Four Doors and Seven Minutes Ago

I’m going to get really honest about something.  It’s embarrassing in a way.  Not the “I peed on myself while pregnant” way, but nevertheless…..

Big breath.

I don’t know how to discipline my toddler.  I don’t think I’m a total pushover.  I’ve read books and websites.  I’m still reading books and websites.  They’re all very helpful to lots of people, I’m sure, and many of the techniques they espouse are fine and make perfect logical sense.  But when it comes to Stella, I feel as if I have a different breed of kid.

For the record, she’s a great kid.  She’s smart, funny, gorgeous, and incredibly energetic.  I guess I’ll use that term “spirited.”  She’s also a 2.5 year old in the body and with the strength of a 4-5 year old.  That makes the tantrums and the rages not only frustrating but also physically demanding.  Sure, she shakes most of them off pretty quickly, but they can be severe and traumatic enough (for the grown ups) for us to avoid many places or activities that we’d otherwise love to indulge in. I always hoped that once she got more verbal that we could speak and reason with her.  To be fair, that does work an awful lot of the time.  But when the angst takes over her little body, she loses her ability to listen or speak.  It’s just pure emotion and muscle.

For instance, my dad and stepmother just came in town to visit.  They hadn’t seen her in a year and a half.  For a year, they had been putting quite a bit of pressure on me to come see them: way the hell up in Virginia.  I was told more than once “people travel with children every day” and “we used to drive with you and your brother from North Carolina to Mississippi.”  Once upon a time, travel wasn’t a big deal, even a trip that’s 19 hours by car according to Google.  Once upon a time, I didn’t have 1 energetic kid, much less 2.  Now it’s a laughable or nightmarish concept.  For better or worse, during some of our outings with my folks, Stella had 2 of those full-body meltdowns. In both cases,  multiple adults had to intervene and the activity we were attempting had to be halted abruptly.  I think there is now a firm understanding of why it’s not a good idea for us to travel right now.  Stella is NOT like other kids.  If she doesn’t want to do something, there will be hell to pay.  I was told “I understand better now why you didn’t want to try to force her on a plane.”

The experts say to ignore tantrums.  That’s well and good and does work sometimes.  Until the flailing threatens her little brother.  There’s also the “time out” school of thought.  That’s awesome if you have a kid that will stay where you put them.  Mine will absolutely not.  (Note:   this is also largely why Stella is sleeping in our bed every night)  If you try to hold her down “gently yet firmly,” it becomes a game and she laughs.  On a few rare occasions we’ve even popped her on the leg if she was doing something particularly dangerous to her or Felix.  She either ignores it, laughs, or looks at you – wounded – for a moment before continuing on her way.  And frankly, I don’t know how I feel about the whole spanking thing, anyway.

Finally today, I had enough.  I was trying to get the kids down for a nap. Felix was asleep on me, semi-nursing.  Stella kept trying to climb over me and Felix to get into his co-sleeper.  That’s not allowed, as that is Felix’s safe place to be.  If she feels it’s also hers, A) I have a turf war at naptime or bedtime, and B) she could very well decide she wants to be in there while he’s trying to sleep and I have a flattened 6 week old in the middle of the night.  It’s simply a line in the sand that we’ve drawn and feel strongly about.  Anyway, she kept trying to get into it.  I kept rolling her back to her place on the bed.  It became a game.  I got irritated and desperate.  Finally, I put Felix down (woke him and made him scream) and dragged her to her room.  She laughed the whole way.  I put her in the room and closed the door.  I then stood outside and held it shut tight.  Once she realized she couldn’t get out, she started to scream.  I think she was scared and her feelings were hurt.  I left her in there about 45 seconds, feeling awful.  She came out, sobbing and wouldn’t let go of my hand.  She finally fell asleep that way.  I still feel badly about it.  I don’t want her to be afraid of her bedroom, but as I said, she won’t stay in a time out place and now with Felix, I can’t always be available to hold her down somewhere which doesn’t work anyway.

So what to do?  I’ve read that so-called spirited kids are just tougher to discipline.  While that makes me feel good in that “you are not alone” way, it doesn’t really offer anything in the way of sound advice or coping mechanisms.  All the “I’m OK, You’re OK” gobblety-gook fluff is useless.  I’ll save the “mutual love and respect” for Stella when she’s not trying to kick me or her brother.  Other parents out there, I’m all ears if you have some tricks.


About larva225

Working mom. Is there any other kind? Geologist. Nerd.
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5 Responses to Four Doors and Seven Minutes Ago

  1. my27stars says:

    Doodle used to think “time-out” was funny, too. We would literally hold him in place the entire time he was laughing, trying to break free, thinking it was a game, all the way until it finally clicked for him that he truly couldn’t go anywhere and it was no fun anymore. Stubborn kids take a while, and I know you don’t exactly have all the free time in the world, but after a dozen or so times of consistently not letting her up until she is sad that her choices landed her in this state of prohibited movement, she should start to understand that it’s not a game and it should get easier.
    We also will walk away from Doodle if he’s having a tantrum, we’ll tell him something to the effect of, “That’s a great fit, let me know how it works.” It will piss him off even more, but he throws his fit while we sit peacefully on the front porch or the other side of the living room or wherever and then he calms himself down, tells us he’s done, and we talk about what was wrong. He knows (most of the time) that if he wants to use his words and talk to me about why he’s upset, that I’m all ears, but if he wants to scream and cry and throw and kick, that he can do that in a designated area that won’t negatively effect anyone else.
    Does she have wonderful quiet things in her room and free access to get to it? I know that autism was on the table for a small while, and it was a very rough time for you, but even without the actual label, could there be some sensory issues? Overload, overstimulation, ya know? To where a nice calm room with some pillows or lights or something in there could help her decompress? We have a bottle (it was like Gatorade or something) that I put water, food coloring, glitter, and glitter glue in, then super glued the piss out of the lid to close it tight. Doodle shakes it up and watches the glitter go down if he’s a little overstimulated.
    My best advice would be to try and figure out what causes her meltdowns. Are directives coming at her all of a sudden, or does she have some warning before she has to turn off a cartoon or put away a toy? Is she throwing tantrums when baby brother is crying and it may just be too loud? I know she’s loud herself, but she has full control when it’s her own volume. Is it in between meals, and perhaps she’s just needing extra snacks here and there? Just kind of try to be conscious of what’s going on in her world before she throws her fits. And discuss with her calmly why her behavior is inappropriate and how she may hurt herself, you, or her baby brother when she acts out.

    • larva225 says:

      During all of Stella’s assessments and therapies, sensory issues were investigated and found to be unlikely. Honestly, her tantrums are fairly infrequent as a whole. I think she’s just been overwhelmed and overstimulated with a lot of extra company and visitors we don’t usually have on top of having a new little brother. I’m sure it will pass. I just need something for when she does fly off the handle.

      • my27stars says:

        Well that’s good that it’s not very frequent. 🙂 Is the company bit slowing down at all soon? I know it adds more work for you, not having grandparent help and such, but maybe it’ll get easier in this respect at least. I just want to give you a big hug, seems like you need one. Either way, it sounds like you’re rocking this whole two child thing way better than I could!

  2. Nicole says:

    I have found that giving choices makes the tantrums fewer and easier to handle. Maybe try gathering your supplies and planning an entire week at home to work with Stella. When she won’t stop trying to take over her baby brother’s spot remind her that she has a choice. “Your choice is to lay quietly here with mommy or, if you choose not to, you can go lay on the couch/your bed/blankets in the other room”. Knowing that she has the power to avoid unpleasant consequences might help.

    And, also, I don’t think she was scared when you held the door shut. Angry, maybe confused because it was unexpected, but not scared. With planning, time outs like that can be useful tools, but I think its important to explain consequences before they happen.

    My very favorite way to avoid power struggles, though, is to find ways around the triggers. Instead of trying to lie down with both kids, set Stella up with a TV show or her favorite activity, get the baby to sleep, then put him down and get Stella to sleep.

    And when you feel time out is necessary, you go with her. You stand behind her in the corner, hold her in your lap or otherwise be physically present with her, keeping your calm voice on and reminding her that as soon as she calms down or apologizes sincerely she can get up.

    I’ve got two spirited kids and it just takes some extra finesse. Find ways to avoid confrontation, avoid her triggers, avoid situations that lead to trouble (being hungry or tired out in public, for instance). And if you can’t avoid it, or if its just asking too much of you to avoid all her triggers, help her work through her tantrums. Start by taking her someplace you can leave and come back. A restaurant with a bathroom you can go to and help her calm down, then return, for example.

    This is hard. I’m sorry.

    • larva225 says:

      I had read some of the same advice, especially trying to A) give “notice” before changing activities or departing from somewhere, and B) avoiding volatile situations altogether with respect to fatigue, hunger, etc…
      It IS hard, but ultimately worth it. Some days the fatigue just gets to ME.

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