Monday, December 28, 2009

Frustration

It has been an emotional roller coaster in our house the past 24 hours. I know the holidays mess with routine and the ups and downs of excitement and anticipation and too much sugar and not enough water or sleep all add up to hyper children who make bad choices. At 2 a.m., Teagan woke and started calling for Daddy. Repeatedly, loudly. Not scared, not in a panic. Just demanding. He goes to her. "Cover me up" she whines. He covers her. She whines that she is still cold. He puts another blanket on her. She cries and whines that she doesn't want that blanket. She cries and whines and yells for the next 45 minutes with Jeff and I taking turns going in and trying to figure out what she needs. She even wakes Zach with her hysterics. Morning comes. She starts out pleasant enough- playing independently in her room while the rest of us sleep. But once everyone is awake, the demands and complaints start right away. After the 2 a.m. incident and her mood upon waking, I decide that I'm not taking her to church. Normally she comes with me for both services. She loves being there early and going to Sunday School twice. This wasn't done as a punishment- I just didn't have the energy to put into being part of worship and managing my child. I knew I couldn't trust her to be in her seat alone for the time I would be up front singing. I knew I wasn't going to let her have any donuts or sugar laden treats. Church rejuvenated me. Understanding and hand holding during prayer from a friend (thank you, Ashli- it meant so, so much). Listening to the sermon, getting refocused. I left feeling much better. Got lunch came home. As soon as we start eating, Teagan starts announcing that she isn't sleepy and won't be taking a nap. If we respond, she fights. If we don't respond, she escalates. It's a smidge maddening. I do get her down for a nap. I got Zach down, I sent Jeff off for some alone time to recover from his morning at home with the kids (which did include some fighting Teagan, of course). And eventually got her asleep, too. But first we had a little conversation. About how I know Teagan is this really awesome kid who is funny and caring and sweet and smart. About how Daddy and I love to spend time with her and play with her and hang out with her. And that no matter what, we love love love her. But that sometimes, I don't like the choices she makes. I don't like the way she chooses to act. And that something has to change. I jump into my afternoon project- organizing and cleaning out toys. Once everyone wakes up, I'm feeling much better. Teagan and I head to the grocery store in the midst of a beautiful snowfall. On the way home, we have another lovely conversation. She tells me that she isn't going to be "mean Teagan" ever ever ever again. She tells me that she knows I love her no matter what and that there isn't anything she can do that would make me not love her. She tells me she likes making good choices and being part of our family being happy. And the evening proves out her assertions. We get home and I make dinner. She eats every bite- even though it's food we've never had at home before (lil cheesy smokies in a blanket). She even eats her veggies (peas). Bathtime is no issue. It's fun and pleasant. She gets into jammies and she and Daddy read a book. The book is the print version of Disney's "The Princess and The Frog." Jeff gave it to her for Christmas and told her that they would go see the movie on Monday when she was home with him for the day. We've talked about their plan this afternoon and about how it's good she's making such good choices now so that she and Daddy can have their special day tomorrow. We've not made a huge deal out of it but it's been brought up once or twice. So they finish the book. Jeff covers her up, rubs her back and tells her good night. And then the peace is gone and Teagan-hell breaks loose. And we are back to screaming, demanding, whining, crying, hysterics. Switch- flipped. Getting angry doesn't work. Staying calm doesn't work. Responding to her lovingly (like going in and shushing and holding her)- can't bring myself to it because it just feels so wrong, like a reward for her behavior. But the frustrating thing is that we don't know what she wants. It's not like it's a power struggle and we aren't going to cave. She wants to tell Daddy something- he stands there, sits there, listening, asking her what... and she just keeps saying she wants to tell Daddy something. The thing that eventually works... and I hate being this way, doing this... I tell her that she needs to lay down, take a deep breath, get quiet... and if she gets up, calls for us, repeats the statements she's hooked onto... I take something and she will have to earn it back. Tonight, I took her new Tinkerbell music box, her new piggy bank, her new necklace, her new Christmas shoes, her new book, her new coloring set, one of her blankets, and a few other things. And she calmed down and got quiet and the hysterics and tears stopped... I hate it. I'm just so frustrated. I don't like my temper when she gets this way. I don't like the smirk on her face as she plays the game. I don't like seeing how much she pushes my normally patient, calm, and loving husband. I had such hopes that school would make things better. It's what others told me would happen. That the routine and structure and exposure to new ideas and expectations and the opportunity to do better and shine would lead to better choices all around. Nope. Is this really normal? These mood swings? I mean- she was A W E S O M E this afternoon. She played with Zach, she cooperated and listened. We played together, the kids played together, she played in her room. Then the last moment of bedtime hit and BLAMO! End of the world. I'm at a loss. No book seems to address it. My instinct is stumped. Part of me thinks that it might be time to talk to our family doctor. Just to make sure there isn't something abnormal going on. But I really don't want to medicate her. I don't, in my gut, feel like there is something wrong with her. I think this is just part of her, who she is. I think she's passionate and dramatic. I think that if I can figure this out, figure her out, we can find a way to hone this passion and drama into... energy, hard work, and so on. But I'm flailing. Am I off track? Am I missing something? Is this normal or am I off base? Should I talk to my doctor? Should I keep on keeping on? Do I crack down and continue being strict? Do I let up and let her lead the way? Or do I just take each day as it comes and hope that there is truly a light at the end of whatever tunnel I'm currently lost in?

10 comments:

Unknown Mami said...

Talk to your doctor. You need some help. Just because you talk to your doctor does not mean you have to medicate her, but maybe the doctor can give you some resources to explore.

mimbles said...

Talk to the doctor, Liz. There's lots of help available that doesn't involve medication and you and Jeff don't have to do this stuff alone.

Do you think it's possible that there's some anxiety involved? Some of the things she's doing are very similar to things that the kids we met through taking David to anxiety therapy were doing. I can elaborate via email if you want to know more.

Whatever it is, it will get better as she gets older because she'll be more able to express what lies behind her mood swings but you need strategies to get you from here to there. *big hugs*

Victoria said...

Every parent needs help sometimes! It is a tough job and some children are just more challenging than others. It doesn't mean she is abnormal or that she needs medication. Your doc can point you to resources. It is ok to ask for help. It demonstrates how smart YOU are!!

Sarah said...

I would talk to the dr. That's what they are there for. Not for medication, but for advice. As a mother of three, you would think I would have all the answers for my third (very challenging) kiddo, but I didn't. I went to the pediatrician and said "help"! I don't know how to manage this one. He gave me some great ideas on managing her outbursts and anger. Hang in there!

Kristi said...

I would mention the behavior to the doctor and see if he/she has any suggestions. I feel your pain, as my oldest one (she's almost 9) still goes through this sometimes. She can be so good and then have a complete emotional meltdown out of no where. I also have a strong willed 6 year old so we have our struggles as well. Try reading some of the books about strong willed children because some of the behaviors you describe sound like my 6 year old and she absolutely is strong willed. Typical discipline approaches do not work with her. And maybe T is having some anxiety about bedtime so she is doing anything and everything to avoid being alone. Hang in there! We are here for you!

Karen said...

I don't have kids, but I spent a lot of years as a nanny and worked with all sorts of personalities and ages.

Teagan's behavior sounds fairly normal to me. I think you've nailed it. She's probably always going to be a dramatic and passionate kid. Eventually she'll learn to focus that energy on things that are productive.

I worked with one girl that was like this, only her sweet and good times were less frequent than Teagan's. I made some progress with her by literally walking away when she would get into her moods. It took awhile. But she finally learned that I was just not going to give into her dramatics and she eventually gave it up. For me, anyway. She still played the game awhile longer with her mom because her mom was always trying to "fix" it.

Lisa said...

Liz, I agree with Karen. My now-8-year-old is also very strong willed and prone to drastic mood swings. I tried every thing in the books to "fix it." The only thing that ultimately worked was accepting it - and her - for who she was and understanding my values/beliefs/limits in how to handle it.

For example, I give myself the time-outs now. It separates us but helps her understand that I don't like her behavior and I'm not going to engage in it. And when she does have drama trauma, she looses things. She understands this in advance now, so I don't feel as badly about it but it is still hard.

Today, for example, she lost both a trip to Dave & Busters with the family and going to a birthday party tomorrow before she "used her words," and was able to explain what was frustrating her. It is sad because I know she really wanted to do both things. It is hard because I didn't get to go with the family either. But I know I am helping her learn how to channel her own energy.

(Obviously, when she was 4, the take-aways were different and I was there to help her "find her words.")

My daughter needs A LOT of prep for new things and doesn't handle times without a lot of structure, like holidays, well. But we cope.
It sounds aweful and it can be. She and I are figuring it out as we grow.

I also have to tell you that she is the light of my life. She is super creative, wildly imaginative and very, very smart. I just view this tantrums as the tradeoff part of her outstanding, individual personality.

Stephanie said...

hi liz. it's steph. i have to chime in here - evelyn is strong willed and will act this way. not this extreme, but like this. i deal with it like this - i give her a choice and shut my mouth and let her think about it. for example - today she would not sit in her chair for breakfast because it hurt. i told her at the breakfast table we sit in our chairs. her response - but it hurts (wtf, right?). i said, well - we sit at the table. and let her think. i stood by her side - not moving. she thought about it, said no, she is not sitting and stormed off. i finished what i was doing and came back to see her sitting at the table eating. i have rules and i expect them to be followed. i am strict, but we have a lot of fun as well. if you don't want to follow the rules laid out for you - that is fine. when evie throws a temper tantrum, i send her to her room because "no one wants to listen to you throw a fit. you can come down when you are done being _______ and are ready to _________." and your door needs to be shut. i do not enter the room (unless it sounds like she is hurting herself) and i let her battle it out with her. it gives us both a break. yes, there is yelling. yes there is crying, but i never let her see me cry.

i believe that this foundation for how the world works starts at home.

and taking things away needs to be immediate and sometimes that is hard to do right at that time. but at this age, i don't think they fulley understand a time frame.

like lisa, we accept evie's personality - there is nothing we can do to change the way she is, but guide her on how to deal with her extremes. does that make sense? i know she needs to make choices to get along with us and with the world.

have you thought of marble jars? we do this and have seen raving results with both girls. you reward the good and take away for the bad. it gives immediate results and shows them that i see the good you do - whether i ask you to do something or you are chosing to do it on your own. it also sends the message that bad deeds have a result. i also have "super star" marbles for REALLY good behavior. again - these are coveted marbles. once the jar is filled up, we do something fun or we go for ice cream or they can pick out a small toy.

and it is worth a call to the pediatrician to talk. it helps to get a non-biased party. i don't think she needs to be medicated. i think it is a phase and she knows how to push your buttons. she for some reason wants to express herself to get a reaction out of you. it's like a light switching.

sorry so long winded and i hope you do see the light. it may be far off or it maybe right around the corner, but this too shall pass.

Garret of Jim and Garret said...

Marble idea sounds great.

Can you trade her in for a fully functional model? Just thinking.

Eternal Lizdom said...

I like the marble idea, too. And like I said in today's post, I really am feeling better about it all. I was sharing in the heat of the moment so it was very real and raw, you know? This was all written in my "right now" after a big old incident.

We've also changed up bedtime and gone back to what we used to do- staying with her until she falls asleep.

I've got lots more to say on the subject. It basically boils down to ME and not her! I need to keep in touch with those old attachment parenting values that I started out with- it suits her best. I think the fits and tantrums are her way of getting attention from us and if we can give her the positive, loving attention she needs so much of in the first place, we'll see less of the "bad" behavior.