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Does anyone have a 'highly strung' child? How do you deal with them?

(64 Posts)
spottybag Wed 10-Oct-12 10:00:40

My 4yo DD has always been 'high maintenance' she was one of those babies who could never fall asleep on her own, was never happy unless she was being held of breastfed.

Now at four she is very highly strung. She gets worked up and hysterical over all sorts of things and is very, very difficult to deal with.

She only turned 4 in August and started reception last month so obv has had a lot of big changes. She also gets VERY tired and has to be in bed by 6 and even then still gets overtired getting up at 7.

Last night we had a friend over for tea - a friend she's had since pre school so very familiar. He's not keen on dogs so I had put our dog away in an upstairs bedroom. She asked to go upstairs and I said they could play upstairs but ONLY in her room and not to go in any other room in the house.

They reappeared at the bottom of the stairs about 10 mins later, both in tears, with the dog in tow. Her poor little friend was really brave but obviously upset as you would be when confronted with one of your fears just popping out from behind a door when not expecting it. Anyway, lesson learned for me - get a lock on the door, and I feel terrible for upsetting her friend sad

But - her friend cheered up after a few minutes and got on with it while DD sat and sobbed and was hysterical for, honestly, about an hour. With us trying to distract her etc, get her to snap out of it. I was annoyed as she'd not done as she was told but I also felt that I couldn't really tell her off much as she was hysterical already. I know she was tired last night and I don't think we'll be having any more after school visits for a while.

How do you deal with this kind of behaviour? Help!

BigWitchLegsInWailyTights Wed 10-Oct-12 10:15:30

Well don't label her as highly strung for a start! She's only 4 and a young 4...she's just started school which is a massive challenge for kids who are almost 5!

Maybe, not being provocative...but maybe it's your reactions she's picking up on? How did you respond re the dog? If she thinks you are upset, then she may get more upset.

Watch how you behave and then look to her.

Most babies prefer to be held all the time and to co-sleep if given the option...she's too small for you to label her yet.

spottybag Wed 10-Oct-12 10:19:42

Ok, leaving the thread.

I'm feeling really shit about this right now and I don't need someone gunning for me.


BigWitchLegsInWailyTights Wed 10-Oct-12 10:23:46

There you're obviously highly strung yourself! I hardly gunned for you. Just pointed out that you need to look to yourself first...we ALL do when it comes to parenting. Chill out.

spottybag Wed 10-Oct-12 10:24:33

What's with all the exclamation marks? You don't know me. What's with your big reaction?

airedailleurs Wed 10-Oct-12 10:25:01

I don't think that BigWitch was gunning for you at all, she was offering an opinion, which is actually what you asked for...if you are not prepared to reconsider your own behaviour don't ask for advice!

I have an August-born DD who has always been demanding and "highly strung", but I "deal" with her sometimes difficult behaviour by being very patient and understanding.

destinationanywhere Wed 10-Oct-12 10:26:29

Don't leave.

I have 4 children and one is like this. He is 7 now and things are gradually getting easier. What has helped is that he can sometimes recognise when he is starting to 'meltdown'. If I ask him to go off to his room and read this will sometimes break the cycle. Or again if I catch him in time a cuddle may work.

Sometimes though he does just need to scream and shout and get it out of his system. The other thing that will trigger him is hunger and so I have to arrive at school with a snack or he is flying off the handle by 4pm.

Not all babies and children are the same. Mine are all boys but hugely different. I agree its not helpful to label them although I can be guilty of it myself at times.

Chin up.

BigWitchLegsInWailyTights Wed 10-Oct-12 10:38:35

Er...I put one exclamation mark. You asked for advice and it was given. If you are so oversensitive then I suggest you ask friends or family. Not strangers.

spottybag Wed 10-Oct-12 10:45:32

Thanks destination - we are constantly trying to make sure she's not hungry or tired but it's a struggle sometimes.

Can I ask how your son reacts to discipline? I'm worried that because she tends to go into meltdown about everything she's not learning things when she needs to.

ParrotTulip Wed 10-Oct-12 10:45:47

Staying resolutely calm yourself and giving her an exit strategy. Teaching her its ok to feel angry but not to take it out another people, its ok to exit yourself from the situation. I often suggest my daughter goes to her room, not as a punishment, but to calm down and have some space. This is a long term project though. I'm highly strung, and I only realise how far I've come when I see my daughter react to stuff without having learnt any coping strategies.

spottybag Wed 10-Oct-12 10:50:48

Thanks parrottulip, that's good advice.

Do you think it's also worth regularly trying to arrange a chat with her to see if there's anything on her mind.

She was in tears this morning and it turned out it's because she had told the teacher a lie at school last week (not a bad lie) but she's obviously had it on her mind all last week and only told me about it today.

airedailleurs Wed 10-Oct-12 10:55:01

she sounds like a lovely sensitive child. Chatting is absolutely key I think, you need to make sure that she can always talk to you about things that are bothering her, as the reason for her "meltdowns" may be that she it bottling things up and is afraid to discuss feelings she may be ashamed of aso that they take on a magnitude inside her head that bears no relation to reality.

I don't understand what you mean by "arranging" to have a chat with her - she is your daughter and you can talk to her whenever you like! I would try to develop this side of your relationship, just to keep the channels of communication open. Is she born at the end of August by any chance?

Noqontrol Wed 10-Oct-12 10:55:11

I think big witch gave some decent advice there to be honest. You sound a little oversensitive about this.

spottybag Wed 10-Oct-12 11:02:21

No she wasn't born at the end of August.

We chat all the time - I mean is it worth regularly asking her if there is anything on her mind? I don't know if being asked that would stress her out more. I can only try I guess.

spottybag Wed 10-Oct-12 11:04:18

Yes I am very sensitive about it noqontrol. I thought we'd already established that?

airedailleurs Wed 10-Oct-12 11:05:28

I think you just need to really make sure she understands that she can talk to you anytime about things that worry her, without waiting for you to bring up the subject, and that you will always listen to her and take her fears and worries seriously. You could tell her that sometimes things upset and worry you but you always feel better when you talk about them...she may feel that adults don't have these types of problems.

lljkk Wed 10-Oct-12 11:13:05

I thought Big Witch harping on about labels was unhelpful. I didn't sense OP labelling at all, just being painfully honest.

She sounds very sensitive, you might want to look at one of the many relevant books ("Your Highly sensitive child") type titles. Might be something useful. Also help her articulate her feelings in real sentences, the more she talks about what they mean the easier it is to figure out what they don't mean (they don't mean the end of the world).

I find an oceans-rocks metaphor useful. They are the tidal oceans pushed this way and that, & you get to the rock. Don't let their moods sway you, just calmly respond.

I have one who can be very high strung, he can't handle emotions at all, his own or others. So dead calm response is best strategy with him. I suppose it's modelling back to him how to deal with feelings without falling apart about them. I have another who is pre-hormonal & her moods go up & down like yo-yos. I haven't the energy to keep up, so another reason to make myself the rock in her storm.

scorpionne Wed 10-Oct-12 11:18:23

I think just try to relax as much as you can and lower standards a bit - yes it's not ideal if she has an hour long meltdown when you had planned a nice playdate, but we've all been there. It will get better.

My dd1 is a bit like this naturally and being my first child I wasn't as relaxed and accepting as I should have been. She's still quite serious and perfectionist (11 now) but it's not a problem anymore. I was sooooooo much more relaxed by the time I had dc3 - things just don't get to me the way they did with dc1 and she picks up on that too.

At the same time I am quite strict and insist on obedience and politeness!

Don't worry.

spottybag Wed 10-Oct-12 11:23:59

lljkk - thank you, that's a really useful metaphor and I will keep it in mind.

Scorpionne - you're right, I guess it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. I least I know the other mother and she's someone I can have a laugh with. Plus DD and her friend both have 2yo siblings who were both there too and the pair of them had a great time so it wasn't all disastrous!

I just feel sorry for DD sad but I worry about finding the line between indulging her and being firm with her. So difficult.

akaemmafrost Wed 10-Oct-12 11:26:21

I don't think you sound highly strung AT ALL OP.

I've got one of these. I find she has to be parented in a very specific way which can be tough as I can't always be calm and sunny which is what my dd needs. If I can manage it though she is an absolute delight. Happy, funny, gentle. Any sign of stress from me though and she goes immediately through the roof. Think some kids are just like this. If it helps, she is 6 now and loads better than she was or maybe I am just less stressed myself, probably a mix of both smile.

airedailleurs Wed 10-Oct-12 11:27:28

Also, given her age, your DD may not actually be able to express her feelings fully, leading to frustration. As she gets older and her communication skills and vocabulary improve, she should be able to cope better

JoandMax Wed 10-Oct-12 11:32:42

DS1 can be very sensitive when he's tired, hungry etc and the slightest thing can produce a tearful meltdown! He hates it if others get upset or he gets told off.....

He's a July birthday and started in reception this year, I pick him up with a drink and a snack and don't ask him too many questions. I find when he gets into a state I put him on the sofa and tell him I'm leaving for 5 minutes so he can calm down. He then gets given a choice of either stay there on his own or he can stop crying and cone and do drawing/baking etc.

We also have a star chart with him needing to shout less, keep calm abd talk to mummy.

I always chat to him at bedtime too and explain that when he gets upset or cross or sad it's much easier for me to help him if he keeps calm and talks to me. We talk about that it's ok to cry when you're hurt or sad and mummy and daddy will always be there to cuddle him and help him.

I have noticed a lot of improvement, I can see sometimes he's cross and wanting to shout and scream and works so hard to tell me what's wrong calmly, I give loads of praise

ATourchOfInsanity Wed 10-Oct-12 11:33:04

Just wondering if your DD snores?
May sound odd but a friend's DD did, very badly, and was diagnosed with Kissing Tonsils. Basically her tonsils were large and restricting airflow when she lay down. This in turn meant they diagnosed sleep apneoa which they guessed meant she got around half of the hours she was actually asleep for in 'real' sleep.
May not be relevant but thought I would post after reading OP smile

tangledupinpoo Wed 10-Oct-12 11:34:40

Haven't got anything that useful to add to the helpful comments on here, OP, just wanted to give show you some support.

I've got a sensitive DD and when she started school (aged 5) she went through a stage of having to 'confess' every tiny thing she'd done which she thought wasn't kind or right - sometimes just thoughts about other children. I had to keep explaining to her that it was ok, that everyone makes mistakes, even grown-ups (especially grown-ups!). She stopped doing it once she'd settled in - it was obviously just an anxiety thing.

Don't be hard on yourself. You seem like a caring, supportive mum.

ihatethecold Wed 10-Oct-12 11:35:12

Hi spottydog
My DS is very much highly strung and its very hard to parent him so I feel for you as everyone tells you as they get older it gets easier but it's just different.
My DS is 12 now and has finally become much easier.

I bought a book which really helped me called the highly sensitive child.
A lot of things made sense when I read it.
I have finished with the book. If you would like it then I can post it to you.
Don't worry if you don't.

I don't really have any advice for you. But don't give t
Yourself a hard time over this. You can change you child's personality.
Just find other ways to deal with daily life that cause issues for you both

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