almost 4-year old with impulse control problems

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by suevv, Oct 14, 2011.

  1. suevv

    suevv New Member

    Hello to you all,

    You can imagine how relieved I am to find this site! What an amazing resource.

    We are having some issues with my son, particularly at his day care. He has impulse control problems that lead him to poke, push, hit and call names. His teachers say that he does not harm the other kids, and that he is just beyond what is "normal" at 3.5 years. but they - and we - are concerned that he is going to get a reputation as a bully and that this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you know what I mean.

    Here is a summary of his life: He is 3, will turn 4 in October. He is our only child. He does not watch TV. He has a good and varied diet, but has severe food allergies (including egg, dairy, nuts and peanuts, though he is close to outgrowing the egg and dairy allergies). I am told he is very bright, and he seems so to me, though since he is my only child, I have little context. He does have a great vocabulary, and is pretty good with counting, etc. He engages socially with other kids and has a best friend at school, as well as other friends he talks about regularly. He is MUCH happier outside, so much so that we go out in all weather when we are at home. The kid just has to have time outside. He loves music, has a great sense of rhythm and loves to sing and "play concerts." As an only child he does get things his own way a lot, but he does have boundaries at home, and transitions well (I know you want to stay home and play, but we have to go grocery shopping now.). My husband and I have a loving, healthy marriage and our home is largely a very peaceful place. My son has never been hit by an adult, and has never seen an adult hit another adult. We don't even raise our voices at each other, though once or twice I have been reduced to shouting at my son (embarrassed).

    The problem is that my son lashes out at other kids. Sometimes it's retribution (she pushed me so I kicked her) or preemptively defensive (he [a big kid] was going to take my toy). But sometimes it seems to have no rhyme or reason (detouring to push a kid when he is crossing the play yard). He also has a "chameleon" sort of personality - when his best friend gets wild - he follows along, even though he knows he shouldn't. He also gets upset when another kid is crying - by which I mean he does not like the sound of it, and may try to hit the crying child). Sometimes he does not like loud noises - though god knows he loves the loud noises he makes himself (e.g., drumming on my pots and pans).

    Our day care is being quite progressive about this. They have met with us and are trying to develop a developmental plan to help him. I can tell they are trying, but are honestly a bit stymied because they don't know what is causing the behavior. They have recommended we engage a consultant to observe him at school and give them recommendations. Apparently they use this somewhat routinely, with good results (e.g, recently with another child who was biting).

    Initially, I balked at the thought of the consultant, but I think that reaction was defensive on my own part - "I don't need somebody to tell me what I've done wrong as a parent." I am past this - goodness knows I'd love some input from somebody who could help. But I am nervous about the consultant because I don't want to have somebody come in and feel they haven't earned their fee unless they diagnose a "syndrome" or recommend some medication. I am hoping that folks here can advise me on how to interview potential candidates to identify potential red flags. If there is a medical condition - so be it and we will deal with it appropriately. But I don't want to go down the wrong path because we had a consultant with an agenda. I hope you understand my point.

    So thanks very much if you are still reading - and if you can offer any advice. I'd love to ask for comfort, too. But I'm trying to keep myself focused on my son.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I guarantee you you have done nothing wrong as a parent. You're child was likely born differently wired.

    If you take him to a neuropsychologist you will NOT be judged on your parenting merits. You will be given a very real list, based on extensive testing, on some issues that your son has that are causing him to behave the way he does. Once you know, you can work with a professional to help himself and you too, but NEVER think it's your fault. Never, ever, ever. Just get him evaluated and go from there :)
  3. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hello and welcome. I would have thought that an evaluation from a child pyschiatrist or a neuro-psychologist (or both) would be more reliable than the observations of a "consultant", which are obviously going to be more subjective and less scientifically based. It's difficult (impossible :)) from the outside to know whether the problems are a phase or the indication of something deeper. Your son sounds integrated in many ways - almost all the children with problems that I have heard of on this forum, including my own, find transitions very difficult. So perhaps hold off from leaping to any conclusions just yet.
  4. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Do all of the above and more...

    Whatever the consultant observes... may end up being useful, partly because it is "independent"... it won't give you the answers you need, but a "good" (i.e. experienced and highly observant) consultant might pick up on little clues that the rest of you are missing... which will help the others you take your child to see.

    - look into an Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation for sensory and motor skills issues - either of these can be the source of behavior problems, and they can be subtle.
    - unless he has language difficulties (doesn't sound like it) you probably won't get Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) resources yet (another whole story in about 4 years) but DO get his hearing checked.

    And then, as the others have said... some form of comprehensive evaluation.

    You need to know WHAT you are dealing with, before you can really know HOW to deal with it.

  5. suevv

    suevv New Member

    Thanks very much for your responses. I'll look into the additional sorts of evaluations you recommended. One question - since I am still learning lingo here - what does it mean to say that my son is "integrated"?
  6. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Ha, ha - it's no jargon but my own... What did I mean by it? A slightly more sophisticated way of saying "together", I suppose :)
  7. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Suevv - some kids have issues so severe that they are "segregated"... most other kids with challenges are "integrated". Someplaces call that "main-streamed". In other words... he might have challenges, but NOT at the worst end of the spectrum...
  8. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Ummm.... I used the word "integrated" in my first post, which I would imagine is what suevv was asking about :)
  9. suevv

    suevv New Member

    Yes - I was asking about Malika's use of the term. Thanks both of you for the quick responses. I'm going to try to calm down now. Take this one step at a time.
  10. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    RX for parental sanity... log in here a couple times a day.
    Watercooler is usually good for some laughs or smiles!
    You'll catch on to our warped sense of humour... but you probably won't have trouble following the logic!

    Learn to take micro-breaks for yourself - a bubble bath when the house is quiet, a nice cuppa something, some exercise, a good book (NOT about difficult child kids... this is for YOU)...
  11. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Hi suevv, just adding my hi! It is really tricky to pick through all the issues. I have to say I like that they want a consultant. Many day care centers will just say, too much to handle, and then the kid is out the door. It can feel icky to have people suggest that help is needed, but as you so wisely decided, it really is nice to have a team approach to things. It keeps the staff more accountable too. They will be given responsible options not just react out of anger.
    I second, third, and on and on the idea to get additional evaluations. The younger kids can have help if there is a challenge, the better things work out in general. My son to this day hates noises and is really really loud. Occupational Therapist (OT)'s over the years have said it is a sensory thing, some kids are comforted by their own sounds being above the sounds that bother them (that is the theory, smile). My son went to a school football game and his Integrated Listening Systems (ILS) worker texted me after one play that they were leaving to go buy ear plugs. I always have some in my purse! they came back and he actually loved being at the game. He just went again last week and remembered to bring the ear plugs, smile.

    Keep checking in, it will be great to have you in this Club from God (CFG--haha).
  12. Ktllc

    Ktllc New Member

    Just want to say welcome.
    You are right, try to relax and take it one step at a time. You will soon realize it is a long journey to get answers. The "why" is so crucial but hard to uncover.
    Keep reading the diffrent posts, it will help you in many ways.
  13. keista

    keista New Member

    Hi and welcome!

    You've gotten some good advice. it's nice to hear that the daycare is working with you and the consultant is the logical easiest first step.

    The noise thing is so familiar to me. All three of my kids seem to have this issue to varying degrees, but don't mind their own noise. :) DD1's favorite animal for the longest time was the giraffe. Why? Because it was quiet.

    Be patient. your child is very young, and chances are each evaluation will lead to another, and another, and another. But they will also lead to treatments and interventions that may do a world of good, and the earlier you start getting things under control (even if it's just a few of his issues) the better his and your future will be.

    Welcome again. :notalone:
  14. baiyaat

    baiyaat New Member

    Suevv: I just found this while doing a search for "impulse control", and I almost cried when I read your description of your son. Except for the food allergies, he sounds exactly like my son, who is turning 5 next month. Since your post was written a year ago, I'm curious to hear how things have gone since then.

    In my case, we began with an Occupational Therapist (OT), who has been helping with the sensory processing issues. Then I came across some information about "gifted" children (also called "asynchronous development"), which fit more of his broader personality, including the fact that his healthiest and happiest play experiences are one-on-one with children (especially girls) who are a couple of years older than him. It soon became clear that his impulse control is weakest in in-door situations with groups of children. After a few months of me attending daycare with him (and still paying for it!) to help ease the transitions, etc., I finally gave up and pulled him out of daycare altogether. My child care needs are now covered by my mom-in-law, and a friend who looks after a few kids in her home. In the second case, she is able to give him more outdoor time and more attention than was possible in the group daycare. I know this won't teach him to deal with the more difficult situations, but I feel that he can learn to control himself first by having lots of positive and relaxed play experiences (ex. last month, a 6-year-old girl moved in next-door--they are now "best friends" and planning their wedding!).

    Even still, I can see that his impulsivity is taking a toll on his self-esteem. He really wants to do the right thing, but when he's tired or overwhelmed or recently eaten a piece of Halloween candy (it only takes a bite, I swear!), he acts roughly with the cat or hits his dad or throws a toy at me. And when this happens, he now gets angry with himself. Tonight as I was putting him to bed, he told me that he sometimes wants to "kill myself". When I asked why, he said "whenever I can't control my hands and I hit somebody or something." After dropping that bomb, he drifted off to sleep as the tears rolled down my face.
  15. buddy

    buddy New Member

    baiyaat, Hi there! This poster never seems to have posted again. I am wondering if you could start a new thread and introduce yourself. I am positive people will be able to relate to your story.

    It sounds to me like if I understand you, your son has a diagnosis of sensory integration disorder? Or something similar that he needs Occupational Therapist (OT) to work on, and has difficulty with peer socialization (does better with older kids, 1:1, and adults), and is gifted in many ways? Does he have any interest areas that are especially important to him? (trains, wrestling, airplanes, politics, singers, collecting things, whatever....)? Have you ever had a comprehensive evaluation done by either a developmental pediatrician's team or a neuropsychologist by any chance? That might be something that could help you see if there might be an overall explanation that could explain all of the symptoms. Sometimes this is a help because it opens doors to many types of therapies, for some even some county based funding and programs, and sometimes it means that children and families don't have to be put through a bunch of therapies that are known not to be as effective for a particular condition.

    It would be really great to hear how Occupational Therapist (OT) is affecting your son's overall challenges. I found it to be one of the best things for us, especially early on. My son was a restricted eater and very sensitive to anything wet that touched him, couldn't handle a wet bathing suit but wanted to swim. Now he is has no issues with those things but does have other sensory issues. He still can be very sensitive to sound and will wear ear plugs. He also seeks deep pressure kinds of input if he does not get enough on a scheduled basis through the day.

    Anyway, hope you start your own thread so we can get to know you. Maybe a moderator will move your post to allow for others to meet you....

    Have a great day! Dee

  16. ALB

    ALB New Member

    Dear baiyaat, Suevv's child sounds a lot like mine also although my child doesn't seem to have the issues you described at school. It is only at home with my husband, my daughter and myself. I'm wondering at what point did you realize your son's behavior wasn't just typical young child impulsiveness?
  17. Daniella

    Daniella New Member

    Im having some of the same problems. My son will be 4 yrs old 2 wks and has some of the worst impulse control most educators and therapist have seen. I watch him struggle everyday to just to do simple tasks. He is a safety hazard from constant running away. Becoming violent with everyone, and has breakdowns daily because he cannot control his emotions. Sometimes i have to hold him in my arms so he can fall asleep for naps or bedtime because he cannot stop moving.
    Hes very intelligent with a great memory too. Very sweet with a big heart saying he wants to be good a good boy but he'cant stop' is what he says.
    He has been to 2 different schools in special education and they practically begged me to put him on medication.

    We have rules and consequences at home. With lots of postive reinforcments (good by charts,rewards,etc.) But i cant get through to him he has been going to Occupational Therapist (OT) once a week for 6 months plus school 4 days a week.
    Im terrified of putting him on medication, but unsure if im hurting him more for not considering it when everyone is telling me he needs it.
    Any advice would help
    Thank you.
  18. kim75062

    kim75062 Active Member

    I am going through the same thing with my son that just turned 6 at the end of July. His behavior problems seem to only occur at school though. He tests his limits at home but I don't think its any worse then a typical 6 year old. So far with mine we have gotten a diagnosis of ADHD and a sensory processing disorder (still working on the full diagnosis work up for that one) and school anxiety. Your his mom and you know him best, follow what your gut says. It breaks my heart to hear mine say whats wrong with me? or I tried my best but i just couldn't not run away. All I can do is tell him try his best again next time and reinforce that he is not "bad" the behavior is and we will work to learn to control it together. I don't like the idea of medications with small children either but I am not against it because they can be very useful tools to help with these behaviors. I tired a few medications because the school and doctors wanted me to "fix " him. After a few months of struggling with medications, the side effects, doctors and schools and worse behaviors I finally realized he cant be fixed because hes not broken and they cant cure him with medications because hes not sick. Some people have great luck with them and some (like mine) just don't. He is just him and that's exactly how he is supposed to be.

    I haven't had the daily struggles you are having at home so I have no advice on how to help with that except take it one day at a time and keep trying. Eventually you will find what works for him and how to help him be the best him that he can. You will find a lot of great people on here with years of experience and lots of good advice. (I'm not one of them yet lol).

    There is a light at the end of the tunnel for you and your son I'm sure of it but some tunnels are just a lot longer then others :)

    Also this post is from 2011, I would suggest starting your own thread so you can get more help and responses to your own situation.
    I would love to hear how its been going for suevv's son these last few years.
  19. Daniella

    Daniella New Member

    Kim75062 thank you for all your advice and encouraging words. Don't sell your self short you have gained your wisdom in motherhood going through your life just like all of us. Thats why we are here giving and looking for help because are own unique journeys .
    I completely relate with the whole 'fix' approach. Sadly it took me so long to accept this is who he is and no dr. Or therapy was going to change him. And as weird as it sounds ive grown to find good in some his compulsiveness. Like his need for adventure or show compassion and love (with boundaries of course were working on that lol). I finally accepted the sovereignty of everything.
    And thats why im terrified of medicating him that he will change. Or never get to know himself. Or it will create a codependency for medications and other drugs.
    But im just not sure if I can keep fighting that he might benefit.

    Also thats very loving of you to remind your son hes not bad, that you will work on behavior together. I think I should try to remind my son the same. Thank you also for that.
  20. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    I've changed my mind about medication. I started out (like many, maybe most, people) hating the idea of giving medication to kids and being "against" it. Then gradually I changed my views when I realised how "handicapped" my son was in social and learning situations - if there was something that could significantly help improve his quality of life, why not be open to it? So we did start trying medications. However, in our particular case, nothing has been found that does not, sooner or later, have horrible side effects that make it impossible to continue giving them. Since April of this year my son has not been on any medications and I don't know if he will ever take them again - though I would be open to trying. I think you have to try, just to see if it could really help your daughter.