Showdown at the OK Corale

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Malika, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Tonight there was a battle in my house... and no winners...
    All the trend of the past few weeks, that everything is getting better, that J is no longer impossible, that I know some strategies, that the hideous out-of-control oppositional scenes (involving both of us) are over, all crumbled tonight... And I ended up giving him three or four really hard slaps on the backside, for which I hate myself (of course), my own lack of control...
    The scene: bedtime. J's bedtime is around 8. It's been a long day and he's tired. He had bath and supper as usual, then I said he could play for "five minutes". He was running outside looking through some new binoculars he's got. I called him in. He said "one more minute!". To avoid the show-down, not get into battle to no purpose, I say, ok, one minute but he must then come in when I call him. When I call him, he comes in. I say it's bedtime... he again says he wants to play with his toys for "one minute"... I insist, he starts veering towards tantrum. Again, to avoid show-down, I say I have a short phone call I need to make and that when the call is finished, it is bedtime.. He agrees. When the call is finished... he refuses to come. At this point I feel angry, my tone gets irritated, I feel as if I am being messed around, this is ridiculous... pick him up and take him to the bathroom to brush his teeth - at which point he goes ballistic. Hits me. Screams insults at me (French playground insults but still...) and then... spits. Which causes something to go off in me and I hit him... hard... which I instantly regret. The absurdity of telling him not to hit if I am going to do it...
    But his behaviour feels so "crazy" to me, so out there, I think it frightens me... I don't want it to be like this, I don't want him to be like this (though he hasn't been for quite some time). I can't really yet accept that I have what you call a difficult child... Partly also my feelings arise out of the shame of knowing that our next door neighbours can hear all of this - my desire for J to be "normal", for us to have a "normal" relationship...
    What if anything did I do wrong? What makes a four year old scream insults with rage and hatred? How do I make J into a normal child....? The last question is of course ironic. I know I can't. But I am still unwilling to really accept and deal with the violence within him... And then my own violence!!!
  2. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    We've all "lost it" with our difficult children now and then, sometimes physically, sometimes verbally. We're human, too, and we muck things up. Unless you've done him irreparable damage what you can do from here is you both get some sleep, then in the morning after breakfast (never a good idea to bring up something bad when everyone is hungry), calmly discuss it with him, apologize for your part, and ask him if he has any ideas on what you BOTH could have done different for a better outcome. And remember to give him a big hug and some love.
  3. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Yes, done that already (probably) too soon... Was feeling bad (of course) immediately after and apologised and tried totalk about it. He just kept covering his ears and saying he didn't want to talk about it...
    I think at the root of this for me is that I find such behaviour really brattish, unacceptable, can't kind of get it truly into my head that "he can't help it" (is that true?) But I forgot, in my stressed-up state, the true sequence of events... in fact what sent him ballistic was that I took off a gold star on his "reward chart" (something that actually works quite well) - this is not an established practice between us, not something I have done, but I just felt there had to be some consequence to this endless ignoring of what we had agreed... I should say that bedtime is normally no problem whatsoever, I suspect largely because he is SO tired by then. He accepts to go to bed like a dream usually and is asleep within minutes...
    Oy vey! Tomorrow is another day, as you say... I feel I/we can't afford too many of these failures... It's not what I want to be creating in his psyche...
  4. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    I think we've all been there....please don't be TOO hard on yourself.

    The battle of bedtime can be a tough one....and right now, you are a clock that is "negotiable" more minute, five more minutes, right now, ok two minutes - it probably feels very arbitrary to difficult child. Maybe it would be a good idea to buy a very large clock and let the clock count down to bedtime? When the big hand here gets to the number 12 here - then it's bedtime. I'm sorry, the clock says bedtime. There's nothing I can do - the clock says bedtime...

    It might help...
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I personally think it is really true...he probably gets so wound out that he can't stop it. Is it normal? No. I did not realize it was this bad. He is violent and this is not the norm. Do you know anything at all about his biological background (genetics)? Kids are not born a blank slate. I am always awed and amazed at the baby nursery, how different the infants are at birth. Some are looking around, some are crying, some are sleeping...all of my kid had personalities from the beginning. You are not writing on a blackboard. Much of who he is was there before you ever met him!

    If your child has some kind of disorder, which I know you don't like to hear but I am too honest not say it, then normal parenting does not work. That is why it is important to get an idea of what is going that you can modify your parenting the best you can and to not think "he is a brat." Why would he be a brat? What would he want to displease you? Is he sorry afterward?

    I have to say, I am n Occupational Therapist (OT) a fan of spanking our kids. It does not help them. If he hits you and you hit him back you are showing a lack of control when our special kids need us to be in control. However, it is not the end of the world that you have lost your temper. Most of us have. Can you seek therapy for yourself in learning how to better deal with this child? Perhaps they will not help him yet because he is too young, but they MUST have somebody who can give you advice and support.

    Does his father ever see him? It would be a break for you if he did. Do you have family that can give you some respite? Friends? You seem to spend so much time worrying about him. I would 1/Admit he is different and that you need to get help or him or yourself or both. 2/Take out time just to enjoy yourself so that you can relax and have fun without him around you all the time, if this is possible.

    Often our children have good weeks and bad almost seems to cycle. We think we are out of the woods, and then they act up again.

    (((Hugs))). You are a great parent so do not worry about a mistake. We all have them.
  6. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    It's very difficult to describe the whole picture of a child (obviously) when one comes here... J used to be very much more "violent" (but only with me) but after each time stressing that it is not acceptable, etc, it has all toned down. Even last night when he hit me it was like a gentle slap on my arm and also a little pinch - kind of symbolic violence. But mine was not symbolic... And I am not a fan of spanking AT ALL... I just lost it. To do with my "stuff", really. Ironically he wasn't even being that difficult before the explosion - just pushing boundaries like a normal kid. What really set him off was my taking off a gold star from his reward chart - he loves these stars and to him it symbolised something else, felt very cruel. As I was doing it I knew it was cruel and I wasn't intending that but just felt I had to have some consequence.
    It is a very good idea to have a set bedtime and this I will talk about with him. We have not had this because actually bedtime is, truly, NEVER a problem. He always goes to bed like a dream when I say it is time - he is also so tired by then. When he was smaller he would sometimes just announce "I am going to bed" and do so...
    I don't think J is that physically violent or aggressive. He can control it, control that impulse and I see him struggling to do so and doing so, particularly with other children. What he cannot control is his rage when he is in it - the screaming of insults, etc. He also saw my ex-husband behaving like that with me quite a few times and I have no idea whether that is an influence. I think we both have a problem with "going into the red zone" which is a concept from "Raising Your Spirited Child", a book I have found helpful. We need to establish some technique whereby he can verbalise that he is beginning to get very wound up and find ways round it...
    His adoptive father and wider family, to whom he remains close, is in Morocco. He has their surname, which is very important in Moroccan culture. We go there about twice a year and J stays with him and his family (without me) for several weeks in the summer. I do have lots of time away from J, lots of opportunity to relax, see friends, etc. As for a therapist... I don't know. I know what to do with J, I have found out and reflected (a good side to the "worrying"!) on the changes necessary and some, maybe most, of the time I implement them. It has been succesful. But last night... Really it was more to do with me than J and is to do with an instinctive reaction that rises up in me in the face of his explosions... this I could, yes, usefully be talking about with someone if I found a good person.
    We will have a debrief about all this this morning. I know the sensitive, responsive side of J will listen and take it in. I am ashamed of my own reaction, but I need to have compassion for it and rise to meet another day... As we all do :)
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Malika, I can see a few places where things went wrong. And this is not intended to be critical, just to lay it all out there, to help you see.

    First - you need to really understand, I do not believe he is doing this to be brattish or deliberately disobedient. But while you perceive it this way, your resentment will flare, and you will have dramas.

    Second - he clearly (to me, anyway) is having HUGE problems with transitioning. So knowing this, you now need to really help. And it won't be prefect. You can put in place every possible strategy, but especially with a younger child, transitions will be difficult and require a lot of repeated prompting. You also need to try to avoid problems before they begin. For example, any activity that is BRIEF (five minutes is too brief) needs to be avoided entirely. especially if the child is already tired. Bedtime routine is really, really important especially for those with transition problems. NEVER allow anyone to stir up a child or change his routine to something more exciting, when he is in the wind-down before bedtime. A child who is bathed and ready for bed should never be allowed to run around outside. If he does, then the whole wind-down has to start over, and it will take time. It is a major break in routine and very unsettling.
    Scenario - your child is bathed, had dinner, is in pyjamas and about to clean teeth and climb into bed. Suddenly there is a knock at the door - favourite uncle has arrived, just for a few minutes. he is delivering a package or something, but takes a few minutes to have a chase around the room with the child, a tickle game and some wrestling. Then uncle leaves. Trust me - that child will now be unsettled, and bedtime suddenly a lot more difficult! And that's a easy child, not a difficult child with added problems.

    Third - we have learned that rewards once earned should stay earned. Star charts work best with a difficult child when you don't take away rewards earned. The effort to earn that star is unchanged. If the child has transgressed, then clearly he does not earn another star for tat night's efforts. But to take away a star earned by good behaviour, is like saying, "It doesn't matter how well you behave, it can always be taken away later." It devalues the reward and makes it far less achievable. He will stop trying, if you do this. So not matter how bad the problems, leave the star chart alone. Let him know that the clock to earn another star just got restarted, tonight is not going to be a successful night. But don't take any away.

    Fourth - he flipped out worst ,when you imposed your will, especially physically. You picked him up and carried him in. That is taking control away from him, and this sounds like a kid who has at some level a great sense of powerlessness anyway. You just reinforced it.
    Scenario - I am an adult woman. I have a certain level of personal dignity and self-respect, as well as certain expectations of self-determination. But if I was walking through the mall and someone grabbed me, pinned my arms to my sides and tried to carry me off, I would be kicking, screaming, making a lot of fuss and trying to cause them as much inconvenience as I could.
    To your son, you grabbing him is almost exactly the same.

    There's a lot of your son that sounds like Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). A big flag for me, is an apparent inability in him to see that wanting to be in charge is not normal and not really acceptable. Also in Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), they often cannot see any distinction in rank - they are the ultimate egalitarians. "Because I'm the parent and I said so, that's why," does not work on these kids. They will try it back on you, and be upset and annoyed at the unfairness of it, when it fails to work.
    Example: easy child 2/difficult child 2 at age 3 or 4, wanting a glass of juice when I had said she had already had three glasses and it was time she drank a glass of water instead for a change. I poured the water for her, and she got very angry with me. Stood there, hands on hips, saying (in my tone of voice) "I said I wanted JUICE! What is wrong with you? Why don't you pay attention?"
    I had to find a different way of teaching her what is appropriate and what is not - to punish her for what she said, would lead to her thinking, "How come SHE says it and I'm not allowed to?" While she continued to feel resentful, there was no chance she could actually learn to change her behaviour. I had to actively teach her that it is a fact of life that parents get the final say, purely because we have lived a lot more years and earned the right. She was not born while I was earning the right, but she needed to know, I did have that right and she needed to accept this.

    Some of what you did was good - you compromised; you tried to adapt. You also gave timed warnings. The biggest problem was tat the whole time-frame was too short for tis to work, and also that bedtime routine is important because it helps a child learn to cal his mind and get ready for sleep. The process of getting ready for sleep actually takes several hours. We had to ban any physical or stimulating mental activity, in the three hours before bedtime. Some computer games were OK, bot not others. Problem-solving games that had no time limit (therefore no adrenalin component) were generally okay. But the wilder, pacier, more exciting games (even Mario Kart) are just too stimulating to play after 5 pm for a younger child. As an example.

    Don't beat yourself up over it. Just note what did not work, and remember it for next time. There will be many more of these occasions. I speak from experience!

  8. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Thanks Marguerite. I do know already that the way I dealt with the situation was flawed - especially picking him up and taking the star away... this really upset him and as I was doing it I could kind of feel and sort-of remember how such a thing would have really upset me when I was a small child...
    I do take the point about playing outside before bed. I hadn't thought about this and I think you are right. One of the problems for me in this area is that I have never, ever had bedtime problems with J - so it is as if I now think he will automatically go to bed, whatever... Of course he was stimulated, yes, not in bedtime mode after that...
    I cannot tell you about Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) - as you know, I'm not looking for labels right now... He definitely is egalitarian in his dealings with me - will sometimes say things like (as in your example with your daughter): "I've already asked you to do X. Why don't you listen to me?" and I think he does want to be in control, feels anxious when he is not. This is often an issue for adopted children, I read...
    At the same time there is something about him that is responsive, capable of change, self-control... It's not a straightforward picture. Maybe it never is.
    This morning we had a "debrief". I spoke to him honestly and said that something in me had felt scared and angry and that was why I had hit him. I apologised. We talked about what he had done and why it had happened, how it could have happened better (for both of us, although I didn't say that - he doesn't need to be burdened with my dilemma). He declared that in future he will go to bed straight away when I ask!! We both felt better after the conversation and the relationship (somewhat) restored. I talked to him about having a set bedtime of 8.
    Afterwards, before school, he went out to look at our local mountain through the binoculars and came back wanting me to come and look at the sun... Which was big and bright in the sky. When we had admired it, he said, jigging about: "It's time to celebrate!"
    The sunshine after the storm...
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I won't tell you about Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) because I know you aren't interested (ahem) :) but these kids tend to think of all people as the same. They think of parents as the same as peers and will stick up for themselves rather than be submissive. They have a strong sense of fairness and often argue with people they should not.

    Now...I've also said that my daughter does this too. However, her reason is different. She is not Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) (very socially adept in fact). But since she was sexually abused by our adopted older child, we made sure she was able to say "no" to everyone equally and not necessarily listen to somebody just because he/she was an authority figure. That is how many children ARE abused...a teacher says "Come into my car" and the child feels she should because the teacher is in authority. So there are other reasons too, but Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) is one.

    I adopted four children (aside from the one who was dangerous and left). One was a control freak...we no longer see him, but he came at age six. The other adopted children are fairly easygoing and compliant. Even the one who took drugs was never into control...she was simply insecure and a lot of that had to do with my divorce (I still feel gulilty about that...she knows I feel guilty and laughs at me every time I apologize AGAIN).

    There is just no way to say why your child does what he does. My guess is a lot of it is hereditary. And some of it is some disorder which you will have no choice but to visit later on. The world will not adapt to him the way you do...and that is often when our children unfortunately get into trouble with their ideas of the world and social norms. While my son (now eighteen) got so much better behaviorally as he grew older, his differences became more obvious. You exchange on thing for is not an easy road, but you seem tough and up to the task. Losing your temper one time means nothing...we have all done it.
  10. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member


    I believe that Marg gave you some very wise words. I know, that for my difficult child, a strickly-adherred to bedtime routine helped immensely when he was younger. A calming hour of bathing, reading, talking cuddling, worked like a charm (and also had the added benefit of really improving our relationship).

    I totally understand your view in not looking for a "label" for your son - I really do get it. But getting hung up on the words to describe the issues your son is dealing with could add precious time before getting him the appropriate help. The only thing a diagnosis really does is give you a plan to go forward.

  11. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Yes, I am not looking for a label NOW (all this may well change) because, as MWM pointed out, one cannot get an accurate one this young. And it would not change anything... he is not going to go on any medication NOW, he fits in and functions at school NOW... when things change and evolve, I will change my response also...
    It may seem like I am mulling over what is going on with J to no purpose, but you have to remember that many people see J as "normal" - a character, yes, more boisterous than most, yes, but they are not all rushing to me saying there is something wrong with this child that needs to be dealt with. And that in itself doesn't mean anything, I am quite aware - people don't have specialist knowledge, just as I didn't. But in coming here to the forum, in reading and posting, I believe I am doing something positive to inform myself about the possibilities, to keep my eyes open...
    So I have looked up Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) on google. Here is what I find from Wikipedia:
    "Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) is not itself a diagnosis, while Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified is a diagnosis. To further complicate the issue, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified can also be referred to as "atypical personality development", "atypical Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)", or "atypical Autism".
    Because of the "not otherwise specified", which means "not otherwise specified", it is hard to describe what Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified is, other than its being an autism spectrum disorder (Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)). Some people diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified are close to having Asperger syndrome, but do not quite fit. Others have near full fledged autism, but without some of its symptoms. The psychology field is considering creating several subclasses within Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified."
    To be honest, I don't actually feel this takes me any further forrarder... The not knowing... the knowing nothing about what went on for this baby and his biological mother in utero, not knowing what she did or didn't do, how it might have affected his development... I am quite with you, MWM, in thinking hereditary factors play such an influential role. And clearly nurture also plays a big role - we cannot pretend otherwise! I have to have hope in J, hope in his future, hope and confidence in my own role as his mother... otherwise what hope is there!! :) And thanks for the supportive words, MWM - I can learn from my mistake, that's the important thing...
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Malika, I used Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) as an umbrella term. There are a number of clearly defined disorders that are subsets of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Asperger's Syndrome is one such for you to look at. Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) not otherwise specified is another subset of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD).

    Apparently when the new DSM V criteria come out, all forms of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) (Asperger's, autism both high-functioning and severe, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) not otherwise specified) will simply be labelled as autism.

    As for the age - they are diagnosing autism younger and younger. difficult child 3 is now 17 years old and was diagnosed autistic at age 3. The diagnosis was confirmed at age 4. He has been reassessed over the years and at times the diagnosis was modified to Asperger's, but since then the autism label has been reapplied. We've been told that the reason he has autism, and not Asperger's, is he has a history of past language delay. That history cannot be changed. it happened. It WAS. Any change in diagnosis has been due to different people having different opinions on the distinction between Asperger's and autism. Maybe that is why DSM V will eliminate the distinction.

    Fourteen years have passed since difficult child 3 was diagnosed. In tat time they're getting more skilled at recognising and assessing for it in younger children. Earlier diagnosis, even in kids who are otherwise doing OK, is valuable because it means you can put things in place NOW. If your son has mild, high-functioning autism with no language delay (ie Asperger's by current definition) then even if he seems to be doing fine, there are things you can put in place now, at home, even if the school is not on board because they're not really noticing anything particularly problematic. Because they will!

    difficult child 3 was obvious because of his language delay. difficult child 1 was not obvious. But it manifested in him as being extremely withdrawn and very distractible. However, he was not disruptive; far from it. difficult child 1 would simply sit there in class and zone out. he had friends at school (generally the really bright kids or the weird kids) and had some difficulty with transitions, but less than difficult child 3 (and your son, by the sound of it). difficult child 1 was identified as a problem by the school at age 6. ADHD was diagnosed but it never explained everything. Asperger's was diagnosed in difficult child 1 at age 13-14, because getting difficult child 3 diagnosed tipped us off that autistic tendencies were running in the family.

    I really wish we'd had difficult child 1 diagnosed earlier - he needed a lot more help but this was not obvious until he was in middle high school. He did not get an IEP until senior high school; we had a huge fight to get it. And the help, when it came, was minimal and disjointed.

    In a lot of ways I feel that I failed difficult child 1. We can look back with all the kids and see when the problems were apparent, but the trouble is, a lot of what autistic kids do, is also what normal kids do at some stage. It's a matter of timing and degree.

    I hope the distinction helps.

  13. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hello Marguerite. Thank you for your thoughts. I have no reason to think J has Asperger's Syndrome. He displays, as I have said, few if any of the characteristics. I do have reason to think that he has ADHD because of his manifest physical hyperactivity. He seems to have some of the characteristics of Sensory Integration Disorder (SID). He definitely displays ODD tendencies when he is feeling unloved or under threat... He finds change very difficult and upsetting - is that because of a neurological disorder, because he has lived in three different countries in four years of life with frequent travelling between them all (less so now we are more stable and he goes to school), or because of both?
    My point is not that I am resisting a label because I just don't like them. I am regularly told - and it does make real sense to me - that the personality and the brain of the young child are evolving so rapidly and so uncertainly that accurate diagnoses cannot be made this young, unless a case is very extreme, very obvious. There is no point in having an unsure diagnosis just for the sake of it, as there is no call for medication of any kind at this point. Time will reveal things. We went to see the school psychologist - her assessment was that at this point J is completely within the normal range. She has told me to come and see her next year if it is clear he is having problems with learning to read and write... this makes sense. We have seen a child psychologist who suggests ADHD but says it is too early to make a diagnosis and she needs to see and know him much better before she can do so.
    What I am really waiting for is to see the speech therapist (am on several waiting lists) because here in France they do also diagnose and work with neurological problems. I have also been told about an excellent neuro-psychologist that I would like to see - as everywhere, long waiting lists... We have an appointment in June to see another child psychology service and I think they will make an early assessment and suggest forms of help, which seem to be many and varied here.
    So things are in hand! Things really will get clearer soon, over the next few years.
  14. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    t's great that you have come to the board and asked for help. That is really good. And your resistance to labeling your little boy a difficult child may be right on the mark. It's hard for us to know and we will each bring our own perspective to your posts/problems that will lead us each to see in your child what we see in our own. That doesn't make those perceptions right or wrong. It just gives you more info to work with.

    Anyway, I have some thoughts for you, some of which repeat what others have said.

    If you don't have a set bedtime routine you need to create one and hold to it. If you both know what order things happen in at such a major transition in his day then it is likely to reduce conflict and prevent situations like the one you describe. You cannot get "loose" and allow yourself to drop the routine because it will set you and him up for this kind of conflict. If possible you need routines set up through out the day that are fairly rigid so your days are predictable. Get up at 8 am, have breakfast, have a bath, play inside for an hour, go for a walk for an hour, eat lunch, take a nap or quiet time for an hour, mommy reads to him for 30 minutes, you sing songs and play with other kids for an hour - whatever. You get the idea. You both need a schedule like most young children do - but you will probably need to be more careful to hold to the schedule despite potential distractions like the new toys.

    I am going to be blunt here.

    You need to find a therapist for yourself.

    It's not OK for you to lose it and slap a 4 yo hard because he is yelling schoolyard curses at you - even if he spits at you although I can completely understand why that in particular should cause you to react so strongly. Because you apparently have been in a violent or emotionally abusive relationship in the past you need to resolve certain issues left over from that (or underlying your vulnerability to an abusive relationship) with a therapist - and not let them spill over into your parenting if that is what is happening.

    Your initial description of your son's behavior made it sound like he was tearing at your hair, spitting in your eye and being extremely physically violent. Your later description of this as "token" violence is puzzling. Either you moved into denial about the seriousness of his behavior or your initial description was way off the mark. Either way I think you need some outside help managing your own perceptions and feelings before your son gets any bigger. For his sake, if not for your own.

    If he has witnessed physical or emotional abuse of you as a young child that can be the same as having been abused himself in terms of the effect it can have on his development. If you have not consulted a child therapist about this specific thing and asked about getting him into play therapy for this then I think you need to do that as well.

    The child therapist can help to educate you about what is "normal" behavior for a 4 yo and what is not. This is important info for you because some of the things you are saying sound like you are attributing a level of thinking to him that is not developmentally appropriate and that your parenting is based on those assumptions. It is a rare 4 yo who will not physically resist being picked up and hauled off to bed when he has been allowed to get excited and play right up to the last minute before bed. The degree of your son's reaction may be more than normal but the basic reaction is not (at least not in my experience).

    I realize that the approach to parenting in France is different than here in the US. But some things are universal I think - including your authority as parent. You cannot be his friend but must be his parent. You make decisions and you tell him about them. With exceptions like whether he wears the red shirt or the blue shirt or plays with the truck or the ball, you should be deciding what will happen when and how and then telling him of your decision. An egalitarian approach may work for most kids there in France (though I doubt it). Regardless, it does not seem to be working for you with this child at this moment.

    You should not be negotiating about bedtime or his routine or even doing a lot of explaining. You should not be asking him whether he will agree to go to bed at 8 without a fuss, you should not be telling him you got scared (think for a minute about how this might make him feel - he can't count on the one adult in his life to not be scared of him?) or asking him why he has done this or that thing. These are not developmentally appropriate things to do with a 4 yo. He does not have the brain development to allow him to function in an adult manner and your descriptions make it sound like you think he can. You are wrong and your expectations and beliefs about this seem to me to be at least as big a problem for you as his actual behavior.

    You will have to get past worrying about what the neighbors think. Most people will not think you are a horrible mother because you have a 4 yo who is throwing temper tantrums (as far as they are concerned that's what this is) when it's bed time.

    They are much more likely to have a problem with you slapping him though. I know you feel bad about that and I'm not criticizing. Did that a time or two myself when my kids were little and always (still) wish I had not done it. But it is an important sign that you need help. Please do not dismiss it or make light of it. Pay attention to signals like that.

    As others have said, with a kid who has anger issues, to use physical punishment is to provoke more anger and to teach that a physical reaction to anger is acceptable. It may work with some kids (though I doubt it) but with a kid who is wired to react physically you are only reinforcing that tendency.

    Last edited: Apr 19, 2011
  15. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hmmm, some blunt words there, Patricia :) But that's fine and some of what you say is useful. I'm not in denial about what happened, though. I initially said that he went ballistic, hit me, screamed insults and then spat. MWM picked up on the physical violence and I clarified that he had slapped me and given me a little pinch but that he had then exploded with rage. There's no contradiction.
    HOWEVER, I think it is a fair point that I sometimes have unrealistic expectations of a four year old. I am aware of this sometimes, but like most things we are aware of, am not necessarily able to see when I am doing it in the moment. And actually I do know you are quite right about the unacceptability of slapping him hard when faced with his explosion... It is to do with something that goes off in MY brain without my conscious control. So I do need to control it consciously before it gets to that point... I've done lots of work on the relationship abuse, am not sure it is going to help me specifically now. But my reason for posting about it was, I think, that I need to understand and contain the dynamic that potentially exists between us.
    In fact, my losing it on Sunday night was really not so easily shaken off, a small mistake that was quickly forgotten. J has been really, really difficult since then, in a way that he has not been for SUCH a long time. I know it is related.
    As for all the set routine stuff... and the being his friend. I don't think I try to be that. I have learnt, though, that what definitely works best with him is to negotiate, discuss, explain, ask... I have seen it a thousand times. And we have a loose routine that works for us. Totally set routines do not and part of the reason for that is because we do travel a lot - to England and to Morocco, regularly during holidays. So things cannot be too set in stone because they have to regularly change. Also one of the things J finds really hard is being flexible, accepting change... I want to work with him to allow him to supple sometimes.
    Anyway, thanks for the clarity of your statement. It is not easy to hear or face, but because it is the truth that I was behaving abusively in that moment, to my shame, it is fine for it to be said.
  16. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    i want to emphasise, Malika, I am not pushing to label your son as Asperger's. I was just clarifying a little more about the distinction between Asperger's and other forms of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD).

    From what you describe, your son appears to me to function, at least in part, as if he has some Asperger's traits. Now, you are on the spot and I am not, so it's sensible for you to have a better idea of what is happening. But in so far as he is doing what you say, treating those aspects of his behaviour as if it is Asperger's could be a useful technique. A working hypothesis, if you will. It's not giving in to him, it is simply a different way of looking at him and helping him find other ways to accomplish what he needs to do.

    For example - I have a rather unusual neurological problem, acquired after an injury at work. After 25 years I still don't have a label that makes sense, and doctors argue about what to call it. They have only been able to treat the symptoms. But I have learned that sometimes it is easier, and the closest to the truth, to tell people (when they ask) that my condition is similar to MS. It is not MS, it does not progress like MS. But it is the easiest way for me to describe it and deal with it.

    I'm thinking that even though the Asperger's label is not the right one for your son, at the moment the techniques used to work with such kids would be worth trying for him.

  17. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I am going to agree with both Pataricia and Marguerite. Patricia's post was WONDERFUL.

    I am very puzzled as to why you will not seek outside help in dealing with this child. You do seem to minimize his violence. Even if it gets better because YOU adapt to him, the world ill not adapt to him. Example: He is in a school with five children and an understanding teacher. This is all well and good, but could he function in a larger classroom with teachers who are less understanding? If not, he is different from most children and you are adapting his environment to his "different" behavior. You can't do this forever however.

    in my opinion he does need outside help. And I also must chime in that he does have Asperger traits. Is this something shameful in France? I'm really curious. It is very unusual for a parent to try to do everything alone. Since we are so emotionally involved in the child, it is also very difficult to do the right thing. I also agree that trying to explain and/or negotiate with a four year old is rather a puzzling tactic. He is likely to get harder to raise as he gets older, especially if he gets no help. Also, you don't KNOW what is wrong with him. You are guessing that he has ADHD maybe because he is active. But many issues cause hyperactivity.
    Whatever may be the problem, it is better to face it than to deny it. Just my two cents :)
  18. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    MWM, I am puzzled that you do not actually read all the posts to get an accurate picture :) As I stated before, we are currently seeing a child psychiatrist, have seen a school district psychologist who tells me there is nothing she can do for the present because by her assessment J is functioning normally, have an appointment to see another psychologist in June... This morning I spent an hour phoning every speech therapist in the telephone directory (something I had already done in February) trying to get an appointment - there are months long waiting lists - and also trying to get an appointment with a neuro-psychologist who has been recommended to me as "fantastic". I think by any objective assessment this cannot be called an unwillingness to get outside help!!
    Patricia's post was good and useful in parts. I was very surprised by her recommending a kind of Plan A approach with my son... Whatever else he is or is not, J is an explosive child. The method of collaborative problem solving works for me... being the old-fashioned "you do what I say and that's all there is to it" method does not work with J. Do I minimise his violence? Compared to the "normal" child, J is violent. Compared to what I have read on some of the posts here, his violence is mild.
    I think we are all trying to do the best for our children. We will naturally differ in our opinions about the way that that can be done...
  19. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Yes, we do. I didn't mean to come across as impatient.

    Please remember that violent is violent. Compared to what you read on the board he may be mildly violent. But most kids are not violent at all.

    Good luck :)
  20. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hello MWM.
    Most kids are not violent at all?? I think this is not an accurate observation, with all respect. I have seen SO many incidences of "mild" violence among kids, between each other, in Morocco, France or England - especially between siblings! This seems to taper off at a certain age. Ten or so? But to think that there is some absolute dividing line between the "difficult child"s who lash out when angry and the "normal" ones who don't is simply false.
    What IS different about "normal" kids is that they are not usually violent with their parents or adults...