Incredibly intelligent--incredibly INTENSE two year old - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 5 Old 06-07-2007, 11:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Incredibly intelligent--incredibly INTENSE two year old


Let me start with some basics: I have two boys, a three month old (Connor), and a 26 month old (Ian). The 2yr old has been a very intense child from infancy. The three month old has had a lot of medical issues since birth, and in researching ways to help him, I've stumbled across a potential explanation for my two year old's behavior. Read below, an email that I recently sent to family.

Okay, I've been doing all this research on what might possibly help Connor, right? I've been focussing on food allergies lately, suspicious that he might have some allergy to my breast milk. In my research, I've started to realize that Ian shows many of the classic signs of chronic allergies, including swollen lymph nodes (constantly, so swollen that they stick out of his neck, you can see them when he turns his head), frequent colds, several ear infections, often a dry cough at night, a runny nose, he had reflux as an infant...Also, several times I read that chronic allergies can lead to behavioral problems (think about it, have you ever had a headache--even a really minor one--that just nags and nags at you until you finally snap? And it might be the littlest thing that makes you snap, maybe you can't get the cap on your pen, maybe you can't get the key into your ignition)

So, I took him in to the dr yesterday. He was in prime mood, too (by that I mean he was being terrible) He wasn't listening AT ALL, kept trying to escape from the room, was walking around the room hitting and kicking various things, answered "NO" to everything... It was making it really really hard to talk to the dr. Also, I had Connor with me and he was fussing, so I was trying to deal with Connor, trying to keep Ian in the room, trying to keep Ian from climbing the walls (literally it seemed) and trying to talk to the dr. Even Super Nanny couldn't have handled it I don't think.

Oh yeah, and this is after a rough day at work...hell, it's been rough since I went back to work, no one is giving me any flexibility even though they all know that Connor is still sick and I don't have a sitter for him until next week.

So anyway, the dr listens to me, then tells me "yep, he might have some allergies, give him some Zyrtec once a day, that should help. As for the behavior, here take these pamphlets on discipline and sibling rivalry." Then he started talking to me about how consistency is the most important thing, and how I have to be sure to give individual attention to Ian...I just stared at him. I couldn't believe it. He not only completely blew me off about the allergies (I didn't go in there to drug my kid...I want Ian tested so we'll know what he's allergic to so I know if it's possible to avoid it) but then he started questioning my parenting abilities!!!!!

I know that my recount of this might seem simple and innocent to you guys reading this email, sure a dr needs to remind parents once in a while about proper discipline. But it was just the last straw for me. I'm already hanging on by barely a thread here. I have spent HOURS researching discipline and development trying to come up with ways to control Ian. So don't talk down to me about consistency. He's just such an intense child, and SO intelligent, so's incredibly hard to keep in front of him. And I see almost immediately the effect of one wrong response from me and Jim. Jim popped him in the mouth the other day (not slapped, not hit, but a quick pop to the mouth) when Ian spit on him. It was pure reaction from Jim, not appropriate, sure, but who can think of appropriate when your two year old has hit your last nerve?? Anyway, Ian just yesterday hit me in the face because I was down at his face level trying to get him to look at me and listen to me as I was telling him that we had to stay in the doctor's office (yep, he did this in front of the dr) What was I supposed to do?? Obviously spank him isn't the answer to that one. I can't talk to him about it, that's what I was trying to do in the first place. Time out doesn't work unless I physically hold him down somewhere. Ian yells at us to STOP, tells us I DON'T LIKE IT, says NO...all words that it seems we're constantly telling him, so no wonder he tells it back. I'm struggling with how I respond to that. On one hand I want to explain to him that children do not speak to grown ups like that, but then on the other hand I wonder if he's intellectually capable of understanding that?? And if not, how the hell do I get through to him?????

I'm feeling like such a terrible mother right now because suddenly my kid is the one behaving like this in public. What the F did I do wrong????? He doesn't get away with things, we have strict rules and he knows what behavior is expected of him. And most of the time he's very well behaved. His teachers at school tell me that he's always good for them. A little obstinance and selective hearing here and there of course, but that's to be expected. Since he doesn't do this at school, I have to assume that it's me. It's something I'm doing or not doing, but I have absolutely no idea what it might be. God knows I've put time and energy into figuring out what it is and attempting to makes things better.

So right before we leave the dr's office, Ian pees his pants (now I know why he kept trying to get out of the room, but all he had to do was TELL me potty and I would have taken him) So now I'm dragging an un cooperative two year old with pee soaked pants, while carrying a 3 month old in a carseat carrier (because I was in uniform and couldn't wear my sling) through the hospital. We stop at the bathroom because Ian says he has to go potty. He takes off his wet clothes and refuses to put them back on (which from his point of view makes sense). I try to explain that we have to go home to get dry clothes and that he can't walk around naked, but it starts a whole new fit of kicking and screaming and refusing to cooperate. Then we go to the pharmacy where I have to pick up Connor's refill of Prevacid for his reflux. When I get it, it has an expiration date of only two weeks!!! So they gave me a one month supply that's only good for two weeks. I pointed it out and they told me that each time they make the medicine (they have to compound it) it's only good for two weeks. IDIOTS!!! Fine, so I understand that, but why give me a month's supply then????????????????? AND, I have to give them 72 hours notice when I want it refilled, so every 10 days I have to call or go to the pharmacy to put in a refill, then 3 days later go back to pick it up, then 10 days later call them back...

Oh my god, I completely lost it. Connor was still crying, Ian was still crying and trying to take his pants off... I literally dragged Ian to the car (at this point I didn't care who was looking. Someone asked me if I needed help and I snapped something rude at them). I got Ian and Connor buckled into their carseats and drove to Jim's work. I sat there in the car for 10 minutes waiting for him to get off and then sobbed all over his shoulder in the parking lot. I think both boys were crying still. Poor Jim had no idea what had happened!

I know I've been struggling a little since Connor was born, but every time I think I'm getting things back together, something like this happens. I don't think this is just normal parenting struggles, I don't think I have bad kids, I don't really think that I'm a bad mom (although that's hard to push away sometimes) But I also have no idea what to do from here.

OH yeah, to add insult to injury (or insult to insult to insult) when we got home, Jim suggested that we just order pizza so we don't have to worry about dinner. I LOVE pizza, and would normally have jumped on the idea, then washed it down with some ice cream (ice cream cures every depression!!) but I"m on this stupid diet for Connor. There isn't even any comfort food that I can eat!!!!!!!!!

So I don't know what to do. But I do know that I'm really tired of drs not listening to me and not giving me credit for the effort I've already put into a problem before I take my kid in. I wish the drs would recognize that I'm an intelligent person. And I wish that the drs weren't so quick to medicate when there might be another solution. This dr refused to even test Ian, said that he thought the allergies sounded more environmental (which I'm doubtful of since he's had them since birth, in two different countries, and every season of the year) and that even if we identified exactly what the allergy was, the treatment would be the same. Well, that's not true. If it's a food, then I can limit Ian's exposure to it. If it's mold or mildew, then I'll research how to limit that. If it's the dog, then she becomes an outside pet (sorry Annie, but my kid is more important) But the dr isn't even willing to do anything except give me Zyrtec. Ian eats well, sleeps well, has been raised fairly consistently (as consistent as we can be considering our life style since he's been born), he was exclusively breastfed, we delayed introducing solids for longer than many parents, he wasn't in daycare until a few months all accounts we've done everything that good parents should do. So something's wrong. Our household is calm and quiet, there's no yelling or arguing, Jim and I have a good relationship, and yet still Ian is physical and loud. We don't even expose him to violence on tv. We're good parents!!! This is a household where any child should thrive. But now we have two children with problems...Ian's behavior, and Connor's health. Do you see how the last thing I needed yesterday was this dr handing me pamphlets on effective discipline???????

Help someone!! I've even been encouraging him to nurse again recently, we weaned when he was 20 months old (when I was 28 weeks pregnant).

Mama to Ian (3-17-05) and Connor (3-3-07) :

Mommy to BigBoy Ian (3-17-05) ; LittleBoy Connor (3-3-07) (DiGeorge/VCFS):; BabyBoy Gavin (10-3-09) x3 AngelBaby (1-7-06)
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#2 of 5 Old 06-08-2007, 01:32 PM
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Many many hugs.

I too have a very intense older child (he's just turned 4). And I totally get why the dr's response was hurtful.

That said, it may not have been a criticism of your parenting so much as his own sense of an inability to help. I know my parents often offer me useless suggestions to help with my son just because they feel like they need to offer *something*, KWIM?

I don't in any way discount your idea of seeing an allergist; I continue to think that my son's reactions are not just due to his environmental allergies but probably also to other things he ingested or touches, but I don't know what either.

I'd say, first, you sound like a fabulous parent dealing with a LOT. Before anything else, can you try to find a way for you to get a weekly break of at least a couple hours? if you can't get a full break, can Jim take Ian to the library or grocery store or something for part of every Saturday? That way Ian would get some one-on-one time with his dad, and you'd get a mini-break to "only" have Connor.

An infant and a 2 year old (even easy ones, which I never had) are VERY hard on anyone, and sometimes time off can help you feel better about yourself and about them.

Second, can you (in your spare time--hah, I know) keep a diary of Ian's reactions and behavior, listing what he eats, where you go, etc. You may also want to track what he's wearing, the pollen count for the day, the lighting, what you were doing.

For example, we realized my older son went nuts at Whole Foods, always having a meltdown. Whether it was their lighting, the too small aisles, whatever, we learned it was a store he just couldn't handle, even though he said he wanted to go in every time.

We're still hoping to identify some food triggers, but I think I need to have a pristine week on no-additive no-dye homemade food to really get a sense of what might be happening there.

We've also found clothing matters to my son, esp in the summer, for some reason. Maybe his skin gets hypersensitive with pollen; maybe short sleeves and shorts are just hard for him. He stays much calmer when he has pressure on his arms; we found this out accidentally when he wore socks as sock puppets for several hours and didn't want to take them off. Now he wears them every day to daycare and tells me they help him "unlock" and stay calm. It looks odd but his daycare teachers are just thrilled he's less volatile and less likely to wail uncontrollably.

I've also found that dinnertime is often hard for him--better if he has a snack in the car as soon as I pick him up from daycare, worse if he plays on the computer in the evening or watches any evening tv. When he starts to flip out at the table, I pick him up, take him to the living room, and hold him tight, rock him, and tell him "you're getting locked in; it's okay, we'll help you unlock and feel better" and I refuse to discuss whatever the supposed issue is because I've learned with him that the "issue" that triggered the flipping out is in fact a red herring; if I give him what he wants thinking that will "fix" it, then two minutes later he flips out again.

(last week's example of an "issue": his bite of pasta had sauce that fell off it so that he had pasta with almost no sauce on top on his spoon)

Once he vents some of the tension and then calms down, then we talk about whether he still feels locked in (we describe it as tense sort of in the middle of his chest/tummy; stuck that something has to be exactly ONE way and there is not other way to fix it). And once he "unlocks", then we deal with the "issue"; often once he's calm, he can often be pretty smart about helping brainstorm an alternate solution or a compromise. Plus by then my DH has finished some of his dinner and we can trade off without having had fifteen minutes of dinner table screaming.

(Last week he agreed that in fact, he could put sauce on the spoon first--it didn't have to be balanced perfectly on top of the pasta; it tasted the same no matter which way--we even had him try it with his eyes closed to see that it was the same.)

We're also working through the Raising Your Spirited Child book, which is helping me see that he HAS to have more time for transitions than most kids. He needs a warning that a transition is coming up and to practice what we'll do during that change, and good info on what will happen then. Last month his daycare class switched to going outside first thing in the morning, before it gets hot, instead of after snack, and he just sobbed and sobbed and sobbed because it was NOT the routine. The second day, we talked about it on the way to daycare and how in summer sometimes outdoor play would be at a different time, and he adjusted okay that day.

I'm planning too to get Perri Klass's Quirky Kids book in hopes that it will offer some more insight.

Also, we're switching now to picking clothes the night before; trying to find any occasion that's usually a struggle and time shift it so that it's not at a time when I'm rushing to get us all out the door or to get dinner made or whatever.

For my intense kid: he's great to parent when happy or loving; but I find it really hard when he's upset. But I know he's a great kid all the time. We just have to figure out how to identify and handle his triggers and avoid what we can, help him find strategies for when we can't.

Much much much sympathy--and your son is lucky to have a mom who can see how great even he is even when parenting him sometimes has its moments of real difficulty.
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#3 of 5 Old 06-10-2007, 12:46 AM
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Wow. You are definitely dealing with A LOT, mama. I would really encourage you to find an allergist that will test your son. And see if you can get DH to go to the appt. with you. Anticipate that they are going to prescribe Zyrtec as well.

My DS has both food and environmental allergies, and getting a handle on them has really changed our lives. He's spirited to begin with, but his allergies can make him quite beastly.

After driving myself crazy for 8 months with elimination diets and virtually eating NONE of the top ten, we went to the allergist--DS was about 1 1/2. My allergist had a multipronged contraption that they pressed against DS's back that "scratch" tested him for several things all at once. It was relatively easy and discomfort free--no tears, but he was happier when we could wipe the proteins off. They also did a blood draw which was the most horrendous experience I've had as a mother. Anyway, we identified what foods and other things were causing the problem. Eating became exponentially easier, and once things completely cleared his system DS became exponentially easier to deal with--if for no other reason than he started sleeping for longer than 30 minutes to an hour at a stretch. He's still a spirited kid, but allergies can absolutely create behavior problems.

Good luck!
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#4 of 5 Old 06-10-2007, 12:04 PM
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Big, big hugs to you.

If you haven't already read the recent thread on the allergy forum titled "Zyrtec and Behavior Problems," please do it. After 3.5 years, we are taking ds off of his Zyrtec. It's only been 3 days, but already we are seeing a big difference in behavior for the positive. I'm not sure how we will treat his environmental allergies, but I am looking into vitamin supplements and alternative treatments.

Also - along with the Spirited book, you might want to check out the MDC tribe called "Parenting the Highly Sensitive Child." You are not alone!

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#5 of 5 Old 06-17-2007, 03:13 PM
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My first question to you is: have you been screened for postpartum depression? You've got a lot of risk factors (2 young children, baby with health issues, it sounds like you've recently gone back to work which will increase your stress...). You might want to look at this:

That's not to discount your son's allergies, but rather to say that if you do have PPD or PPA (postpartum anxiety - that was my version), you'll be better able to deal with his allergies if you get your own health taken care of too. Even if you don't have PPD, you should set up a good program of self care - a bit of time off for you, some exercise, maybe an afternoon tea with friends once a month or something for an hour. It sounds like your husband is supportive, which is great. So maybe the two of you can work out a way for both of you to get a little 'self nurture' time.

I'm also going to suggest a couple of books - nothing to do with allergies - but even when you get those under control, he's still going to be really smart and intense - that's probably in his genes!

Almost anything by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka:
Raising Your Spirited Child or Kids, Parents & Power Struggles. The second one is her newer book, and I like it better.
The Highly Sensitive Child - this helped me tons with our son - the refusing to put wet clothes back on was why I was recommending this
Your 2 year old, Your 3 Year Old - they give a good sense of development (though they're old) -- so a 2 year old can't always TELL you what he needs when he's in the middle of a 'fit' or when it's urgent. It's like their language centers get overwhelmed. Understanding what's 'typical' can help you deal with it better and see where he's 'atypical' as well.

You might also want to check out the Gentle Discipline forum for ideas too, in addition to the Highly Sensitive Child Tribe and maybe the Parenting Your Gifted Child child forum too!

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