Monday, March 30, 2015

The Bridge to Active Parenting

I spent the entire drive home from preschool pickup on Thursday in tears. Both kids in the backseat and me sobbing.

Benjamin was TERRIBLE last week. He was sleeping until like 11 and refusing to allow us in his room when we tried to wake him. He broke his Dropcam in a fit of rage. Locking him in his room doesn't work. It does give me a break, but it doesn't work in giving him time to show remorse. He just doesn't. He's angry and even angrier when I end it. Can go on for hours. 

I chalked last week's crazy sleep up to (mostly) him still recovering from this terrible sickness when he didn't sleep well for an entire week and was on PST zone, but I feel like other kids transition easier regardless. Transition better.

So, I told his preschool teacher at pickup the other day after two days of screaming at dropoff that I didn't know anymore. That things are getting out of hand and we've nearly considered a child psychologist because all of my understandings of parenting and tantrums and sleep habits and all the reading I've done seems to be aiding me nil in the process of parenting this one.

She told me she didn't think that would be a bad idea and that maybe they would provide more insight into what is going on (seeing a child psych). 

I cried. BIG FAT CROCODILE TEARS. I was thinking, but then she validated that my kid has issues. If you've never been told by someone that your child is anything but awesome, you may not understand this feeling. And really, it's not so much he has issues (we all do, really, especially his bereaved parents!), but needs his parents to understand how he needs parenting applied to him

I went home and called Elliot after another meltdown (that broke the Dropcam). We decided that for now, the problem with a child psych is that while B has good verbal skills, he's not verbal enough to fully understand the breadth of his problems enough to communicate them aloud. We figured they would send us to literature, so we're seeking that out first. We actually went on the website for the child psych my pediatrician recommended (because her advice made me laugh-- sit by his door during tantrum-- what for two hours?, ignore them-- what and risk my entire house being completely mutilated?). 

The child psych website recommended this book: The Explosive Child 

We had that in our hands hours later via Barnes and Noble.

Elliot's almost done and I'm still reading. It basically sums up that when he starts to shut down (you can literally see his eyes close and his mind go elsewhere), that he doesn't interest being "bad", but simply doesn't have the necessary problem solving skills that most kids have innately driving their decisions. That we need to help him process through this. Essentially, this is a learning disability because he has not learned and does not possess the skills of flexibility, adaptability, frustration tolerance and problem solving. So, me rushing him to get moving each morning for preschool at a reasonable 7:30-8:15 to get dressed and eat a granola bar is sometimes too much for him. He isn't the rush-able kid. But really, he has to be ready sooner or later because kindergarten isn't far down the road. We're learning and trying new ways to smooth transitions with him.

The biggest trick is that with a kid like him, just shutting down and telling him no for things he desires or views as the correct solution isn't the answer. It's all about trying to understand his brain and help him process through the why of how the world works. I hate that he isn't the type of kid that can just be read the law. That would be too easy. Instead, I fear we will be looked at by outsiders as a weak parents who allow our kid to "get what he wants", when in reality normal parenting tactics just don't work for him. I do believe he wants to be good. He can be the biggest sweetheart. The book is also helping us take his behavior less personally (i.e. What did I do wrong?) and see him as not as much of a punk 3yo, but someone who is lacking the ability to process through problem-solving.

It feels like we've left the soft parenting stage and entered the real deal here. Not that every age isn't impressionable and creating a foundation, but this stage being one that is crucial to really set things into motion. Healthy eating, literacy exposure, hugs and kisses aside. This is active parenting.

It's easier to see things in perspective after the fact, but during his fit where I insisted he get moving on picture day last Thursday? That he simply wake up and put on some freaking clothes (I had him pick out the night before sensing an issue might arise) and threatening that I was leaving which then resulted in him running outside and stripping all of his clothes off in the driveway on a 30-degree morning and ultimately was dragged into school unwillingly dressed in mismatched clothes he reluctantly allowed me to put on him?

Not so easy to gain perspective. These are going to be some interesting years ahead.

We probably won't be investing in those spring pictures.


ekiwi said... [Reply to comment]

You are such an amazing mama. You guys are both fantastic parents; you're attentive, encouraging, engaging, loving, positive and so present. Benjin is a super smart sparkler. And I know it's maddening, but I promise being strong willed is a good thing (it better be, dammit). I know the actual movement stage of a sibling (really crawling and walking) can be dramatic and difficult for older kids. It was the absolute worst stage of tantrums for us (hour tantrums, yep. Writhing and stripping of clothing, awesome experience. Beating head against things, tears for everyone!) I know it's not the cultural norm in the US, but as a family counselor I can only vouch for the amazingness of my colleagues. So many are skilled in play therapy and other techniques that you can use at home. I promise they have such a depth of experience and expertise you will leave feeling empowered. I have a friend who swears by The Positive Parenting Principles in her practice. I'm sending so much mama love your way!!! I look up to you in so many ways and hope you know, deep down what an amazing mom you are!

Amelia said... [Reply to comment]

This required SO MANY THINGS I had to actually get off my phone and on the computer.

1. Not taking their behavior/words/actions personally is one thing I'm SO grateful to have had 10 years experience with before actually having a kid. There's nothing like having a child come at you with violent intentions, the swear words to match, and have to defend yourself against them, only to also have to completely forgive and problem solve and eventually tuck them in at night a couple hours later to give you some perspective on your boundaries, abilities, and personal zenness. Which I do not always achieve, but I see my husband STRUGGLE so much more with this than I. It's fucking hard. No joke. But absorb, it's not YOU, it's not HIM, it's just what's happening right at that moment.

2. Be prepared to take whatever help is given with a grain of salt. Respect opinions, take in information, but always keep in sight YOU know your kid best. G is crazy sauce about a lot of things, food, for one, but also sound, smell, constant lollygagging Lulu, (DEAR LORD GETTING READY FOR SCHOOL IS RIDICULOUS.) CLOTHING. I took her to one of the dr.s in her normal dr office for some help. I don't want to fix her I want to help her compute this world in a way best suited to her. Especially the food, it's required for life and stuff. After a line of questioning I totally expected to see if she had markers for autism/asbergers or adhd, which she did not, the dr said; "It's behavioral. Put her on time out. More consequences."
So my kid has to wear her socks inside out, has hated the very act of consuming food since birth, is completely overwhelmed by sound and smells because she's spoiled and we're soft parents?

Superb. Let's go with that. I am totally aware she has sensory processing issues, I wanted help with them. But let's try the time out version first. Because I haven't had the thought; This is where your eating disorder through my head nearly enough.

That being said. If you need/want/am curious about outside opinions or help, SEEK THEM. You never know what awesomeness someone could come up with. A new perceptive could be just what you need. Until then, know that if you are in line in front of me at the grocery store while shit is getting REAL, I am not judging you, your parenting abilities, or your child. I am sending you both so much love and strength because lawd we all need it.

The Bryants said... [Reply to comment]

My son is now 6 and what you wrote really resonated with me. When James was 3 he threw horrendous fits! They could be hours long if you allowed then. Same sort of thing. We had to teach him how to work through his emotions. It was hard work. But now 3 years later we are reaping the rewards. He understands his feelings and can talk you through what he's feeling.
And I know how you feel with the teacher. James 3 year old teacher without saying autism told us we should talk to our pediatrician insinuating that he was autistic. I was heartbroken.

Jenny said... [Reply to comment]

Hang in there! You're brave for seeking counseling (play based?), and initiating is the hardest step. I sought counseling when A. was 9 months old, and asked the family member with whom I was struggling to come along once (scary ask), but the insight and skills gained were so helpful!! We're re-initiating counseling as a married couple as we move and change jobs and change stress over the next two years... moving brought out some strong emotions in A. when she was three, too. It was like my child was changed. So, hang in there with counseling!!

SuzyQpon said... [Reply to comment]

YES, I completely understand what it's like to "know" that something is going on with your child but then to be told by someone and have it just crush you! My 6 year old is smart - amazing vocabulary, absorbs everything, etc. but he is starting to struggle in 1st grade because he won't?/can't? focus enough to complete his work. My husband has ADHD, my stepson has ADHD so I have been watching and thinking that he is exhibiting some of the signs/behaviors but when his teacher told us to have him evaluated, I almost burst into tears. I wasn't at all surprised but it still stung. My stepson is a senior in high school - the end is in sight after YEARS of literally dragging him, kicking and screaming through school! Now to think about starting that battle again. I hate to say this but it's crushing my soul just thinking about it. Not to mention, I don't want my son to have to struggle! I've been beating myself up for every TV show he has ever watched, every food dye he has eaten, every chemical he has been exposed to... It's so hard to know what to do and to feel confident in your parenting. I just keep reminding myself that I (WE) are TRYING - that's more than a lot of people do. I understand. I really do. We have to just keep trying.

katherine said... [Reply to comment]

Ugh, i'm so sorry things are so tough right now... Hugs, mama...

Obviously I am not there to know how bad things are. But all you describe sounds quite age-appropriate. I know he's the oldest, so you kind of expect him to Behave Already! But really, he's still a baby. My older daughter is six, and many kids her age (hesrelf included!) still sometimes have trouble with that whole executive function, self-regulation thing. It takes a while!

I am not saying there is not something more to this -- there might or might not be. But I wouldn't take the teacher's comments at heart. She probably just responded to what you were telling her -- if you are telling her you think your kid has a problem and probably needs to see a child psych -- if you are overwhelmed enough to talk to her about this -- then who is she to question you? She's just telling you what she's hearing. Plus, it's always easier to refer the problem to someone else -- the teacher probably thought it's better to refer Benjamin to a specialist and let him/her decide if there's a problem, rather than risk appeasing you and then later discovering there is, indeed, a problem.

But I know how hard it is to hear these things. ( I once had my daughter evaluated by Early Intervention -- i called them on my own initiative, and I fought with all my might to convince them that she needed services -- yet when I got the report back listing all the "issues" they'd observed, I cried. Hard...) Still. In my mind Banjamin is still just a baby. My younger daughter is just a couple of months younger than him and I can't bring myself to expect too much from her. When she has a tantrum, i have to try super hard to not crack up -- I find the drama, the seriousness with which this little person takes herself quite hilarious! Her older sister at that age, however, was a whole other story! I considered her huge, and she had better measure up! I almost took her tantrums personally, and they exhausted me...

I'm not saying I know what's going on here. All I'm saying is that sometimes the magnitude of a problem can vary, according to perspective. And I'm just offering an example of how my own perspective has changed...

Hang in there. You're doing a great job. Things will sort themselves out.

Mama Bear said... [Reply to comment]

I don't have the space to add much but I know you are such wonderful loving parents and I admire how you are helping B learn to express his brilliant little self in the best way for him. As wonderful as it is, being home alone with kids is f'ing hard! Hang in there. Sending lots of love and patience! xoxo

Mom in Limbo said... [Reply to comment]

My 5-year-old is the same way, and she has been since she was just about a year old. Sounds like I need that book, too. I have the same issues with clothes, making her move quickly in the morning, telling her no, etc. Time out? Ha! Never worked on her. Lock her in her room until she stops her fit? Room completely torn apart. It's this inner rage that takes over. Whens she's not like that, she's amazing. And while it has gotten better (she never acts like this at school, FYI), it is still a struggle. I just want you to know that you're not alone. I wish I had answers for you, but I don't. Parenting her is very hard, and I worry for her as she gets older. I pray I can help her normalize her reactions to "adversity" before she hits adolescence.

LookItsJessica said... [Reply to comment]

Big hugs! I'm so sorry things are difficult and you are facing some uncertainty on what is going on. BUT! It sounds like you are doing everything you can understand and help Benjamin in every way you can.

I won't pretend I know how it goes with severe tantrums because I know its insulting when people who haven't been there, act like they have. But we have big problems recently with waking up and going to school. Avy will tell us to leave and try to go back to sleep and refuse clothing sometimes too. It's not fun first thing in the morning and worse then you're trying to get out the door by 8:20. Hoping things resolve soon.

Dianna said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for sharing this! I will checking out that book tonight! My 3 year old needs something and I am tired of us both ending up screaming, tears, and feeling bad. I do take it personally and that is something I need to work on. Thank you again!

Veronica said... [Reply to comment]

I want to reply, to send support and love...but I'm reeling in my reflex to post about all the new crappy things Theo is doing because I know it's small potatoes to what you are dealing with with B.

I think what Amelia said was huge. Don't take it personally. I struggle with that, and will leave the house pissed off and MAD at theo for being such a jerk when he knows it's time to leave...and I'll literally have to talk myself off the edge while I'm pushing the stroller because I've convinced myself I can't parent my son and he's driving me to hate him. I blame myself for every wrong thing he's doing (that's so "normal") and tell myself it's my energy that's making him hit and throw things constantly. I get mad and yell, and it's awful...because yeah, I take it personally. Fuck it's hard.

I don't want this to be taken the wrong way...but I think Benjamin sounds normal. Sure, he's a "type", but I think he's 3 and it's just rough as hell when you're stay-at-home all day every day.

I was - in ways - like Benjamin. I tore apart my room, I broke shit, I saw red. I threw tantrums that brought my mom to her knees in tears. I was a tough piece of work.

I don't want to end this comment with saying "it will all be ok"...because that doesn't help anything. But I do want to say I think you're a stand up mom, and doing a great job with B. It takes a tough cookie to parent "problematic" children, and for what it's worth...I think you're among the best of the best and as tough as they get xo