Friday, 18 May 2012

Tempers, Tantrums and Tears

Goodness me! Where has my delightful little Katie-girl gone at the moment?  She has been taken over by a child that is currently full of rage and some interestingly anti-social behaviour.  She's back to spitting and kicking and throwing nearby objects, which are behaviours that we had nipped in the bud about a year ago.  We had a major meltdown during the afternoon and then again at bedtime last night and then again this morning.  I've chatted with some friends who have a lot of childcare experience and also with Katie's Pre-School Teacher to gain some insights.  There is a very helpful leaflet at Understanding Childhood: Tempers and Tears which I have read many times and found very helpful.  I also like their Hold it and Count To Ten leaflet.

In short I think there could be a variety of things going on inside her at the moment:

Some of this is typical 4 year old behaviour.  She's now a big fish at school and most of the children are full of the "hands on hips, chin in the air" attitude.  The typical 4 year old does not expect to have to wait for anything - life is now now now!!  She is frustrated that the world doesn't always revolve around her and there might be a subconscious need to ensure that egocentricity is maintained.  

Katie will be starting big school soon and that is bound to raise some insecurities in her, even if she isn't aware that that is why she is feeling insecure and anxious.  Change can be difficult for well-adjusted adults to cope with, let alone an adopted child who has already had to move from a home where she felt very secure and now move again from a school where she also feels very secure into an environment where she has no frame of reference.  Many children, who live with their birth parents and don't have the adoption issues to contend with, find starting school difficult and challenging.

There is talk of a sister which might be heightening her insecurity.  I've definitely noticed that she is questioning my relationships with other children and is asking what I'm allowed to help them with.  She tells me that she doesn't want me helping other children.  What do I do about that? Do I try and ensure that she doesn't see me with other children or do I maintain my responses the way they currently are but continue to reassure Katie how much I love her?  We talk about the differences between "like" and "love" to help her understand that I love her but I like other people's children.  She tells me that I have her heart and she has mine to take care of.  I know all children go through phases of feeling jealous about their parents relationships with other children and it may just be that we have to revisit this issue for a while and then she will settle down again.  I have downloaded the Understanding Childhood leaflet on Understanding Sibling Rivalry as there is a good section on preparing older children for a sibling.

Katie's pre-school teacher said to me today that academically Katie is more than ready to start school but socially she isn't ready yet. It's hard to hear that your child is struggling in some aspect of their life because, thus far, Katie's adoption has been incredibly straight forward (all things considered) and she has taken everything in her stride.  She has always been a real social butterfly.  Of course it brings up emotions of failure in myself.  Is there something I'm doing that's exacerbating her behaviour?  Her teacher feels confident that Katie is developing the skills she needs to start school i.e. listening, sitting still, interacting with other children nicely, waiting her turn etc and that within another month Katie will continue to make vast improvements in these areas.  We've agreed a plan of action whereby I am going to spend more time doing listening activities with Katie at home and her teacher is going to bring in the interrupting technique that we have been using at home. Katie has to squeeze my hand if she wants to interrupt me and I squeeze her hand back to let her know that I can see her and know she is waiting.  A silent communication.  Her teacher has also recommended that I speak to her teacher at the school she will be starting in September and explain some of her background and some of the issues we have been experiencing.  I fully expect that we'll see a vast deterioration in her behaviour when she starts school due to frustration and sheer tiredness, and I can live with that if the flip side is that she can cope in school.  I don't want her to start school on the wrong foot, if there is anything I can do to avoid that.  I want her to enjoy school if that is possible for her.

Katie's teacher also said to me today that part of this behaviour is probably simply within Katie's character. That she is a person who will always want to push things as far as she can to see what will happen.  I think this will be a task for us as parents to help her understand about herself so that she can risk assess and make sensible choices throughout her life.

Of course all this could be simply due to a particularly unusual planetary alignment ..... nice thought eh?

So, the plan of action is this:

We're going to ignore as much of the negative, attention-seeking behaviour as we can by simply walking away from her.  I will continue to move away and not acknowledge her when she is in a rage, ensuring she is safe but remaining close enough that when she reaches the point that she needs a hug, I am there for her.  We will continue to use Time-out and removal of toys/privileges for really difficult behaviour.  We are going to reward positive behaviour with pennies again and go back to the Saturday treat if she has earned enough pennies during the week. We will continue to do the stars for being dry at night.  I am also going to up her daily dose of Omega oils again (this has worked quite well in the past and we were just on a maintenance dose but we will raise this to twice a day again).  We'll do this for the next 2 weeks and take stock of where we are at that point.


13 comments:

  1. I really relate to this. Our 3 year old is v similar... as you know there's talk of a baby brother and at school the difference between her and her peers is marked - emotionally she's much younger and wetting during the day again... we're ignoring and re-assuring too... I hope it gets better for you and it helps to know we're not alone. x

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    1. Hey Kat. Yes it makes it much better to know we're not alone. Parenting is one tough business at times eh?. Thanks for posting.

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  2. Oh dear poor old mummy and poor old Katie. Sounds like spirited Katie is testing the boundaries at the moment, sounds like you've got the right plan of how to deal with her. x

    P.s its funnychic by the way I cant seem to reply unless I say anon

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    1. LOL I like the phrase "spirited Katie". That's a great way of describing her.

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  3. Our CAMHS therapist told me that life for Mini would probably always be this way - ups and downs, periods of improvement, followed by periods of deterioration. She explained that emotions and understanding develop at different rates and when they come together you can have a settled period, then as one develops faster again, then you get an unsettled period. This happens for many children, but for us, it's magnified because of Mini trying to understand his background, and feeling things that he can't yet identify.

    With your second adoption, the brilliant nighttime dryness and your birthday, perhaps she's just processing lots right now and will settle down again soon...perhaps life will be like this, but you have a great plan, you reassess regularly, you're in control and you're being a great mum too!

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    1. Thanks for sharing this Stix. Katie is going through a lot of developmental stages at the moment: she's growing so quickly physically as well as the other changes happening around her. She is doing so well in so many areas that it doesn't surprise me that she's pushing like this. Funnily enough I've been cavassing opinions today at pre-school and gymnastics and all the mums I spoke to said their girls are behaving similarly at the moment so I'm wondering if most of this is simply her age with a few added bits. I'll keep with the plan and observe whilst we're going through the next few weeks and see if I can spot any specific triggers. Today has brought a much better afternoon. She got into a bit of trouble at pre-school but her teacher and I had already discussed a plan of action, which she initiated and it worked well, so only one problem today. I do feel confident we'll get there with it all. She does tend to take a few steps forward and then a few backwards. Like you say, the brain and the body can't always stay in synch. I probably worry too much about it all.

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  4. I wonder about ignoring her rage - while I understand the principle of not rewarding 'bad' behaviour, I wonder if she needs you close, and her rage in itself is both understandable an a communication to you. Her actions, if they are hurting someone (even if it's your ears, or making you feel embarrassed) can be addressed, but her feelings are proably linked to early unmet needs, experiences of rejection, loss, uncertaintly, change; and you can let her know that you understand that. - this is just another view.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I just wanted to say that I am very close with her during any temper tantrums, usually in the same room but just not giving her my full attention so that I can be close by when she reaches the point when she needs a hug because her feelings are scaring her. Thankfully I don't get embarrassed at all. I've had many a public tantrum and I'm pretty laid back about it. I just don't want Katie to get tons of attention from it as I don't feel that that is productive for her, particularly when she is in full flow. I am close for when she needs me though and she always comes when she's ready and we huggle close until it all subsides.

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  5. Hi - Just come back to this and wanted to clarify... when I mentioned ignoring the rage in my comment, I meant we don't react to it as in get into an argument or try to cajole her out of it. We hold her close if she allows us to (if it's a 'distressed' rage), or if she doesn't and it's an angry one, we make sure she's safe and let cry it out until she's ready to be held close. Then when she's calm we do the reassuring and talking (and I can breathe and try to ignore my own rage!!!) Sorry for the confusion x

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  6. Hi Kat. Was yours the anonymous comment above? I wasn't sure which comment you meant. It's such a minefield isn't it? I know I open myself to criticism by being open about how we manage Katie's behaviour and everyone manages situations differently. I think a lot depends on each child. Rages are so difficult to handle because they invoke so many emotions in us. I hate seeing Katie in such a rage. I want to make her feel better but I've also learned that she doesn't want me to hold her when she is in the that place until she is ready. I've tried holding her in the past but she just doesn't want that. Like you we do the reassuring once she's ready and we discuss why she felt angry. I don't make a big deal out of it at all. Anger is a very normal reaction but we do discuss other ways of expressing our anger. It seems pretty common in 4 year olds from what I can gather from friends. My friends with birth children are also experiencing this range of behaviour. That is reassuring in many ways as I don't feel it's necessarily an adoption thing now.

    We had a very good weekend, which was a nice reprieve. I've discovered that tiring her out (with 5 mile walks) seems to help tremendously. Guess what we'll be doing more of from now on? LOL xx

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  7. No I don't know who anonymous is.. I was referring to my very first comment. Sometimes when you're being kicked, holding isn't such a good option! We find similar with our daughter.. if she's busy doing things she's mostly ok... will have to find her a range of jobs to do! Haha!

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  8. I also have to ignore the rages. Pickle is a man mountain, with a fantastic right hook and great hand-eye coordination, so any flying object will most definitely strike me. I find I have to leave him on the step in the hallway and remove myself from the situation altogether. This can enrage him further. I have worried whether I should be closer but both for my physical and mental well-being, I seem to be better further away. The cuddles and calm talking come afterwards in the same way as you describe. It's all going a bit Pete Tong at the minute though. Think we've all lost our way a little. Need to get back on course.

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  9. My three year old has rages also. His older brother never really had this problem so it's been a learning process. I let him have his temper tantrums while I ignore them. He always calms down and comes to me when he's ready. My pediatrician says it's all normal and he will outgrow it soon, so I don't let it stress me out. New follower from circle of moms, I look forward to your future posts!
    http://wvfrugal-wvsaver.blogspot.com

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