Question re learnt behaviour amongst sibs

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by losttheplot, Jun 23, 2008.

  1. losttheplot

    losttheplot Guest

    As you all know I have a difficult child who is 7 who though the love of my life can test the patience of a saint.....MY easy child is almost 4 and a year ago the Paed said he saw signs of ODD in her and I laughed it off however lately my daughter is so like difficult child in certain areas....:surprise: (and this was the time difficult child went from normal to out of control ands we got the diagnosis 6 mths later)

    PFC has refused for the last 2 weeks to go to care because the daughter (who is 18) of her carer raised her voice as teens are apt to do and freaked her out ..... she wont even go the toilet in fear and when I said to her it was daycare day she lost it totally.... she was out with difficult child this week throwing stones at cars on the street (major road and they had climbed the gate and luckily i saw them and went mental(as mums are sure to do)....

    she is wetting the bed after being dry for ages cause she is terrified in the dark......I don't mean the normal fear, I mean the mummy they will get me stuff.....I have a light on for her at night and she has a torch but she wont sleep in her room past 1am and she wont get up to go...

    when i have asked her to do something she refuses and starts to scream and I literally have to drag her in kicking and screaming..... she is hitting and kicking both difficult child and me more and he is attacking back...they cant be alone for 2 minutes without someone getting hurt.....:sad-very:

    when i brought it up to her carer (she works for barnados and has been around autistic kids for years and years) she said that a lot of her behaviors lately are aspie ......the problem to me is this kid will talk to anyone (on her terms not when you talk to her) and is highly clever...she is reading at 3.5..... she is Miss-have-a-chat...

    I want to know how many of you have seen learnt behavior in your children cause I am not sure how to deal with this right now... she has had the telling off and she is highly sensitive so she breaks down and cant listen to what I am saying...she has had the smacks and she loses it that much it doesn't work.... I have tried time outs blah blah......

    is this all in my head......can she really copy difficult child that much even when he isnt there? I know this sounds stupid But i only have a delayed difficult child to go by and so not sure whats normal and whats not :confused:
  2. OpenWindow

    OpenWindow Active Member

    My easy child is about 4 years younger than difficult child and has copied a lot of his behaviors... name calling, temper tantrums, and the like, but I can tell she is not a difficult child (at least in my mind) because she doesn't have the meltdowns difficult child has. She is stubborn and will refuse to do what I say a lot of times but in the end she understands consequences and if I threaten to ground her she will relent. difficult child won't most of the time.

    Some of what you're describing doesn't sound like learned behavior - like being so over-the-top afraid at night. You said she can't listen to what you're saying, not won't... sounds difficult child to me. I think it's worth at least getting an assessment.

    Lots of Aspies will talk your head off, on their own terms and about the subjects they are interested in. There are some online tests/questionnaires that may be able to help - I think one is childbrain, found here: that may help you.

  3. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Not to over-react, but are you POSITIVE that nothing has happened at day care that might be inappropriate or that the youngest might perceive as "not right" or making her uncomfortable?
  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I don't think kids pick up bad behavior of older kids unless they have problems themselves (not sure, but I AM a mom of five and three are grown). I never saw any copying of bad behavior. At any rate, I think you should have her tested for autistic spectrum disorder. In the US, ODD rarely stands alone and it doesn't sound like ODD to me anyway. It sounds like she is really frightened.
    Very early, precocious speech and reading, but poor social skills, can be Aspergers. I don't know if she has it, but it's worth seeing a neuropsychologist to see. They do very intensive evaluations.
  5. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    My gut is that if she's so afraid of going to daycare and, if I'm understanding correctly these behaviors started after she became afraid, then I would be wondering what happened at daycare. It may have been nothing more than the 18 year old yelling, but with some of our kiddos that are hypersensitive that is all it takes. It would have been enough for mine.

    I don't see wetting the bed and being afraid at night as mimicking behavior. I see it as symptoms. But, I'm not a professional.
  6. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I'm kinda with Heather and Klmno. I think I would be wondering why she became fearful overnight of her daycare (I believe you called it carer). When something happens like that so quickly, no build up, no eventual changes, I would be concerned that there was a specific incident, other than a raised voice, that has your easy child "running in fear". I would be concerned. The reentrance of wetting the bed, the fear of the dark, are all things that could indicate something has happend that has marked your difficult child to the core. I would be investigating that.

    Having said that, it is not unusual for kids to go through phases where they are afraid of the dark or the monsters in their closet, or not wanting to be away from mum. But it appears you are talking a sudden and drastic change at all once. That's what would have me concerned.

    As far as the rock throwing incident, it is not unusual for a younger child to follow along after an older sibling. Your easy child is very young and her good/bad radar is not adjusted yet.

  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I remember fairly early on when you first made contact with this site, in your earlier persona, you were not quite sure if she was either picking up some of difficult child's bad habits, or being affected by it, or something else, or just your own fears.
    I remember my thoughts at the time - if your difficult child was anything on the autism spectrum, then your easy child stood a good chance of at least exhibiting some traits.
    From my own experience - it's rife in our family too.

    I also don't know, from my own kids, what "normal" is like. I did have a lot to do with various sisters' kids, but even if they live with you, it's not the same.

    But this isn't necessarily bad news for you. If she's fully difficult child, she's nowhere in your son's league. Your daughter is a good kid, much more compliant and more willing to do the right thing unless it is something she really is upset about.

    I think you need to do the Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) test on her to see how she scores. I think you may have done it before? I think I remember you doing it for difficult child about 18 months ago or so. It's not going to be definitive since she's so young and so high-functioning in so many ways. As she gets older the test may be more obviously Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) in results, or may swing the other way. It's more uncertain when they're younger. Yet one more reason for an expert's assessment.

    I know this is going to seem weird, but when I look back to my own childhood I can see some Aspie traits. I have very detailed memories that go back a very long way to before I was a year old. I was also a very bright child (at least it seemed so - I remember people's reactions to things I did or said) and also a very anxious and emotional child too, yet not really permitted to show my emotions. I learned fast to hide my feelings or go somewhere on my own to express them. I also resented it when people patronised me or belittled my feelings because in their eyes I was too young to have any such rights. I gravitated towards adults who treated me with respect. These were also the people who I used as role models, who I look back on now as people who really moulded me.

    I've read up a lot on these things in my efforts to understand myself. Fears were extreme (or seemed to be) compared to my sisters. Maybe people didn't support me in my fears because they didn't realise how bad it was for me - maybe it wasn't like that for them.

    Fear of the dark - my imagination was a big factor here. It was very vivid. I was making up stories in my mind from very young, because I was also reading a lot of stories. In the days before computer games, the very early days of television in Australia (so what there was, was woeful - I recall watching the horseracing reports, the boxing reports which were just words on the TV screen being read aloud by the newssreader; I would play a game of my own where I had to read the horse names aloud before the newsreader did, to see if I got the pronunciation correct) there was nothing else to do but read.

    With a vivid imagination and a very active mind, my brain had a lot of information to sort through every night and it did so with vivid technicolour detail in which the characters of my days mingled with fictional villains and monsters. All animals in my dreams were evil - even our pets would morph into something sinister in my sleep. I don't know why. I would FEEL the evil as heat, as a prickle in the small of my back and smell the burning or the antiseptic.
    Opening my eyes was often worse - the shadows would shift and rearrange themselves into a reaching claw or rushing villain, or nasty person lurking at the edge of the doorpost. Even awake, I could see these shadow creatures vividly and see them move around.

    I would wake most nights either screaming for someone, or trying to scream but no noise coming out. Some nights I would lie awake, motionless, too terrified to move in case the shadows knew I was vulnerable and would pounce.

    All I wanted was a light. A bedlamp would have been welcome because it would have pushed the shadows away, made them evaporate like smoke.

    I think my parents thought I would grow out of it, that if they gave me a bedlamp it would pander to my fears and it would be even harder for me to get over it. I think they were very wrong in this.

    I remember these nightmares did ease a bit in quantity as I got older, so by the time I was in my teens it was no longer every night, more like once or twice a week. I had my own technique by then - sleeping with the door closed meant no shadows could hide round the door frame. However, I would stare at the doorknob, sure I saw it slowly turning.

    By this point a lot of the nightmares and shadow monsters were familiar to me. The nightmares were often recurring, over years. I learned to recognise the pattern and to wake myself up. A bedlamp would have been VERY welcome at this stage.

    One thing I really valued about being married - I had someone to reach out for, when I had a nightmare. Yes, they continued that long.

    When I was a mother I let my kids have a nightlight as well as their own bedlamp. While my kids did have nightmares, for all of them it was a phase they moved through and beyond. I was able to teach the kids my own techniques for dealing with nightmares:

    1) Talk about what the nightmare was about, preferably within minutes. The memory will fade from consciousness but the fear will not. Talking it through keeps the memory conscious which makes it easier to rationalise away the fear.

    2) Cuddle, reassure, then encourage the child to go back to his/her own bed after about ten-fifteen minutes. If the child is still really fearful, then maybe allow a small makeshift bed beside yours, but the aim is to encourage the child to go back to their own bed. It's got to be the child's decision, though. You can always go back with the child for a few minutes but after a few times you need to encourage independence.

    3) A good trick - a brilliant trick - is to tell the child to lie back in bed lying on their other side. This worked brilliantly for my kids. I would explain to them that while they had been sleeping on their right side, the nightmare had built up in the ear facing upwards. If you roll over in bed, the nightmare will then trickle out of that ear and go away. It works! (of course, what is working is the change in position, your brain is so sensitive to input that even a position change will modify everything enough to end the old dream and begin a new one).

    4) Allow a bedlamp, so the child has control of the light and the dark. Put a low-wattage bulb in it so you don't ned to feel guilty about the wasted electricity - if it means you and the child get a good night's sleep then it's not wasted, anyway. The new compact fluorescents have an even lower wattage for more light, so you can really sleep easy! Once I had a bedlamp I would read a book for a while to totally change the mess of thoughts in the brain, to send dreams off into an unexpected (and often calmer) direction.

    5) Explain that dreaming happens as our brain sorts through all the information and experiences it received through the day. Sometimes the papers all get jumbled and images can get confused. A nightmare (or dream) can give us information as to what bit of data our brain is grappling with (that's another really good reason to tell a dream). Sharing the information, and knowing that there is nothing more to a nightmare than the brain's filing system, empowers the dreamer and reduces fear.

    You've got the bedlamp, you've given her a torch, but she's still afraid. I'm wondering if she is simply too scared to move, to turn them on? Or if there is something about her fears that light can't dispel? You need her to tell you, preferably at 1 am after a nightmare if that's what it takes, because that's when it will be still very fresh in her mind. While she is getting a cuddle form you is a good time to talk, because you are reassuring her that she is safe. A nightmare can seem terrifying, but in the retelling it begins to seem ludicrous. The younger the child, the longer it takes to seem ludicrous.

    A lot of other things you described also rang familiar to me, mostly with my kids.

    The sensitivity to people shouting, for example - that was difficult child 1 especially. He would burst into tears at a loud voice. easy child 2/difficult child 2 would simply clam up and stand like a statue, rooted to the spot by fear, if someone shouted. difficult child 3 would get angry and shout back at you.

    From my experience, especially with difficult child 1 - they do not grow out of the sensitivity. They do learn a bit of tolerance, but at a cost. difficult child 1 still flusters easily and a loud voice can quickly put him into foetal position. easy child 2/difficult child 2 will still react (only more of a backlash these days) to anything she THINKS is someone shouting at her. We've learnt that we get better results from all of them by keeping our voices calm and controlled.

    Going over your post, it seems a lot of easy child's fears are related to the toilet. She wets the bed at night rather than take herself to the toilet - this sounds like there is something about the toilet that frightens her. It needn't be the sort of thing we adults would fear - it could be as simple as a smell, or the sound of the wind, or the shadows, or the sound the toilet makes when it flushes.

    I know it might seem retrograde, but what about getting her to use a potty at night? She can even be a big girl and empty it herself in the morning. It's got to be better than wet beds, both for the workload and for her self-esteem.

    There's no shame in using a potty at night, even for adults. We lived in the country when I was in my late teens, in a timber shack with an outside toilet, in sub-tropics. We had no running water other than one tap on the rainwater tank. To go to the toilet was scary in the daytime, with spiders and snakes. And at night - not only was it dark, it was even harder to recognise the spiders with the shifting shadows in the torchlight and the dunny covered in passionfruit and choko vines. So instead, we used a bucket at night time. It was a communal bucket, we all shared it. In the morning we'd top it up with water and then pour it on the vegetable garden.
    So if adults (me and my parents) can use a potty (or bucket) at night-time to avoid going to a scary toilet, then I think your daughter could.

    She is bright. She is an early reader. Her mind, therefore, is likely to be highly active. This means that the mental stimulation plus mental effort she is putting in to her day is likely to be extreme. All this needs to be filed overnight, and this is where vivid, frightening or confusing dreams can come from.

    I wish someone had explained this to me when I was little. I wouldn't have been so afraid of nightmares, if I had realised that they had absolutely no power.

    The other issues - the refusal to do certain things for example - could be a number of things. She could be afraid and need to talk about why she is being asked to do something and why she doesn't want to (and why her reluctance is not necessarily going to be pandered to); or she might need time to change tasks (especially for a bright and mentally active child); there could be a number of reasons.

    She could well be borderline Aspie, or full-on Aspie. easy child 2/difficult child 2 was a lot like you describe (only her nightmares weren't that bad; difficult child 3's were, though).

    I think you need to get her assessed, you might need to get her seen by a good psychologist (get a GP to prescribe it under a Health Care Plan so you can get a block of therapy sessions bulk-billed) and I think you do need to talk to her (gently) about how she is feeling and why she is refusing. Her fears need to be taken seriously, because they are serious for her. She needs to be reassured and supported. It's the fastest way to get her through this.

    Also, dig back into "Explosive Child". I know it's not helped much with difficult child, but it should help a lot with easy child.

    How is her understanding of what she reads? Her comprehension? Is she good? Can she answer questions about her books? What if you ask her how a character is feeling?

    The chatterbox stuff, talking about everything to anyone - that is compatible with Asperger's and even autism. Aspies generally have no language delay. They can even be gifted in language. easy child 2/difficult child 2 would have walked off with any bearded stranger (we don't know why). She would tell our life story to anyone and everyone. difficult child 3, once he was verbal, was much the same. IS much the same.

    Even if she isn't Aspie, I think for her giftedness alone she needs to be assessed. You need to know what to do with her once she starts school. Enrichment? Extension?

    Boredom is also going to be another factor in bad behaviour. Keeping her stimulated and mentally challenged is the best way to keep such kids calm and happy.

    She could well be copying difficult child to a certain extent (as in the rock throwing) but she should soon outstrip him in social skills and recognise that what difficult child does is not necessarily good practice. But as a bright child, you will need to guide her rather than force her. Focus on the desired outcome rather than crime then punishment. What are you trying to achieve beyond that? If she does a bad thing, will she learn, just from you telling her, not to do it again? And why? Or would a punishment be needed for her to learn this? If punishment is not essential, try to do without. Use natural consequences instead. This is likely to mean that you will increasingly have to deal with easy child & difficult child differently. But all we can do, is what we need to in order to get the outcome we want - kids learning to do right and to not do wrong, and learning how to assess the difference for themselves.

    I'm sorry this was so long, but I hope it can help.

    I think you are going to be very glad about so much in your easy child.