Monday, 6 July 2015

Go to sleep!


(Whenever Katie has gone through a developmental change her sleep has been effected. There used to be clearly recognisable periods when her ability to fall asleep grew markedly more impaired. These periods were generally short lived though and normal service was resumed relatively quickly.  Over the last few years however I'm noticing that the periods of disruption are growing far longer than the periods of ease of sleep.

I think it's fair to say that I have experienced every single emotion related to Katie and getting her to sleep. Sadly there is often a massive imbalance between the positive and the negative emotions. I've questioned and queried the reasons as to why she is unable to settle. Is it behavioural? Is it hormonal? Is it both? I've invested unbelievable amounts of time and effort into helping her fall asleep. We have a regular bedtime routine of bath and stories.  I've stroked her hair and murmured meditative monologues about heavy eyelids and limbs. We given incentives and rewards for staying in bed. We've tried music. We've tried Nighttime Rescue Remedy and Potters Sleep Balm. I've even tried the odd dose of Piriton. We've tried letting her read herself to sleep. We've tried using the iPad/Ipod/singing dog. She has a rustle box that just seems to keep her awake. We've gotten angry and frustrated. We've had shouting matches as Katie has refused to stay in bed. Nothing works for long.

I'm thinking a lot about Katie's behaviour and what drives it just lately. I'd much rather not be thinking about it but it's a fairly prominent issue so hard to ignore. Theraplay has really highlighted just how much energy Katie invests in trying to control everything at home. The amount of energy she must use each day in this quest would make you question why she's not more exhausted at the end of the day. But there in is part of the problem. Katie doesn't like going to bed. She doesn't want to sleep. She doesn't want to be told to sleep. She wants to control when she goes to bed and she wants to have control over the evening TCM and I have. She want's to control EVERYTHING! I'm also becoming the same as I try desperately to claw back my own control of the situation.  I'm writing this blog post on my bed in the next room to her. It's nearly 9pm and despite us reading the Nightlights book and doing relaxation and me stroking her head for 20 minutes, she is still very much awake,. I will say she's more mellow than previous evenings where she was screaming and tantrumming and trying to sit in an open bedroom window (opened by her not me) so that is a step in the right direction, but she's not asleep. 

So the questions remains. What are we dealing with? Is this just about control or is there more at play? I'm tackling the first part with great tenacity currently. Fed up with battling about everything with Katie we are now using a zero tolerance policy. It feels harsh. It's swift. There is no room for ambiguity or negotiation. If I ask her to do something and she argues or tantrums she is ignored or removed to her room. She is not gaining anything anymore for this behaviour. Yesterday she had no money to spend at her school fete because of her behaviour. Zero Tolerance Policy has seen some horrific meltdowns in response. Epic! Scary! Violent ones. I've had buckets thrown at me. I've dodged flying objects (mostly toys). I've been called names (she's quite fond of the word "Imbecile" just lately thanks to a school friend and watching Matilda!). I've been sworn at. But, and there is a but, the tantrums seem to be getting shorter each time now. She seems to give in a little quicker and accept the outcome a little more graciously. I've even had some apologies. 

I'm thinking that although this approach is highly uncomfortable for us, it seems to be working. What's key to it though is staying eerily calm. I've rediscovered my sing song voice. I'm ignoring.....a lot. I'm very, very tough though and taking no nonsense at all. My hope is that she will start to feel safe and recognise that I'm in control, not her. I'm hoping that this will, in turn, help her relax at bedtime. I hope so.

We do have a lot working against us. Katie is leaving her current school soon and starting Junior school. We will be leaving our rented house (praise be) and moving home, just prior to starting the new school. There is much in her life that is out of her control. This will be unsettling although I'm hoping that going home will help. It might be a distraction from starting school. It might make it worse. 

We have to find a way to deal with Katie's need to control things before she gets too much older I think, otherwise I foresee desperate teenage years ahead. I feel she really needs to understand that we are in control and I feel that the way forward isn't with soft boundaries. I suspect we've been too accommodating. Too understanding. Making too many excuses for her behaviour. Tiptoeing around the issue of her being adopted. Of course this is all part of the issue and needs to be understood but it's also clouding the problem. There remains a niggle of whether if she has FASD, that could be impacting on her ability to settle but once asleep Katie rarely wakes up again, so her ability to go to sleep seems, to me at least, that it's anxiety driven rather than chemically driven. Of course the lighter, summer nights don't help things either. It will be a watch and see scenario. We will wait to see if the Zero Tolerance Policy enables her to abdicate control to us. I suspect this will continue to be a tough process for some time to come and we will have to remain invested in it. Neither TCM or myself want to be rigid, dictatorial parents because that's not who we are as people really but we've tried the more relaxed parenting style and I'm realising it just gives Katie too much room for anxiety and manouvere. 

It's relentless though. She is relentless. We didn't go out of the house yesterday morning because she refused the wear the shoes I asked her to put on. Previously I would have given her a choice but now the choices have been removed until Katie starts to comply with these simple requests. 

Will this work? Who knows! I hope so. I hope we can tighten things and reign her back in again. I joke that it's like breaking in a horse. Firm but gentle. Gentle is tough though when dodging missiles because instinct can take over. I'm working hard on that one. 

It's 9:24pm. It's now nearly 2 hours since I put Katie to bed. I read her the riot act about 10 minutes ago. It's gone very quiet. Might she be asleep? If so then in three days we've reigned sleep back from 11pm to 9:24pm. It's required me to sit in my bedroom, missing my time with TCM though. 

Fingers crossed we're heading in the right direction. 

On a plus side (and I almost daren't write this in case I put the wrong intention out into the universe) Pip has been sleeping in his own bed all night for the past week!  Which has been a blessed relief from this...


If you can think of a miraculous solution to our sleep problems that I've not already tried I would love to hear your suggestions.  What has worked for you?  Do we just add an annexe onto our house build and stick Katie in there so she can get on with it herself?

10 comments:

  1. Totally admire your continued determination! Well done. I have zero advice but was wondering if Katie feels unsafe going to sleep and therefore finds it a challenge to switch off?
    What a relief it will be to return home after the build! I think you might need a holiday afterwards to reward yourself for the challenges you'll have overcome in the past year! X

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    1. Hi Jska and thank you for your reply. I do query whether anxiety is playing a part in Katie's reluctance to sleep. She tends to hold onto negative experiences more readily than positive ones so I've bought her the books Tiger Tiger and Incredible Me to help her turn those thoughts around a bit. There is a real determination to not go to sleep which I do think is linked to control and something we need to work on. I admire her determination (well I would if it were directed at someone else!) lol xx

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  2. Just wondered whether you had tried Supernanny's "Back to Bed" technique? It seems to be very effective on the show. You can find a video of it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJZClgJ7ZJ0&t=18m20s
    It starts at 18m 20s and lasts a few minutes.

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    1. Hi Maizy. Thank you for your reply. Yes we've tried Supernanny approaches. For Katie though she finds them too much of a game and a challenge. You can see her hyperstimulation kick in with the joy of the game. We have put her back to bed over 50 times in an evening in the past. Funnily enough though it wasn't until Pip started messing about at bedtime and I saw the familar gleam in his eyes and I approached his bedtime very differently that I realised how badly the approached had been for Katie. I wish I'd known then what I know now. I do think using these approaches for us with what we now know to be hyperstimulation and control issues just exacerbated the situation rather than calm it. It's such a minefield and other Supernanny approaches worked for a while when she was younger. Thank you for the idea though xxx

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  3. FinallyAFamily201311 July 2015 at 14:33

    We have tried the "soft/flexible" parenting for a long time now with one of our "issues" - L's inability to show any respect to his dad - and we are getting to the stage now of the "firm/dictatorial/instant consequence" with it as I think eventually you just end up "rewarding" their bad behavior and so at some point you have to (even if it is temporarily - hopefully temporarily) go down a parenting route you would rather not have had to take.

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  4. Hi Gem,
    Thanks for your honesty here, I like your style, and I think that the firm boundaries and limited choices might help K to manage her behavior better in the long term. I think, especially for children who have been looked-after and who have a history of trauma, we are always looking to understand the "why behind the what", what is the deep-seated psychological reason for this behavior, and while of course, we are all the products of our histories, I think as parents we can get ourselves tied up in knots with the unanswerable "why is she doing this" questions. The sad truth is, we will never know exactly why our children behave in the way that they do, our children will never know exactly why they behave in the way that they do. I think kindest thing for us as parents is to ask ourselves what will help us to manage, as a family, the needs of each childs, and enforce fair and consistent boundaries as needed. I often get lost down the rabbit warren of "why is she...", and although it makes me feel very sad that I wasn't there for my baby's earliest years, accepting that I do not, and will not, know, has set me free from some of that anxiety and frantic switching between parenting strategies in the hope of finding the right solution.

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  5. So I saw this and thought of your problems, although I'm not sure you don't already know about this:

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/05/schools-behavior-discipline-collaborative-proactive-solutions-ross-greene

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    1. Thank you. This is great. No I hadn't seen it and am reading with interest x

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  6. Thank you so much for this post. I felt like I was reading about our seven-year old avoidant, controlling adopted daughter who we are currently battling with over night times. I started out in the dictatorial/immediate consequence parenting camp but have more recently become a disciple of Dan Hughes' PACE model and Positive Discipline both of which seem to shy away from punishment/consequences. However, the jury is very much still out and I often think we need a zero tolerance approach; at least for certain behaviors. I would be really interested to hear of specific examples (behavior and consequence) of where you feel a zero tolerance approach is making a difference for the better. E.g. Gem, what consequences are you using when Katie defies your request to stay in her room/go to sleep? Thanks again for sharing. Simon

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    1. Hi Simon, please accept my apologies for the slow reply. It's been a busy week here. We're very much a work in progress as well and things are hit and miss. One thing we're doing specifically is no longer ignoring tantrums. When I say tantrums I mean the full on screaming and tongue poking out, hitting and kicking and throwing things ones. Basically Katie is removed from our main rooms for the safety of her brother. We literally eitherfrog march her or even pick her up and remove her to her room or the garden. We tell her she has to stay there until she can behave in an acceptable manner (this generally takes several attempt because she doesn't want to go). It does work for us though. She is calming down more quickly. Rarely I've had to restrain her. I've made it clear that we will no longer tolerate these behaviours though but we are willing to talk about anything. It's been tough. I'm not sure how this approach works in a Bryan Post or PACE ethos but I was fed up with letting her rule the house with fear if her tantrums through no intervention. Katie is someone who has to step over every boundary. What I will say is that we are now getting fewer massive tantrums. Re sleep she is returned to her bedroom, generally until we all lose our tempers although we are now trying out some medication to help with sleep and this has been really successful over the past week. Not a single bedtime problem for 6 days now. This is under review so we can ascertain if it's anxiety or a melatonin issue but I'm still thinking it's an inability to relax. So email me if you want to discuss anything further. Gem

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