We both don't know what to do anymore.

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by buffcupcake, Oct 6, 2011.

  1. buffcupcake

    buffcupcake New Member

    First a little bit of background info:

    My husband and I are both active duty Air Force. We just got restationed a few weeks ago and we're still settling in. We got married last November. Our kids are my stepkids. We have a boy who is turning 4 in a couple of weeks and a girl who turns 6 in February, just started kindergarten. Their BM is not in the picture 95% of the time. When husband and BM first got divorced, it was because of evidence of severe physical and emotional abuse to both kids from her. husband got primary custody and has held it since. She started out with supervised visitation, was ordered to go to anger management classes and take medications for bipolar disorder, but she never did. This was back in 2009 so B4 was 1-2 and D5 was 3. Nowadays, B4 is awesome. We did have behavioral and anger problems with both children, but started implementing the program 1-2-3 Magic based on a child psychiatrist's recommendations. 1-2-3 Magic has worked wonders with B4. He is very smart and calm most of the time. I think it is because he was very young when BM was abusing them and he doesn't remember most of it. D5, however, is a different story.

    Her behavior is halfway under control at home because we still use the 1-2-3 method, though sometimes she is in timeout for 30 minutes to an hour just waiting for her to calm down. She will begin to whine, cry, and throw fits at very little things, and she is always very anxious, wondering what we're going to do next, worrying about what we're eating for dinner, trying to keep my husband and I on track with our parenting, worrying about what B4 is doing or getting, etc. Sometimes when we take her to timeout she will hit and kick and pinch us, and her screaming is ridiculous. Our biggest problem at home is getting her to eat. She doesn't want to eat anything unless it's fast food, pb&j's, or macaroni and cheese, or limited other junk food. She won't eat anything me or my husband cook, not even lunchables, little compleat kids meals, nothing. We used to make a big deal out of it and even have tried charting, rewards, dessert, taking stuff away if she doesn't eat, etc., and nothing would have any effect, so now if she doesn't eat what I offer her, she just doesn't eat dinner and we act like we don't care. We still don't know if that's the right thing to do, but I can't make her a pb&j every night just because she doesn't wanna try anything else. B4 eats and loves to eat everything we give him.

    She started kingergarten before we moved in a not-so-great school. They do the green, yellow, and red system, and at first it started out with some greens, then progressed to mostly reds and yellows with a few green days. We made a big deal out of praise every time she got a green day, and you can tell she was super proud when she did well, and she CARES about doing well. She wants to do better, she just can't control her emotions. She just started her new kindergarten a couple of weeks ago since we moved, which is a super high rated school, and her first 7 days or so were green and blue (this school does green, blue, yellow, red, and purple or something). Yesterday was yellow, and today my husband got a call from the school saying she was screaming, defying all authority, and refusing to do any work. She used to do the same thing at her other school which includes throwing crayons at the teacher, hitting the teacher, etc. She doesn't like to listen when she gets into a fit and she will just keep arguing with you, or saying she doesn't remember or doesn't know, but then she remembers trivial things like when my mom came to visit back in April she got donuts one morning, and when she visited a couple of weeks ago D5 asked her if she brought donuts again. I know it's because of course a little kid is going to remember donuts because they're a yummy treat, but this is just the first example I could think of. We dont' know what to do anymore. We've tried rewards, punishments, everything, and she still can't control herself when she lashes out and frankly it's driving me crazy. I'm still new at being a parent and it is so overwhelming. I know it's not her fault because her mom was so horrible, but I had never been around kids until I got married, and sometimes it's really even hard for me to be empathetic because I don't have the foundation of a bond or unconditional love that my husband has.

    So my question is, does anyone have any advice for what we can do for her and does anyone have any advice for me as a step-parent? I care about her wellbeing and I know both my husband and I will be way less stressed if we can get her under control. We really can't afford for her to get kicked out of kindergarten and go back to full-time preschool/daycare, not to mention we don't want her to be behind.

    Which brings me to another point--when we're doing her homework with her at home, it's like she doesn't even want to try. She just guesses or says she doesn't know, and when she does try if she doesn't get it right straight away she'll get really frustrated, get a crazy look in her eyes, and start shaking as her rage builds up.

    I just don't know what to do. I want her to stay in school, do well, eat what we give her, and listen. It's like she doesn't know how to follow directions. Sorry if this is all jumbled.. I feel like I haven't explained myself fully or I'm leaving a lot of stuff out, so if anyone has any questions don't hesitate--we need help.

    And yes, we are going to take her to the doctor just as soon as we can get a referral put in.
  2. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Hi, and welcome.
    Sorry you had to find us, but you've come to a good place.

    First - I'm NOT a step-parent... but there are lots of those around here, so they will chime in.

    Second... you're already on the right track.
    So often, its the first thing you'll hear from parents around here.
    "Get a comprehensive evaluation done".
    As you're just going into the referral process, can we suggest some things to be asking for?
    - audiology (hearing and related)
    - Occupational Therapist (OT) - motor skills PLUS sensory issues; may have both. Occupational Therapist (OT) does not do dxes, but does do recommendations AND has therapies to help.
    - probably too early for Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), unless you feel she has language issues.
    - and then, the comprehensive evaluation. This could be someone like a neuropsychologist, who covers many of the bases, OR it could be a team approach. There are other options, too.

    Sounds like you have access to a therapist or psychiatrist... ?

    You are probably dealing with layers of issues, and its hard to know what to deal with first!
    Things in her early experiences obviously would have messed her up psychologically. Things like trust and attachment and bonding...
    On top of that, there may be sensory issues, developmental issues (adhd, Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)), learning issues, and what I'll call "processing issues" for lack of a better umbrella (auditory processing, non-verbal, etc.).

    Any ONE of these could cause the problems you're seeing. OR it could be something else - entirely or as well (you mentioned mood disorders running in the family).

    Your best solution is to begin peeling the layers back.
    Understand that this will take time - with a complex case, there is NO way to catch it all the first time.
    But... every step forward helps.
  3. keista

    keista New Member

    Welcome to the board.

    Yes, your daughter needs a full psychological and behavioral evaluation. As you have probably guessed, her behavior is not "normal". Unfortunately, I don't think the answer will be as simple as "well she was abused as a child". Yes, biomom caused some physical and emotional damage, but she also has biomom's DNA. Bipolar has a strong hereditary factor, so, given your daughter's erratic behavior, it should be monitored. I'm not saying she has bipolar, or will ever get bipolar, but it should be kept in mind.

    What I have done with all three kids (still do) is emphasize the positives, and "deal" with the negatives. Sounds like you are using a similar approach. No use arguing or dishing out consequences during a tantrum or meltdown especially if she has little or no control during them. Provide a safe environment for her to get it out and then calm down. I don't punish tantrums. I figure if a kid is so out of control as to have an age inappropriate tantrum, then what good is a punishment going to do for it? If they had control, or could remember that they may be punished for it, they WOULD control it. I do exercise natural consequences for the behavior leading up to a tantrum as well as during. For example, if during a tantrum she pulls all her clothes out of the closet, once she is calm she has to pick them up. Also, wait until she is calm to inform her of the natural consequence. I've found telling a kid the consequences or punishments during a tantrum just escalates it. You know: If you X you're grounded for a week. They do X. If you do X again you're grounded for a month. they do X again. and it can just keep going until they are grounded for life. Not good for kid, Really not good for parent because you just unwittingly got sucked into their tantrum.

    The food issues problem sounds like you are dealing with well. As long as she's not still getting deserts or sneaking food because she is really hungry, in my opinion it's OK. If she does start sneaking food because she's hungry and you stop that AND she still refuses regular food, AND she starts loosing weight, you may have to provide her with alternate meals. My kids have all been picky eaters. Now I only have one picky eater left - the youngest. hoping she grows out of it in the next 2 years which would be right in line with her brother and sister. I always have offered alternate kid friendly meals, but that's me. For ME it was just easier that way.

    I'm not an active step. (I met mine for 6 weeks 13 years ago and that's it) I can imagine though, that it's very difficult to bond with a child that's being difficult. When she's calm and things are going well, seize those moments as opportunities to build your relationship. The more positive moments you get and create, the more positive moments you will get and be able to create.

    Welcome again!:notalone:
  4. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hello and welcome to the forum. First, my dear, I am going to be rather provocative: your little stepdaughter is not in the Air Force, either active duty or reserve :) We would probably all like children who do well, eat what they are given, listen and follow directions but I think few five year olds are quite up to the task yet... I think you have to see her from the inside out rather than the outside in, if you see what I mean, and of course that is difficult to do when you are not particularly bonded to her or have a history with her. You are clearly a caring woman who is doing your best, however.

    One of the interesting things about childcare is how differently we all do it. I myself would let her eat peanut butter sandwiches every night if that is all she will eat (protein and carbohydrate, could be a lot worse) and I wouldn't push the homework on her. In my view, homework for a five year old child is just plain do-lally. When I was at primary school (in Britain, in the '60s and '70s), I never had homework. Ever. Much saner. Kids should be basically playing at five, not having pressurised homework.

    The other issues I won't address but will leave that to my capable and knowledgeable souls. Hugs to you.
  5. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Hi there and welcome. How wonderful that you are searching for options and opinions. I am feeling all over the place tonight so I am sorry in advance that my thougths will likely ramble here....
    It is really early in your process to speculate but as others have said, the first place is to start with an evaluation.Someone mentioned all of the options... and as an Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), it is not too early for speech lang assessment, though if it was me, I would be looking at her language processing. Some subtle language issues can include processing or understanding sounds or words or sentences even if the hearing for sounds is normal. She also should be checked for how well she does with memory...can she follow simple one, two, three step directions...?? How is she with more complex or novel directions? Occupational Therapy evaluation/Sensory Integration evaluation may be a biggie for her because I am sure a few of us see some red flags from your post (rigid about food/limited variety...screamming etc. these can be from many things but IF it is a sensory thing it does wonders to know. Her out of control feelings may respond well to some of the things they do in private Occupational Therapist (OT). Anyway, evaluations with a neuropsychologist, psychiatrist etc. can take time and you are wondering about what to do in the mean time too... I love 123 magic but it may not be enough because for some kids to hit ALL of the problems (any behavior, that's one...any second behaior, that's two...etc. ) IF they have lots of problems then it can overwhelm them. Another book that helps you deal with problems (and it can be adapted to younger kids easily, I did it and even our school chimed in) is The Explosive Child. You will hear lots of parents here talk about it. I was thrilled when I heard them talk about it because it was one of the books that helped me survive my son's earlier years. it is so hard when you have a child who not only doesn't do what you expect but also has issues that seem to go beyond typical naughty stuff...it is affecting school etc.

    She is not able to control and change this at this time. You can control your decisions though....you can pick and choose battles. If she uses words/screams maybe for now think of it as communication and think, What is she really telling me now? Why I say to maybe not flip out over disrespectful sounding yelling and words, is because you say she is aggressive and first you may want to teach her to use words. it just may be too much to also expect her to useonly nice, quiet, polite words in those aggressive moments. The first goal is safety. Once aggression is reduced and she feels heard, maybe start to work on the word choice etc...(obviously if these are not your biggest issues ignore this, pick your issues) . I was thinking too that maybe some special outings for attention may help her with some of the possible trust/anxiety issues she has from what has happened in her past...the disruption of her bond with bio mom.

    Kids with lots of issues get punished a lot and their self concept becomes a "I'm a bad kid" and it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am not saying you are doing this...she is early in this and I am just saying if it continues at school plus home it could go down that road.
    Just throwing out ideas, take what fits.

    Now a comment on the RED YELLOW Green light classroom management progam. People are gonna think I'm crazy saying this because my son is on a color/zone behavior plan but it is very different than what you are talking about. I will tell you (in my humble opinion) I HATE that plan for kids who struggle. It is great for the average kid who has good internal calming and control. It can cause anxiety and an inability for a child to access whatever few self control skills they do have. And it is so all or nothing....some teachers will break the day into halves or quarters where when the kids come back they are all back to green etc. but still, what is the motivation to turn it around if once they have a RED day it is just a RED day. (not positive how your daughter's class is doing this but in general I have never seen it work for kids with behavioral challenges that go beyond typical). I am gonna sound like a broken record to some here but there are other types of programs that work better and help to TEACH the child to learn better self control and to change their current state. They are praised for turning it around and getting back to a calmer state/or a state appropriate to the situation (may be loud if playground etc.). The 5 point scale is one method...easly to look up online. How does your engine run is another. My son uses a combo that doesn't have a name yet I think.. it is being published by an Occupational Therapist (OT) in our district but basically combines the above...Green zone is appropriate for the situation, following directions etc. yellow is not following directions, too loud, saying inappropriate things, etc (it is individualized to eachspecific child when teaching it), red for mine is hitting, kicking, throwing, etc.... blue is when he shuts down-can be good he is calming himself, can be bad when he is escaping or it might mean he is ill or sleepy etc. teachers have a card with the colors on it to cue him about what color he is in then to point to what color he needs to go to. He is praised for getting himself into a better state. He has a "tool box" which is a book of pictures and statements that show him what his choices are to get out of red or yellow and into green.(sit and count airplanes, put on earphones and swing in the class swing, crawl under a desk and sqeeze a squish ball, do wall push ups, deep breaths etc. Other things for blue to green if needed. This helps them develop skills. There are lots of variations and the nice thing is when in public all I have to say now is ...You need to be in green if you want to go to X. AND he even says....Hey can I go do X with -name- if I stay in the green zone? OF course this does not work all of the time but has it taken everything down many many notches????YUP!
    I would assume he is a little more dysregulated than your daughter so I dont mean to compare her and say she has some serious thing (she may but you will need to see) but these kinds of approaches support kids better (speaking as mom and sp. ed. person) in my humble opinion of course.

    Regarding the food issue, she sounds pretty rigid and maybe she needs that control? Or, maybe it is a sensory thing... only blander foods, maybe only foods with certain colors etc. texture can be a big deal to some kids too. I am not criticizing your parenting decision at all by deciding not to reinforce her for what looks like just being picky or oppositional, but you dont know yet if she has an underlying issue. AND for many kids with behavior issues I was thinking that any kind of discomfort (hunger) can trigger bigger issues. So you might be shooting yourself in the foot. My sisters actually laugh at how obvious it is when my son has not eaten. You may be risking triggering/escalating her issues without realizing it because her blood sugars and hunger levels are not being kept more even. I know you said you can't give her pbj every night, but I dont remember if you said why you couldn't. She is old enough to do it herself by the way. Put a glob of each on a plate if you think she will make a huge mess with the jar. No negative comments, no fine then-this is what you get. Just part of the routine. (some people use cereal instead) ....Again, given all of the big issues, do you want to make that a priority? Some of the emotional stuff may need to come first. Again, I dont live there so obviously dont know much about you all so it is just some thoughts which is why most of us come here, smile.

    I wish it was as easy as do one thing then all of the compliance issues will be solved. It rarely is. Sorry again this is so rambling.... But I wanted to let you know I cared and hear that you have taken on a lovely task. Folks at this site have been through he** and not even back (for some of us) and so we can throw out lots of ideas, but you have to pick what you feel could work for you. Pls. know any suggestions are out of a desire to help.

    Hugs to both the kiddos and to you and hubby too. Also, thank you for your service. :hangin:
  6. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Oh, yes.
    Should mention "the book".
    Around here, that would be "The Explosive Child" (author: Green).
    It has a different take on kids and issues and challenges and approaches.
    We found it useful - both from understanding what is happening, and in some tricks and tips and tools.
    It works on "typical" kids too. Its safe to try... not everything works for every kid, but MANY parents on this board will NOT give you THEIR copy!
  7. SRL

    SRL Active Member


    Reading through your post I'm picking up on a lot of red flags for the possibility of something underlying her issues. Problem history in early childhood, food issues, anxiety, not responding to discipline, emotions all over the place, struggling with homework. I'd suggest that you start by doing some homework, and scheduling an visit to her pediatrician for a referal. The chances are pretty good they will refer you to a therapist or child pyschiatrist, but I'd suggest asking for something more thorough--developmental pediatrician or a pediatric neuropschologist plus an occupational therapist for the food issues , audiology for hearing, plus a speech evaluation for starters. These are the standard areas to start with in young children.

    Is she very particular about the clothes she wears? Bothered by lights or sounds?

    I'd recommend a book called "What Your Explosive Child Is Trying to Tell You: Discovering the Pathway from Symptoms to Solutions" by Dr. Douglas Riley as a place to start researching.

    In the mean time, I'd suggest backing down on the food issues and anything else non-critical to safety that cause power struggles. You will be much more capable of dealing with them once you find out a) if there's something going on and b) if so, have some direction on how to help her. I know you say you can't feed her peanut butter sandwiches all the time, but if it turns out she has some sensory processing problems going on what you're perceiving as "she won't" truly may be a case of "she can't". Find some reasonably healthy options that she likes (sandwiches, cereal, macaroni, pancakes, etc) and don't keep bunches of the junk stuff she likes around. What if the super highly rated school she's attending has a dud teacher, or a classroom structure that isn't favorable to the issues she has? What if her rage over schoolwork is because there's a learning disability and she truly is struggling? I'm not saying I know what's up with her, but there's enough going on I'd give her the benefit of the doubt and focus on essentials (safety, daily routine, etc.) for now.

    Last edited: Oct 6, 2011
  8. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I have a very easy going kid whose worst year of elementary school was with a teacher who used that system. She nit-picked on every little thing and he was just defeated every day he walked in there. The kid who was described by his kindergarten teacher as being a "gentleman" and who rarely acted up at home was constantly on her list, and came home kicking walls.
  9. buddy

    buddy New Member

    ARRRGGGG. makes me crazy.....sorry. I guess I should have said, it can be great for kids who ALREADY have good behavior...And I have actually seen one teacher do an OK job with it by having all kids go back to green frequently for do-overs. She had a small class and no one was struggling with repeated reds. AS you pointed out though that is because she managed most behaviors, where it sounds like the teacher in your example just had this one and only method....way to build self esteem and self control! But I really think public humiliation in a class is terrible anyway...I have seen clothes pins with a kids name on it stuck on the red circle by the door of a classroom for days!
    I made any teacher who used that NOT use it with my son. I hated it that much.
  10. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    This one coupled it with daily behavior reports that had to be signed by parents (yes, daily, for a regular level first grade class). The kicker was that each day the child did well, the teacher left the report blank. Each day they got a yellow or red she marked or commented. Yup, ignored the good behavior totally and only acknowledged the bad.

    That classroom was a mess--I was more clueless then or I would have pulled my kid out. by the way, she's an asst. principal now.:rolleyes:
  11. buddy

    buddy New Member

    ummmm Is that what they mean by positive behavior plans in the schools! WELL, I am POSITIVE it is not a good plan.
  12. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Of COURSE she's in administration now...

    Those who can, teach.
    Those who can't... become administrators.

    (not always, I know... we've had ONE good principal who was also a good teacher - went into admin so as to have more flexibility in dealing with her own special-needs child)
  13. buddy

    buddy New Member

    As my little tiny neice said.... vewy scawy
  14. forkeeps251

    forkeeps251 Member

    I have a son, only about a month older that your step daughter, who is having a hard time as well. We are also in the process of getting him seen by a specialist for his behavior problems... but I know that can take some time. In the mean time, I'll tell you what has helped us. He was started on a behavior plan at school. It might have been easier for us to get this accomplished because he was already receiving special services through speech therapy for a speech delay, but I had the school psychologist come and observe him and help us put into place a behavior plan.
    He has only been on it for about a week and a half, but so far, things are MUCH MUCH better. He is happier, we are happier, and there is SO much less stress on all our family.
    Our behavior plan pretty much is this: EACH and EVERY time he does something right (like sharing with his friends, or standing in line correctly), he is praised and rewarded with a sticker. As my husband said "We treat the good behavior just like the bad behavior". In other words, if your daughter does something like bite someone (just a random example), you don't wait till the end of the day to see that she is punished or reprimanded, do you? For bad behavior, every time we see it in our children, we let them know. The way the psychologist told us, is that for some kids stuff doesn't come naturally and it has to be learned, so every time we see good or correct behavior, we let them know. At the end of the day my son shows me all the stickers he has collected, and the focus is much more on the good behavior, with lots of over the top praise. The bad behavior... actually we haven't had any negative reports from school since we started this, but once we do, we would talk about it, and if it was serious enough, he would have some small punishment, like spending some time in his room or no TV time, that kind of thing. Right now we have got four objectives that he is working on, and the smaller stuff (like talking in the hallway or something like that), is basically ignored. He is reminded of these things, but doesn't receive any negative consequense.
    This has been much better for his self esteem, and he is happier and so are we since we don't have to reprimand him every single night. Before the feedback was done in a similar way, where we looked at the overall, end of the day behavior, and that wasn't working well at all.

    As far as the eating issue goes, my husband feels much the same way that you do, that they should eat what they are given. This is always a silent battle in our house, as I feel more like I don't eat food I can't stand, so why should they have to? I try to accomidate my kids as much as I can by fixing them foods they like, and if they don't like the meal, just fixing it for myself and my husband and giving them an alternative. I would recommend finding something that you are both happy with so at least she gets the nutrition she needs. Some kids are picky eaters, and sometimes they grow out of it, but sometimes they don't.
  15. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Picky eater stuff...

    1) red flag for sensory issues... worth investigating.
    2) even for easy child kids... parents who are overly insistent on "eat what is set before you" are setting the kids up for life-long food hangups.

    General rules of thumb... they don't get "short-order-cook" meals instead of the family menu.

    - Family menu must consider known "issues"... johnny hates sloppy joes? when the meat is cooked, take some out and set it aside, then proceed with cooking... johnny can have plain meat instead.
    - They can refuse food but cannot demand food to replace it. Soup and a sandwich? I still hate soup. Kid can turn down the soup and still eat the sandwich, but can't order mac-n-cheese "instead".
    - You are allowed to "hide" food. Won't eat veggies? how about cooked, blended cauliflower mixed into mac-n-cheese? If they don't see it going in, and don't refuse to eat it... what they don't know won't hurt them
    - the day has to have a reasonable balance of quality food... if it has, then snacks can be treats - if it hasn't, then snacks are fun-but-healthy (raw veggies with yogurt dip?)

    Eat well yourself, and be obvious in your enjoyment of it. Eventually... most kids' taste buds grow up too.
  16. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Jerry Seinfeld's wife has a great cookbook that helps you easily hide veggies into different foods. Really good too. Mine will eat veggies, I do it for me, teehee
  17. DS3

    DS3 New Member

    Just wanted to say a friendly 'Hello' and 'Welcome' to the boards! You'll find a lot of great stuff here, and it seems many people are already offering great advice for you. You're headed in the right direction! It takes time (which I know is hard for any active duty member), but you will get through it. Hang in there!


    I have two copies (one currently loaned to a friend), just for that instance, and a back up on the computer should my kindle ever fail!!! It is a great recommendation. :)