Friday, December 12, 2008

    Not a Fan of Four

    Whenever I read the "Good Weekend" and "Your Time Starts Here" ( a quick zip of say, 20q's to people who have made it into the public eye ), I always cringe at the 'your earliest memory' question.

    A: "I was 3yrs old and I distinctly remember....'
    A: "I was 4, and I recall.."

    Because I do not want my son to recall "I was 4, and my mother hated me"
    ( just to be clear, I do not hate him !! )


    We didn't have the terrible 2's OR the terrible 3's .. but all of a sudden we've got this burst of testesterone and IRRATIONALITY. Ok, yeah, so he's 4, but I am flummoxed to how to snap him out of one of these .. rages .. no, no rages ... I don't know .. and the thing is, because he's my son, and there is a LOT of me in him, I can see things .. like the fact he realises he's drawing a crowd of shocked bystanders .. and it's embarrassing him .. yet .. he .. seems .. unable .. to .. stop .. even .. though .. you can see .. he really .. really wants to.. and you know that if you can do it.. he's going to crumple into a heap of defeated tears.

    I can't take the boys to the park anymore, because he doesn't react well to going home. He might hiss at me ( like a cat ), or dry-spit, run off, and if I catch him, he might kick or punch me. The last time I took him, he ruined a perfectly *lovely* day just like this, on the side of a busy road. I had one hand on the pram, and the other wrapped in a death-like grip around his forearm, probably causing bruising. I knew if I let go, he would twang blindly like an elastic band right into the busy park carpark, or perhaps onto the road, with no care for consequences.

    Although we did go on Wednesday - I was meeting the Mother's Group - safety in numbers. I knew we'd be safe if we left at the same time as everyone else. It's kind of restrictive, but I can't stay inside for the rest of my life can I ? Or deprive him of all outings ? Or me, for that matter ?

    Today we had a lovely day, and this afternoon had to go to a major Shopping Centre, something we do rarely because (a) I have no need for major shopping centres, and (b) I have no car.
    So we go with Daddy, and only with a reason in mind. Today I had to buy Kris Kringles for my draw with the MG kids. Toys R Us = fine. Product I wanted not there, so K-Mart = fine. Again with no stock, so we started to walk to Myer, and that's when we came across a mini-playground ( f*ck I hate shopping centres with all these things ). So we let him have a play. Best'n'Less is there, so I check out cheap kid's gear ( nothing again ) and he plays for what, 20mins? 30? A good time, *enough* time. Daddy gives him the wrap-up, which is duly ignored. Again, ignored. A threat, ignored, so the boy is physically retrieved.

    And, while other Dads watch on *horrified* ( glad it wasn't them ? wondering when we were going to start beating him ? I don't know ), the 4yr old BITES his father HARD on the hand, slaps him in the head repeatedly ( Dad has no hands as is holding him up ), and tries to scratch his eyes out. He just can't CALM DOWN ( he's like this in play too lately - just OTT, which results in toys been thrown around, maniacal giggling, and dangerous situations ) I count down, I threaten, I say Santa is watching, and in the end, I hold his hands down. AB asks me to check his eye for damage. Once, right after the youngest was born, when these fits began, he broke AB's spectacles by wrenching them off his head and smashing them down on the ground.

    Obviously, we now leave the centre. No-one talks to the bad boy, who screams and just.won't.stop.whining all the way home. He can't seem to see the good behaviour=reward thing, and the bad behaviour=punishment. We put him in his room for a while and he falls asleep. Ok, so he was tired ( it's 7pm at this stage ), and it's easy to love him when he's asleep .. but behaviour like this just makes me see red.

    So this doesn't correlate with the boy of my photos ?

    Look, you're not alone .. we get praised in any restaurant, he's a darling at Mother's Group, the Kinder swan over him, he's polite with strangers and responds very well to their praise and beaming smiles. People love him. Even my Mother, who has seen this behaviour firsthand, was totally flumoxed by it the first time, and simply can't understand it on subsequent displays. It does.not.make.sense .. and he knows the more he grandstands, the more embarrassed he becomes, and the more people look at him funny, and the harder it gets to back down. He *knows* that if he just drops the act, if he calms down, takes a deep breath, that all is good again.

    Oh - and he's started drawing on walls. He blames other kids - I had to smirk at the latest covert art though ( under his table in the playroom ) because it was signed artwork - no denying that one ( although he tried ). I just can't keep up with all the reckless behaviour, the mess, the lack of care for toys ( he's spoilt, but relatives just won't hear of not giving him things - i've tried ). And ok, we like him to have nice things too, because *we* like nice things, and when you've got the good boy in mind, it's easy to spoil him.

    On top of all this though, he is a very lovely boy who loves his little brother so much, and who is smart and funny and wise and sweet and caring. He goes to bed at 8.30pm with no fuss and stays there. He's easy to please, and is a happy boy.

    But when he goes off .. well, you've never seen anything like it.
    And I struggle to keep my cool.

    Advice ?


    muser said...

    My heart just aches so much for you, right now. It sounds melodramatic and unnecessary but it really isn't. This chid has been the centre of your universe for all his life. You love him like the world is about to end, and he, the same. How could someone who's been the greatest thing in the world become the spawn of the devil himself? I will send you an email. xx

    Blue Mountains Mary said...

    My boy Joe - at the age of nine - still screams like a banshee if things aren't going well.

    Honey I really feel for you - I really do. And am not going to give you any advice because I honestly would and do find this difficult too...

    Ali said...

    Hey there, I don't think I've commented here before but I thought I would just say that, although I have no good advice, I feel for you. We are going through some awful irrational 3yo stuff at the moment.

    I feel for you.

    Anonymous said...

    He is four and has realised that he can make his own decisions and can also hold power, so he's testing it all out. He needs to know that he can be a part of decision making sometimes, but at other times decisions will be made for him.

    There is a very good social-emotional learning program called 'You Can Do It" (google it). It uses confidence, persistence, organisation, getting along and resilience as the basic cornerstones of social-emotional wellbeing. It is very user friendly and might be something that is appropriate for you.

    It sounds like your own confidence and resilience is being affected by the situation, so keep your chin up.

    h&b said...

    I think you've stated it well, Tracey, and I will google that now ( thanks )

    And go figure - we went to see Santa this morning at the kinder, and MC was a swan amongst seagulls - made me feel bad fro writing all this. He was also the only one who gave Santa a big hug ( they make you smile! ) when Santa said he had to leave.

    It's Jekyl/Hyde.

    Bird Bath said...

    oh no...some challenging times for you too. We have been experiencing plenty of two year old tantrums recently. I try to remind myslef that it won't last forever.
    Our five year old (we used to call her wolf girl because of her wild behaviour) is often embaressed by her little sisters antics in public, yet she refuses to believe that she used to be just like that.

    janet said...

    oh man. I thought we had it tough. We have massive tantrums sometimes requiring physical restraint and I have been known to put Grace over my shoulder and carry her out of the shop/supermarket. Now we have a no shouting rule (it was getting out of control and the house was becoming very shouty) and I frequently use consequences, ie no advent chocolate after dinner over bad behaviour at dinner or leading up to it. No story if there are issues at toothbrushing or bedtime. After having carried out my threats a couple of times, it seems to work. Moreorless.

    Both Grace and your boy have been through big changes recently and I think it's the sort of thing we just have to get through. Although I'm going to google "you can do it" too.

    Deep breaths.

    KikiMiss said...

    I really appreciate this article/author on setting boundaries. Have a read and let it relate to you and AB's situation. Keep blogging about it, if anything your feelings are out of your head...for a little while anyhow.

    KikiMiss said...

    PS: Like you, we have a nightowl and I have realised that when people experience that "witching hour" around 5pm we have it a little bit later. Could that be it? I've avoided taking her outside of her domain now, for that reason.

    Stacey said...

    Gee, I'd love to be able to give some advice, but I'm hardly an expert.
    To me, it sounds like you're doing everything right.
    All I can say is keep doing as you are, and it too will pass.
    If you figure it out, can you let me know? We have one here known as Mr A.P. (Angry Pants), aka when out of hearshot as Mr. TLF (Testy Little F*cker)

    Trish said...

    for what it is worth.
    I also think you are doing all ther right things.
    I agree with what previous people have said.
    I hope it is just a phase

    M said...

    My 10 yo still does this, in a 10 yo way. But only to me. To everyone else she's an angel. Principal says "she's head girl material". Bleh. Come and sit at our dinner table then.

    This is the girl, who at four, wrote on my Christmas bookmark "I love my mummy when...she doesn't lock me in the laundry". ouch.

    Go with the flow, he loves you as Blossom loves me. He sounds like an independent intelligent boy who is finding his place in the family pecking order. And that's a tough thing for any puppy.

    summer pickles said...

    Wow lovely. Hugs from us... what a doosie.

    You know I think this is just like everything else, there is no magic answer... this parenting thing is hard work, and a lot of the time you just have to try stuff out and make it up as you go along. But you know this already... I'm the newbie who's just starting to work this out!

    You love him to bits, you let him know you love him to bits, you are trying to help him out with this stuff, and you can have a giggle or a vent about things when you need to. Sounds to me like you are doing beautifully.


    Suse said...

    Whew. I don't have any advice except to say keep being strong and firm with him and let him know

    I think you clinched it when you wrote "right after the youngest was born, when these fits began ..." It's a reaction to him not being the centre of your world any more.

    Lots of love and reassurance, but clear messages that we do not hurt other people.

    hugs to you,

    Melody said...

    No, you can't have Jekyl/Hyde because that's my Monet. Outburst central at our joint every couple of days - especially when we were staying in Victoria. Oh. My. God. I had never witnessed it so much, this Jekyl/Hyde thing. When we left your place and after we had been to Chaddy, driving home with the two Grandmother's in the car, well Monet had one of her better 'moments'. I literally had to pull over on the Freeway and get out of the car - oh it was horrific and I am sure both Grandmothers were like, 'What the?' Oh and it got worse, let me tell you...

    I just think to myself "shit, I hope she's not like this forever". *smirk* I am hoping it is a 4 year old phase...

    Anonymous said...

    Can you make up a special phrase or saying that you can use (very rarely) in those moments when he is struggling to come out of his rage? I had a friend who one day when struggling with a toddler in a similar predicament started to tap dance and sing "la cocha racha" in front of the raging child. Said child was so shocked she stopped and snapped out of it.

    From then on it was their secret special message that she used in desperate situations and no matter how hard the child tried to ignore they'd always crack a smile.

    meggie said...

    Sounds like Tracey has the answer.
    Anon's comment struck a chord with me. When SG gets enraged, I tell him he has a 'cabbage face'. The first time I used it, he was so surprised he laughed. Now it is a catchphrase that begins a game of vegetable name calling, - &, best of all, laughter.
    Sibling's arrival triggers all sorts of unexpected behaviour.

    Kirsty said...

    Our 9 year old used to have what can only be described as "turns". He couldn't be distracted, snapped out, restrained or reasoned with. The turns were usually had at home (fortunately). He was not appreciated in the extended family.

    He's still got a pretty fierce break...but it takes a LOT to push him to that point now.

    You can do good we have the program at our school.

    Anonymous said...

    I have teenagers but do remember the horror that can be life with pre-schoolers. I think you sound like a lovely concerned and caring Mum but can I offer you a few ideas that got me through those years?
    1. He is beating up and you and his Dad because he loves you best in the world and knows you will love and forgive him no matter what - but that doesn't mean you have to put up with his behaviour.
    2. Taking kids to shopping centres is not a fun family outing for anyone, especially the kids. Go on your own, once Dad is home.
    3.Distraction, distraction, distraction worked for me. If the park visit is nearly over, give the 5 minute warning, but let him know the "fun" doesn't end with the park visit. eg., when we get home I'm going to draw you a picture of a monkey (or whatever): only takes two minutes once you get home but gets him out of the public eye
    and into the car.
    4. My older kid said once, only half joking, that the day his brother was born was the worst day of her life. Went from having my total attention to competing with a very angelic baby. He's biting and scratching you because he know it would hurt the baby.
    Sibling jealousy is just life and normal, he's just expressing it in a different way.
    5. I work in a job where I see people mis-timing outings with kids on a daily basis - really lovely little children (like your son)
    turning into banshees because they are hungry or tired or over the day and just want to be home on the couch - not following around adults on their pursuits.
    He sounds absoulutely normal to me, but is expressing his frustration with life at times in a particularly eye catching and public way. This time of year is an endurance test for adults, kids too. All the best of luck to you.

    Victoria said...

    The part about hissing like a cat made me laught out loud.
    My youngest kid turning four in January and he has moved into a deeply defiant / wild mood swing / crazy / annoying stage that is very different from the easy toddler he once was. I find myself longing for next year to start so I can send him off the kinder for 3 days a week - this shocks me because he's always been so easy and I feel like there must be something wrong with me to feel like this. Then I remember how his big brother went through a hidious personality stage at four, and friends kids did too, I'm not sure but I think it's a pretty normal milestone. So... one day he'll be six and sweet and easy again, and so will mine, I'm sure.xxoo

    shellyC said...

    Hugs to you. I have no advice - there has already been some good advice posted - yet I think you are doing the right things.

    Aunty Evil said...

    No advice from me, as I don't have any kids, but just wanted to let you know I feel for you, and hope it all sorts itself out soon!

    Alby Mangroves said...

    A late reply, but when we get the stupid/irrational/lash-out type stuff at home, it is ignored. I pick up Peanut and walk away (to make sure she is safe from his unintentional carry-on). HE HATES IT and often will stop if I say that once he has stopped crying, we will talk to him again. If it happens in public, or there is the slightest threat of it happening, I abandon everything including half-full shopping trolleys and bodily remove him to the car and home. No amount, cajoling and threats will stop him at that point, so I don't even bother, I just hold him down and strap him into the carseat (have been kicked in the head for my effort and it took a mammoth effort to ignore this one). Again, his tanty is ignored until we get home and then he's told that I will speak to him again when he stops. It is working for me, maybe it could work for you guys? I keep hearing that he will grow out of it, and am almost holding my breath waiting for this to happen... xx

    kim at allconsuming said...

    In our house that period of time was referred to as "so ready for school".

    Claire (ethel loves fred) said...

    Oh wow - I'm not alone! My Littl P has been is still very hard to understand at times. And as you say, she's well liked, great fun to be with, but she turns, like a wrap-around skirt! I think THEY ALL do or can, and anyone who thinks their's doesn't is deluding themselves.

    The naughty chair really works, now that she understands 5 minutes, the room doesn't work for her, as she just plays in there. If she cries/whines/shouts out on the naughty chair, it's 5 minutes more. Works, sounds trite, but give it a try, and be really firm, don't let him win!

    nutmeg said...

    Looks like everyone beat me to it! Some really great advice and support in these replies. All I'll say is "I hear ya!" and to stay as strong as you can - and maybe avoid outings in the latter half of the day for a while.

    Anonymous said...

    I have twin girls ,4 in Jan. A great friend recommended this book ( Magic 123 )There is also a video. I have yet to try it. But as it comes highly recommended I thought I would share.
    Hugs Corrine

    Stomper Girl said...

    My sister used Magic 123 and swears by it, her kid is diabetic and so the mood swings were really huge. Consistency is the real key.

    The other thing to remember is that it is a stage. It will pass. keep telling yourself that. Cx

    Joke said...

    That Magic 1-2-3 really worked ovah heah (and it did with Poppy's kids, too).

    My wife found it and applied it assiduously.

    Which is a good thing, because my natural impulse was to go with something like this.

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