This is What I’m Going With

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Lately, I feel like everything with Bean is an epic battle to the death. And obviously, there are no winners.

Here’s a typical scenario from our house in the last three weeks:

Morning

The mere mention of going to the bathroom and getting dressed sends Bean into a flailing tantrum complete with arm waving (and mostly unintentional) hitting, kicking, tears and screaming. We’re talking head thrown back, on the floor, ear-piercing screams.

Sometimes, she will willingly take off her clothes, but then when I suggest getting dressed, she just runs away. If I happen to grab her before she gets away from me (because I refuse to chase her), then the above tantrum ensues.

Bedtime

Most of the time Bean is all too happy to get into pajamas, but the tantrum inducer is when (gasp) her father, (God forbid) attempts to help her with getting ready for bed. Last night as I was brushing Monkey’s teeth and told Bean that daddy was going to help her, the above tantrum ensued. Same goes for helping her go to the bathroom, getting her pajamas on, washing her hands, you name it.

Mealtime

I made homemade waffles last weekend. They were dang delicious and so much easier than I remember. Especially now that my waffle iron is accessible and I learned not to overfill the darn thing. Bean loved them. But then she accidentally dropped one of her last two pieces on the floor. No biggie, right?

WRONG.

I picked it up and threw it away. Bad idea. Cue tantrum. Except a mealtime tantrum has the added bonus of Bean being strapped into a chair, thus able to fling her body back and forth and all around without falling out. It’s awesome.

I was stunned.

I explained to her that the waffle was dirty, but that it was okay because I would give her one of my waffle pieces.

Didn’t matter. She wasn’t hearing it. She wanted that dirty waffle piece back and there was nothing I could say or do to make her happy.

And generally, that’s how it goes.

The instant something happens that she doesn’t want (or the suggestion of something she doesn’t want to do), it’s the end. There’s zero ability to talk with her. There’s no communication. She just shuts down.

All of the wonderful parenting techniques that we employ with Monkey (all of the parenting articles I’ve been poring over), don’t really work.

  • It doesn’t matter if I give her choices. She just screams “NO!” back at me about everything.
  • It doesn’t matter if something is a rule (establishing rules and expectations so that I’m not the bad guy). “The rule is that when we get up in the morning, the first thing we do is go to the bathroom.” Or, “The rule is we brush our teeth in the morning and at night before bed.” We run through all the people who brush their teeth and go to the bathroom in the morning. Meh. Most times she could care less what the rule is.
  • Asking her if she wants to do something now or “in a minute” always gets the “in a minute” reply. But then when 5 minutes goes by and I tell her it’s time to do XYZ, generally we still get the tantrum or the running away, or the running away followed by the tantrum (like this morning).
  • We’ve been really trying to talk to the kids like we would talk to another adult. The example in an article I read was along the lines of, “If you saw an adult knock over their milk at McDonald’s you wouldn’t jump up and start berating them about how clumsy they were and how they should be more careful and then huff off to get some paper towels.” Not that we’ve ever done that; generally we’re pretty calm about those types of things. But, you get the point, which is, “Don’t treat someone poorly, or more importantly, force someone to do what you want, just because you’re bigger than them.” Because that sets up all sorts of problems that leaves kids vulnerable to sexual predators, peer pressure, etc. How-ev-er, like I told Husband, if he dropped his piece of waffle on the floor and I threw it away because it was dirty, he wouldn’t start flailing his arms, kicking his legs, throwing his head back and screaming. I’m pretty sure we’d just talk about it.

And that is my biggest frustration. There’s just no communication. No opportunity for any of the above. The only thing that somewhat works is empathetically saying how I think she feels. “I know you’re mad, honey. I know you want to keep playing. I’m sorry that we have to get ready for bed.” But even if she stops to listen to me, she still doesn’t then cooperate.

The only time she wants to do something is when she can possibly beat her sister to it. Which honestly is unfair to Monkey because then Monkey’s always second. Or, if Monkey beats Bean, Bean still cries and has a tantrum. Good grief. I’m exhausted just thinking of all the tantrums.

I feel beaten down. I feel like I’ve just had it. I am pulling out all the tricks and it doesn’t make one damn bit of difference.

I don’t yell much. We don’t spank. We do use time-outs, although this Aha Parenting Web site advocates for doing time-ins (sitting with your child) instead of time-outs (which apparently make them feel isolated and alone with their feelings). I tried that this morning with Bean when she wouldn’t cooperate about getting dressed. She just laid in her bed (naked) and yelled at me to get out. I stayed anyway. I have no idea if it helped.

Up to this point we’ve been trying to follow Love and Logic parenting techniques (I say “trying” because we like the philosophy but we don’t always execute) which focuses a lot on empathy and consequences (as well as choices, routines/rituals, etc.). However, Aha Parenting advocates for not issuing punishments or consequences (unless they’re “natural” and not “parent-imposed” consequences) because when kids are acting their worst, that’s when they need you to love them the most.

Aha Parenting argues that when kids are dwaddling and being slow getting ready for bed, the last thing they need is for you to yank away stories or cuddle time as a consequence. But when we’re running out of time to get Bean to bed (and we KNOW she’s probably acting out from being tired), it seems like a natural consequence that if you’re not cooperating and you’re making things take longer, that you don’t get stories. It’s not even really a punishment! It’s not like we’re saying “No stories because you’re being sassy or because you hit your sister.” It’s a natural consequence. We ran out of time. I feel conflicted about this whole “consequence/punishment” thing.

I don’t really yell much. BUT, when pushed, I do raise my voice (not to a yell, but it’s raised), I do get a mean look on my face, I do lose the ability to negotiate and communicate and just start barking orders. Basically, I get angry and frustrated. I also say things I shouldn’t; things that I try not to say. And then I find myself still saying them: “Why do you have to be so uncooperative?” “I am so sick of this.” I know this is bad because I’m sending her the message that she, as a person, is bad.

Day after day, night after night, these are my interactions with my child. She knows that I’m frustrated. One of the things I remember from the Love & Logic CDs is that if you send your child the message that you can’t handle them, they’ll think, “Geez, I must really be bad if even my own parents can’t handle me,” and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The kid acts worse and worse, and the parent is less and less able to get a handle on the situation. I’m afraid that’s going to happen.

I also feel like the frequency of these occurrences makes it more and more difficult for me to remain calm when they happen. I’m immediately on edge because I feel like I already know the outcome (major tantrum), and no amount of choices, or empathy, or quietly speaking to her, or whatever is going to help.

I feel like a failure. Not just because she’s not listening and cooperating. But because there’s no room for any negotiation, communication, education, discussion. Period.

Aha Parenting says “Kids who feel connected to their parents naturally want to please them,” and that:

Defiance is always a relationship problem. If your child does not accept your direction (“I don’t care what you say, you can’t make me!”), it’s always an indication that the relationship is not strong enough to support the teaching. This happens to all of us from time to time. At that point, stop and think about how to strengthen the relationship, not how to make the child “mind.” Turning the situation into a power struggle will just deepen the rift between you.”

Since I seem to be engaged in a non-stop power struggle (epic battle to the death), obviously I’m not connected. Failure.

My child does not feel connected to me, she will think that I think she’s a whole lot of trouble and that she can’t be contained, therefore she will become increasingly troublesome, and basically I just ruined her chance at becoming a successful person, not to mention we don’t have a relationship.

I know this is extreme, but it’s my fear.

I am not used to this. I am not accustomed to encountering a problem that I can’t solve, even with repeated effort. Am I not trying hard enough?

Can anyone tell me they’ve been through this and have come out the other side with a happy, well-adjusted, still free-spirited but more reasonable child?

Will this get better? Will time (maturity with age) make this better? Will she become more reasonable so that I can actually employ these very useful techniques that seemed to work so well with Monkey? Am I ruining my child? Is she not connected to me?

I will also add that I think she’s definitely not getting enough sleep.

After getting through the difficulty of her wanting us to be in the room while she fell asleep and waking excessively at night (2-5 times every night), we’re now dealing with her early rising. She goes to bed beautifully now, but instead of sleeping until 7 a.m. like normal, her waking has gotten earlier and earlier. First it was 6:45 a.m. Then it was 6:30 a.m. The past two weeks it’s been 6 or 6:15. And today it was 5 freaking 40 A.M.!

She’s also started taking shorter naps. At least I feel like that’s more normal for her age — she just turned two, so I can’t really expect her to continue taking 2+ hour naps. An hour and a half is more in line, but sometimes it’s only an hour and 15 minutes, or like yesterday — 45 minutes! Between early waking and shortened naps, she is just not getting enough sleep.

And thirdly, her picky eating is at an all-time high. We trying our best to follow the advice of our pediatrician who tells us every time I express concern over her picky eating, “Your job is to prepare and serve healthy food. Her job is to eat it. If you start bribing, rewarding, coaxing or cajoling, you’re not doing your job.”

So, for the most part, we serve the food. Sometimes we’ll ask her to try one bite (she always refuses). But do you know how hard it is to serve your child a meal that has all the components of something they would like (or have eaten before) and have them push it away on sight, screaming and crying??? Or just start picking things off the plate saying “Yucky?” (Yes, I’m sure you do, because you’re probably a parent reading this). UUUUUGGGGGHHHH.

I bet Bean is down to a list of 20 things that she’ll readily and gladly eat, not including dessert, and only two of them belong to the fruit/vegetable category.

Since we don’t make separate meals, and since we nearly always give dessert (so as not to set up a good food/bad food paradigm), Elise gets a lot of yogurt for “dessert.”

Do all of these things mean anything together (lots of tantrums, not getting enough sleep and picky eating)? Am I missing something?

I have been praying. Praying that God will guide me, help me, direct me to the resources I need. I pray that he will let Bean see how much we love her and that he will open her heart to listen to us.

Believe me, I DO NOT want to crush Bean’s spirit. I do not want her to grow up believing that people who are bigger than her get to tell her what to do.

I get it that it’s a good thing that she isn’t going to do what she doesn’t want to do, just because someone else says so. I know that research shows that she will be “almost impervious to peer pressure.”

But in the meantime, I don’t know what else to do.

Aside from reading parenting articles, pouring out my feelings on this blog, asking for help, and praying, the only thing I can think to do is this:

Every time I see her naked butt running away from me I’m going to think, “She’s running away from drugs,” or “She’s running away from a stranger trying to harm her.”

Every time I see her flat-out refusing to do what I ask, I’m going to think, “She’s saying no to underage drinking,” or, “She’s saying no to teenage sex.”

At least that’s what I’m going with now.

But I’ll repeat my plea: Can anyone tell me they’ve been through this and have come out the other side with a happy, well-adjusted, still free-spirited but more reasonable child?

Will this get better? Will time (maturity with age) make this better? Will she become more reasonable so that I can actually employ these very useful techniques that seemed to work so well with Monkey? Am I ruining my child? Is she not connected to me?

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7 responses »

  1. So, this is the teacher in me coming out. What I’m about to post is going to sound like a lot of work..and it might not even work, but I’m trying to think of helping her feel more independent while still allowing you to keep your sanity w/o all the battles. I know morning routines/rules are important, but what if you created a schedule using pictures or whatever and let her pick the very first thing to do in the morning whether that’s go potty or get dressed. Then you pick the 2nd thing, she picks the 3rd and so on…I’m also thinking what if you let her help w/ the menu each night. Determine what you think you’re going to make on the weekend (menu planning) and let her pick out a side or a main dish that she’s interested in and she might feel encouraged enough to eat it. As far as her wanting you all the time…maybe alternate…she gets you to put her to bed one night and dad the other 😉 The picky eating thing….I wouldn’t stress about her taking a bite. Believe me I know how frustrating it can be when you make a whole meal and they don’t want to eat it, but taking the pressure off of her and talk w/ each other about how yummy and delicious the food is..she might just try and join in. If I come up w/ any other ideas (and you may have tried all of these suggestions too) I’ll post again. Hang in there mama. You are a great mom and she knows how loved she is 🙂

    • I like the ideas and I’ve been thinking about creating another picture chart of the things we do to get ready in the morning. I did that for Monkey for getting ready for bed. Good idea on the meal planning too. And Eric and I have established a “switching off” for things like who rocks in the chair with her at night. Thanks for the encouragement on the eating thing. I think I need to care less! 😉 Thank you for your ideas! They are welcomed!

  2. So Lucas isn’t a grown up successful spirited young man yet, but I wanted to throw some encouragement your way anyway. A little pick-me-up never hurts. 🙂
    Don’t beat yourself up over Bean’s “free spirit”! Don’t think that because she’s throwing fits that she’s not connected to you or doesn’t respect you. You’re doing everything you can. You’re an amazing mom and I seriously don’t know any other mom that is as dedicated to their kids as you are.
    A friend told me something when I called her crying to vent. (she’s also a mom) I had had it up to HERE with Lucas acting out and I was seriously ready to start repeatedly banging my head against a wall to relieve my pent-up frustration. (SO not kidding) She said, “No one expects you to be the perfect parent. Not even your kids. They just want your love and understanding.”
    Right. On.
    Sometimes I try so hard at building routines and schedules and rules that I forget to have fun and let go sometimes. Obviously that can’t be the case all the time, and maybe that’s now how you want to do things, but I felt that it rang true for me and I’ve been giving it a try. When I’m happy and silly and laughing, it lightens the mood. Lucas can’t handle serious conversations about expectations. He doesn’t respond. But he responds phenomenally when I make things a game or make him laugh. He get the same message in the end and that’s all that matters to me.

    • Thank you for that encouragement. I think your friend is totally right. And part of me was hoping that this is just an age thing; that it’s just what toddlers do. I’m hearing from you guys here and lots of people on Facebook who are saying exactly that. They’ll grow out of it. Whew. I knew I was being overly dramatic, b/c that’s how I was feeling in the moment, and that I wasn’t being objective. But I was just mired down in it and getting it all off my chest made me see things more clearly. It also made me more aware of how I can change what and how I say things (be more silly, more empathetic, etc.). Thanks for the pick me up!

  3. Pingback: Exactly What I Needed to Hear « On the Night You Were Born

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