26.10.12

Difficult

This is a difficult post to write.  It's been floating around in my head for a few weeks because I've been trying to think of how to write it without sounding whiny, petty or ungrateful.  If I do seem this way, please forgive me.  I'm doing the best I can, as are we all.

Why is this post so difficult to write?  Because it's about a difficult person -- my toddler.  Don't get me wrong. I am grateful to pieces that he is my child.  I am grateful that he is healthy, affectionate, funny, bright and perceptive, creative, generous and very ticklish, but today I am here to set things straight and tell you that things are not all sunshine, flowers and sidewalk chalk (surprise, surprise... right?)

Yes, all toddlers are challenging in their own, unique toddler-ish ways (as are they all utterly delightful in their own unique toddler-ish ways), but I must say, I'm glad this little Bloom is my second child and not my first.  My older son challenged me in all the normal ways and, with the perspective of having been through toddlerhood with one child, I know that, when my little one is being difficult, I haven't done anything wrong and don't blame myself.  My little one is just different from his brother... and more... difficult.

How is he difficult?  He bites.  He pinches.  And he shrieks.  A lot.  Not just any kind of shrieking.  Glass-shattering, icepick-through-the-eardrum, pickax-through-the-skull style shrieking.  He shrieks (and sometimes bites and pinches) when he's angry, frustrated, wants attention, has an unfavorable opinion about something and even when he's happy and playing and having fun. When we go to the library or grocery store, we are greeted with grimacing smiles from familiar clerks.  I smile back at them, cheerfully announcing, "Don't worry... We'll be leaving soon!" And last night, at 11:00, he woke up and shrieked for a solid 30 minutes (I tried everything.  I picked him up and he struggled so I put him down.  I offered to sing songs and read books.  I offered him juice, milk and snacks.  I took him outside to see the moon, etc... etc... Finally, I lit a candle and sang Happy Birthday. The screaming was suddenly replaced by placid cheerfulness, as if the past 30 minutes had never occurred.  Can you see me heaving an exasperated sigh of relief and rolling my eyes?)

What do I do about the shrieking (and pinching and biting?)  I used to flinch and get upset (I still do get upset sometimes.)  I assess for hunger, pain or tiredness and otherwise try to talk to him gently, with reminders to use a gentle voice and gentle hands (it's always more helpful to show a child what we DO want instead of what we don't want, right?)  When it's clear he's not in distress but testing limits or communicating by screaming, I flatten my expression, turn my back and walk away -- at which point, I usually hear a little voice behind me whisper, "Gentle voice..." My response to this, of course, is to turn around and say, "Yes, very good... gentle voice," then give lots of kisses and hugs.  Things have improved somewhat by using this response consistently.

So, why am I writing this post?  Like I said at the beginning, I'm glad this little guy is not my first child -- he is my second child, which gives me a better perspective on the whole shrieking, biting, pinching thing.  But if you have a little one who shrieks, bites or pinches, I hope you might find comfort, kinship and a bit of support reading this today.  Here are a few articles I recently found on the issue of biting (and other undesirable behaviors): there is this excellent article and this other excellent article, plus this article here.  I found reading these really helpful, and, if you've got a young child who screams, bites, pinches, hits or kicks, perhaps they will be helpful to you, too.

20 comments:

  1. These posts are difficult for lots of reasons. My sister's child was born with severe cerebral palsy. So I hate to write posts that make me seem less than grateful for my healthy children. BUT it is important to honour what is wonderful AND exasperating about our children. My five year old is smart, eloquent, artistic. And she STILL slaps her little sister across the face when they argue. I can barely contain my rage and frustration when it happens. They all used to bite each other. They've pinched, scratched, choked, and given each other hickeys by biting and sucking at the same time. It's appalling and upsetting when before you had children, you lived in a house without screeching and violence. So. Just to encourage you. The biting does stop, eventually. I went so far once as to nip by child on the arm to show her that it does hurt. That was desperation speaking. I'm not recommending that as a parenting technique, but I'll just say, the biting started to dissipate soon thereafter.
    Wow, long comment. What I've found is that each annoying, challenging phase fades, and gives way to another challenge. I wish you courage, faith, patience, and perspective!! Thank you for writing such a heartfelt, raw post.

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  2. I also have a screamer, and its a time out offence here. She's also a boundary pusher, and it so wearying. No matter how often she is praised for doing things well, still she pushes. You don't sound whiny at all, just realistic about parenting.

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  3. So sorry you are going through this and am glad you have found a way to resolve it for now. I am also very glad you put it out there to help others. So far, we are fortunate with our daughter, but I know it can all change very quickly and have friends who have children with issues (can't think of the right term there--sorry!). Thank you for sharing it!!

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    1. You are welcome Carrie, and thank your for your support, kind words, and just for stopping by to say 'hello!'

      Best wishes,
      mb

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  4. It's funny how alike our oldest and youngest children are. (:

    The Beast is our biter. He hits, he screams. The other two didn't do that. The Elf's reaction is to get angry "Fine, I'm not helping you any more!" and the Imp melts down - he cries and takes it all so hard. Of course, he really gets the brunt of it. Sigh.

    I'm going to follow your links and read them today. Thank you for posting about this. *hugs*

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    1. You are so very welcome, as always... And hugs back to you, Melissa!

      xo

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  5. Bless your Mama heart. This took me way on back. Let's see, he's 29 now. I would stand in the grocery line two carts back and wait until the person went completely through, at which point I'd push the cart straight on through to the end. The only way to get past the candy without hysterics. He was beautiful and a charmer, still is, but land's he wore me out. His older brother and his twin were as calm as could be. He didn't sleep all night until he was almost four. Very sensitive, very creative, very exhausting. Kudos to you for your honesty.

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    1. Oh, yes, the pitfalls of the grocery check-out line! My problem isn't the candy so much as *everything* -- all the displays set just in reach of sticky little hands -- and he is one fast little grabber (the worst are the displays of glass wine bottles... yikes.)

      Your son and my little one sound like kindred spirits -- beautiful charmers and "very sensitive, very creative, very exhausting" -- that's him alright!

      Well, if you survived, I know I can... and all the tender little kisses, delicious hugs and funny little songs chanted in his sweet little voice make it all worth it, every day!

      Thank you for saying hello -- please come back and say hello again soon...

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  6. Well now I am grateful that I only got bitten, pinched, kicked and punched... no shrieking, well not ear splitting anyway.
    The wee one is a little older than wee Bloom - do you remember me being exasperated by her biting.. and not just me but others? "This too shall pass"
    I am still being wacked and punched with little balled up fists and have my toes stomped on by her mad feet when she swings into a feisty little mood... I am trying to get down at her eye level (hold her at arms length while arms are swinging)and say something like -"it is ok to feel (insert emotion here) but it is not ok to hit, punch..." then i just wait for the energy to run out a bit and offer her the cuddle or attention she was seeking in the first place.
    Mothering is such hard work - I am so glad that you are out there doing it too! xx

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    1. Ah, yes, validation of difficult feelings is always good, too, isn't it. Now my little one, in the midst of a hollering fit will sometimes say, "I'm sad!" which is a good acknowledgment on his part (and shows that, in the midst of his shrieking, he hears me say, "I'm sorry you feel so sad/angry/frustrated, etc..." My husband keeps saying that, perhaps it will get easier with our wee Bloom once he can "communicate" with language, and I have to remind him that the child's ability to communicate is not the issue (he has no problem making himself understood) -- but rather, the issue is that he doesn't always get what he wants. No, he may not have the knife, the scissor, my cup of coffee, the permanent-ink marking pen, the bottle of bleach, his brother's school work papers, the cat's food, etc... ! Nor can I allow him to stand on the kitchen table, go dashing across the street all on his own, spend the day in a wet diaper, etc...

      Thank you, Shannon, as always, for your support and long-distance friendship!
      xo

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  7. Hugs, Bloom! Isn't it amazing how different each kiddo is? There are days where I wonder how my twinnies can be so different, each with their own utterly exasperating issues and needs. My children bring out my huge weaknesses. They help me want to be a better example, more patient, more forgiving. Thanks for your honesty. I'm with you. Parenting is a beautiful life, but it's so challenging, too!

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    1. Yes, such a learning curve, isn't it, to become "more patient, more forgiving," etc... And, indeed, parenting IS a beautiful life and so challenging, too!

      And, oh! the differences between children -- I always say mine are like "chalk and cheese!"

      xo

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  8. (((HUGS))) I've often said, if my second child had been my first, he'd be my ONLY child. There's no way I would have risked having another one like him.

    One thing that seems helpful for us to let him do many of the things he wants, within reasonable safety boundaries. I let him chop things with a dinner knife but not a sharp knife. He can't get *on* the counter or table, but he can stand on a stool so he can reach them. He can't have his sister's homework, but we give him his own homework to do -- coloring pages, lined paper for writing, and preschool workbooks with erasable markers. He gets a pinky dip to taste our coffee, wine, or beer, and that's all that children get to have. And our agreement is that he can strip down to underpants whenever he wants as long as he stays in the house, but if we have to leave, he has to put something on. Giving him some control over these things, and letting him explore what works and what doesn't, seems to be helping prevent a lot of the screaming in our home.

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  9. Oh, yes, he has his own washable crayons, colored pencils and writing paper. He gets home-made play-dough when my older son sculpts with fimo. We give him an old t.v. remote (with the batteries removed) when he tries to take the phone, etc... But he's so smart and so stubborn that sometimes substitution just doesn't work. He gets as much leeway as possible, but he's 2, and so usually he just wants what he wants, and he cannot have it. Despite all the insanity, he is quite a delicious morsel (and I'd have a third, if I could!!)

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  10. My dear M - I have so much motherly advice about so many things. But I know what you are talking about; my grandkids (one of the family's worth) are the same way - they go from zero to eighty in the breath of a second - ear splitting- out of control emotion. The younger one, who is two, does it because the eldest, who is four, has done it from the beginning. It's like he's stuck in the terrible two-s, and has been for the last two years. He hits and bites his parents. He HAS to have things a certain way - but isn't autistic. And when he's NOT in this mode, he can be sweet as anything, and he's brilliant in terms of learning things and making connections. But he's also sly, and when he knows you want or need something from him, he withholds it with this sly little smile = and I think that's the most disturbing part of all for me.

    His emotional maturity, then, must be said to be WAY behind his intellectual maturity. His short fuse has to do, I am certain, with an immature brain chem - it's very confusing. And at my house, I have clout, because I am not furniture the way his parents are (they, by the way, if anything have OVER structured and disciplined at times - they are constantly reading up on behavioral stuff - trying one philosophy after another). I can stop it because when I raise my hood and show my fangs, it shocks people - but mostly I simply talk to him like he's fourteen instead of four, person to person and that seems to quiet him down, at least temporarily. He does respond to reason, and says very surprising things sometimes.

    The only honest thing I can say to my son and daughter-i-l and you is that I NEVER had a kid like this. None of my kids behaved this way, and I have NO idea how to deal with it in the long term. I'm wondering if it has to do with the stress they feel in the air - that we all feel, seemingly all the time these days. Or maybe it's additives in the food - but I'm seeing good parents trying to deal with something WAY tougher than I had to deal with, and I don't know why.

    I was a hands-on mom - my kids were disciplined from the beginning - with reason and firmness - but their personalities didn't explode. Not even the most wild of them. This explosion just wows me. All I can say is this is the place in life where the Beauty and the Beast story, and Tam Linn - this is where they become meaningful - they aren't about hanging on to men = but about hanging on to your children, hanging on to love for dear life -

    Patience is a tough thing. It has to become an absolute - under conditions that could make or break you. But I know that you will win in the end. We don't know each other face to face, but everything I've ever felt in you tells me you have the depth of strength and love - and the saving sense of humor - to manage this and save that little soul, and help him find his way out of this hot chemical mess into a beautiful life and personality. It's just going to be a tough job. But when is parenting not a tough job? You just don't quit. You hang on till it's time for a child to make his own choices.

    And knowing you aren't alone in this - I hope that this, at least, helps.

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    1. Thank you, my friend, for you kind words. He has gotten better over the past two days. I have not been able to track or make sense of reasons for the way he cycles in and out of phases -- except to attribute it to the mysteries of his developing brain. For weeks at a time, he will be very difficult to be with, and then for weeks at a time he's full of hugs-and-kisses-and-sweetness-and-delight. The past two days, in fact, have been like that (non-stop hugs and kisses, endlessly endearing toddler cuteness.)

      We sing a lot to distract and sooth him, and we do use a lot of humor (he, himself, is very funny -- you should hear him tell a knock-knock joke!)

      Sending love, as always, to you my dear!! xo

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  11. I feel your pain! My son's hysteria was a bit different in flavor, it seems, (did you see this post when I wrote it?) but still - I feel your pain. Just keep repeating: it won't be like this forever.

    http://mama-days.blogspot.com/2011/12/ive-got-screamer.html

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  12. I'm just seeing this post now, but I'm sending you hugs through the internet! It is hard to complain sometimes, especially when, like you mention, we love so many things about our children and we are grateful for every ounce of them. But it's ok to feel frustrated by them, too. My Shira is a YELLER (sorry), and it can drive me crazy, and embarrass me when we're around other people. I just keep reminding myself that she'll mellow out, and if she doesn't, that's probably ok too. I'll still love her ;)

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