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Control issues - help and advice please!

(10 Posts)
FamiliesShareGerms Fri 01-Nov-13 05:39:27

grateful for some wise words about control issues in adopted children.

DD is about 3.5 yo and has been with us for well over two years now. She has always had a stubborn streak and a negative tendency - eg if you ask if she wants something, her first response is usually to say "no". But generally she is well settled and has a food attachment to me, DH and DS, plus our wider family.

Recently her behaviour has got worse - or maybe our ability to tolerate it has declined. I don't know. But she is still behaving as if she is a terrible two, having grown out of it for a while. I mean things like refusing to eat certain food, tantrums or running off in the supermarket, refusing to get dressed. And she really really whinges. Worse, she only does this sort of thing at home with DH and I or family members; at nursery she eats everything, is completely charming all the time etc. When DD is in a good mood, she is truly delightful to be with, but it is very very hard work when she isn't, and her behaviour is starting to have a real impact on our family life, limiting where we can go and sometimes making DS's life pretty miserable.

We have worked out that at its root is a control issue: she has to choose who gets her dressed; she wants to decide how much to eat; she wants to rule the roost. I think this isn't uncommon in adopted children?

So what do we do? What works best? Love bombing? Firm discipline? Time out? Time in? Help!

Thanks in advance...

YouAreMyRain Fri 01-Nov-13 06:18:02

Her behaviours, although challenging, are not that far off normal for her age.

I have two similar sounding adopted dd (older now) and would offer them choices even if it seemed like a non-choice.

Dd2 had a thing about shoes, all her shoes "hurt" her (we spent hours getting shoes fitted, checked, rechecked in shops- all fine, definitely a control issue as it was intermittent as well) so it would take ages to get shoes on her and get her out of the house. Sometimes she would eventually "accept" a pair of shoes, then change her mind later on.

In desperation I have ended up giving her a choice of "x" footwear or no footwear and have found that a few footsteps in cold wet mud etc have focused her mind and magically made the troublesome footwear stop "hurting". wink

TheBakeryQueen Fri 01-Nov-13 08:36:28

I've always thought 3 to be much harder & more challenging than 2. Her behaviour sounds the norm for most the 3yr olds I know.

Also, it is typical that a child pushes boundaries where she feels most secure. So, most children are at their most challenging with their primary carers.

My children are not adopted but I have had the same issues as you describe.

The fact that she behaves well at nursery is proof that you're doing a fantastic job as her mum! She misbehaves for you because she knows your love is unconditional.

In terms of managing the behaviours it sounds like you're doing all the right things already.

Pick your battles & be firm when it matters. With issues like the shoes, it's best to ignore where possible or just let her see the natural consequences of going out without any shoes on (with spare socks & shoes in your bag for when she comes to her senses grin)

Italiangreyhound Fri 01-Nov-13 17:16:37

Hi FamiliesShareGerms I know it can be very different for children who have been adopted and there may be reasons for some of this behaviour. Having said that she (and the daughter of YouAreMyRain) sound a lot like my DD. Who was absolutely brilliantly behaved for others and terrible for me! I noticed it first when she was about 4 and she managed to stay all day at someone's house without any accidents (she was toilet trained at 3) but when I collected her she wet herself. So I felt the mishaps of wetting herself and other things were a way of trying to get my attention.

Have you read 'The Parenting Puzzle' I can certainly recommend it.

You said So what do we do? What works best? Love bombing? Firm discipline? Time out? Time in? Help!

It's just my personal opinion but I would not adopt one strategy throughout. If you feel she needs lots of love, give it, if she needs firm boundaries for something that is a big deal (like running off in the shops) then set them, for the whinging I would use the time honoured 'use a normal voice' - e.g. she won't get what she wants if she asks in a whingy voice and if she is complaining about stuff ask her to tell you her opinion in a normal voice and then look for the positive - e.g. 'It's sooooo boring today, nooooothing to do!' Tell me in a normal voice what's bothering you. If you are bored why don't you paint me a picture, go in the garden, play a game with me/ds.' etc.

With food I am very liberal, eat it, don’t eat it, your call. We put all food in serving dishes and DD takes what she wants, she is 8 now but we have done this since she was young. I only limit treats like sweets and I limit drinks after dinner. I never make her finish food she does not want, just encourage her not to take it in the first place, but hey, we all make mistakes, I have taken too much on lots of occasions!

Getting dressed! I could write a book on it. DD does like dresses, skirts, jeans or trousers with belts. She has even complained about leggings (too tight). I think it is sensory thing. She also hates socks that have seams and moans about shoes too! I try and buy what I know she will wear and then let her choose what to wear. Many of our biggest rows have been about wanting her to dress up/look smart for family meals/weddings etc.

Luckily in school she is fine as the uniform is set and she can’t change it but it includes trousers so she is happy. I would (Personal opinion here) try and establish those areas that really bother you and work on those and allow her to choose other areas. Rather than starting out with an argument and then giving in, make it clear from the start you are letting her choose, limited choice and allow her to feel special and grown up that she gets to choose. If possible allow plenty of time for when you need to go out so that that last minute melt down can be avoided. If it is important I usually (for that read - in an ideal world) make DD get ready before we go anywhere with the promise of a Horrid Henry TV programme before we go rather than put telly off and then get ready, what normally causes huge ructions in our house!

All this has been learned t over 8 years of parenting a rather difficult little girl, who is very stubborn and opinionated and dyslexic and although most of these problems appeared after she started school and can be put down more firmly to the reading and writing side of dyslexia, some like the clothes thing have always been there! So although I know it is different, I do feel your frustration!

I would finally add if you think it is linked to the adoption in a way then ignore my advice and ask someone who is an experience adopter, we are still waiting to be matched!!

Hope it gets better.

Italiangreyhound Fri 01-Nov-13 17:18:47

Sorry that should read - DD does not like dresses, skirts, jeans or trousers with belts.

FamiliesShareGerms Fri 01-Nov-13 18:27:43

Thanks for all your replies. Today has mostly been good - we have tried holding her quite tightly when she misbehaves and telling her in a calm soft voice that we will always love her but X was a naughty thing to do. She has definitely calmed down much more quickly from this, so we will probably keep on with this.

But then tonight she deliberately dropped something straight onto DS's face when he was lying on the floor. I saw it all happen, and it was certainly not accidental. When I asked her why she did it, she said "because I love him”, which was an interesting response.

I think we'd both be able to cope better with the temper and stubbornness if DD didn't make her whingey noise. It is awful, sort of a "huuuuuuuuuuhhhhhh" whine. I am completely immune to tears; this noise just grates. Perhaps she has worked this out.

We're pretty adept at bribery methods - DS responds particularly well to this! - and I think we give DD choice in things that don't matter. Perhaps we need to articulate it better, so she is more aware of the choice. And I haven't yet let her out of the house with a fairy costume, sandals and no knickers (her preferred choice of dressing up costume last night) but perhaps I should so she understands why we say no (I might stand firm on wearing knickers though!)

Finally Italian - what do you do about offensive sock seams? These are one of DD's absolute betes noires....

neolara Fri 01-Nov-13 18:39:49

Can I recommend Playful Parenting. It's written by a play therapist. His belief is that kids act out when they feel powerless or unconnected and that the best way to help kids deal with these feelings is through play. Young kid are particularly rubbish at using words to express how they are feeling, but through playing in a particular way you can help them to feel more powerful and more connected. I thought it was a fabulous book. I've used some of the techniques on my kids and they have been remarkably successful. It's very different to most parenting books that are around at the moment and I think it might be particularly good for adopted kids who may have issues around attachment.

Italiangreyhound Fri 01-Nov-13 18:47:03

Families while I shake my head to remove the image of you stand(ing) firm on wearing knickers* I think the sock thing is best tacked by getting a variety of pairs and seeing which she prefers. Then get lots of the ones she likes. We definitely found some were better than others. If there is a choice bigger socks might work, and if they don't she will grow into them. The other option is to turn them inside out so the seam is on the inside, but only if you don't mind this. This will probably work better with plain white or cream socks, which is what we favour.

fossil971 Fri 01-Nov-13 19:12:10

Sounds familiar to me, unfortunately my 9yo hasn't left his inner toddler behind, quite! It does sound like typical attachment issue behaviour (I am trying not to pin a label here but YKWIM). The being good for other people but challenging to parents. It sounds like you are doing the right things but you are just in it for the long haul, it takes a while before some of these inner issues come to the surface.

We had a good book recently "Parenting chidren with emotional and behavioural issues" by Dan Hughes - in fact his other books are well worth reading if you didn't already read them during preparation. He is very good at getting inside the child's self-image and inner fears which work out in the behaviour, and finding a way of dealing with the behaviour that affirms and supports the child.

Doing all this under pressure of day to day parenting is a complete other matter, of course. Do take care of yourself and lean on your support network if you need to. If you can stay calm when they are playing you up, you have won out, even if you have gritted teeth grin.

I was on a course recently where offensive clothes seams were specifically mentioned - this is really common, it's to do with sensory issues IIRC. This was the recommended book.

If you have any struggles like this do go back to your post adoption support team. IME the longer you leave it the harder it is to get any help, also after 3 years the support changes from placing authority (who know you) to the local authority where you live (who may or may not be any use). So it may be helpful just to keep in touch.

FamiliesShareGerms Sat 02-Nov-13 12:50:31

Thanks for the recommendation, neolara, Amazon is sending me a copy shortly!

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