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How to manage disruptive behaviour in 3 & 4 yr olds reacting to parents ill health

(19 Posts)
Singstar Mon 17-Aug-09 22:12:19

Hi, just wondering if there is anyone out there who can offer advice on to cope when you know your kids are playing up and its reaction to you being ill. I've been ill for about 18mths, had an operation and in the last 6mths been pretty awful, culminating in being rushed into hospital last week and the kids being shipped off to relatives (again and for longer than they expected to be).
Hopefully things are looking like they are going to improve now and I shouldn't get as ill as I have been but I know that especially over the last 4-6mths I've been half the mum I've should/could have been and I also know that the kids are sensitive little people who pick up on more than I and others maybe give them credit for.

Most of the time they do brilliantly but especially since coming home last week they have been really destructive, violent and aggressive at times. I understand they're probably punishing me in their own way but do I let them get it out of their system, or go back to being the frankly quite strict mum I was before I got ill ? Any advice would be really welcome. Thanks

Mummywhereisyourwillie Mon 17-Aug-09 22:14:28

Could you talk it through with a family therapist with them present? They are probably quite scared and knowing that something is up but not quite what?

I hope your health improves soon.

VinoEsmeralda Mon 17-Aug-09 22:25:26

Difficult one to which I have no answer but when DH was on ITU/Trauma ward DS (then 25 months)pretended he didnt know his dad. Was very nervous around him till we gave him a doctors case and he took that with him and gave him a purpose.

We have talked it through with him and explained what happened and that seems to have helped a lot. Showing the scars, explained what stitches were and how they removed it, broken bones, blood transfusions the lot really

Personally I would try to go back to how you were before as they need that routine and it will be familiar to them and give them a sence of safety but I could be totally wrong but thats what I would do

Singstar Mon 17-Aug-09 22:27:12

The nursery they attend and the senco there has been brilliant and at nursery they don't seem to be make too mention of it. I do talk to them about my health, when they ask questions (that's the advice I was given by the senco) and they know about mummy's tablets but I always finish it telling them that Mummy will be fine soon and they can talk to me whenever they want.

The nursery tried to put us in touch with a family therapist via the education department but they didn't feel like they had the specialist capabilites to help us. hmm

misdee Mon 17-Aug-09 22:28:32

lots of reassurence, hugs and take it slowly. we used to make great progress with dd's but eveyrtime dh winds back up in hospital even for minor thing, i can see the dd's start to crumble.

we had a lot of pj days on the sofa with films, popcorn and duvets.

they were newborn, 2.5 and 5 when it all started. and now the older three are 4, 6.11, and 9. plus a 9month old baby as well now.

Singstar Mon 17-Aug-09 22:30:49

I just don't want them to feel that I'm being really mean to them but in the long term would it better to nip it in the bud now ? I've got a feeling that it might just get worse and worse if I let it continue.

misdee Mon 17-Aug-09 22:35:05

have they been able to get out and about with you? i find, especilly dd2, benefits greatly from just running her anger and frustation away, especially when she was younger and couldnt vocalise how she was feeling.

choosyfloosy Mon 17-Aug-09 22:36:35

Could you start gradually? You could crack down really hard on actual violence to other people, while leaving destructiveness to property for another day? Also go massively overboard on praising the positive; maybe now is a good time for a reward chart - ds gets a bribe present after 60 stickers on his chart. No need to make it so material if you don't like the idea, but maybe the rewards could be more mummy-focused, like getting a trip out on their own with mum. The chart could have some quite general categories so that you can give a sticker for any good behaviour you can find?

Sorry you've been having such a rough time. I do think you should move back towards being your own self with them, if you've got the strength, but maybe not all at once.

Singstar Mon 17-Aug-09 22:45:23

no which is a major problem I think - my oldest is a thinker and will mull things over, cry and ask questions. My youngest gets frustrated very easily, and gets angry quite quickly, he's also very physical.

My illness has meant that for a long time I've either been unable to do much with them or when I've promised to do something with them like take them to the park etc, I've been taken ill or incapacitated quite quickly. So for them it must feel like I'm breaking a promise or letting them down. I can totally see why they might be angry with me I just wish I could get them to understand that it's hopefully going to be ok now and equally that I'm not to going to be a pushover.

misdee Mon 17-Aug-09 22:52:11

sounds very familar.

i think that you need reward charts for good bhaviour, lots of chances for the kids to run and yell as much as possible. big parks are goodm you can amble along a bit slower, let them take scooters/bikes and yell/scream as much as they want.

and lots of time to talk, and cuddle.

obviously try to stop the bad behaviour, but right now, they are probably scared and worried, and frustrated.

Singstar Mon 17-Aug-09 22:56:49

Sorry its taking me a long time to type responses, Choosy, I've tried the rewards thing chocolate is working a treat but it is almost like they expect it all the time and keep asking for chocolate. (I think they were spoilt whilst staying with the relatives - understandble I suppose)
but they're doing things like deliberately breaking picture frames or valuable items that are important to me. It really is like they're trying to punish me - fair enough but I just want us to get back to normal.

TeaMonster Mon 17-Aug-09 23:04:45

Firstly singar I am sorry that you are unwell and hope that things improve for you.

We are and have been through someting similar, I underwent surgery in Feb and had major complications. My boys are 4 and 3 adn both reacted very differntly. DS1 was very good during my hospitalisation and then pushed me to the limit once I was released.

DS2 was and still is very clingly and refuses to eat and sleep.

I have spoke to a child phycologist via the local sure start centre and she assured me that DS2 is controlling the only things he can sleep and food and that we have to be firm and stong with him.

DS1 has been very naughty since I got out of hospital and I was far too unwell to disapline him, so things have been really hard.

The one thing that has helped is consistancy. Now I am physically improving, I am able to take a bit more contol over their disapline.

Also we found that relatives have been more leniant than we would have been,

I found it much harder to be as strict as I was before I went into hospital. I wasnt well enough, plus I was just thankful to be out and OK and I wanted to shower them with love.

Children will push the boundries, you need to establish them again where you are comfortable you can keep them.

I agree that excercise is important. The best thing I did was contact homestart and our volenteer is fantastic. we would all go to the park and I would sit and watch and she would do all the physical stuff.

I also tried to keep to routine at home and did go back to swimming etc with them far earlier than I would have done, but they enjoyed it so much, it was and is worth the suffering for the rest of the day and night grin

They seem to know your weakness and pray on them. Ds2 would lash out and then get really upset that he had hurt me and then he would laugh about it - he was confused.

Try sure start they really helped me.

Good luck

Singstar Mon 17-Aug-09 23:06:41

I think reassurance, cuddles and a some return of the old strict mummy they knew before is what is called for. Thank you for all your advice it's made me feel better about things. smile

Singstar Mon 17-Aug-09 23:14:51

tea monster - thank you so much - I've never even heard of homestart, let alone thought there was anyone official who could help me.
My only concern on it would be do they judge you and your ability to look after kids. Before I got I ill I was fiercely independent (still like to think I am) and I hate the idea of someone almost watching me to make sure I'm coping. I don't know if you found this but all the through the illness I just wanted to get to better for the kids and I'm 100% determined to do that. So much of me still wants to do that by myself almost to make up for the time I lost when I was ill - don't know if that makes sense or not

TheLadyEvenstar Mon 17-Aug-09 23:27:42


I was 5 when my dad had his accident which left him just a little bit older than your dc, We grew up very quickly indeed. The one thing my parents always tried to do was get us to explain how we felt if we were scared really helped us.

The strict mummy needs to return even if not full on as this is their normality iyswim?

TeaMonster Tue 18-Aug-09 02:43:36

Singstar - I am the most independant person you could ever meet. The reason I contacted Sure Start and Homestart was that I didnt want things to fall by the wayside. It was hard to swollow my pride and do it, but iot worked for us.

Homestart are a charity, we were matched with a wonderful ex-primary school teacher, who is a joy and a real calming influance with the boys. We are truly blessed to have her in our life.

Sure start are government run and assured me nothing detrimental in anyway would come from their support and they have been so right.

I feel so much more in control now that I can assert more of me on my family again - not that you would think so with this dreadful insomnia grin

I focuss on my family it is what gets me through the dark days and nights. I love them so much and everything will be fine, luckly they are both small and wont remember the bad bits.

Take care and should you need to chat let me know.

Singstar Tue 18-Aug-09 18:27:51

Hi tea monster (and everyone else who offered advice yesterday) Thank you so much for everything - today I looked into sure start and tonight I'm going to talk my husband about the possibilities and options offered. Not sure how he'll go with it - he's just as independent as me and might not like people 'interefering' but its worth a go. smile

I also started to be stricter and more like my old 'mum' self today and took the kids to the park. It was exhausting and I'm completely knackered now but my boys have been happy and laughing and nothing has been broken or thrown !!!!

I know its only one day but I really hope we've turned the corner now and just wanted to say thank you to you all.

TeaMonster Tue 18-Aug-09 20:37:10

Well done with the park. I thought that the pain was worth the gain. I will keep my fingers crossed for you.

I am going back in for another operation nad will be keeping a firmer finger on things

Singstar Wed 19-Aug-09 17:42:50

sorry fell asleep before saw your reply (bloody tablets knock me out one minute, keep me up all night the next, still getting used to them!) - I really hope your operation goes well and I'll be thinking of you too. Hopefully in a few months time all this worry will be a distant memory for the both of us and we'll be back to worrying about all the normal kids/parenting stuff. smile

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