Too Emotional!!!

Okay all you super parents out there! I’ve read all the greatest parenting books, and know all the best ways to approach parenting. Yet I struggle with one small piece of the big puzzle (I’m pretty sure it’s the most important piece too). So I’m asking you earnestly; how do you do it?

When your four year old pushes his little cousin down the step and gives him a black eye, how do you keep calm and not scream and smack at him? How do you control your fear that you have a little hooligan in the making? I understand that my emotions feed the negative actions of my child, but damned if I can stop from reacting! Some one help me out here!

The big monster in the room at my house has been the way my preschooler treats others. For example, I stepped out the door into my backyard last week to find my poor fuzzy kitty’s head being squished by Alex’s knees.

He was giggling sadistically while squishing the brains right out of her! Naturally my reaction was to grab him by the ear and drag his butt to his bedroom for a serious time out. All the while I was screaming a lecture about how animals are defenseless, like babies blah blah blah…I guarantee that’s what I sounded like to him: wha, wha, wha, just like the teaches on Charlie Brown!

I,  being a well read parent, know better than to lecture a four year old. I know treating him like a little adult is not helpful, but in the heat of the moment I can’t seem to find my off switch! I’ve heard people say “take a deep breath and count to ten before reacting”. I’m sorry, that does not seem logical when the moment calls for instant reaction. Am I going about this all wrong? Should I have stood there watching my poor fluffy cat fade into unconsciousness in order to analyze how to properly discipline my child?! Do you see my dilemma?

Am I alone in this struggle? I could use the advice of parents who have conquered!

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9 thoughts on “Too Emotional!!!

  1. My dear, I feel for you and I understand what you are going through. And while I am no expert, I will share with you my perceptions and experiences with my own child and hope it will help you. I am the parent of autistic/bipolar, and OCD/phobic children.

    You are experiencing in your son the symptoms of something not working correctly in the brain. When our dd was younger I would catch her kicking one of the dogs, or smacking one of the cats because they did something that made her angry. I could go on with many many more details of her behaviors that just are not “normal”. Her anger and inappropriate reactions, her rapid mood swings became a nightmare for our family. We didn’t realize there was a real problem until she was 7 and had her first serious rage.

    I “found” a book while waiting on something at a bookstore one day. I swear the universe put it there because I needed it so bad. The title, “Is your Child Bipolar?” by Mary Ann McDonnell and Janet Wozniak. I opened it, and was pulled in by the ease of the read. The nurse practitioner and doctor who authored the book wrote it so that any parent can understand exactly what they are saying. That book saved our lives, possibly literally.

    It took a long time (almost 3 years) to get our dd to a good child psychiatrist. Even though we live in a suburb of a large city, there are only 3 pediatric psychiatrists in our area. We stumbled through using a psychologist until it was obvious it just wasn’t enough for her. We are so glad we did. This was not an easy decision, but we agreed that it was in the best interest of our dd’s and our family’s health and well-being.

    Our dd was diagnosed one year and five months ago. We have been very fortunate to find doctors that are willing to try natural routes in addition to prescription drugs because we really do not like shoving meds in our kids. Her amino acid and single medication regimen has kept her stable for nine months, knock on wood!
    I never forget that any day it could stop working, any day we might have an unexpected rage, but we now have our team of family doctor and psychiatrist behind us there when we need them. We understand her chronic disorders, and she is beginning to understand and accept them herself.

    Please, please start reading like crazy. Educate yourself while you are seeking a good and reputable pediatric psychiatrist. It will take a lot of time and research on your part, but it is so worth it. Find doctors that will listen to you and your son. Create a daily chart starting now of your son’s behaviors from the time he wakes up til he goes to sleep at night, and even the kind of sleep he has (restless, restful, etc). Include foods he eats and drinks, the type of actions and reactions you observe, the length of time of his episodes of anger, rage, giddiness, hyperactivity, whatever you are observing. The chart is priceless to help you understand triggers for behaviors and as a guide for doctors to really understand what is going on.

    While you are working on all of this, you really should check out the Balanced Mind Foundation, http://www.thebalancedmind.org/

    The Balanced Mind foundation is an amazing organization with parent forums where you can chat online with other parents of mood disorder, autistic, etc. kids. They have proven so helpful and soothing to me when I felt like I had nowhere to go and no one to talk to. They also have a great bank of information on many disorders to read about.

    Please know that you are NOT ALONE! There are many of us out here with children suffering from mood disorders. It is not your fault, it is not his fault. My own family doctor told me flat out, “you cannot do this alone”, you will need the help of family, friends, and doctors. It is very hard in the beginning. It does get better. Educating yourself on mood disorders, seeking good medical advice and diagnosis, and providing yourself with communication outlets are very important.

    Do NOT leave your son alone with the pets or other children. When our kids fall into their rages, or “altered states” they have no self control at all. My daughter has told me several times that she hates getting upset because she has no control over her brain.

    You will find that some family and friends just will not be able to understand what you are going through. I have found that unless someone has personal experience with a child or person with similar issues, they cannot comprehend at all what you and your son are going through.

    I hope you find this helpful. Please feel free to ask me anything about my experiences with my kids. Bless you darling and bless your sweet boy. I hope you are both able to find peace very soon.

    • Thank you so much for the information!! We have explored the world of ADHD and participated in a double blind study to find out if Ritalin would be a valid treatment. It wasn’t, and our pediatrician decided not to medicate Alex at all. I know his bipolar disorder is something that runs in the family on his father’s side. I haven’t done research, but mood disorder is something that has played in the back of my mind several times.

      I appreciate your kind words of encouragement, and will continue studying and reading about these things. Thanks for the link http://www.thebalancedmind.org/ as well!

      • You are very welcome. ADHD meds will exacerbate bipolar symptoms. Wish I had known that before we tried them over a year ago. Never again. Her ADHD is not inhibiting her school life at all, so we just do not medicate for it. Hang in there, and always remember you are not alone!

  2. As long as he can relate to you, listen, and love you, then you will win the battle. You WILL win, in the end, and its the longer term that is important. The little good things count, not the big bad things. And of course, when you can, help him find his passion: at 4 he is so young, but soon..hope some of that is a little useful..

  3. Hey Bran – I can only let you know what I have done with my “angels”, with whom I have never had this problem. :o) I don’t know anything about possible mood disorders or anything like that, so I am just focusing on how you react in the moment and redirect the kids.

    If they are doing something so hurtful or dangerous to themselves or someone else, I do not do that count to ten thing. I address the behavior immediately. The kids go for an immediate time out (even if I have to drag them to it). As we are going to our time out spot I usually say something short and simple and direct and forceful like “do not EVER do that again” or “absolutely not” or “that kind of behavior is NOT an option” Then I leave them alone in their time out spot until both they and I have had a chance to calm down. Sometimes I do say “I am really upset about what just happened and I need to give myself a time out until I can calm down.” That way I try to reinforce that time outs are a good way for anyone to calm down and be ready to be with people again.

    I don’t actually talk to them about what happened until later when we are both calmed down. Often we talk about it briefly within the next 1/2 hour, when it seems like the right time. Something like “I was really worried when you were playing so roughly with Gideon. I thought he might get hurt. He does like to play with you, but we have to be careful when we play with kids and animals, especially if they are smaller than you” And then I try to ask them some questions to get them talking about the situation. “were you having fun playing with Gideon? when I asked you to stop, were you having a hard time listening? were you feeling frustrated or angry when Gideon wouldn’t share his toy with you?” The girls can usually tell me a little bit about why they started doing what they were doing, if I give them some time to calm down and think about it. Then usually later on that day or the next day I try to reiterate it again, “yesterday, it seemed like you had a little bit of a hard time playing gently with Gideon, do you think you are ready to try again today?”

    If you can catch them doing the behavior well then I really try to praise that, positive reinforcement. “I am so proud of the way you played so carefully with Gideon today” or “You are doing a great job helping Gideon find some toys that are good for him to play with”

    My girls are really into what people are thinking, so if I can put it in those terms, sometimes that helps too. “Gideon loves to play with his big sisters, but I think he felt afraid and sad when you bumped into him and he fell down.”

    These are just some suggestions of what have worked for us. Hope they might be helpful. I guess in short what I am trying to say is that, I don’t think you need to wait to stop the behavior, I do that instantly. Stop the behavior and impose a consequence (a time out or whatever). But as you said, it may be hard for him to hear the reasons or understand why you are so upset while you both are still in that moment, so perhaps wait until you are both calmed down before discussing the situation and trying to suggest different tools, or behavior patterns or the future.

    Good luck! And let me know what works for you, because I am always open to new suggestions for our “fun” times as well. :o)

  4. Hi Brandi,

    I was going to say similar things to Meadow as far as in an unsafe situation I just try to separate so that everyone is safe and *try* to save discussion or lecturing until we have both calmed down.

    We have definitely had times of being too rough here with little sister or our dogs. It takes a lot of supervision. I was just talking with some friends about how my son will start by hugging his sister and then turn it into a wrestling match. Some of my friends suggested that boys in particular are just much more physical in expressing their affection (and anger). One suggested the book Lost Boys by James Garbarino; I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

    Reading books that have a “lesson” in them has helped. We’ve read some Aesop’s Fables and there is a book Martha Doesn’t Share about sharing. Sometimes reading about another families situation is a good way for us to reiterate a lesson we want to focus on.

    We try to get a lot of outside time, positive physical activity and recognizing positive behaviors but it is still a process that we continually work on. Just want you to know that you definitely don’t have the only active, physical four year old in the world. There are many, many of them. I think you are doing a great job! Keep it up.

    • Thank You Ivory! You’re right about reading books with a lesson, I did a lot of that when I was in children’s lit last semester, but I have slacked off. I’ll have to try that again.

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