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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Stuck

Sunday I spanked the PT. I can’t remember the last time I hit her, if ever. Certainly, I can think of many times when I’ve wanted to spank her, and there have been numerous times when she has deserved it. But I’ve never been much for corporal punishment. I’ve had much more luck with the carrot than the stick. Yet this kid has really been testing me. A few weeks ago, she was going through a stretch where she would wake up every night, around 3am, and start whining and crying. She wanted something, but wasn’t sure what. Nobody could help her. I’d wake up and hear her moaning, “Someboddddyyyyy…..” And then when her roommate, my older daughter, would get up to find out what she wanted, she’d say, “NOT YOU!” And then a few seconds later we’d hear, “Somebody elsssssssse….”

After about 3 or 4 nights of this I finally had it and got up to give her a potch. I counted to three (which usually works for me), but it wasn’t getting me anywhere that night. I picked her up and put her across my lap, then pulled down her pajamas. By this time my wife was standing over us with a look that said, “now what are you going to do, Hot-shot?” I looked down at her squirming on my lap with her little tush facing up at me and I started to laugh. I pulled up her pants and put her back in bed. My wife told her how lucky she was and how she’d better go back to sleep or else I really was going to give it to her. I don’t know what happened after that. The fatigue overwhelmed me and I got back to sleep somehow. After a few days, the PT tired of this routine and resumed sleeping through the night.

Lately she’s been getting what my wife refers to as “stuck”. She fixates on something and can’t get past it. It may be that she requires a certain response in order to continue with her routine. For example, the response to the question, “Is this my yogurt” is “yes”. A nod, or “uh-huh” or “yep” won’t do it, and she’ll repeat the question until she gets a “yes.” And it has to be from the correct person. If she asks my wife something and I respond, she gets upset. Sunday she got into a downward spiral from the moment she woke up. She kvetched all morning about this and that and refused to do anything she was told. She wouldn’t get dressed, go to the bathroom, come downstairs or brush her teeth. My wife struggled with her to get all of these things done, and finally we did manage to get everything but the teeth accomplished. Then it was time to go to the Nursing Home to visit her great-grandparents.

Halfway there she remembered that she had not brushed her teeth, and demanded that we turn the car around and take her back home. When it was clear that this was not going to occur, she started crying again. She continued until we got into the parking structure. Her wailing echoed through the structure, and this seemed to intensify her resolve. I realized we weren’t going to be able to take her upstairs like this. I sent my wife and the other kids on ahead and I stayed behind with the PT. Then I did something stupid.

I tried to reason with her. That just made her ANGRY. She wanted me to pick her up. I told her not if she was crying. She’d stop. I’d pick her up. She’d resume crying. I’d put her down. Rinse. Repeat. I managed to get her to the underground elevators. I told her there’s no way she was going upstairs unless she was quiet. She’d stop for a few seconds, but would continue if we started moving. I couldn’t get her past this. She was still stuck on not brushing her teeth. Finally I just turned her over and gave her a quick zetz on the tuchas. This must have startled her. She stopped crying. I’m sure it didn’t hurt. She had plenty of padding down there. I think that she never expected me to go through with it. After that we were able to talk about her crying and what we could to make her stop.

I'm very worried about her, and in particular, about our upcoming cross-country trip to New York. I can't take her out in public like this, and I don't want to get into a routine of physically punishing her, because I know that ultimately it will stop being effective. Her 4th birthday is coming up, and we've been trying to focus on this being a transition for her. When she turns four, she'll be too big to whine, that sort of thing. My wife gave her a "map" to show her how she can get around the part where she gets stuck. "See, when you're stuck, go down the other road." It seems to help. It's a map of Altoona, but the PT doesn't have to know that.

You'd think that after six kids, this would be easier. I may need to take a closer look at that "map". Sometimes I get lost myself.

1 comment:

PsychoToddler said...

At your expense I'm laughing--sorry. (but at the moment my brains are somewhere in a paper bag...)

Your daughter's Someone/Someone Else is pulled right out of a comedy routine -- Your Show of Shows maybe. It's so vaudevillian, it's funny.

I'd like one of those road maps your wife is offering, but a larger one, like one of THE WORLD.

Some kids go through phases -- and surprisingly come back to that phase. My five-year-old likes to throw screaming fits or runs off huffing into a corner in his fit of anger or displeasure with us. He did these things two years ago; he's doing them again.

Trying to talk rationally to a young child doesn't always work; patience often runs thin on both parties' accounts. The littlest/gentlest "potch" on the tuches can make for the loudest wail--it's just the shock of the moment that counts. ("I can't believe that Abba or Eema really did that to me. I think I'll cry now." That must be what goes through my, and perhaps your child's mind.)

I guess you just have to ask PsychoToddler questions to find out the real reason for her psychotic behavior. It is a power trip for her, I'm sure. But I always suggest to the kids, "Could you imagine if I did what you do just because the potatoes on the plate were touching the broccoli? What if I would throw a tantrum like you do...just know that I'd throw a lot of tantrums!"

Hey, maybe mimicry from the rest of the family might get her to be so stunned at the group behavior, she'll stop her negative behavior... Who knows? I'm no Benjamin Spock, just a mother who sometimes will try anything and everything with her kids!
Pearl | Homepage | 05.25.05 - 12:42 pm | #

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It is a power trip for her, I'm sure.

You hit it right on the nose. We've tried the mimicry. She likes it.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.25.05 - 1:02 pm | #

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Actually, the pattern of getting "stuck" and not seeing options can be a kind of "hardwired" thing in the brain. In other words, it really might not be her fault and she really might not be able to see alternatives that you probably think are blindingly obvious.

We have had to conduct about a million "social autopsies" to help one of our kids learn that there are "decision points" where he can choose to escalate or de-escalate a situation BEFORE it turns into a fight. You might feel like a broken record, but she really might need you to lay out her options for her before things get to the whining stage.
tuesdaywishes | 05.25.05 - 2:16 pm | #

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Sunday I spanked the PT.

That is a little bit too much information. Does your wife know that you are engaging in this behavior.

Ok, couldn't come up with anything new on Treppenwitz so I had to say it here.
Jack | Homepage | 05.25.05 - 2:47 pm | #

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I prefer cucumbers, myself.

Whoops! Wrong blog! Also repeating myself! Also repeating myself!
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.25.05 - 2:48 pm | #

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Well, Father McKenzie, I would have potched her, too. I have a 3.5 year old daughter and I can think of only a few times she's gotten a spanking but they were well-deserved and those behaviors weren't repeated again.

Each child is different but she HATES spankings so for me they seem to work. She seems to have a healthy respect and understanding of what I will or will not put up with. And fortunately, she learned young that she is not the boss and I can give her a look that stops her dead in her tracks.

Eeek, I have become my mother.
Stacey | Homepage | 05.25.05 - 4:47 pm | #

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Frightening, isn't it.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.25.05 - 4:53 pm | #

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Oh boy, do I relate to your woes. Our 7 year-old girl went through a hellish phase of intractable temper tantrums and complete defiance. She was totally impervious to discipline, either reward or punishment. ball-and-chain can give you more details. We were just starting to formulate a plan, when the behavior just stopped by itself. I don't get it. Now our 3 year old is taking over the hysterical-for-no-reason role.

Lotsa luck. Avoid the Xanax. More than 3 or 4 kilograms of that can be really bad for you.
Doctor Bean | Homepage | 05.25.05 - 5:46 pm | #

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Our strategy up until now was to have a new kid whenever the last one started getting too spoiled. But you can see the flaw in this approach...
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.25.05 - 5:58 pm | #

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I potched the momo a few weeks ago and he was so stunned that the pushover actually did not crack up laughing that he has never repeated that behaviour. Reasoning, with a toddler? yeah....um I am guilty of that too, because being a dictator sucks.

I find so long as the kids see we follow through with threats and promises their behaviour almost suits the occasion. A quick zetz never hurt anyone, except the person giving it.
Kiki | Homepage | 05.25.05 - 8:12 pm | #

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About the going through phases thing, I can't contribute anything but my own personal experience, since I have no kids of my own yet.

See, when I was PT's age, and even a little older, I used to get obsessed with certain scenarios, and would talk nothing but those scenarios (whether a movie I've seen or two women apartment painters walking down the street) for weeks at a time. I got into a habit of making up a story about whatever it was that hit my fancy and then telling it to anybody who'd listen several times a day, the same thing with slightly different ending each time. It must have been very annoying...

But the most interesting thing is, it didn't go away. It actually got worse. Even now, I get into a habit of obsessing over trivialities, and then having to talk about them constantly until something new comes up... Fortunately, I've got a blog for that purpose now. And people actually read it voluntarily! Maybe your daughter is a born blogger...

Hmm, my comment was supposed to be comforting... Oh well. : )
Irina Tsukerman | Homepage | 05.25.05 - 11:14 pm | #

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Of course you could always go the 'Blazing Saddle's' route:

"Anyone moves and the [Daddy] gets it!" At her age she just might fall for it!

Oh, and if you find yourself compulsively spanking the PT... just remember to make sure you use the term "tennis elbow" to describe your condition... that way nobody will suspect. =;~p
David | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 7:49 am | #

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1. thanks for the links to my posts.

2. tough situation with the munchkin. What has worked for us is finding situations where we can deal with poor behavior and working it out, before it is a situation in public where the kid has the upper hand, or it is difficult to follow through on discipline. For example, if the three year old has a birthday party to go to, and doesn't want to get dressed, we just tell him he isn't going to go to the party. Its easy enough not to go. The important part(and I am sure you are doing it and I am not telling you anything new) is to be consistant in what you ask for, and consistant in following through. If the PT is not getting what she wants from the person she wants it from, then maybe she doesn't get it at all. If she really wants the object, she will learn. Unfortunately it takes going through periods(sometimes long) of crying. With the bedtime issue, the problem is the roomate. Without the roomate, all you do is put up the gate, close the door, and put in ear plugs. Maybe if sleep is a problem the roomate can move to different sleeping quarters for a few nights.

As you pointed out, the situation is tough in public, where prolonged crying spells seem to bother people. So being consistant in discipline comes down to a choice of public embarrassment/nuisance vs. being firm. So, you have to figure out what you want to ask for behaviorwise in public, and you may have to accept less. I have found that bluffing rarely works, becuase it frequently gets called, and you are stuck. Better only to threaten what you will actually do, and then, unfortunately, do it.
dilbert | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 9:47 am | #

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Does everyone have a PT? My son got "stuck" just yesterday coming out of the clinic. He wanted to take the steps but I was in a rush so we passed the stairway climb and he cried, no screamed for 25 minutes. So it seemed like three hours. Nothing I did or said helped. I'm frightened sometimes.

I laughed at your strategy of having a new kid when the last one starts to become spoiled.
Wickwire | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 11:47 am | #

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David: I get very suspicious when patients come in with tennis elbow and also request viagra. 'Nuff said.

Dilbert: The follow-through is the most important part, and we have been remiss because the household has gotten so busy with everything that everyone has to do, that sometimes it's easier to just give into her, or have one of the other kids cater to her. That has to stop.

Wick: It works, but eventually you run out of rope.

Irina: I think this behavior is normal, but sometimes I wonder whether it's getting a little pathological. Where do you draw the line? When does normal toddlerism become a behavior disorder?
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 12:33 pm | #

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replace PT with My Wife and the story goes from funny to sad real fast.
amshinover | 05.26.05 - 12:43 pm | #

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You want me to spank your wife? Kinky.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 1:44 pm | #

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oiyyyy. sorry amshi. kids usually straighten out....
dilbert | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 2:20 pm | #

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Ok, I just typed tennis elblow. Not sure if that was a mistake or I was hit by a flying salad.

My parents tell stories of how when I was a wee lad I was quite defiant. Sometimes they would potch me following which I would announce:

I take this potch and I throw it away."

My son has picked up enough of my genetic code that I am careful about potching him because it really just pisses him off and creates a new problem.

Not really all that different from me in my youth or now. It is not as much of a deterrent as it is a way to piss the boy and I off.

I am not adverse to doing it when necessary, but have found that removing toys seems to make a greater impact.
Jack | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 2:26 pm | #

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Our kids are much too big to spank. Plus we are old and they move faster than us.

However, my 14-year-old stepson has that "stuck" thing to a degree. The 16-year old also. Oh Good Lord, I'm going to be in a car with them for 10 hours tomorrow.

Say a prayer for me....
Mirty | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 2:30 pm | #

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PT, I have the urge to be punny about your post.

You presented us with some real ... get ready ... you ready? ...
SLAP SHTICK COMEDY.
(gro...a....n)
Pearl | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 2:44 pm | #

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My mother loves to tell this story:

It's 3am and I bang open the door to their bedroom. I'm 3 years old. I yell, "TD TIME!!" at the top of my lungs. They tell me to go back to sleep. Instead I sit in the hallway and cry for about 20 minutes. After this I pick myself up and walk over to my Dad.

"Why don't you hit me already so I can go back to sleep?"
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 3:02 pm | #

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Ha tapuach lo nofel rachock min ha etz
dilbert | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 4:05 pm | #

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The apple comment isn't as funny to me as something salad related, but I don't think that Dilbert was involved in that conversation.

Ok, back to sleep for me. Has anyone seen my cabbage leaves.
Jack | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 5:43 pm | #

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I think that a behavior disorder can be identifed in kids who are usually older and whose behavior problems are clearly much more destructive and out of control than those of their peers. Sure, there are variations, but I'd say it's very clear when the kid is just young and a little spoiled and when he or she is becoming... dangerous.
Irina Tsukerman | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 6:20 pm | #

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Dumb suggestion, probably, but sometimes putting my son's toys in "toy jail"--in our apartment, that was a slide-bolted closet that he couldn't open--worked.

I hope that you'll be able to deal effectively with this problem in the long run. Having had more than enough experience with public temper tantrums with my own kid, I sympathize.
Shira Salamone | Homepage | 05.27.05 - 2:18 am | #

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Well, so far, she hasn't had any real public meltdowns, but mainly because the family is pretty good at defusing her. I think she'll be fine.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.27.05 - 9:17 am | #

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