My oldest dd is almost 6. She has 2 younger sibs, ds is 4 & dd2 is 1 and I have 1 on the way-I'm due in December. I am fa-reaking out because dd1 drives me crazy. I know it sounds awful, but I just need to vent. She *can be* the sweetest, most helpful, loving little girl, but then it's like a switch goes on and she becomes defiant and hits her sibs, calls us/them stupid (we do NOT talk this way here!!), she'll say any thing that she can think of that will offend us or hurt our feelings, she sometimes has huge tantrums, wailing and screaming/crying if she accidentaly gets hit/pushed/slips/falls, whatever. She totally over reacts. My first thing would be to say it's an attention thing, but I have 2 other children with one on the way and am firmly committed to homeschool. So I'm not sure how to give her any more attention than she already gets. This seems to have started when her youngest sib was born, her little sis...she became jealous and for the last 18 months it just has continued. Please help me. I feel hopeless and helpless. We've tried everything. I've lost my temper and so has my husband out of frustration, and obviously yelling doesn't work, nor is it healthy. We've tried reward systems, talking calmly, telling her to take a time out to calm down...it just keeps cycling. Our 'school' last year (K) wasn't very structured and she is a very structured girl. That might be part of it, so maybe I need to structure things more as far as home/school. Any ideas are welcome. I'm at my wits end. I would like to send her to a school just so I get some peace in the home during the day and I know that sounds AWFUL. I hate feeling like that but I am overwhelmed. Help me get it together! I want to be happy again as a mom and want peace in our home!!!
since 7/02 :
I have a 5 year old DS with a very intense personality and I can so relate to how you are feeling! I am often taken aback by how quickly things can change... it really is like a switch that get flipped on and off. I don't have any brilliant ideas but I can say that having sensory activities in the mix really seems to help de-escalate situations and also prevent upsets. For instance, we have a few big containers of dry beans, rice, etc. and DS finds playing with (and sometimes in!) the bins very calming and entertaining. We have also been making an effort to notice and acknowledge DS when we see him communicating needs appropriately, using self-control, etc. We had gotten into a pattern of simply reacting to the instances of challenging behavior/emotions and giving that a lot of our attention. This new approach has been helping tremendously.
I am also thinking about adding more structure to our day, and have wondered if DS gets bored and needs more learn-y stuff to work on. I actually came to this forum to get some curriculum ideas.
Good luck to you! I know how hard it can be.
We DID send our (then) almost 4 year old to preschool because of his aggression to our little one. Although it was a good school (Reggio Emelia,) it broke my heart to leave him there. After 2.5 months we figured it all out and were able to stop sending him. Well, the problems had gone on for about a year before we figured it out, but he was only in preschool for about 2.5 months.
Yes, a lot of it was about attention. We got help from a local parent education center AND in home therapy. We thought the problem stemmed from our abrupt adoption of a newborn. We were sitting on a bench, got a phone call, and less than 4.5 hours later I was nursing our new daughter. Although we knew we wanted to adopt, we didn't tell our 31 month old because we weren't sure if it would happen or not. So, from his perspective it was a normal day then all of a sudden Mom and Dad leave, then Dad comes home and says Mom is taking care of a baby.
Anyway, when he was just shy of three and we had just finalized the adoption, he became HORRIBLE. I would wake up in the morning and think how much I had once loved him and how he was now the enemy.
Fast forward about 9 or 10 months...
What initially worked best was to ignore him. If he started hitting or shaking the baby, I would CALMLY pick her up and CALMLY say, "When you are ready to play gently, let me know," and I would CALMLY walk away. By not over-reacting, it defused him. However, it didn't stop it altogether. What I started doing was, whenever he would be aggressive, I would take him into the bathroom...he was usually kicking and screaming and I tried to be as CALM as I could. Then I would block the bathroom door and tell him he could leave as soon as he could play gentle with the baby. He would head butt me, hit me, scream, kick, try and get past me, etc. It was awful and I hated blocking his way, but I was desperate. I totally did not react to all the physical stuff he was doing to me. I would just randomly say, in a CALM voice, "When you are ready to play gentle with the baby, you can leave." Eventually he would say he was and I'd move out of his way and he would be gentle. This only took a few days to be effective. I HATED doing it, but nothing else had worked. I have since talked to another mom and she said she did the same thing and it worked.We have not had any problems with aggression, beyond fairly normal stuff, since.
When he was a bit older, we had a lot of problems with him whining. It was awful and enough to drive everyone up the wall. After talking with the parenting education center, I sat him down and told him. "From now on, when you whine, my ears will get turned off. As long as you are whining, I will not be able to hear you. When you talk in your normal voice, I will be able to hear you." As soon as he started whining, I made a motion near my ear as if I was turning off a switch and looked away from him. The whining, begging, pleading, etc. really escalated. It was so hard to ignore him. "Please Mommy, I need you to listen to me." In an awful whiny voice. As soon as he said anything that was reasonably normal I responded. He still escalated the whining for a couple days. By about the third day he pretty much stopped it. He randomly gets whiny from time to time, as many kids do, but all I have to do is tell him I am going to turn off my ears and he talks in a normal voice.
I wish being gentle was enough to take care of the problems, but they weren't. Although I hardly had to do anything draconian, I did have to do some persistent non-attention giving to break the cycle. The woman at the parent education center said children are starved for attention. If, in their minds the only way they can get attention is through negative behaviors, that is what they will do. I am very attentive to my kids (and I only have two,) but for him I wasn't attentive enough.
I hope this helps.
Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, and cane sugar free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it. See me at
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If you feel like it is an attention issue then homeschooling may be just the trick. My DS gets edgy when he isn't getting enough attention and when we started working every day on a preschool activity book things really evened out. Now we have set one-on-one time every day and his behavior is much better. He's also not as whiney and I don't have to hear "Hey Mom," a zillion times a day.
Something that helped even more was pulling cartoons. We used to keep them on all day and he would watch a little, play a lot, watch a little more. It was rare for him to watch a full 30 minute cartoon, so I thought it wasn't a problem. After a while he started acting out a lot and getting violent and when I pulled cartoons that stopped abruptly.
This fall we're starting Sonlight's K program and it requires an hour and a half to two hours. If you could distract the other two with a nap or DH while you had focused one on one school time that might go even further.
Ds1 (7) has always been really demanding, whiney, intense, etc. All those things everyone else has mentioned, basically! It helps enormously to be very structured with him. This is hard for me, because the rest of our family is more go-with-the-flow. However, structure, persistence and consistency have definitely been key in our homeschooling career with him thus far. He has a schedule of 'schooly' things that he is to do each day, first thing in the morning. We do reading at night. Always. If we deviate from the schedule, conflict is pretty much guaranteed. I can also guarantee that there will be conflict when we start the new "school" schedule come fall, but that's just how it is; every new thing is a huge hurdle initially, but as long as I am consistent in implementing it, eventually all will be well.
I've also learned that ds1 is not great at handling free time at this point. Even though my other two kids do just great at finding their own activities to do when there is nothing "scheduled," ds does better with me giving him a few choices of activities and then telling him that he has to pick one. (e.g., Ds: "I'm bored" Me: "Okay. You can choose between doing 10 mazes in your maze book, building a Keva Plank tower, or reading your Transformer book for 15 minutes"). 90% of the time, he will end up happily doing whichever activity he picks for significantly longer than I mandated (but there is generally grumbling before that).
I also have a strongwilled 5 1/2 year old daughter. We homeschool her older brother and are planning to partially homeschool her this year (she wants to go to half day kindy with her friends). I've found that volatile situations are best diffused when I react calmly, show her that my demeanor is in my control, rather than being reactive to her. It also helps to direct her to an activity or situation that she can control. Sometimes I feel like her emotions are just too big for her and letting her know that I understand seems to help. Dismissing them as overreactions (as much as they seem to be) only amplifies the situation. Good luck!
BTW, partially homeschooling is an option. We are sending her to 1/2 day kindy 4 days/week. We have a homeschool co-op on the fifth day. I am looking at it as her chance to be independent and enjoy spending time with friends. During that time, I'll be able to focus more on my oldest, so when she gets home, I can spend more time with her. It's about quality time, not quantity time!
We are living PARALLEL LIVES, mama! I also have a 4 yo, 20 month old, and am due in December. I also have a 9 y.o. I thought it was MIDDLE CHILD syndrome, but I guess not, given that yours is a 1st born.
The overreaction is ongoing here-- usually her. Also teasing. Not so much aggression, but I sort of put teasing into that category in some ways. Today I was getting ready to take everyone to the zoo and told everyone to pick up the books that were in the LR (not that many at all). Her sisters did it w/o any problems, but she had a breakdown about it. I was very annoyed. She was mad because I had stopped her from listening to a song on her Nook to have to do it, so spent the next 20 minutes wailing at the top of her lungs. My 4 yo said she had to go to another room because of the noise. She feels like she gets the short end of the stick ALWAYS. ALWAYS.
She was in KG last yr-- her choice. I thought it would solve things. My mom thought it would help her get her own sense of identity. In a way, she did like school. She, like your DD, loves structure (oldest DD HATES it). She needs it. It did not solve anything, though. In fact, she often did not want to go. Made up many symptoms to stay home (that disappeared after an hour). Went into see the school nurse more times than I know-- finally they stopped sending her. We even had an CT scan done on her because of her headaches . . .she even got glasses (did not really need them, but the dr said since she complained so much, why not-- complaints continued). No more complaints about anything like that a few weeks into summer vacation.
I understand what MathMomma says about not dismissing. That seems to be the right thing, but it is just SO CONSTANT.
Oh, and minus refusing to participate in the school assembly (though she loved to be in the musical camp in the summer-- loved to perform there), she was a model student at school. Did her best, got "into" the projects, told us all about what they were learning, etc. So different from my oldest (oldest tries to find a loophole in everything). This is what makes me so unsure about next year. It was awful having one in school and one out-- I felt like our whole day was scheduled around pickup/drop-off times, and bad for my oldest who was still hs'd. Need to make a decision about this yr-- either both in school or both out.
The only thing that helps is going out. She is almost always OK out. I have not been myself since being PG (more tired than I've ever been and STILL dealing with dumb morning sickness), so we have not been going out as much as I think we should. Oh, and our pool. We have a small one, but the kids have so much fun making up games and get all of their energy out that way. Once the bad weather comes (and the baby), then what? Also, I think my kids REALLY need more friends.
ETA a few more things. IF we homeschool, we are making a long trek once a week to a co-op. It is mostly secular and a good combo of academic and enrichment things, like knitting, Japanese, critical thinking, etc. So that we will be one structured day. Not sure how it will be to make a long drive in the winter witha newborn . . .ugh. Also going to do little things like Campfire Girls, and swimming. That will be a little structure and meeting more people. There are definitely more options for 6 y.o.s than 5 y.o.s!
2/02, 4/05, 2/07, 11/09, and EDD 12/25/11
My 5.5 yr old is very similar to yours.
But, in our house -- the 5-6 yr old thing has been challenging for each child. Not exactly in the same way, but holy cow I really don't like "6". Of my 3 kids, this last one is the hardest for me (and she is yet to be six--which is why I said 5-6). I think she is the hardest because she is flat out stubborn on top of every thing else.
For us, consistency has been the magic thing and eventually as they "grow out of it" your world will be nice again. Be firm in your expectations, follow through with consequences, and remember to say "thank you" when they do as you ask the first time. The people, that I've seen, who go extreme in trying to handle it(yelling/punishments OR overly doting/compensating) have a much longer challenge.
Mom to three very active girls Anna (15), Kayla (12), Maya (9).
My 5.5 year old is just like yours. He's always been intense, whiney, negative, etc. I love him to death, but he can drive me nuts! We asked if he wanted to go to school this year (he starts K), and he says he wants to stay home. I think he would be negative no matter what we chose, so we'd rather he be home. I'm glad to read the suggestions others have made.
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