Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Over the Big Hill
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I could have written your post almost word for word 6 months ago. High needs from day 1, very physical, often in an aggressive way, biting, hitting, grabbing toys away - but also in love with life, very social and friendly, curious and affectionate. It sure is hard having the kid who is "more so" than anyone else's! No leisurely chats on park benches with friends while my ds played quietly in the sandbox - and I still can't say that happens too often. However, he's now nearly 3 1/2, and within the last few months he's gained quite a bit more self-control. He hasn't bitten in a long time, and rarely hits (first, anyway!) He's doing better with sharing toys, though I tend to think parents (myself included) expect our kids to be better at sharing than they are developmentally ready for - it will come, never fear. Though my son was quite verbal fairly early, as he grows older I realize that his precocious language skills led me to believe he was understanding more than he actually was. Now I can see how much better he is able to express himself through words rather than actions, and the positive effect this has on his behavior. So although "just give it time" is cold comfort when you are in the midst of such a hard struggle, I do want to reassure you that there is nothing in what you describe that sounds as if your ds won't grow out of these behaviors.
I tried to do what Khrisday suggests - one warning and we're outta here. By and large that worked quite well, though it took repeated incidents before the message got through. Sometimes when he's starting to act out I remind him "remember that time we had to leave because you..." and he often settles down. I've also done what you have and kind of over-reacted out of frustration (the shovel incident) so I try very hard to think before I say no to him or to set a limit I'm then sorry about. But when you are so concerned about how other parents will view your child it's understandable to jump too quickly sometimes - hey, we're only human! I generally take ds home if he hurts someone or disobeys in a major way, otherwise I try to help him correct his misbehavior.
And I think Alexa is right that a drop-in place won't have the investment or tolerance to cope with problems, so for now I'd avoid such places. It also sounds as if your ds is telling you he just isn't ready for separation from you, much less with strangers. My son seemed as if he'd never leave my side, much less my lap! I ignored all the well-meaning advice to leave him anyway for his own good, and took my cues from him. He was fine with "mommy and me" type programs (though again I really had to ride herd on him around the other kids); a few months ago I enrolled him in a weekly class where parents could wait outside for the kids and were permitted to go in if the child was having trouble, though this wasn't encouraged. We'd gone to a preview class a few weeks before so the environment was somewhat familiar. Well, wouldn't you know he went off with the teacher and never looked back at me (kind of sad, but great too). I really think this was because I'd allowed him to stay close to me till he'd "internalized" me enough to feel my presence even when I'm not right with him. Perhaps your local Y has some classes like this you could check out to try this approach.
As far as other parents go, this is so hard to cope with. It sure isn't easy worrying that everyone thinks you are a bad parent and that they don't like your child. I dealt with this as best I could by making sure I showed GREAT concern about my friends' kids if my ds hurt them, even accidentally, and not tolerating negative actions toward them. In general this really helped; when it didn't it often seemed as if those parents didn't understand difficult kids very well - but you know what, some of their kids are now showing problematic behavior at older ages. So no one escapes - you are just dealing with it earlier than many others!
Please don't give up on AP! I truly believe that even if you can't see the payoffs now, it will all come back to roost later. Perhaps your ds isn't as easy as other people's kids, but it sure sounds as if he has the capability of being extremely loving, creative, and a continuing source of delight to you (even if he sure keeps you on your toes). I will bet your relationship with him will be much closer and more mutually satisfying than it would have been had you not practiced AP. You'll get to that point, believe me - and come back and tell us when you do!
((((())))) Hugs to you! You're a good mama.