When my daughter was at school, yes.  Not so much anymore.  I would like my son to have his own "space", like DD does.  I think it is time for him to have a place to retreat to.  We don't have a third room spare, but I am considering some kind of corner for him, that will be only his.  Actually, that is an idea I got out of a book, so I guess now and again I take some ideas like that.  My days with him while DD was at school were easier.

 

 

 

Quote:
Does your daughter regularly get to go somewhere and be with other kids (classes, clubs, anything)?

We are part of a couple of homeschooling groups.  Twice a week we are social.  It is smoothing out now, it took a while to get a social situation working.  I think she needs to have friends over more often.

 

 

Quote:
Do you keep them busy?

No.  I have to interrupt their play to get them to do anything with me.  

 

 

Quote:
  Do you have things set up for them to do at the same time, but not necessarily together?

As a homeschooler, I find this a tough challenge.  I need more one on one time with DD but DS is difficult to occupy.  Once he can use a computer mouse it will be easier but at the moment, I feel like I get a whole lot of nothing achieved most days.  

 

 

 

Quote:
When she takes things from him, do you call her on it calmly and make her return it?

Yes.  Although, I see perhaps 10% of them.

 

 

Quote:
  When he hits his sister, what do you do?

I hold DD and sympathise and if she is upset, I offer to fix it in some way.  I have done various things like ask DS to fix it, and he will then kiss her, say sorry or get her a bandaid or just say no and walk away.  I don't force that, I just ask if he would like to make amends.  I have also asked him why he did it... he doesn't seem to understand the question.  So I help him with words (frustrated?  Can't get the words you need?  etc)  I tell him it hurts to be hit, and it isn't ok to hit her.  I offer for him to get "feelings out" and 50% of the time he takes me up on it and has a cry or scream on my lap, or just sits and looks at me or tries to play it out - I make hand puppets and they play out the scene.  I find after a session like that, he is great for the rest of the day, so I try to initiate those but it doesn't always happen.

 

 

Quote:
Have you given her words to use instead of just a big screaming reaction?

Yes, but he doesn't listen.  This whole defiance thing I was warned about is really strong in this boy.  She needs to act.  Your advice about her walking away is probably the best thing for her as listening is not his strong suit.  Or, perhaps he listens but he does not like to do anything she asks, in fact, if she says "don't touch your nose", he touches his nose.  He really does NOT get negation.  Come to think of it, I should help her formulate her sentences in the positive the way I learned to, and avoid the word "don't", because he only hears the rest of the sentence ("don't put toilet rolls in the toilet" to him means "put ALL the toilet rolls into the toilet", for instance).  He actually used to come to me really happy and say, "MAMA!  I put the toilet rolls in the toilet!" as though I asked him to... he seemed so confused and devastated when I wasn't happy and told him "Please, DON'T put the toilet rolls in the toilet, it is making mama sad."  but he would do it anyway (if he got a hold of one, as we ended up hiding them)... it is mind boggling, and I struggled to find a way to phrase it.  I ended up saying, "leave the toilet rolls on the holder".  He hasn't done it since.  

 

 

Quote:
  Have you told her to say NO, you can not hit me and walk away?

As a matter of fact I really stressed this point tonight at dinner.  I told her that she can't "forget" anymore, as she is being tormented and she can't just accept that.  If she decides it isn't a big deal, whatever he is doing, then fine... but if she finds what he is doing to be stressful, she needs to tell him and then walk away.  I really think if she can remember to do that he won't risk pushing her away like he does now.  I made it a big point, in an effort to not only restate my support for her but to encourage her to use her personal power.  

 

Essentially, if I am right there, at all times, things are ok.  If I can step in at all issues, things are ok.  Perhaps I'm expecting too much to think they can play together alone yet?  

 

Natalie, may I ask what the diagnosis was?  What is the treatment, or steps, that you do now?


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#21 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 09:54 AM
 
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Remember that it is as important for your daughter to know it is not okay for her to be hit and you will protect her, as it is for your son to learn not to hit. I would respond with a consequence for him, and/or by displaying anger toward him and protective behaviour toward her. I have been on the end of this wherein I was the mother of the girls who were targeted randomly by aggressive boys, and the mothers IMO were too passive and overly concerned with his feelings, and underconcerned wiht my daughters' experiences and their feelings. She doesn't just need empathy, she needs protection. And he will survive learning that hitting is NOT allowed and will result in negative consequences, that he will be stopped and punished for it (the lightest punishment that is effective, even a firm 'No that is NOT allowed' or a timeout or removal of a favoured toy.

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#22 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 10:03 AM
 
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A few random ideas I'll shoot out here... Have you tried any elimination diets, like gf/cf/sf, feingold's, scd? I found my dd(and me too) have a issue with gluten and pasteurized dairy, we're also soy free, hfcs/trans-fat/preservative free, and working towards sugar free. Have you tried magnesium supplements? Getting him tested to see if his vitamin/mineral levels are where they should be? Have you considered the possibility of sensory issues? I'm hoping you're looking into counseling for the entire family, but especially for both of your children.

 

Here is a checklist for sensory processing disorder, you may want to take a look at it or possibly mention it to your doctor and have your ds evaluated. Best of luck.

http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-processing-disorder-checklist.html

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#23 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 10:16 AM
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This sounds really frustrating. You say that you're a gentle family and don't think either rewards or punishments are OK.  However, you're considering allowing your daughter to retaliate (by which you mean hitting back?).  It seems to me that if you want to keep continue being as non-violent as possible, using time-out is a much better path than letting your daughter hurt your son back. 

 

Also, you said that you don't do punishments or rewards to your kids because you wouldn't do them to your husband or your mother. That's just not true. We punish and reward other adults all day long, it's just that the punishments and rewards are different than stickers or toys or time outs because those don't work for adults. When I get mad at someone for saying something really offensive, I walk away mid-conversation, that's a punishment. When my boss gets mad at me for screwing up, she fires me (not really, hasn't happened, but it could!), that's a punishment. When my exhusband used to be really helpful and sweet, I would make him his favorite dinner, that's a reward. When my friend is greatful for my support and bringing over food several times after a family death, she writes me a thank-you card with a little poem about friendship, that's a reward.   All these small daily rewards and punishments shape our behavior throughout our lives. I wouldn't go to work every day if I wasn't rewarded with a paycheck, I just don't like my job well enough to do that!

 

I think your options are 1) allow your son to continue hurting your daughter and for her to drift farther and farther away from you, resentful that you won't protect her, or 2) implement discipline that involves rewards and punishments. You might want to read "123 Magic," it works like a charm with my son. Another option is taking your son to a behavior therapist and getting some parent training for yourself.

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#24 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 10:30 AM
 
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My son, who is now 7, went through an aggressive period from about ages 2-5. In his case, there was some obvious trauma where it made sense that he was doing that. Here's what worked for me:

 

1) Play therapy. He had a great playtherapist who also used EMDR. She was really cool and understood my parenting. 

 

2) Feingold diet. It was challenging to do it as my son loves fruit and you have to cut out salicates (sp?). 

 

3) I used the Nurtured Heart Approach-Parenting the Challenging Child by Howard Glasser. He talks a lot about the parent as toy concept that you mention. When they find they push buttons they keep pushing them. The techniques were not ones I would have been drawn towards normally--but it was an extreme situation that needed to be dealt with. I modified it some. It is about noticing and commenting (praising!) the good things and energizing them. I wasn't totally anti-praise like some folks around here but it was certainly more than I would normally do.He really loves praise. I look at it like his love language is "words of affirmation".  If that is a child's love language and they are in a family that doesn't believe in praise that seems unfortunate. I think there is a way to do meaningful praise that is directed at the very heart of a child. (I think the book is for older children but you can apply some of it.)

 

I did 2 & 3 at the same time because I was desperate. So I'm not totally sure what had the most effect, but he was a different child in about two weeks. Calmer and able to control himself. 

 

Not saying this will work for your child--it is very individual. My son still requires more from me as a parent--he keeps me on my toes but things are good now. 

 

I do think what you describe is out of the "norm" in terms of the extremity. There are professionals out there that are respectful of parents and can help. It can be really tricky to tease out what is going on. There is a tendency to over diagnose SPD and you can drop thousands on OT--most of which isn't rocket science. I do find evaluations helpful though--it is information. I've found great people for both my kids but it took some time. 

 

It is hard as parents when things don't go as we intend. It raises questions about what we are doing wrong, etc. I find I have much more compassion for parents of challenging children now. We tend to blame the parents when a child is acting out. Parents certainly have to look for answers but some kids are SO MUCH MORE than other kids that people don't understand. Things that work with other kids (like that nice rational discussion about why hitting is bad) won't work with all kids. Anyway, you may have to change some of your parenting beliefs because he may need you to respond differently. 

 

And one thing will probably not "fix" this issue. You have to try different approaches and it is ongoing. Good luck. I feel for you, I really do. 

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#25 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 10:33 AM
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2) implement discipline that involves rewards and punishments. You might want to read "123 Magic," it works like a charm with my son.

 

Total thread jack, but thanks for the book recommendation.  I was just reading some threads looking for book recommendations for a gentle discipline tactic that involves rewards and punishments in addition to natural consequences.  This might be the ticket.

 

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#26 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 10:43 AM
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You're welcome!  I think it's a good book but to be honest probably needs supplementing with other books, for example I'm pretty sure it doesn't go over how to do sticker charts.

 

My favorite technique for my 2.5 year old is the Either/Or:  "Either you can put on your jacket yourself or I'll do it for you" and of course he wants to do everything himself and so he happily does it. You can apply this to everything in toddler-land, I swear.

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#27 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 11:30 AM
 
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Okay, a few thoughts, not in order:

 

1) A lot of what you describe in *both* of your kids speaks to me of sensory issues.   Both sensory avoiding (noise) and sensory seeking (hitting and making noise).    I think your idea of consulting with an OT is a good one -- we had OT evaluation through school when my DS was 7, and it was really a good thing.

 

2) My sensory kid was the one who made liars out of a lot of GD experts.   NOT in the "GD is wrong and doesn't work" way, but just that some of the commonest GD techniques recommended across the GD board simply were not right for him.   Everyone says "Oh, you just have to tell them X," or "Oh, if you do Y, they'll get it."  Nope.

 

3)  In general, we figured out that we were talking far too much.   Talking so much was simply overwhelming to him, especially when he was getting overwhelmed with sensory and emotional input and on the verge of flpping out.   We had to pick one message and shorten it drastically to get it through.   In the heat of the moment, explaining and justifying and explaining made things worse, and prevented the important message from getting through.  ("You must stay away from the swings!"  worked better than "Oh, honey, if you walk so close to teh swings the girl who is swinging will kick you in the head and that will hurt and you will be sad and she will be sad that she hurt you so you can't play so close to the swings when a person is swinging, please."

 

4) Playful parenting techniques infuriated him.   If he was having a serious or difficult moment, trying to distract him with games or jolly him out of it wtih sillyness was percieved, I think, as insulting and condescending.   BOTH my kids hated just about all Playful Parenting tactics, and made this very clear.  "NO LAUGHING AT ME MAMA!"

 

5) Too many choices were almost as bad as too many words.  Yes, we wanted to respect his wishes and give him as much autonomy as was age appropriate.   However, overwhelming him with options when he was already feeling overwhelmed with incoming sensations was really upsetting to him.  

 

6) You say your DS doesn't get negation -- it's good you noticed that.  My DS could not really process "if - then" statements at that age, so all the advice to "Tell him if he holds your hand then he can walk" and things like that?  Totally inappropriate.  His brain wasn't holding the idea of order of operations, of "first we do X, then we do Y," or "If we do X, then we can do Y."  And repeating messages like that over and over just made him more and more frustrated.

 

In general, some kids get really overwhelmed with a certain style of GD.   IT's not really developmentally appropriate to expect it of them, and they respond better as toddlers and preschoolers to a more parent-directed interaction, with a simple message and clear expectations/limits.   This doesn't mean ditching gentleness.  It doesn't mean spanking and timeouts and artificial consequences, or using shaming.     And a kid who doesnt' do well with discussion at age 3 or 4 can grow into it -- now that my kids are older,  we *do* talk things out, present alternatives, discuss reasoning, and all that.  And the kid who melted down if you tried multi-clause statements as a toddler?   Is the one willing to discuss and come to agreements now.


savithny, 42 year old moderate mom to DS Primo (age 12) and DD Secunda (age 9).

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#28 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 11:51 AM
 
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I read the whole thread and find a lot of it really alarming.  You need to intervene and set some boundaries.  Gentle discipline doesn't mean no discipline. I almost didn't respond because this hits home so much and I feel really triggered but I'll just say this- as the mother of a child who has permanent scars from a child who sounds a lot like your son- you absolutely need to address this now!  It sounds like he needs more structure and rules and most likely some professional help.  It sounds like you would all benefit from professional assistance.  It's not fair to the babies and your daughter and the other kids your son comes in contact with for him to be allowed to terrorize them.  We don't interact with the kid who hurt DD anymore and I am still livid at his parents for their laid back (gentle discipline= no discipline) approach to their aggressive son.  We don't hit or shame either, but we do indeed have boundaries, expectations, rules and discipline.  It doesn't have to be all or nothing and some children absolutely need to know boundaries.  I believe firmly that one child's right to express themselves ends where another child's safety and dignity begins.

 

I am also really, really concerned about the dog situation.  The entire thing is problematic, but the dog thing can be fixed.  If your son can't be kind to the dog, the dog needs a new home. 

 

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#29 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 12:22 PM
 
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This is hard stuff, but I think there are things you can do.  :)

 

We had similar issues when DS was young.  He has an SPD diagnosis.  He used to hit his sister a lot.  She tried retaliating, and it didn't work.  She was also a child, and so I didn't leave it to her to figure out - I protected her as much as I could.  I also recognized that sometimes she was kind of obnoxious to her brother because a) sibs do that, and b) she was fed up with being abused.

 

I would really recommend posting in the SN board or your tribe to get recommendations for a service provider and look at an EI evaluation.  Your family needs help learning strategies to help your son learn to self-regulate and manage his big emotions and reactions.  Yes, some service providers are "mainstream" but there are plenty who get attachment and GD.  Another point is that AP is about meeting a child's needs, and it sounds like your son needs external self-regulation (ie from a caring adult) because he hasn't developed those skills yet.

 

1-2-3 Magic is a difficult read as the author uses a circus animal analogy.  The gist is that kids need to know what to expect, and the counting is just giving them an opportunity to pause, think and decide their next move (not how the author would frame it, but how I believe it is).  With kids with impulse control issues, they need help to pause.  So it's rough the first week or so and the child does end up getting a number of time outs.(we did them together on the bottom step).  In not very long, I rarely got to "2." When the kids were a bit older, I'd flat out say to them "you know, if I have to start counting it means that you guys are not showing a lot of self-control and are being pretty unpleasant.  Could we regroup please and find a better way to be with family/friends/people at the library?"   1-2-3 doesn't have to be totalitarian if it's done with clear explanations and respectfulness.  We used 1-2-3 as a way to impose external self-regulation when a child needed it - kids are usually doing the best they can, and when they're not doing well, I think that they need help.  I wouldn't call the book a great go-to method as it really is about simple compliance as it's written - I think the method needs to be modified and fit within a larger array of strategies.

 

I like Kurcinka's Kids, Parents and Power Struggles.  I also like the Transforming the Difficult Child book.  I'm a big fan of When the Labels Don't Fit for the author's attention to the experience of parenting a complicated child.

 

I'm going to repeat this as I think it's really important - AP and GD are about meeting a child's needs, and meeting a child where they're at.  Many books are written thinking of the typical child who is not regularly overwhelmed by what's going on inside them and what is going on around them.  When you're dealing with a child who's highly reactive and often unregulated, you need to help them regulate before you can expect them to be "rational" or "thoughtful." The skills are in how they, as an individual, need you to help them regulate while they develop the skills to do it themselves.  Allowing a child to be perpetually unregulated is unkind, IMO.  And as they get bigger they are harder to influence, so staring early is wise.

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#30 of 66 Old 07-17-2011, 12:33 PM
 
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Originally Posted by joensally View Post

 

I'm going to repeat this as I think it's really important - AP and GD are about meeting a child's needs, and meeting a child where they're at.  Many books are written thinking of the typical child who is not regularly overwhelmed by what's going on inside them and what is going on around them.  When you're dealing with a child who's highly reactive and often unregulated, you need to help them regulate before you can expect them to be "rational" or "thoughtful." The skills are in how they, as an individual, need you to help them regulate while they develop the skills to do it themselves.  Allowing a child to be perpetually unregulated is unkind, IMO.  And as they get bigger they are harder to influence, so staring early is wise.


This is exactly my experience (and a much shorter, more succint version of much of what I said above).

 

With time, my son learned ways to check himself, to stop, take a moment, regroup, self-assess, and regulate.    You could see it happening -- he'd start down the slippery slope toward meltdown and then, suddenly, one of the things we worked on would kick in.  He'd take a deep breath.  He'd center himself.  He'd stop and rephrase.   

 

But that came after a lot of work and help from us.   

 

(We also found that 1-2-3 worked well to help cue him, to give him that "stop, wait" moment.   At school, his 2nd grade teacher worked out a nonverbal cueing system with him to help him realize he was doing something that needed stopping, so that she could make him aware before it got bad, without embarassing him in front of his peers.  It worked really well).

 


savithny, 42 year old moderate mom to DS Primo (age 12) and DD Secunda (age 9).

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