Knowing what is normal and when to seek help. Can't handle my 3.5 yo - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 18 Old 05-06-2010, 01:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am in tears writing this. Her behavior is to a point where I am not sure if it appropriate and normal for a 3.5 year old. I do not have a lot of time to expand right now - I will be back later but DD is very physically violent.

Even when she is in a good mood, she'll walk by the cat and kick it as hard as she can

She kicked her friend in the face and gave her a bloody nose b/c her friend would not give her the baby doll when she demanded

She'll come up behind me and push me - for no reason.

I dread going ANYWHERE with her, she cannot handle transitions, even with warning, role=playing before the event, etc.

Walking by a table or surface she will project her arm out and sweep everything onto the floor. Keeps on walking -doesn't even acknowledge the mess/breakage/reaction.

When she's in a good mood, I cherish every second of it - since I know it is fleeting. She cannot handle the slightest 'no' or even telling her why something is like it is. We've tried giving her choices (brush teeth or jammies first) and we get a solid NO. She tells me she hates me on a consistent basis. She tells others she hates me on a consistent basis.

I know she is smart, I would not be surprise if she tests as gifted. She can handle very abstract concepts, her vocab is beyond expansive. She cannot handle any bit of authority - no matter how gentle. We've tried to provide safe opportunities for her to rage (screaming in a pillow, etc, but it seems like destruction is her favorite coping skill. She's destroyed more than a few things in the house when angry. She's rude to us, grandparents, strangers. Either that or she is shy to a point of mutism.

And then the clouds part on rare days. She acts more like she is 6, joking with us, strangers, pretty much acting like she is the poster child for good behavior. She could charm the socks off a snake on those days but they are getting fewer and fewer.

I've read some books, they all fit - kind of. 123-magic didn't work. raising your spirited child - not so much. I refuse to spank, tho a few times I know I have handled her a bit too rough. When it gets to where we are both too heated I have tried giving myself a time-out and locking the door to my bedroom. DD just kicks and kicks and screams and kicks the door and then proceeds to go break things.

I apologize if this is a bit disjointed. I have so many thoughts and questions in my head right now.

Other factors that may or may not be related to her behavior: she is a terrible sleeper - she sleepwalks, had night terrors, carries on full conversations, etc. She eats very healthy - no HFCS, dyes, junk in our house and when she does eat something we don't normally have (cake at birthdays, etc) it doesn't affect her behavior. There have been no major changes in our lives in the last 6 months.

help I love her with all my heart. I just don't like this relationship lately and I don't know anymore what is normal.

\m/

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#2 of 18 Old 05-06-2010, 02:52 PM
 
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Without knowing the home environment and life circumstances I can't say whether the behaviour is "nature or nurture" so to speak. I have definitely seen some child behaving like that and it has a large part to do with the parenting. That said, it definitely sounds like something is off. Can you get her involved in some type of early assessment? There are so many possibilities of what it could be (or it could just be behavioural) that I think seeking outside help would be the best course of action. While you wait for that appt I would recommend that you keep a daily journal log of her life. What she ate, how much she slept, any incidences that occurred, how long the tantrum lasted, was there anything that seemed to be the cause or was it just random, any methods tried to control the behaviour, etc. Be sure to include when she is in good moods as well. When you go to an assessment they are going to want all that information so it is better to already have it on hand. When my son was being assessed I already have 50 pages of documentation ready by the time I got to the appt and they were very appreciative (he ended up being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, separation anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder). Good luck and I hope you will seek some outside help.

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#3 of 18 Old 05-06-2010, 04:17 PM
 
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The first thing I'd suggest is a sleep study. If her sleep is off, her behavior will be off. I've seen quite a few cases of kids who've had dramatic turn arounds in their behavior once their sleep issues have been resolved.

I'd also suggest you seek a referral to a developmental pediatrician - IMO her intensity of behavior and tolerance for authority are not typical. It would be good to have a thorough evaluation to see where she is. That way you can figure out ways to work with her strengths and help her develop skills in new areas.

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#4 of 18 Old 05-06-2010, 04:48 PM
 
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Not a lot of time right now either, but a suggestion: The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. What I like about it is that he doesn't seem to think of children with these issues as a problem to be solved but as people who need to grow in certain abilities.

Here as mama to W (2/04), R (5/06), D (7/09), and J (12/9/12!), co-parenting with my DH

I WOH part-time, am a doula & childbirth educator, home/unschool, and hope we are nearing the center of chaos


 
  

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#5 of 18 Old 05-06-2010, 06:26 PM
 
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You REALLY described my youngest...he just turned 5. Yes he was absolute insanity with all the physically aggressive/destructive stuff, up til 4.5 yo. Not that he's 'great' now...but just not quite the level of 'insanity' At least he can be reasonable now - and channel it into really working with us (not just demolishing what we are trying to do) - if we give him something 'real' to do. (not busy work or little kiddie chores!)

Well in the past 10 min. he has walked by dd's knitting left out & riped/broke off the yarn - in passing - no reason, but stopped at that. He's destroying the box/packageing ds1 just got delivered - no big deal, just a mess & he grabbed a kitchen knife to really cut into the cardboard - but I let him & he's not mad at the moment, just being very energetic. He ran over to ds4 to see what he was looking at in a lego magazine....and ds4 was yelling stop! stop! You're going to rip it! I stepped that way with a general "Hey be nice guys." And that was enough to get him to jump up and run off (again, if he was actually mad about something he would have just grabbed and ripped - out of tension - and been even more upset after) In running past me, he extended his arm - hand in a fist - to swipe at my 7mth preggo belly. Not meanly - just how he is. I avoided the hit, wrapped an arm around his chest, rubbed/patted his back hard a second while rubbing my face in his hair. Then let him run off laughing. He probably bounced across the sofa - pounced on the dog next...I don't know. DH walked in & I sent them off to go do a job together. He has to be constantly engaged with someone - or there is trouble. (I have been out with him all day & only been in the house 30 min) Luckily there are 7 of us here...well 5 that can actually succesfully engage him for any length of time...but its taxing! He NEVER has any 'alone' time. He actually has some funny anxiety. He will not go to the bathroom or another part of the house by himself - ever! He says a bad guy could have sneaked in, and be blended in with the wall...and will stab him...(at least we always know what he's up to, since he wont be anywhere by himself!)

From 9-18 mths even he would: shove anything he could down the stairs to see it break, do the 'sweep everything off the table', if you were distracted but next to him he would get our attention by grabbing a glass to fling on the floor/climb the chair to start hitting & poking the comp screen/or run & turn on the tub faucet all the way....anything to get you to stop everything & get him RIGHT NOW! It worked LOL!

I feel very fortunate that he was the 5th kid. I was always zen-like enough about it all, that I never really tried to 'stop' his behaviors. I just felt he need my attention & calming energies. Or if he was just being completely playfully wild (and destructive!), someone needed to play rough & fling him around on the bed for a while! We never tried to get across to him that he was being 'bad'.
It really helped in that we didn't set up a dynamic where he would end up raging against me or us 'fighting' (He also nursed til 4.5yo - so I had that trump card!) If he fixates on something he wants, I do almost anything to make eveything a 'yes' to him - and a 'we're in this together' attitude all. the. time. But, I keep life really simple for him - being around stores/seeing things he'll want, even getting a treat at a restaurant...can be TORTURE to him. Because he'll just want everything....but yet never.be.satisfied. Even if you give him everything he asks for!

The bad mood, though, I think the way we keep him happy is that I stay really phsically & mentally connected to him ALL DAY - exausting! Even when I may not be 'liking' him much at the moment - I hold him and touch him and talk to him (better be looking right at him or he grabs/mauls your face!) tell him how great he is and truely 'be' with him. Until I can pass him off to someone else for a little break! He absolutlely can not stand it if he thinks you are 'upset' with him in any way. It makes him furious - not sad...that's what sets off the 'I hate you' and spewing venom/hitting & really trying to 'get you'.
SOOOOO.....we just really don't express to him that we are upset/disapointed with him. We stop him from stuff by suggesting something or engaging him without passing judgement. He knows what he was just doing/about to do is wrong...he just.can't.stop.himself. He often seems glad that I 'get' him and stop him - as long as I do it playfully/causually..if that makes sense. Sometimes we sit around talking out hypothetical 'situation' and how to act/handle them. And he flat out tells me the violent/destuctive action he would take..even with regret in his voice that he knows its wrong...but he also knows that's what he would end up doing...if I don't stop him....

But you can't tell him what to do at all or convince him he has to behave - ever, though you can be his ally/be on his side...if that makes sense....to gain cooperation. And yeah, he is scary smart! He's getting really quick with the come-backs! Other day in the car: he is DEMANDING to ds1 (17 yo) "TAKE IT!" and trying to hand him something. Ds1: "I. DON'T. WANT. IT." Repeat, repeat, repeat.... (strapped into carseat so he can't physically force it on him/hit him) So, ds4 age 8 says "You know, you can't MAKE someone take something if they don't want it." And without missing a beat ds5 (age 5) declares, "Oh yes you can, if you are a KING! NOW TAKE IT!!" LOL! That's just how he is - there hadn't even been any talk or play about 'kings' or anything. Actually, he doesn't play with toys much - just some cars/trucks/construction/army type play.

His pretend play is this alter-ego he created - called 'heavy man' that he turns into to deal with the big bad scary things of the world (he also has always done a mutism thing in public at times since he was really little...will actually wisper to me as we walk away 'I wont talk to him/her') Everyday he 'practices his punches' on Dad...who really plays it up. And we let him pummel the 2 teen boys - to some extent - but there is no way to get him to not hit at all. I think having a brother 3 years older, but just as small as him, and very mild & sensitive (can NOT play rough at all, very emotional...soooo sweet ) Showed him very early the bad out come of being aggresive to kids meaker/smaller than him. He does stop himself from actually 'hurting' other little kids & his brother. Though he will tease/antagonize for fun! He loves choas & comotion!

Your dd is probably a variation of 'normal'....just different, with different straingths, not necesarily a 'disorder' But an Eval can help you to help her. Get you guys in a different dynamic...and a little more age can help too!
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#6 of 18 Old 05-06-2010, 06:41 PM
 
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When my daughter was in Kindergarten, she had a girl like this in her class. We used to dread the bad days. She would get up during circle time and wipe the teacher's desk clear with the swipe of her arm.

By second grade she was throwing chairs across the room. By the end of second grade the school was calling the police to come catch her. The police would put her in the backseat of the car and wait for her parents. She usually would have meltdowns for an hour or so in the backseat before they could open the door.

It was always the topic of conversation at home. "Guess what K**** K*** did today?"

She didn't qulify for special needs in school. She was bright, but horribly disorganized in school. Her desk was separate from everybody else's because she couldn't keep her stuff from spilling all over the floor.

Her house was riddled with broken doors and holes in the wall because she would tear her house apart.

Her parents refused to use medication. FInally in fourth grade, they started with ADHD Meds, along with a behavior therapy class. By the end of fourth grade with the classes and a complete diet change, she was very likeable. We had her over a few times, and she was fine.

She only had the meds for one school year. The rest she's done herself by learning to think first then react. She said "if I think of it, it doesn't mean it's a good idea". LOL

She's going to be a senior in high school this year, and you'd never know she had these issues before. She still does stupid things, but they are normal teenage things. She's very, very happy.
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#7 of 18 Old 05-06-2010, 07:01 PM
 
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As others have said, it is hard to tell from your post whether your DD is normal or not. I've had days with my DD when I felt as frustrated and scared as you sound. My DD also has chronic sleep problems, and there is a profound difference in her behavior when she gets enough sleep versus when she doesn't. She is also gifted (FWIW).

When she first started acting out, we ignored it. It got to the point where we couldn't ignore it, so we started using time outs. That didn't help (and seemed to make things worse), so I started just holding her when she acted out. She seemed to like that better, but then it evolved into a contest to see whether she could still hurt me even when I was holding her in a tight, restrictive hug. Yes, she found she could. So we gave that up. I was at my wit's end when one day she got frustrated using my computer and threw it on the floor. I immediately said she couldn't use it again until she'd gone a whole day showing that she could control her negative impulses. It took a few weeks before she was allowed to use it, but since then acting out is incredibly rare, and usually mild and followed by an apology. It was like a miracle.

I really never thought I'd do that sort of thing, but I did, and it worked, and I can't regret it. I think the key is that I've always acted like I am on her side. I'm not punishing her; I'm just trying to protect my computer. I will say, "I know it's sad, but now you can't use the computer tomorrow." She'll cry, and then she'll resolve to try harder tomorrow so that she can use the computer the next day.

So that has been my experience. I really would have thought that she had ADHD (especially because her dad does), or some other impulse control problem, except that once in a while she'd raise her fist, pause, think, and then hit. So for her, it was really just about finding a reason to be nice, and unfortunately empathy wasn't enough. (FWIW, she is a very empathetic kid, but I think sometimes that works against her because once she's made a mistake she's so embarrassed that she can't admit that it was a mistake, so she feels she has to keep acting that way.) Now that she's out of the pattern she'd gotten into, she's much more pleasant to be around.

Anyway, good luck, and I hope this helps.
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#8 of 18 Old 05-06-2010, 10:48 PM
 
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I would get an evaluation. Developmental ped is a good idea and I would press for an OT eval too.
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#9 of 18 Old 05-07-2010, 02:23 AM
 
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It would concern me. Does she related better to male authority? I'm assuming she's not adopted?

I would do a sleep study first. I suspect there is something going on there and it may in fact be responsible for lots of what you're seeing. Even then she'll need to learn new ways but that's going to be easier rested. My son had a sleep study--let me know if you have questions.

I'd have a developmental pediatrician do an assessment. There will likely be a waiting list so start now.

The best thing I found parenting wise for my child was the Nurtured Heart Approach. His second book, All Children Flourishing is actually much better than the older one on Amazon that has so many good reviews--Transforming the Difficult Child. The older isn't written (edited particularly) as well and he's modified the approach a bit. Start with All Children Flourishing and then get the older via inter-library loan so you get the input on the credit system.

She may need something more but this is a good start.

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#10 of 18 Old 05-10-2010, 12:21 AM
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What you described is not in the normal range of behavior. You need to see a developmental pediatrician or a developmental psychologist.

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#11 of 18 Old 05-10-2010, 12:33 AM
 
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The whole time I was reading your post I kept thinking 'food'. I see you eat well, but if there is something in her diet that her body can't handle it could very well cause behavior AND sleep problems. Personally, I'd start with her diet. Someone mentioned a journal- I second that recommendation.

Best of luck to you.

~helen~ mama to 5 yo twins jonas and micah and my 2 yo baby boy eli
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#12 of 18 Old 05-10-2010, 04:48 PM
 
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I'd get an evaluation, a sleep study and a allergy test. My dd is a very sweet little girl, but give her soy and she acts out horribly. If you add in a sleep issue, I could see her doing what your dd is doing.

A friends daughter acts very much like your daughter and has the sleep issues as well. She reacts horribly to dyes and chocolate. She also doesn't seem to "see" other people that aren't her friends and takes simple actions (her brother and my son playing with cars and crashing them) as malicious (tried to gouge my sons eyes out for being mean to her brother.) She's becoming more "aware" and settling down now with the help of art therapy and hippotherapy.

Good luck to you and your daughter.

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#13 of 18 Old 05-10-2010, 07:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for taking the time to respond to my post. I tried changing a few things this weekend and have been seeing a marked difference.

5gifts - your post really resonated with me. DD has always been a very independent child so DP and I have pretty much figured that she is/has been fine playing solo and doing her own things. We were always there is she need but turns out we might have been very wrong and I think a lot of her behavior might be a cry for parental attention. We made sure to engage her all weekend and THERE WERE NO BEHAVIOR ISSUES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

she slept well all weekend too so I'm not sure if the behavior is causing sleep issue/vice-versa, or if there is a relation at all.

no5no5 - i really like the idea of hugs as a physical restraint when needed instead of a time-out. Next time DD is in her zone, I will be trying this with hope.

I am not adverse to seeking a professional opinion, DP is def. not on board with it, he thinks it is normal toddler behavior - but we both agree that physical violence to people or animals will not be tolerated in our house or lives.

I'm cautiously optimistic right now. I am crossing my fingers that we might be on a road to recovery. I am still worried about DDs objection to authority. If she thinks she is not in control she tends to flip out. I decided not to have a battle this morning and let her wear slippers to daycare instead of shoes. Now I wonder if letting seemingly small things slide is going to lead to even bigger problems down the road. I also know we cannot give her undivided attention all.the.time - both DP and I work out of home full-time and I am also in school half-time.

<<sigh>> it is so tough being a parent

ETA: sbgrace - I have noticed she does respond much better to male authority. I am curious as to why you ask. And she is our biological daughter so your assumption was correct

\m/

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#14 of 18 Old 05-10-2010, 08:15 PM
 
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That definitely sounds like it's in the abnormal range. It made me wonder, what does a typical day for her looks like? Who are her caretakers? How does she behave with others? When did her night terrors start?

In love with Dh since 1998. We created Ds (7.1.03), Dd (10.16.06) and Dd (3.16.09).
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#15 of 18 Old 05-11-2010, 01:55 PM
 
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Like others have said, seeing some sort of specialist seems like a good start to me. If you know what it is, then you can decide how to handle it. I have a nephew & a friend's son who have/had behavior issues. My nephew has ADHD & ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), & for my friend's son, it turns out he suffers from depression. Apparently, depression can manifest itself in children as anger/acting out. They both have opted for medication. My friend's son has had a MARKED change since he went on the anti-depressants. Obviously, this may not be what you do, but it is out there. Myself, I would try the dietary changes as well as seeing a specialist.

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#16 of 18 Old 05-11-2010, 04:12 PM
 
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Because it is pervasive, it does sound out of line with the 'typical' development of that age. I always said that 3 yr olds were the HARDEST age for me to parent, but their behaviours did not look like that other than on a situational, once in a blue moon basis.

An evaluation might help to give you great parenting and coping skills. It sounds potentially like oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder - google it.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/opp...CTION=symptoms
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#17 of 18 Old 05-11-2010, 05:26 PM
 
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I have to agree with several other posters that your DD's behavior does seem somewhat out of the more typical path of development. This does NOT mean that she is bound to have any sort of long range issue, just that something is amiss right now. One thing that struck me about your last post (aside from the good news that she had an excellent weekend!) was your mention that DP thinks this is normal "toddler" behavior... however, 3.5 is SOLIDLY in the "preschool" age range-- and although I (like others) found 3 to be a very hard age, I don't think that it is as normal to be violent and overly impulsive at that age as it is at, say, 2.

I'd very strongly suggest getting a sleep study done (your regular pediatrician can start that process). perhaps DP will be more likely to view that kind of help as acceptable since it is medical and not developmental/psychological/behavioral. My DH is a pediatrician and I'm a neuropsychologist, and we both see LOTS of kids who have sleep disorders that have a horrible impact on behavior.

good luck!
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#18 of 18 Old 05-16-2010, 11:39 PM
 
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I could have written your post one month ago. I have a 3.5 year old boy who was out of control a month ago. Dh and I also went back and forth many times as to whether or not his behavior was in the "normal" range. We read many books, talked to his pediatrician, tried cutting out sugar, dairy and food dyes. We also saw a therapist. Nothing worked until we saw a naturopathic doctor. It changed all of our lives. The wounds are still so fresh I am having a hard time writing this post. The naturopath told us she believed our son to have vaccine damage and a gluten intolerance. He was taken off gluten and started on a prescribed round of homeopathic remedies.
He is a different child. He sleeps at night. He climbs into my lap and tells me he loves me. He is much kinder to his younger brother. I am a SAHM and I used to call my dh on an almost daily basis in tears. I now enjoy the days with my two kids. If you are writing this post, I think your gut is telling you this behavior isn't normal. I can't stress enough how much happier we all are now. I would have never suspected a gluten intolerance. I really think if we had not figured this out my ds would have been labeled with ADHD or something worse down the road. Hang in there and feel free to PM me if you want more info.

Enjoying the journey into natural family living with my two sons and husband.
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