I'm really struggling with 4yo ds (turned 4 in may). I keep waiting for him to grow out of the irritating "toddler" stage (or irritating 3yo stage) but he's just.. not. Just seems to be evolving and getting worse. dd (now 6) started becoming noticeably much easier to get along with right around this age. I know, small study with a sample size of 2 ;) He often will hit his siblings or the cats, completely unprovoked. He has literally gone up to the cat while it was eating and stomped on his tail. He'll randomly smack the 20 mo in the car, and when told to stop, he says "but he has a messy face!" (or something equally illogical). And the spitting! Ugh!! He is constantly spitting at people. After hurting another person/cat, his response is often a gleeful "Thats what he gets!" At the slightest correction, or being told no "I won't let you hit your brother" or "No more juice, you can choose water or milk" he freaks out, screams, then immediately comes up with a threat. "then I'll...never eat or drink or sleep again!" but lately its been "Then I'LL KILL YOU!" If I'm approaching him to stop him doing something, he takes off running, laughing like he's having the time of his life. He often will, unprovoked, in a normal mood, just start doing something that seems like its specifically to annoy me or someone else. One thing off the top of my head, I got a diaper ready for his wiggly toddler brother, trifolding the prefold and laying it in the new diaper. Then I go to catch the toddler and carry him to where the diaper is, and 4yo ds has grabbed it off the couch and thrown it on the floor. I feel like I have ZERO authority over. Telling him not to do something/stop doing something is the surest way to guarantee he does it. I know this and can "tiptoe" around him to avoid his landmine triggers, but 6yo dd is especially prone to causing him to escalate. What starts as a mildly annoying sound in the car, once she starts saying "stop it" it turns into this pissing match of her saying "STOP IT!" and him increasing how obnoxious he can be. spitting, hitting, getting louder with the sounds. Its the kind of thing where if she ignored him in the first place, he would have quit on his own within 10 seconds. Wish I could figure out how to convince her to quit antagonizing him. He's exceptionally difficult to take in public. He just walks away from us in stores. Its like he has no idea that there's any reason he should stay near us, or even inform us where he's going. Its very purposeful, like a destination in mind, not just a distracted kid wandering off out of boredom.
I have no idea what to do, on a day to day basis, to make him easier to live with. I've looked over the symptoms of sensory processing disorder, and though I can identify some sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors, I don't think the label fits. For example, he really hates loud noises, like in the movie theater he had to wear ear plugs, and still was especially stressed out (freaking out and needing to leave) during the previews. the movie wasn't quite as jarring as the previews so he was able to watch the movie. doesn't much like fireworks. hid on the porch with ear muffs while everyone else sat at the end of the driveway. He really likes light touch tickles on his back, face, or palms of his hands. He likes when his dad tickles him when he falls asleep, and it helps keep him calm and still sitting in church. I'm also remembering what he was like around the same age toddler ds is. I could hardly take him to parks, because he would constantly run off. He wanted nothing to do with play ground equipment. toddler ds, while definitely a "toddler" with all the normal toddler things that entails, is so much easier to handle. And he only runs away at the park if he's chasing after a ball or a dog ;)
Help?! Is this (still) just an age thing he'll grow out of? I have no tools. Literally, NONE, whatsoever, to deal with him.
LilStar - there is no easy answer.
instead there is a very hard answer. which can be sooo hard to do.
reading your post and your tone of voice - i just kept thinking in my head this mama needs a bread. she needs some LilStar time. Are you getting any of that? Are you getting any opportunity to do ANYTHING for yourself. in the middle of all this you also have to take care of yourself.
and please recognise mama handling 3 children so close in age IS a hard thing to do. your hands are full.
it IS especially tiring when you have a spirited one. and that's one of my fears. spirited ones exhaust you (even with just one by the end of the evening i was EXHAUSTED). and therefore you need more self care.
yes you are right about SPD. a lot of SPD symptoms are indeed age related symptoms like sensitivity to certain noises or sensory seeking. i think its a common thing for kids to be sensitive to certain sounds. and the movie theater is really really loud. i am not sure if it 'good' loud even for us. definitely skip the Imax for sure. super, super, super loud.
unfortunately your 4 year old as you say knows his mind. he has a purpose to all he does. he sounds like a really curious kid.
my dd was a lot like your son. playful parenting worked a lot. making a joke out of everything.
another thing that worked was asking for help. would he be willing to help you lay out brother's diaper in the way you would want.
with a sensitive child like him i think he is playing off your emotions too.
oooh one thought. i recall dd could never behave if she couldnt get her energy out. if she did not do enough hard play her behaviour would be atrocious.
btw my dd has always been a free range kid. and she trained me to be a free range mama. one way i would meet my needs too was send her down to the next aisle to bring something specific. if she came back after she found or couldnt find it, she got to try more. otherwise her alone privileges were taken away. i made a lot of boundaries which she knew she had to follow if she wanted to have the freedom to do what she liked.
sorry mama i dont really have any concrete answers.
but yes for sure. one day this too shall pass.
Everything meemee says makes sense. I will only add that my older son (now 8) has some of that impulsiveness in him. He seems to be taking longer to outgrow it than other kids. My sample of 2 (ds1 and ds2 who is two years younger) tells me that ds2 had a more "normal" phase of hitting and boundary-testing and running away at parks, etc. The regular techniques and reminders just didn't work magic on ds1. He still overreacts and can act impulsive, but at 8 has mellowed a lot. At 4, fuggaboudit... ;) Four years old is very young, and though he seems older than your toddler, or you are comparing him to a more by-the-book 6yo daughter, he is completely in the thick of a very trying age.
If you suspect sensory-seeking behavior you might look into an occupational therapy evaluation and course of action. And taking preventive measures any time you can is a good idea (he sits in the cart at the store, or goes on a helpful store mission as suggested, etc.). But for my ds1, we never went to see fireworks until he was about 6, because I thought he'd hate the noise and react badly before that. He didn't go to a movie in the theater until 7 years old, again because of the noise, intensity, and sitting. And we didn't go to parks without a fence much at that age. We haven't belonged to any synagogue or church or anything so he has not had to sit still through services much. We did not have a pet until he was 7yo, and even now that we have our guinea pig we have to watch carefully because he gets overexcited and squeezes or pets too hard sometimes. I'm just saying some of what you're expecting seem a bit out of reach for him still. By all means teach your 6yo some diffusing techniques to help quiet your ds more quickly, maybe with a bit of wink, like you and she are older and you know the secret tricks to handling little brother gently. Maybe there are ways to bring in more routine, or more one-on-one quality time with him... hopefully others will have better advice. I don't know the answers, he does sound extremely challenging. And I second any advice to get help with the kids, and get more breaks for yourself if you can.
Yes, LilStar, I agree that you need to create some self care time for yourself. Pick one thing each day (or every other day if that feels too challenging) that feels at least a little indulgent. Indulgent to each of us can be different, but it could be as simple as making a cup of tea and sitting the kids in front of the TV and hiding in the spare room for 5 minutes to breathe and sip tea. (with the door locked ;)) OR, it could be that you take a half day and go to the spa. (Of course, you won't be doing that EVERY day) Or take a bath before bed, with aromatherapy candles and bubble bath and soft music. WHATEVER feels like indulgent "just for me" behavior.
Next, I invite you to make a list of the specific things your son does that cause you stress (like "Steps on the cat's tail" or "Hits").
Then make a list of the things you think he "should" be doing instead of those things. Or, could just be a list of behaviors you'd like to see him exhibit.
Go through the list of things you'd LIKE him to do, and with each item, ask yourself WHEN and WHERE he has displayed those preferred behaviors.
Make notes about the circumstances in which he is meeting your models of behavior and see if you can find a pattern, ANY pattern. I'd be curious to hear what you may find. (You can also do this with the stressful behaviors to find patterns as well, but I think for you, for now, you may find more relief by starting with the positive :))
In addition to this, I would highly recommend finding an outlet for him to spend more time outdoors connecting with nature. Most of us are very disconnected with nature, as our lifestyles keep us indoors, under artificial light, wearing shoes all the time, etc. A connection with nature and the earth promotes a balance of energy and connects us to the cycles of the seasons among other things. Your son sounds like a highly sensitive person (there are more and more showing up all the time) and he may do well getting more in tune with nature. It could have a calming effect on him :)
This book: http://www.coyotesguide.com/ has a directory in the back of organizations all over the world that lead outdoor education experiences and schools. If this resonates with you, go out and check out the book at your library or local book store.
Lastly, do you sit with your son and talk with him (when there isn't anything being "triggered" with him or you)? Have you asked him during a "neutral" time about specific behaviors that you observe in him? What does he say? It's SO important when you try this to be in a neutral emotional state and use language that does not blame or point fingers or shame him. If you'd like to chat about any of this, feel free to contact me :)
I am sending love to you. You will all get through this and it will all work out. That much I know for sure <3
I think the other advice you've received is good, too. Do your older kids go somewhere, like mothers day out or to visit a grandparent? My mil watches my ds one day a week so he & I can get a break from each other. Its good for all of us.
Been a busy few days, finally have a chance to get back to this thread.
One thing I've realized and been chewing on (still don't know where to go with it!) is how he is somewhat like ME as a child, specifically with the independence-seeking type things. I used to be the type of kid who would be "sneaky". Help myself to treats without the thought even crossing my mind that I should need permission. In fact, if there was something that my mom would inconsistently attempt to enforce "you need to ask first" rules on (computer use) I would literally be thinking, haha, yeah right, no way. Thinking she was absolutely nuts to expect me to ask first. I used to assume my attitude was mostly because my mom was lazy about being consistent and I just got in the habit of doing whatever I wanted. but now I got one just like me.. and I feel like there have been things I've been pretty darn consistent about that are disregarded just as "haha, yeah right, whatever mom" as when my mom told me i needed to ask before using the computer! Maybe we're just born this way ;) I don't necessarily consider his super-independent tendencies to be a "problem" (I mean, I wish he'd at least come when called in public..) its more of an aspect of his personality. I was quite pleased the morning when I jumped out of bed to see what he was getting into and found him spreading some peanut butter on bread! I feared something much less innocent :)
One thing that has worked well to settle him down from a tantrum, but doesn't always work in the scenario, is having him live out the fantasy of what it is he wants and telling me about it. Like one time he was upset we were leaving the mall. We'd had fun! He said "I don't want to go to any house. OR ANY APARTMENT!!!!" (like he's covering his bases, making sure not to leave any loopholes, lol) so I say, "what about a castle?" "No, not any house, or apartment, or castle. I just want to live at a mall!" So we played along a little bit, oh yeah, where will you sleep? He seemed stumped, so I helped him by reminding him they have bed stores! So I kept bringing up different things for him to answer creatively. What about our cats, can they come? Where will we get our mail? Where will you take a bath? Where will you put your toys so no one tries to buy them? He was distracted enough talking about how cool (or challenging!) it would be living in a mall that he didn't need to scream about the fact that we were, indeed, going home. Its getting more difficult to playfully distract him like that, since these days he's just turning violent, spitting, and making death threats. There's a neighbor kid he plays (or played) with a lot, I've babysat after school a good bit, who has horrible behavior. I mean, I've been completely stunned by how he is. ds loves him :/ I do wonder how much of our problems is due to a bad influence. The good part of this is we did just move this weekend, so they won' t be playing daily anymore.
He has had a TON of outdoor play. He and dd and some friends "free range" quite a bit in the nice weather. Our (old) yard is adjacent to a cul de sac full of kids. They play in our yard which is almost forest like, ride bikes in the cul de sac, or just chill out in the grass playing with random toys the kids bring out.
I've been trying to recognize which scenarios bring out the best in him.
-removing at least one of his siblings.(on errands) Whether because the attention is less divided, or just the dynamics of 2 vs 3, doesn't seem to matter which sibling is home with the other parent, its just easier. It does seem like he bullies the baby less without big sis around, and that he's antagonized by "innocent" things that big sis does less when the baby isn't around.
-doing something really fun! if we take a trip to great wolf lodge, or an amusement park, it really is just nothing but magical family fun. Not even melt downs from being over tired from doing too much. Nope! We can cram in as much fun and action all day long and pass out at the end of the day with happy contended kids! He loves great wold lodge sooo much.
-he and dd can play really well with playmobil sets for a decent stretch. I tend to only get those out if they're willing to play it behind a shut door or if baby is napping. They played great today. It ended when there was a squabble about something or other, which is pretty much to be expected eventually. But had to have been a good 20 min at least of good play together.
-legos.. I love getting a new set and building it with him!
At this point.. I'd be thrilled if I could just get him to quit spitting at everyone, and hitting the baby. Like last night, at the park, they'd been on the slide together and I don't know exactly how it happened (I believe accident) the little one landed less than gracefully and was walking to me crying. Then ds runs up to him and pushes him down! wtf? I just cannot wrap my head around that kind of unprovoked assault. I do know that he was hungry though
I tried to talk to him a little when he was in a calm mood. He mentioned something about how earlier, big sis spit on his sandwich (she totally didn't, but he decided she did and then refused to eat it) and I tried to get some conversation flowing. I said something like, "oh yeah? That really bothers you when she spits! its gross, isnt it?" and then I lead to, "what about when you spit?"...asked him why. just calmly answered "I spit at her because I hate her". One thing that I think really triggers him is that dd just won't. let. him. be. It drives me up the wall. "here let me show you how to do that!" or he'll say something that it, basically, false (whether its a blatant lie, imaginary, poor recollection of events) and she talks over him beginning with the word "actually..." this happens a lot in the car, with us all crammed into a small space talking. If he says something untrue/wrong.. she won't leave it alone!
one more month till school starts. first year of full time school for dd (1st grade) and ds will have m/w/f preschool for 3.5 hours. he went last year so this wont be new. i can't wait!
I love how you entertained the idea of living in the mall! :) How fun! That's a great tactic for distraction. Kids LOVE to use their imagination. The questions are great that make them think of things on their own (without us telling them our own ideas) even if their ideas are illogical or crazy sounding ;)
It sounds like you are feeling a bit calmer around the situation. YAY!
When big sis interrupts/corrects him, do you intervene? Maybe addressing that with her in his presence, asking her to ask him if he would like feedback or correction first before she "tells him how it is". Also, suggesting to big sis that we each have our own way of looking at things and we each have our own ideas and opinions and that they are all allowed and OK. Ask her to consider that she sometimes has ideas that other people don't agree with and it doesn't make her ideas wrong, only different. And how boring would it be if we all were exactly the same?? There wouldn't be any fun in telling our friends stuff, cuz they would already have thought of it, of course, cuz they think EXACTLY like us. Playing with a group wouldn't be as fun cuz everyone would have only ONE idea (the same one). There wouldn't be room for creativity, art would all look alike, etc.
Ask him how he would like big sis to respond to him and tell him to address her directly (in a respectful manner, or he must start again). Give him examples if it is hard for him, for example, "You could say something like, When you interrupt or tell me that my ideas aren't right, I feel sad and angry. I would like it if you would just listen to me and not correct me..." This allows the children to begin to learn how to handle their own disputes with one another, and how to use language that doesn't need to escalate.
Most importantly, remember that you are doing fine :) We all just do the best that we can in any moment, including our children. And every event/conflict is an opportunity for learning and growth and strengthening our relationships with one another. It's not always fun, but it's always a learning opportunity <3
Ooh! I thought of something else!! :)
There are children's books that address behavior issues and how they affect those around us, hitting, spitting, etc. There are some good ones out there. I would recommend visiting your local library and asking the librarian in the children's section (if there is one) for some recommendations. Browse through some and choose the ones that align most with the values of your family. Then take them home and read them together. Leave time for discussion and asking questions of each other.
Keep us updated :)
This child is a mystery to me. Yesterday was great. I wouldn't say he was "perfect" because no person, child or adult, is ever going to be "perfect". But he was normal. He didn't attack anyone. He didn't spit even one time (that is a *huge* thing to go a whole day without spitting) he was polite, and pleasant to be around. If he started heading downhill, it was easy to steer him back by taking him aside and spending some 1 on 1 time with him. He didn't make threats!
Today, not so much! Its like he has been looking for opportunities to hurt people, or just get me and his dad upset. Back to the unprovoked attacks. Needing to half carry half drag him from a room *very carefully* dodging his flailing limbs and gnashing teeth! Its like I have two different kids. I'd really like to see the one I had yesterday more often! He's a really cool kid! Its so hard to describe him. It really seems like its two different kids. If the nice version of him is there, everything's fine and he responds to me and I can handle him. If the psycho version of him is active, I have no authority. There is NOTHING I can do. He will be completely oppositional about absolutely everything. All there is to do is wait for him to transition back to normal. I have no idea what even triggers him. Sometimes he wakes up in a good mood, sometimes he wakes up determined to make everyone around him miserable.
Do you have a regular schedule in your home? I was so child-centered with my first and for the first year of LO's life, that a schedule was totally abhorrent to me. Being a good mother meant being in tune with following my babies' internal schedule! It worked just fine for my serene oldest boy, but LO has proved to be a spicier variety of pickle, to say the least. We have to keep a firm (not concrete) schedule and inform him of most things ahead of time so he doesn't throw a rod over surprises, but there are certain things we HAVE to spring on him, like eating at a restaurant or going to the bookstore. (Apparently, movies now fall into that category.) Can a different or stricter schedule help with your little guy?
Good luck! I've cried bitter tears myself over some if the same behaviors and wondered what I was doing wrong, and why I wasn't the mom my LO needed. That diet change really took the pressure off of me, and I learned not to waste time on kicking my own behind. Had I been more analytical and less emotional when approaching the problem, I'd have likely figured out the food intolerance problem a lot sooner!
Ugh. I've thought about it alright. And then tried to scrub the idea from my brain because I'm so scared of making big changes like that! Its work! But I'm starting to worry that we're going to have to "go there". When he was an infant, he had the worst systemic yeast infection. He was a home birth, and the only abx exposure he had was when I used eye drops myself for an eye infection when he was 4 weeks. Who knows if that is connected, but it was SO BAD. Worst, caked on disgusting cradle cap. yeast behind his ears, bright red in his neck, in his mouth, arm pits, belly button, behind his knees, between his toes, and the diaper rash!!! oh it was awful. bloody sores. We went to the ped multiple times. we used lotrimin, nystatin, GSE, gentian violet, vinegar, went to a naturopath and followed her recommendations, and nothing could kick it. He also spit up TONS (think bath towels, not burp cloths.. it was horrible) but was gaining weight well and not fussy. I did an elimination diet then.. no gluten, no dairy, no soy.. about 2 months or so. Some time during that, he went on diflucan. his spit up did not decrease on the diet. OH. He also would get weird full body rashes. His knees would break out if he crawled on the carpet with no pants. The elimination diet did make the rashes go away. the diflucan kicked the yeast... finally.. I convinced myself that he wasn't legit allergic to any of that stuff, its just that with the yeast taking over his body, he was overreacting to things that he ordinarily wouldn't. He continued to be "a puker" until I think 2 or so. He'd puke if he cried too much (think left with a babysitter and not happy about it) and would also randomly wake in the middle of the night, puke, and go back to sleep. Also, any illness at all would make him pukey. slightest fever no matter the cause? puke. chickenpox? puke. He's outgrown that. He does quite often have pretty soft stools/diarreah. couple times a month maybe? Otherwise, he's extremely healthy, never gets sick! I cannot remember the last time this kid has had a runny nose. The flu can knock the rest of the family on our butts, he'll get a low grade fever, nap for an hour on the couch, then get up full of energy fever free and thats IT!
Anyway.. back to diet. I'm so overwhelmed by the idea because there's so many options! gluten free? dairy free? both? feingold? (i looked into feingold but was pretty irritated that you had to pay to get the full information on what to avoid) And how quickly should i expect to see changes? i dont want to have to stick to it for 6 weeks before noticing a difference. i loathe the thought of asking preschool to accommodate something that is more of an "experiment" than legitimately an allergy.. though she is very nice and I'm sure she would. (they provide a daily snack and if its anyone's birthday, cupcakes with colored icing) If I try to eliminate something, should I worry about cross contamination? I know celiacs or people with "real" allergies have to be very careful about cross contamination, but for a minor behavior altering sensitivity, does it matter? It would be a whole lot easier if i could just avoid blatant "ingredients" and not think about contamination..
then lets start simple.
behaviour problems can be linked to gluten dairy and dyes. could you start with that and try it for 3 weeks and see.
you'll be surprised how much that can hamper ur life. his life too.
and then keep a food log and see how it goes. i think you have to do it for 3 weeks before it leaves the system.
My SIL pointed something out that I'm surprised I never pieced together myself. Whether thisis the cause of a lot of his behavior.. no idea.. but its a piece of the puzzle. He seems to have a lot of anxiety. When he was a "puker" as a toddler, there were plenty of times that seemed to have no apparent cause, but often it did seem to be caused by anxiety. A new thing stressing him out lately: the lot next to our house is under construction, which is including some big bulldozers! One was VERY close to the house and he freaked out. He ran outside, hid behind the car, was beside himself with terror that "the builders are going to break the house" Its very hard to convince him that they definitely are not! Another thing was we were at a mini family amusement park/farm, and we were talking about the train ride and everyone was excited! He was all set, until it was time to board, and he *Freaked out*. Trying to convince him to get on the train was like trying to give a cat a bath. He was afraid it was going to go over water. I assured him it wouldn't. He did happily go on it later, after I took the other kids on it and could confirm, definitely not on water. If I take him to play group at someone else's house (vs a more neutral place, like a park, which is fine) if its not someone he's fully used to, he will not just go play! He clings to me. Wants me to hold him. Just won't open up. So outside his usual personality! It feels really inconsistent too, because he does gymnastics class (just started this summer) and has never had any problem whatsoever going off and participating. Now that the seed has been planted, I think of so many little things about him that point right back to him being a really anxious kid! And now I'm wondering, is this a completely separate thing to deal with, or is this the "root" of some of his challenging behaviors, in some way?
I didn't read all of the replies, but he sounds sooooo similar to my almost 3.5-year-old. I keep wondering when he will get "easier" too-when he was 1, it was kind of age appropriate to not listen to a darn thing I said and to hit when he was mad, etc., but now it is just getting a little ridiculous....and if I'm honest, a little embarrassing for me!
I can't keep treats of any kind in the house, because he will literally climb the cabinets to find them, then run and hide with them. If I tell him no or try to take it away, he will literally shove as much in his mouth as he can and run away laughing. In the car, he gets bored and starts kicking/hitting his sister and just laughs and does it more when we tell him to stop. He will follow my 6-year-old around doing whatever it is that annoys her the most while she cries for him to stop (and eventually this leads to her getting mean too and it goes downhill from there). I fold laundry, he unfolds it. Again, age appropriate for a 1-year-old, not so much for a 3.5 year old who knows better, but he will just throw it onto the floor over and over again while he looks for my reaction. Gah!
Sometimes, he is the sweetest, cuddliest little guy ever, and lord knows that I adore him all the time...but he tries my patience sooo much. He climbs like a monkey, if I tell him to be quiet he will scream as loud as he can, he gives sweet little kisses, and he is hilarious, he is so smart and loves to build and put things together and play...and requires a lot of effort and patience and attention, which I just sometimes run out of.
I think it's just personality-by all accounts, his father was much the same way. Hopefully he will grow out of some of these behaviors, or at least be more cognizant of the consequences, but his sister is pretty stubborn, as are his dad and I, and I have a feeling this is just him to some degree. I certainly don't want kids who are obedient little angels with no personality, but it would be nice to be able to walk out of the room without anyone screaming behind me because he took the opportunity to jump all over her, or to keep ice cream in the freezer without finding him on a chair munching it every 3 seconds.
Telling him not to do something/stop doing something is the surest way to guarantee he does it. I know this and can "tiptoe" around him to avoid his landmine triggers, but 6yo dd is especially prone to causing him to escalate. What starts as a mildly annoying sound in the car, once she starts saying "stop it" it turns into this pissing match of her saying "STOP IT!" and him increasing how obnoxious he can be. spitting, hitting, getting louder with the sounds. Its the kind of thing where if she ignored him in the first place, he would have quit on his own within 10 seconds. Wish I could figure out how to convince her to quit antagonizing him.
This part is exactly 100% like my kids...they are 3 and 6 and this happens about 100 times a day and usually ends up with all of us in tears. I really struggle with this, because it's not fair to my 6-year-old daughter. I think I expect too much of her, more than is age appropriate. If it's hard for *me*, the adult to deal with ds's behavior, surely it is even harder for a young kid, but I know I take it out on her sometimes because it's easier to get her to listen then him.
I'm reading through this thread so fast and with so much excitement because this sounds EXACTLY like my almost 4 yo! I've had to stop typing this twice four times to rescue the baby from mauling. The noise and food sensitivity, the influence from older, rougher kids, the awesome/demon dynamic... I think they may be soul brothers. We're a real food, no tv, playful parenting, nonviolent communicating family and this still exists so I think it really is just certain kids. (and I mention that not because I think I'm the awesomest mom, but because a lot of the things often pointed out as triggers have been removed from our daily life) Hope to read better through everything and participate more coherently in this convo soon :) Hugs to you Lilstar-- I get where you're coming from.
Mama to my crazy little circus boy ('09) and feisty little sunshine girl ('12).
Wow, like others my 4 yo (also born in May) sounds SO similar. Split personality depending on what side of the bed they wake up on, odd clinginess and fears/anxiety occurring only in particular instances quite at odds with the normal outgoing personality, trouble with hitting, spitting, etc; laughing at requests, running off in stores, and maybe even some of the pukiness as a kid but otherwise generally really resilient. We're very close and I'm generally very patient (try to do a lot of playful parenting, which does seem to help) but there are times when you just need them to listen!
I've never really thought about SPD but he does seem to get overwhelmed kind of easily. We just got back from a 2 week vacay where he got to meet my (large) extended family for the first time and he coped with it all pretty well but it was definitely a lot for him to take in, being raised in an only child, raided by mom, dad and my mom on occasion (ie. no daycare or really other kids or adults to interact with save trips to the store or whatever). His 6 year old cousin TOTALLY did the antagonistic thing with him (similar to how you describe your 6 yo), and it's frustrating because I feel like although I want to be sensitive to his needs, he does need to learn how to deal with others that are not mom-who-caters-to-his-very-specific-personlity-whims or whatever.
His infancy and early toddler occurred during a pretty rough patch in my marriage and there was a lot of yelling and tension, so I guiltily wonder how much of that he internalized and how to remedy it if possible. He's had nightmares and even night terrors from a very early age, before he could even tell us what was happening.
Any recc's or tips will be much appreciated. I'm considering taking him with me to see a TCM practitioner to see if that could help balance things out some.
You have gotten some really great advice! My kids are older but my dd1 was very much like this as a 3-4 year old. it was extremely challenging. And like you I was juggling her and a baby. I think a lot of what she did was to get a reaction out of me. I was so, so tired. If she was naughty it would make me immediately look at her and comment on what she had just done. I resorted to changing the baby in my locked bedroom for awhile with her pounding on the door. I told her sorry, but you are not helping me with the diaper changes and you are making it harder for me. If you want to help or watch quietly I will let you in next time. Didn't always work though-- she would push the rules as far as she could and always find that exception to the rule.
It is also a pain to follow through with the rules sometimes. When dd was at that awful age, she would go to the playground and be really rough with the younger babies. Once, she pushed a newly walking baby over. She also used to pull binkies out of their mouths. This was embarrassing for me and I would go over and tell her stop and talk to her, which is probably want she wanted -- attention and also she could not help herself with what she was doing-- was too excited. So before we went the next time I told her if I saw touches that were not gentle, we would go home. Well we go there and she made a beeline towards a toddling baby and pushed him on his chest so that he sat on his bottom. He was not hurt but I was mortified. I picked her up and told her we were going home. I said sorry to the mom of the baby, too. It was inconvenient for me- I had taken awhile to pack our things, had a baby in tow that I had to deal with along with a tantruming 4 year old, and I had to get both of them out of the playground and into the carseats and then deal with more screaming at home. After a day or two we went back and she was better. Not perfect, but never pushed a baby down again.
Some ideas for you:
1) Your son sounds extremely intelligent and he is a fast thinker. I wonder if he could benefit from one-on-one time where you can sit down with him and teach him things. My daughter was very much this way and really benefitted from me starting to homeschool her at a very early age-- teaching her to read, write her letters, and we would read books that made her think. We also did a lot of printable art projects. This site was fantastic http://www.dltk-kids.com/ and also starfall.com for teaching to read. It kept her busy but required a lot of work from me. You can also involve him in helping with cooking tasks. Just keep him busy and on task sometimes. Yes your cooking will take 2x as long but he will feel he's getting attention and he will be able to fill some of those sensory needs. My dd's favorite task was shredding lettuce leaves. She also liked to set the table.
2) You absolutely need to have "me" time! Even if once a week when dh gets home, go out to the coffee house or bookstore or library, or see a movie with a friend.
3) Take your son on mommy and me dates. I think a lot of his attention getting is because he feels he is competing with the baby. Take him "big boy" places without the baby. Do the same for your oldest daughter to make it even. My kids love mommy dates and it was very special for them to have my undivided attention. We used to do simple stuff like ice cream or donuts or my youngest used to like to just window shop at the mall for an hour.
4) Set up a reward system for him to earn a special treat. Have a jar and put a penny in it every time you catch him doing something helpful. Make a big deal about it so he gets that attention. When he gets a certain number of pennies he can have a special treat. Don't take pennies away for bad behavior. Just say "I feel sad that you were not able to get a penny right now because you were not being helpful when I was trying to change baby's diaper." I work as a Peds nurse. I love that sometimes they set up a reward system for kids at the hospital who need to cooperate with something. They get three stickers for doing the desired tasks. When they get the third sticker they get to pick a present out of the surprise box. The box is in their room the whole time so they can see it, and they have cheap toys gift-wrapped to make it really exciting for them to get a prize. Maybe for his age a sticker chart would work better than pennies.
Hang in there! I am happy to say that my daughter-- who I was really worried about what kind of person she would grow up to be-- has turned out to be a very wonderful young lady of 12 years old, and is doing everything she should be doing at her age. :-) But man it was tough trying to work with her as a toddler/preschooler.
Just want to add that this sounds so very much like my daughter. She is 4 and 2 months. I think I will be looking into some homeopathics for anxiety for her. That is a great suggestion.
Our latest problems include her lying and making things up that are totally untrue and then "going to the mat" to argue it. She has taken to screaming in my face without provocation. Sort of a zero to sixty temper.
Each day that passes I am convince this is more than just a phase. She reminds me of my mother (a dangerous thought) in that she seems to thrive on the conflict and doesn't know how to go too long without it... perhaps it is a bit of an adrenaline addiction of sorts. Maybe this drama has been going on so long with dd (and escalating) that she doesn't feel quite right if she is calm.
Also I've been thinking, since I'm dumb enough to end up in screaming matches and powers struggle with her, that maybe she is afraid... of everything, of me too.
I getting ready to reread Raising Your Spirited Child and Co-dependent No More so I can refresh my best inner resources. I'm also trying really hard to explain things to her - all kinds of things that I think I have forgotten to teach her because she is so well entertained by her brother. I'm trying really hard to be silly, to have those what if you could get your way this time how would that be... silly stuff. And I'm just trying to hug her more, even when I'm mad at her.
One of the chants she and I have had with our relationship is I love you even when your mad, even when I'm mad.
For example I'm at the computer when:
I just was talking to her and told her her bracelet was called chunky and she is repeating and repeating and yelling at me "it is not chunky".Mind you I was complimenting her accessorizing. She is still screaming it at me... like she wants to "go to the Mat" over this. She threw a ball at me. I told her to go get her socks. Now she is slamming her purse against a wall to make angry sounds... threw her purse at me... and she is telling me how mad she is and screaming "it is not chunky" at me. She threw a washcloth and a toy hat at me. I'm sitting here trying to not get sucked in. She keeps coming back into the room to yell at me and I just heard her throw something in the other room. Going on 5 plus minutes of this. I'm trying to tell her it's not ok to throw things when you are mad. Trying to tell her that disagreeing with me like this doesn't make her statement true.
It has finally ended with me asking her to come to me and explaining that I'm trying to teach her a new word (even if she doesn't like the word). I pulled her close to me up in my lap and read to her everything I just wrote to to you all.
There were some problems with defiance in his preschool classroom, but no aggression or tantrums thank goodness.
Here's what I did-
1. I took him to see a psychologist specializing in kids with behavior issues. She helped me rule out ADHD and ASD as likely diagnoses.
2. I learned not to implement consequences when my DS was in a "fit," but afterward when he had calmed down.
3. I got rid of time outs- the room has become a haven for calming down, not a prison.
4. I set boundaries in advance. I spoke with my son during a calm moment and explained that hitting, destroying property, and dangerous acts of rebellion (e.g. trying to run off) will result in "big league" consequences- and I made sure to always (mostly:) follow through.
5. I learned to praise and reward good behavior.
6. A "clean slate" or the occasional opportunity to regain a privilege is a powerful tool. I don't do this often.
He grew out if the worst of his issues between 5 1/2 and 6. Now, he is an intense, hard charging, academically gifted nearly seven year old. He has developed empathy and better coping skills. Some of his intensity is still present, so I have to be on my toes, but he is so much easier.
My younger son is a lot like the descriptions here. I don't know what to do either. He is six now, and has at least finally developed empathy towards animals. He finally likes to snuggle pets rather than deliberately whack them or scare them. But still, he is really difficult, doesn't listen, says bad words and name-calling all the time. Mostly the problem is him fighting with his brother (9). Constantly. All they do is fight. I have a positive reward sticker chart. When I see them being nice to each other, playing together, they get a sticker. Then a reward when the chart is filled (go see a movie, go out for ice cream, etc.) I try to set up activities that give them the opportunity to have fun together, like play a board game. And I try to instill a sense of humor to break their friction and antagonism of each other. I want to give them tools to take a hit, jump to the next level, own the situation, and make it funny to put out the fire. It is HARD, HARD work parenting these boys. I try so hard, and it seems we're getting nowhere. It's nothing but death threats, punching, kicking, scream-fests, and broken things in the house. They also refuse to do chores. I don't understand why my 6yo intentionally provokes my 9yo. It's like he has no real concern for his own bodily safety. Why? Why would any person go into situations when they know they will get hurt? I can't get through to him. I can't teach him to make good choices and take care of his own interests when he doesn't even value himself. Within the last week, they have both gotten in trouble at school for bad words.
What really scares me is that both of my parents have severe mental illnesses, and my kids behavior reminds me of them. And it breaks my heart to think they might turn out like my parents, (who I had to run away from as a teenager to save my skin).
Have you had your child checked to see if he has sensory issues? My 11 year old daughter was extremely sensitive as a baby and young child and still can be at times. She had sensory issues from a very young age and I read a book on it once that really helped to put things in to perspective for me and helped so much at the time. Once I figured out what was going on she was much easier to deal with.
46-year-old single (divorced), self-employed working, home schooling, mommy to:
12 y-o (private school)
5 y-o (home schooled)
My 10 yo is up and down. He doesn't like to be touched much (I am a massage therapist) My two other children are constantly asking me for massage, and back rubs. but my 10 yo often will jerk away, although he does like me to be present in his bed when he is going to sleep. He is very volatile, emotionally. Very smart, but now that he has to study a little his grades are falling. He actually can be quite empathetic, but when he doesn't get his way, he makes life miserable for the whole family.
My DD is like this too. What a relief to see posts from so many parents struggling with the same issues! It's so easy to think I must be getting it wrong, or there's something wrong with her...both of which might be true to some extent, but are not the whole story. I wish I had seen posts like this from when she was born, and I wish every stressed mama knew about this forum.
I recognize almost all the behaviours in this thread. DD is an only child, which eliminates the sibling issues. On the other hand, it means she looks to me for CONSTANT interaction, attention, entertainment. I'm an introvert. Argh!!
The two books that have helped the most (and I have read a LOT of books):
The Highly Sensitive Child
Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child
The hardest thing for me to do: stay calm!
The thing that works best, BY FAR, with DD: staying calm and lovingly detached, saying absolutely nothing critical or shaming, being on her side
Setting and maintaining consistent, loving boundaries while saying absolutely nothing critical or shaming is an art form. If anyone has suggestions for specific language for this, do tell! I'm too used to critical environments and not familiar enough with kindness.
A year or two ago, she started being very disrespectful to me. I have strong feelings about this, so I came down hard with a zero-tolerance policy, saying certain tones of voice and certain statements were unacceptable, giving time outs (constantly), etc. It definitely did not work. So, with a massive effort on my part, I began to ignore the disrespect. Just pretended it was not happening. For a while, it carried on, but I was more peaceful (gritting my teeth turned out to be more peaceful than constant conflict). It took many months, but she has stopped doing it!! (except when she's very angry or melting down) and I am more able to tolerate what feels like abuse when my focus is on the emotions under her words, rather than the words and tone.
Does anyone else notice a difference between tantrums and meltdowns? For DD, a tantrum was a more-or-less age-appropriate response to things not going her way. When she has meltdowns, it's as if she goes out of her head. Meltdowns seem to have to do with huge anxiety, but she cannot let me reassure her. Meltdowns scare me, my reaction is to get annoyed, then angry -- the last thing she needs. I have not yet overcome the message in my head that says 'she should not be doing this, this is unreasonable.'
Thank you, Heronsister, I will look for those books. And yes, I always say that this child knows my buttons perfectly! Calm? Oh, I so need to remember that. It is very hard for me to remain calm with him, too. I may need to tattoo those words on my forearm!
Sometimes my dd gets totally in a wound up, hyper, destructive mode (and I feel like she is just going to end up getting in trouble very soon ) and we do this thing called "brushing" that I learned from an occupational therapist when I was a preschool teacher. It's a brush with lots of little soft bristles that was initially intended as a surgical scrub brush. You brush with pressure in one direction in very long strokes, and it's very calming and helps sensory problems too. My daughter will go from bouncing off the walls to literally not moving, unless it is to move a body part so I can brush her other arm etc. It has been amazing and her behavior definitely gets calmed down. I would recommend to everyone to try it on their kid. You can search therapressure brush on amazon, but get one with a handle/cover (some of the cheap ones for sale don't have that.)
Oh I also wanted to add that my dd was never a fan of a back rub or anything, but she loves brushing, so even if you think your child might not like they can surprise you!
Please let us know how it's going and if anything has been working!
I have 3 too so reading all the replies wasn't possible...two thoughts 1. get your kiddo into the child psych department for some evals and challenging-kid classes. you'll feel better just to have someone else on your team..it doesn't mean medicating but it could me recognizing something like ODD and/or SPD. Having a 6 yr old that just makes our whole family miserable, I wished I'd gotten help earlier b/c it takes awhile to find the right help (we are still looking).
2. my 3 yr old middle kiddo will do crazy hitting/nudging stuff ONLY if I and the baby are around. If I'm no or if baby isn't, it doesn't happen. Its definitely an attention thing. I think my kids is bad at just saying he needs attention and doesn't know what to do w/ that internal need so he does really irritating behavior like this. He used to bite but now its more like nudging and a grabby/squeeze thing or nearly sitting on the youngest.
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