Saturday, September 25, 2010

Terrible Fours??

I have started this post so many times, but I am determined to push through it today.  I have no idea what to do about Maddie.  Last year was tough with her, but she was three so we figured things would get better.   We thought starting preschool this year would help.  But the last few weeks have been a nightmare.

At school she is an angel, everyone there loves her.  They tell me how kind, and sweet and wonderful she is for them.  I don't know that girl, the girl I know is angry and stubborn and always on edge.  I see brief glimpses of the girl they know, but she is a fleeting image.  The girl I live with dominates the house with her frustration and anger. 

We are trying new behavior systems, Owen and Maddie each start the day with three magnets.  Fighting, or freak outs or tantrums result in the loss of a magnet.  Once they lose all three, they go to bed.  We keep track of how many they had at the end of the day and have a reward at the end of the week if they earned it.

On Monday, the first day, Maddie lost one in the car on the way home.  She was losing her shit because her artwork did not fit her homework folder.  When we got home she started her homework.  The assignment was to circle pictures that started with the letter M.  There was a bottle of medicine with a spoon next to it.  She knew medicine started with an M, but spoon started with an S so it shouldn't be circled.  BUT, there was no way to circle only the medicine without also touching the spoon.  We tried explaining that the spoon was part of the medicine.  No dice.  She started screaming and scribbling on the paper.  We finally had to take her to her room and leave her there until dinner.

When she traces her letters, she cries because she "can't write the letters perfectly".  Her grammar is very precise for her age.  She loses her mind when she can't do something "right".  We keep trying to explain, practice....blah, blah.

She is so mean to Ellie, she pushes her down, takes things away, has said she wants Ellie to be eaten by a monster.  I get the resentment, I do.  But lately she has been going into Ellie's room and waking her up from her naps.  Which just kills us, Ellie is super unpleasant without a nap.  She lashes out at Owen, hitting him, and scratching him until he bleeds.  He does torment her, and I think she waits until he doesn't expect it.  Which, I get.

What really gets to me, are her meltdowns.  She will lose her mind completely, even if she is getting her way.  Today she spent 20 minutes crying because she wanted to wear legging, and I said OK.  But she felt she was going to be to hot.  So I said, don't wear them.  Then she said but she wants to wear them.  Ok.  But what if she was to hot.  She argued with herself for 20 minutes.  I have no idea how to handle that.

Once she starts a meltdown there is no way to stop her.  I know this all sound like typical 4 year old stuff.  I can't put into words how it feels around here.  I wake up every morning wondering how bad things will get.  When we get to the end of the day at work, we dread coming home.  We just don't know how to help her, I am afraid we are doing it wrong and we will ruin her.

Should we get a child psychologist for her?  Should I drink more?  Maybe I could stay with my mom until Maddie is six? 


Swistle said...

Oh, poor little frustrated perfectionist! She wants things to be RIGHT! She wants the person who made the worksheet to have done it the right way to begin with! She wants to wear the leggings AND not have them be too hot!

When I was a child I found it helpful when my parents said things such as "I know. This is an impossible situation: there is no way to know ahead of time if the leggings will be too hot. I wonder if this would work: could you wear the leggings, but bring something to change into in case they ARE too hot?" Or "I know. This is wrong: the spoon starts with S, not with M. Sometimes people don't think things through when they're making worksheets. I think probably the artist got carried away: she was drawing the medicine that starts with M, and she was having so much fun she started drawing other things around it, like the spoon. I wonder, could you put an arrow to the circled part and write 'not the spoon'? Or what if we trace the the outline of just the medicine bottle?"

I think what I liked was someone else saying "You're right, this is messed up" and then coming up with "This isn't the right solution, but I wonder if it would be Good Enough in these impossible circumstances?" solutions.

Mimi said...

Oh man. I'm not a whole lot of help with ideas (although I think Swistle's sounds really good), but I just wanted to empathize. I hope this is just a frustrating phase that she's going through. I guess I would take a little comfort in the fact that she is behaving really well at school and just saving up all of her bad behavior for home. Hopefully she will figure things out soon, for your sake! =)

wm said...

Have you tried time outs?

Joanne said...

I wonder if she has some sensory issues? There are some excellent books that I have read through for my own sensory-challenged boy. The Out of Sync Child is very interesting, even if Maddie's issues are not sensory based (which they totally might not be, what do I know?) it might give you some ideas on how to address the problems she's having. Poor babies, both you and her. And everyone! It's so hard, I feel for you. I hope it's better soon and yes, I would always recommend more drinking for the mom.