difficult child Behavior?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by 1234567, Jun 28, 2008.

  1. 1234567

    1234567 Guest

    My daughter is 3, and like others out there, I'm questioning if her behavior is normal for her age or maybe something else. For full self-disclosure, I'm a graduate student studying school and early chidlhood psychology, and the more I study the more I convince myself my kids have whatever disorder we may be studying that week.

    Just a few minutes ago, we were drawing at our table. I tell her that we share, she gets up from the table and tries to take her colors with her. I tell her no, she leaves them on the table, and if her sister wants to use them, she may. 3 year old gets up from the table, throws her paper down, and runs to her room and shuts the door. This is pretty common, once or twice a week type of behavior.

    The new thing is, I followed her to her room, she got on her bed, took her jewelry box, which is probably her most treasured possession, and threw it at the wall. It didn't break, but this was something I hadn't seen before. Generally, when she gets mad, she runs to her room and shuts the door, cries, and then comes out. This is the first time she's thrown something, and the fact that it was something that she loves has me concerned.
    Lasted edited by : Oct 16, 2008
  2. Sara PA

    Sara PA New Member

    Didn't anyone warn you that you -- or in this case, your children -- would fit the diagnosis of every disorder you studied when you take psychology courses. Happens to medical students, too. Pretty normal.
  3. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    Hello & welcome. :) Hopefully what Sara said is the case with your child, but most of us have learned to trust our instincts regarding our children. It's very difficult to get a clear picture of a child at such a young age. Many symptoms overlap between disorders and what is a symptom at one age may be behaviorally normal at a different age.

    FWIW, most of our younger children exhibit the behaviors you describe daily, if not every few hours. It is usually clear to the primary care giver that there is a problem even if the nature of the problem remains unclear.

    My suggestion to you would be to keep a behavior log at this point, see if anything really stands out. Also, familiarize yourself with any mental health issues or neurological problems in the family tree. Just because you happen to be a student of psychology doesn't mean your gut instincts should be ignored regarding your children. :winks:
  4. 1234567

    1234567 Guest

    Thank you for all the words of advice.

    I guess what I don't get is.......the differentiation from a regular three year old and a difficult child.

    My daughter is certainly not easy. She never has been. She requires tons more attention than most kids her age. However, when you PROVIDE that attention for her, she takes it and thrives and is a joy.

    She is really the worst when she's tired. You know how lots of kids will just get whiny and sleepy and then fall asleep wherever? Well, we honestly plan to not be out past 7:00 cause it is HELL on everyone. She whines, she cries, she throws fits. When we are home, she takes her bath and is in bed by 7 and all is well. Others think we let our child rule our life, and talk about how they took their kids everywhere, but we just can't do that and we HAVE to abide by a schedule.

    She's not violent. Well, she has occasionally hit her older sister (15) and tried to hit me, but she's not hitting to hurt, if that makes any sense. She'll just swat. She has pinched her sister before, but I could count the number of times on my fingers.

    If I didn't know her, I would probably just classify her as bratty. That sounds horrible and I love her SOOO much, but she can just be bratty at times. I guess I don't know where bratty leaves off and something else kicks in.
  5. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    I guess the difference would be whether the child has any control over the behaviors or if a modest change in parenting makes a major change in those behaviors.

    My Duckie is, at this point, a minor difficult child when compared with many of the children here. But, when push comes to shove, she struggles with being anxious, angry and difficult. Her ODD diagnosis is always there, just under the surface. It comes to a head when she's overtired, hungry, transitioning, fearful, over-stimulated, or sick. She's doing better, really, because I learned to manage her triggers and taught her some coping strategies. It really has been a big change to how I learned to be a parent. Is she a easy child? No. But she "passes" most of the time.
  6. Sara PA

    Sara PA New Member

    I don't think most kids get tired, whiny then fall asleep when they are away from home. Babies maybe, but not toddlers. I think a lot of perfectly normal kids throw fits when overtired. I see them in grocery stores all the time. Maybe they are the children of those "others" who think you are letting your child control your life.

    Truth be told, in some respects kids do control our lives and being home by bedtime is one of those ways. We have to adapt our schedules when we are raising children. Doing otherwise is irresponsible and unfair to the child -- bad parenting. Anyone who tells you differently is simply wrong.
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Sometimes the line between a normal kid and a difficult child blurs into invisibility.

    I hear you, with your concerns for your 3 year old. I also hear your concerns (and Sara's) about the likelihood of the symptoms you're studying, showing up in the people in your life (including yourself). However, you may have reason to be concerned. or you may not.

    Just keep an eye on how she's going. And something you CAN do - deal with what you see, as you see it. For example, what you're already doing, with trying to avoid her being tired and the family still out. You just need to take this principle a few steps further.

    I know she's technically a easy child at this stage, but a easy child can still be helped with "explosive Child" techniques. If you've been reading on this site you will know this is a book we recommend a lot, with good reason. The books is by Ross Greene, and is very useful in helping you plug in to the child's needs and finding ways of helping the child, when more traditional parenting/discipline techniques only seem to make things worse.

    I was technically a easy child, but I really wish my mother had used Explosive Child" techniques on me. I was NEVER explosive because it wasn't permitted, but as a result I was controlled so tightly (as were my siblings) that I had absolutely no idea how to make my own decisions and to live my life independently, when I finally had to leave home.

    "Explosive Child" works by shortcutting the steps to independent responsibility. A lot of conflict between parent & child occurs around the child wanting to make decisions and the parent needing to control the child, often as a matter of safety or consideration of others. The techniques make it easier to know when to step in, and when to step back. It also helps by being adaptable to whatever you are doing already that IS working.

    There is some really good discussion of this at the top of this particular forum. Have a sneak peek, see what you think. For a psychology student especially, I think you'll find it very interesting.

    If your child later on develops enough symptoms to warrant a diagnosis of something, it still will have helped you to have something in place to help you better manage any behaviour problems. And if she doesn't - if she is just a normal child only maybe a bit more wilful than average -then you STILL will have something on board to make your lives much easier, and to help direct her more effectively and productively.

    When easy child 2/difficult child 2 was 3, I was caught between total admiration for my genius child, and frustration with her very strong will and determination. I certainly never saw ANY sign of difficult child in her at the time. When I look back, I can see the early signs but they were so very slight and masked by the intellect. She was seen by a number of psychologists at the time (trying to assess both the intelligence and the capability to determine if she was sufficiently exceptional to be permitted early entry to school). None of them saw any problems.

    The best we can do for each child of ours, is to deal with whatever difficulties we see, as we discover them. We can't do any more than this. We give our kids the opportunities we can, and help them where we can.

    From your description of the events, there are things I might have done differently maybe. I don't know. I try to get a mental picture of how it would have looked - two girls plus the mother sitting at a table, each colouring in. The others would seem like giants to the smaller one. The little one would have more difficulty reaching to get the pencils, so it would have seemed very unfair to see her older sister keeping all the best colouring pencils by her. Bigger people would find it much easier to reach further.

    Little kids are much more impulsive. They are also very egocentric. The unfairness is so obvious to her that of course she would be outraged and want to right a wrong. WE know she should have asked politely; but it's late, she's tired and this inclines her to be even more impulsive and short-tempered.

    One important aspect of Ross Greene's "Explosive Child" book is that it teaches that we need to show respect, in order to teach respect. Yes, your little girl should have asked politely. But a 3 year old asking politely, especially a tired 3 year old - that would be something remarkable indeed.

    What maybe SHOULD have happened - you and your older daughter should have seen the problem before it started. The only way to do this is to be so plugged in to the little one, that you can almost read her mind. But if this means you pander to her every whim, how will she ever learn?
    It's walking that fine line, where you can head off a problem before it escalates, but otherwise use the situations as opportunities to teach instead of need to discipline.

    The aim of discipline is to teach. We often forget this. We need to keep that in mind, and work towards the best way to teach and to help the child learn.

    If you get the opportunity to deal with a similar situation to this again, then I suggest the following:
    if/when she yells (instead of asking), ask her if she is trying to say she wants to use a particular pencil. Once she lets you know what she wants, then let her have what she wants but rehears with her how she SHOULD have dealt with the problem. if you can (without her raging) get her to make the request appropriately. Don't necessarily make her wait during this, because at 3 she can't wait very well at all.
    Do this quietly, not with any sense of punishment. It's a tutorial, not a lecture.
    And the older girl - SHE needs to be told to share, as well. YOu don't hog the pretty colours when you're all three of you colouring in together! I do wonder if THAT is what had your three year old so enraged.

    And if it IS what had her so riled, then you need to keep an eye on her and observe. Not because I think she is a difficult child in the making necessarily, but that high a level of outrage at perceived injustice often goes hand in hand with a high IQ. And a kid with a high IQ brings her own set of problems.

    Considering the studies you are doing, did you analyse her drawing? What is she doing? How complete are her figures or objects? Is she showing any movement away from egocentricity? For example, if she has drawn a house with a chimney, what angle is the chimney at? Is it a typical generic house, or has she attempted something more original? If she is drawing people, what level of complexity is there?

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 drew a monster at 3, I recall. It had a solid body, a navel, fingers with fingernails, toes with toenails, eyes with pupils and irises, ears with whorls inside, a mouth with teeth and tongue. I still have it. She also wrote her name on it. The irony of her drawing - she did it during a school meeting about difficult child 1, during which I was being told that I had to accept that my kids in general were not as bright as I thought. To keep easy child 2/difficult child 2 quiet the school counsellor had shoved a packet of pencils and some paper at her, and that drawing materialised with perfect timing for me to point to and say, "Is that the output of a kid who isn't really that bright? NOW can you understand how demoralising it can be for difficult child 1, to have a little sister who is so very capable?"

    I think it is a very good thing that you are so observant and so alert to possibilities. But you may never know the answers. All you can do, is meet whichever need you identify at the moment.

    Keep us posted on how you get on. She doesn't have to have a diagnosis for you to stick around and belong. It could also help your studies, as you find out what it's like at the coal face.

  8. 1234567

    1234567 Guest

    Wow, thank you so much for all the responses.

    I absolutely think that the little one thought the big one was "hogging" the colors. I'm 99% sure that was the not the intention of the older one, but for sure that is how the little on perceived it, and I think that caused the fit. In retrospect, I should have been more observant and seen it from the little one's point of view. What concerned me is just that it seems that most kiddos would have gotten the color they wanted and gone on with it, but not her. Also, in school, a teacher is not going to be that perceptive (most wouldn't, anyway), and the problem would appear to be my kiddo overreacting.

    I will definitely hang around regardless of how my daughter does. What a wonderful community of supportive people! I love how there are so few (if any) judgmental people and how everyone tries to help each other! Too many times when we talk about struggles with discipline, so many people will pipe in with talk about how it's the parents' fault. I love how that doesn't happen here, or if people have suggestions they give them in a kind and supportive manner. Love it!

    It will definitely help in my studies to read about the perspectives from the parents, and I'm way interested in the Special Education forums. I've taught for years and am moving on to school psychiatric., so I'm just gobbling up the knowledge at this point!

    Nice to "meet" all of you!
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    If you are fairly sure that was in your youngest's mind, then keep your eyes open with her, see if she is reacting with similar haste and ultra-strong sense of injustice, in other situations. It COULD settle as she matures a bit more, or it could be a problem developing. But it is a strong indicator of high IQ, in my reading and experience. If so, you may find you need to keep her mind stimulated and busy.

    In our experience - keeping the mind stimulated was actually a way to calm them down, when bad behaviour caused by boredom became a problem. Puzzle books, cooking in the kitchen, using a computer, learning an instrument, craft, puzzles in general - are all ways of deflecting boredom. If you find yourself constantly scraping the bottom of the barrel for more things to keep her busy with, I'd be making enquiries with any gifted & talented groups in your area.

  10. 1234567

    1234567 Guest

    Here are some examples of some of her behaviors over the past few days that are concerning. I should note she is not really physically aggresive, no biting, hitting, kicking, or hitting her head against the wall or floor. Well, occasionally she has hit or kicked AT us, but it is half hearted and she rarely even makes contact, and doesn't happen very often.

    Okay, anyway, on Tuesday she colored on her bed in her room. I spanked her, made her go to bed a little early, and then when she woke up yesterday I told her no crayons all day because she made a bad choice by coloring on her bed. She asked when she could color and I said tomorow.

    This morning she comes into my room right when she wakes up and asks if it is a new day. I said yes, and she asked if she could color. I said yes, and she looks at me and says, "I'm not going to color all day long because yesterday I got so mad at you always saying, "(high squeaky voice, mimicking me)No, you can't color today. No, no coloring today. Noooo coloring. I got so tired of hearing that so I'm not going to color at all today!" Then she skips off. I mean, SERIOUSLY. She's THREE!

    I mean, obviously, I could give a flying flip that she doesn't color. Who cares?!?! But her THOUGHT process to where she thinks she is hurting ME by not coloring, and then not doing it purposefully?
    Lasted edited by : Oct 16, 2008
  11. nateisnuts

    nateisnuts New Member

    ive been having a really really bad couple days and im here looking at posts and i just had to tell you, the post above made me burst out loud with laughter!!! LOL like you said shes 3!! i can just picture this little pixie baby girl nodding her little head while shes imitating you! LMAO just had to tell you that made me smile :) :)
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Oh, she sounds priceless!

    Don't be concerned by this. It's not strictly difficult child. But another option to a day-long ban could have been making her clean up the crayon marks on the bed. After all, it's what you would have to do anyway. It could help her realize the direct consequences to using crayons inappropriately.

    I've heard PCs do this sort of thing too. Don't sweat it.

    But DO make a note of it in your records. Keep a file on her.

    It's also very interesting logic. SHE is trying to punish YOU in her own little way. She is trying to control you, because she perceived that the aim of your punishment was to control her.

    She missed the point.

    But she is going to be a big behaviour problem later on, if she thinks now that it's all about control. You do need to nip THAT one in the bud.

    Next time, try making the punishment more appropriate and more immediate (such as no ban, but any time she scribbles on anything inappropriately, she has to clean it off). Don't worry if the punishment seems too small for the crime (or otherwise) - if the message gets across even partly, you are winning.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 used to paint the walls of the toilet with excreta. She would be wiping herself, get some on her finger accidentally, then instead of using a bit of paper to wipe it off (and flushing it) she would wipe it on the wall.
    So I got the spray bottle and a scrubbing brush, and made her scrub the walls untl they were clean. even when she said it wasn't her that did it, I still made her do it because I knew she HAD done it at some stage. And if I though one of the other kids had been responsible - they got to clean the walls next time.

    difficult child 1 swats mosquitoes on the ceiling of his room and leaves the bloody carcasses there "as a warning to other mozzies". Again, scrubbing brush and spray bottle. I pointed to him out that mozzies don't have enough neurons in their entire bodies to understand warnings.
    difficult child 1 went for a time without wearing deodorant, without washing enough, and generally being very smelly. His punishment - he had to do his own laundry, and nobody else wanted ANY of their washing mixed in with his. Separate load.

    He learned to be cleaner. He also learned the tricks I use, to deodorise really smelly teen male clothing.

    Your darling girl sounds SO much like easy child 2/difficult child 2 at that age.

    Watch her like a hawk. Regarding my original assessment that you have a very bright child there - I think I'm right.