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3yo dd behaviour impacting family life

(10 Posts)
Whatafustercluck Mon 07-Sep-20 12:29:22

We've been through the 3s before, so I know that threenagers are more difficult than 2s. Also, dd has a very strong personality. But I just don't know what's just her personality or whether there's something else going on. The usual techniques, advised by everyone, just don't seem to work. I am completely out of ideas - and her cm has similar issues so I don't think it's a parenting/ home problem. I'm not proud about it but I have come so close to smacking her several times and I've no idea how I've managed to stop myself. I have lost it and shouted though.

She is 4 in November. Very bright, vocabulary and reasoning exceptional for her age (even strangers comment) so no developmental concerns in that respect. She can be kind - lovely in fact - helpful, good with other children and animals, sociable, confident, capable of very interesting and very involved conversations. She's loving and affectionate, makes eye contact well, is extremely expressive and fiercely independent (she was dressing herself by 18 months). She is well mannered and capable of really good behaviour - tidies up when asked, shares nicely (mostly) etc.

But. Her tantrums are something else. When having a particularly bad day she is controlling, talks back/ shouts at dh and I, argues. If we try to deal with it through disciple she gets worse. If we ignore her she gets even more angry and upset - will literally follow us around throwing doors open, screaming/ crying, attempting to get our attention by hitting, pushing us etc.

She doesn't cope well with change - at all - and seems to get very anxious when rushed. We try to pre-empt this by explaining in advance what will happen next. She has several 'routines' that make me think of ocd - things like needing to do things a certain number of times or in a certain order, like switching her light on and off 3 times before bed, needing to use the same table, not one that's practically identical, saying things in a certain order at bedtime and flying into a range at any deviation in routine. She is extremely sensitive about her socks and shoes - recently we've resorted to not making her wear socks because otherwise she will take her shoes on and off when we're trying to leave the house several times over because her socks 'are annoying' her. She likes things just so, and when in the wrong frame of mind, she will not compromise - at all.

We all feel like we're living on edge with her, every day, not knowing when she will kick off. As sad and awful as it sounds, we have even considered leaving her home while we take our ds (9) for a day out because dealing with her when she's like it causes so much tension. We've never done it of course, but poor ds is getting neglected while we try to deal with her and we can think of no other way. She ruined a day out yesterday, firstly by refusing to wear the shoes she brought (even though she chose the ones she wanted) and then because her socks were not feeling right, and at various points throughout the day because she wouldn't let me out of her sight. She only wants to do anything with me, never with dh, and it results in an almighty kick off if I give her no choice (for example if I need to take ds somewhere). She is very possessive of me and won't let ds sit next to me at dinner etc. If we force the issue, or try to reason, she just digs her heels in further.

While she is not like it all the time, you never know which dd will come out of her bedroom in the morning. I am beginning to resent the impact she is having on us all.

We spoke yesterday about getting her assessed, but she seems so 'together' when around others that I don't think they'd see anything wrong. But as I said, she acts out similarly with her cm (who she adores) so I don't think it's a home problem - although we are trying very hard to respond more effectively to her.

Is this normal? Has anyone experienced similar?

OP’s posts: |
Whatafustercluck Mon 07-Sep-20 13:20:02

I should clarify that when I say we've considered leaving her home, I mean supervised with someone trusted - not leaving her home alone!

OP’s posts: |
Tacca Mon 07-Sep-20 15:06:13

Try reading back what you have written with a different mindset. You can see how intelligent she is, independent and ahead of her age. However you seem to think that does not apply to her behaviour, like she suddenly isn't in control it.

In fact the opposite seems far more likely, she is very much in control. If you don't turn the light on and off 3 times, she kicks off, so the result is you always turn the light on and off and she gets what she wants.

If she has to wear socks, she will take her shoes off to make her point. The result is you don't make her wear socks and she gets what she wants.

If you try to discipline her, she ups the ante to the next level. The result is you are less likely to discipline her because of the hassle and the kick off. The result is you discipline her less and she gets what she wants.

You are clearly doing a lot of things right if she is caring, thoughtful and intelligent beyond her years. You just haven't given her enough credit for the bad behaviour.

Children don't understand why they can't do everything they want to, so they will try every possible way to get what they want. It doesn't make them bad, it is just human nature. You have to endure the kick offs and stick to your guns, because she understands that you will back down right now and she can get what she wants.

Whatafustercluck Mon 07-Sep-20 15:32:09

Thanks @Tacca. I get where you're coming from, and definitely a lot of the bad behaviour is her testing how far she can push before we give in. She is stubborn and defiant beyond anything I have ever experienced.

But I know the difference between pushing us/ controlling our response and her getting genuinely inconsolable about how her socks feel. It matters not to me whether she wears them or not - it seems to be more of a sensory issue she has whereby they genuinely don't feel right and it spirals out of control. She gets similarly fixated on other things - she will literally watch the same episode of the same programme over and over until she is able to pre-empt the characters' speech. She listens to a song over and over until she has mastered it and only when she has mastered it does she listen to anything else. The list goes on.

OP’s posts: |
Whatafustercluck Mon 07-Sep-20 16:13:43

I should also clarify that it's her who switches the light in and off 3 times before bed and anything that disrupts that is met with spiralling rage. Likewise, her taking her shoes off/ putting them on is instigated by her because her socks need to feel just right, and her leggings need to be pulled over her socks just right, before she is happy with her shoes. Yesterday, the thing that set her off was because the shoes she had chosen didn't feel right over her socks and appeared to interfere with the bottom of her leggings. It sounds extreme because it is - and once she gets herself into a tizz about it, nothing is right.

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1304togo Mon 07-Sep-20 22:52:11

I hate to point out the obvious so genuine apologies if this is something you've looked into but ruled out... Autism, albeit high functioning. Sensory issues, difficulty with transitions, wanting to control things so it feels safer, taking comfort in routine, being highly independent (does she have a strong sense of perceived or real injustice?), Off the scale meltdowns... All of that would lead me to looking at female high functioning autism, you should head over to the sub forum on MN for further advice because it presents differently in girls. I am not a medical professional note, just an informed layman, but, some of the coping techniques may sound like that they would help you. Even if I'm wrong.

selly24 Tue 08-Sep-20 00:29:47

Just wanted to jump in and say- I definitely think you should take your son out for the day have someone mind your daughter - with no guilt. I’m a big believer in one on one time with parents for each sibling and given that your daughters behaviour has an impact - time just parents and son9 will be of benefit for everyone.

Whatafustercluck Tue 08-Sep-20 08:06:11

@1304togo I did momentarily consider that, yes. But when I looked further into it I realised that virtually the only 'symptom' that applies to dd is the sensory issues, need for routine and epic meltdowns. She has rich and varied conversations about multiple interests, asks quite complex questions about things she or others experience, prefers playing with others than playing alone and is very confident and outgoing - not at all shy. I did however wonder if the ocd type traits and sensory issues are a symptom of anxiety. It is definitely more pronounced on some days than others and it appears to coincide with a change in her routine or surroundings. This morning she got dressed beautifully and only took her boots off once to re-arrange her socks!

@selly24 you're right and we do definitely try to have one to one time with ds. It's usually a meal out, playing football or an evening film while dd is in bed at weekends rather than a whole day though. And obviously since Covid lockdown it hasn't happened as much as we've been unable to get dd cared for. But I think perhaps a whole day out with him would mean a lot to him. He's brilliant with dd and is often the only one who can bring her out of her tantrums, but even he is beginning to resent the time and energy she can take.

OP’s posts: |
Timeforsinging81 Tue 08-Sep-20 09:43:55

She sounds exactly like my 4 year old DS. He removes his socks as soon as he gets home, very sensitive to noise and smell, repetitive with phrases and routine but very eloquent and expressive. I had considered some sort of OCD or sensory issues but tbh I don't want to label him and I'm happy with his quirkiness. But the emotions are difficult to deal with and he does seem to be aware and upset that he can't calm down at times. I've no advice to give but would like to see if anyone else has any tips.

ZooKeeper19 Wed 09-Sep-20 09:19:24

@Whatafustercluck I agree, taking him out solo is not a bad idea at all. Also the meltdowns just need to be survived by you, I think, there does not seem to be any way to "fix" it, maybe with age that may change? I'd also think ASD, there are many symptoms to this, not just eye contact and smiling. Girls, especially, are quite different to boys. And the behaviour tends to be worse at home then, say, in school or nursery.

I'd stick to as many routines as she likes (to the point it's possible for the rest of you) and I'd try and get her interested in something special, even though she is still very young. Animals would be the obvious choice but really even aeroplanes, dinosaurs, something she can pour her compulsion into. (I used to record shows on my audio-radio and then listen to them as we did not have video recorder, so I knew every single line to hundreds of episodes of Tv series, which I then re-listened and translated with a paper dictionary into its original language, with pen and paper in my mum's room for hundreds of hours...I still have the folders until today, and I cherish those memories). I mean it's not a bad thing to have, but it may be hard to live with for the others smile

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