Posts tagged behaviour

Preschool update

So preschool drop off went more or less okay yesterday and today. Which is to say that on both days I stayed until Hunter had found some kids to play with and an activity to engage in. If she doesn’t see someone she knows or receive an invitation into a group, it’s a mess. So, on the surface it went okay but I know it was mostly luck.

She’s always been like that, but the behaviour of the past few weeks really has been very extreme and it’s come on very suddenly so I think it’s about more than her preschool anxiety. Several people have suggested possible reasons (thanks for the input) but really I am still baffled.

She’s had no change in diet or routine or anything like that. We have had a lot of visitors lately, but that’s not unusual for us so I don’t think it’s that. 

Her favourite teacher did leave preschool some weeks back. I know lightbulbs are going off above all your heads, but I really don’t think that’s it – or at least not all of it. The behaviour issue didn’t really coincide with Donna’s departure, and Hunter doesn’t seem to be thinking about her much any more. If I mention her name, she’s happy to talk about her, but otherwise she doesn’t seem too fazed. Plus, for the moment, her behaviour’s worse at home than at preschool.

I’ve talked to the preschool director several times and she doesn’t have any ideas either. I trust the director and don’t think that anything untoward has happened at preschool that we don’t know about.

So we’re still in the dark. She had another absolute melt down last night when it was time for bed, which started with her refusing to get changed and ended with pinching, hitting, scratching and screaming. In between, we tried everything we could think of to get her to calm down and do the right thing. We tried talking to her about making choices. We tried telling her there would be consequences (she threw these right back us….If you do X then I will just immediately do Y).

As of now, we’re just focusing on trying to be low key, heading things off at the pass when we can and being as consistent and reasonable as it’s possible to be when your kid’s behaving like an utter psycho.

And I want to add, too, that in between she’s her beautiful, thoughtful, delightful self – she’s still my girl so I had to throw that in. She’s a handful – more – but I still adore her, and I guess that’s why it is so gut wrenching.

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Preschool problems

We’re starting to have some serious behaviour issues again with Hunter, and we’re really quite perplexed. She’s always been high-strung, has always struggled with transitions and has always needed structure and routine. But for the past six months – more, maybe – she’d really been doing so well and was much more even-keeled and better able to control her emotions.

But the past couple of weeks it all seems to be coming unglued. It started with some serious attitude. She’d flat out refuse to do what she was asked, laugh off any sugestions of disciplinary responses, goad us, etc. Then we started seeing some real tantrums.

A few nights back she came into our room at about 11.30. She was wandering in and out and I told her she needed to lie down and go to sleep (there’s a mattress in our room for her, just while she’s sharing with Hugo during the renos, so she can come in without disturbing him. It had been working fine up till this point).

She told us in no uncertain terms that she was not going to lie down and was not going to go to sleep. No amount of suggestion, discussion, instruction or, eventually, yelling, made any difference. She screamed and screamed and screamed. Scratched at my hand, kicked the bed. We told her she’d lose a privilege and she didn’t even care. Told her she’d be sent to sleep in the loungeroom, and she said she wouldn’t go and if we made her she’d just come straight back in and keep screaming. There was malice in her tone and we were really at a loss. I seriously didn’t know what to do – it was very clear that we had absolutely no power to affect her behaviour at all. There was a solid half hour of carry on before she eventually settled down, when she chose to.

We’ve been having mini versions of this at bed time at least a few nights a week lately, too, and there was another night time tantrum a couple of nights ago.

On top of this, she’s been saying lately that she does not want to go to preschool. She is getting very obstinate in the mornings, not wanting to get dressed or pack her bags. She cries when I tell her it’s a preschool day. Today she told me she prefers red lights to green because the car trip to preschool takes longer. I’ve asked her what the problem is and she always says it’s because she doesn’t like rest time, but I think that’s just how she’s chosen to respond.

The past couple of weeks, drop off has been getting harder and harder and this morning it all went totally to shit.

She did not want me to leave until her friend phoebe arrived. I don’t want her to view phoebe’s arrival as the solution to her drop off worries because pheobe doesn’t go every day Hunter goes, and sometimes she wants to play with other kids anyway. So I have been working on helping her get involved with activities with the other kids (she’s VERY reluctant to do this – she really lacks the confidence to approach other children). Usually I can help her find someone to play with and she’s okay, though she’s often borderline teary before that point.

But today, she absolutely did not want me to leave before phoebe arrived. And I needed to leave because there was someone due to arrive at our house at 9am.

I told her I needed to go and that she’d be okay, and the director took her hand and tried to lead her away. She clung to me, screaming and crying, and I had to literally prise her hands off of me. It was awful and what I really wanted to do was just bring her home.

I could hear her screaming as I was leaving, “I don’t WANT YOU. I WANT MUMMY!!” She was so full of anger. I can’t even explain the volume and emotion of her meltdown. It was not what you picture when you think about a kid crying at drop off. It was so much more dramatic than that.

I know she was okay shortly after I left – because phoebe arrived. As soon as she got there, hunter stopped short and ran off to play. But what the hell is going to happen tomorrow when phoebe is not there?

I have such mixed emotions about all of this. When she’s screaming and telling me she hates me and kicking I just want to tear my hair out. And then I feel so worried about her. And I wonder what I am doing so wrong.

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All’s well on the Hunter front

Two weeks can make such a difference in the Life of Hunter. Since I posted about her completely mind-bogglingly bad behaviour, things have improved considerably.

 I think my initial assessment that the whole issue was about swimming lessons was right. She’s had two swimming lessons since that thought occurred to me, and neither of them went well, but I think she’s faced her demons, so to speak. So, even though she’s still not keen on swimming, I don’t think the prospect of it is weighing on her so heavily during the week.

Anyway, I wouldn’t say her behaviour has been unfalteringly exemplary – that would be even more surprising than the outrageously bad behaviour of a few weeks ago. But, overall, it’s much better, and there have been a few days where it’s been quite remarkably good.

And preschool’s going better, too. She no longer cries when I leave and most days I think she’s actually genuinely okay with me going. In fact, she’s adapted to preschool far better than I expected. She did have some rocky times and some very rocky times, but right now, it’s all smooth. She’s made some friends (“I love Georgia!” “I love James”) and adores her teachers.

 Now we just need to decide whether to stick with swimming. The week before last was absolutely awful. Last week was awful but not to the same extent. Do we keep taking her and hope she continues to improve, or cut our losses and withdraw her??

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Swimming sucked. Now what?

As I expected after Friday’s conversations with Hunter, swimming lessons did not go well on the weekend.

Before we got there she was saying she didn’t want to go. We tried to keep it low key and just said that we’d see how she felt when we got there, and that I would stay close.

To start with she refused to even go near the pool. Eventually she sat on the edge. Initially the instructor was really good. She got her in the water and walked around with her in her arms a bit, talked calmly with her, and told her she could get out after a little walk and sit on the edge. Hunter cried the whole time – really cried – but was okay.

After a while the instructor told her it was time to get back in. She took her by the arms and pretty much made her get in even though she was crying and saying she didn’t want to. She cried the whole time again but managed a bit of a giggle too when the instructor encouraged her to splash me.

After that she had her hold onto the edge of the pool rather than get out, but she got more and more agitated and ended up climbing out and refusing to get back in. When it came to her turn again she was really freaked out and really, really didn’t want to get back in.

This time the instructor was saying “stop being silly! stop crying! No, you have to stop now!” It made me a bit mad.

She pulled her into the water again and poor Hunter really was distressed. She was crying for me and saying she wanted to get out but was doing what she was told because she obviously just wanted the experience to be over.

And after all that, she went off and played in the kids’ pool, happy as a clam. Later that day she was talking to leigh and leigh was saying how she’d been good at preschool annd had a really great time this week, and hunter piped up with “yes, and a great time at swimming, too!”


Now I am not sure what to do about next week’s lesson. At the moment the plan is to try not to even mention swimming for a few days. On Saturday we’ll try to get there 15 minutes early and let her just sit on the edge of the pool and watch the other lessons, and hopefully be inclined to participate in her own.

If she says she doesn’t want to, I am not sure what I will do. I don’t want her to think she can act up and get out of things, and I do want her to learn that she needs to be with other adults besides Leigh and I.

But I don’t want a stupid swimming lesson to be a huge source of trauma, either.

So. I dunno.

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Could this be it?

As we were driving to preschool this morning, Hunter and I had our usual conversation about whether Phoebe would be there and whether there would be preschool tomorrow.

I told her that no, there was no preschool tomorrow because it would be the weekend, and we’ll have swimming lessons instead. She immediately started to cry and said she didn’t want to go to swimming and that she was scared.

Last year Hunter LOVED swimming lessons, and she loves the water generally. But this year she has moved up a class and now she is in the water without a parent. I don’t think that scares her in the sense that she feels unsafe. I think it’s more about her being timid and wanting a mummy with her.

I know it seems like a minor thing, but I think it’s entirely feasible that my high-strung baby could have been worrying about it all week. And I wouldn’t be that surprised if my lil stress bunny dealt with it by being utterly abhorrent all week long. It even makes sense that she’d be acting up so much with me and Hugo because last week I was in the water with Hugo while she had her class.

She did pretty well in the class last week but I could see that she was nervous and putting on a brave face. She does that to avoid drawing attention to herself. I thought it might just have been first week nerves – she really did cope perfectly well with the lesson – but maybe it’s all going to come unstuck tomorrow.

I told her I will sit right by the edge of the pool and watch her this week but she still didn’t seem that keen. I’ll see what happens – maybe she’ll get there and realise it’s not as bad as she thought. But if she freaks out, I will probably think about pulling her out of the class. I want swimming to be fun, not scary.

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Not quick enough

I was unable to remind Hunter about the consequence of violent actions before she went ahead and performed them. So the swing has been taken down.

This afternoon after preschool she told me to “get away”. I told her that was not an appropriate way to speak to me. She hit me. I told her to go to the naughty chair.

And she decided that on the way she would step on Hugo’s back as he was crawling.

I was able to grab her and lift her off before her full weight went onto him, thankfully.

That was half an hour ago. Now she’s out helping leigh make fishcakes, as though nothing ever happened.

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If it seems too good to be true

it almost always is.

Hunter started out the day so well. She got up happy, was pleased as punch with her role in preparing my V Day breakfast and got dressed for preschool with no drama at all.

Then I left the room for about 30 seconds to get the hairbrush from the bathroom, and almost immediately heard Hugo start to cry in his unmistakable she’s-done-something-to-me way.

I rushed out and asked what had happened and Hunter gleefully admitted that she had pushed him with her foot, knocking him to the floor. I told her she would need to go for the naughty chair for that, and she trotted off without a care in the world, stopping on the way to slap me across the belly.

While she was on the naughty chair I was packing her bag and didn’t realise Hugo had crawled out next to her, until I heard him scream. She had grabbed him by the back of the head and pushed his face into the screen door. I know this because, again, she admitted it. She was on the verge of laughing as she told me.

I told her I was very angry and disappointed. This delighted her. I was so enraged I wanted to kill her but I tried hard to keep myself under control. She eventually got the message that I was beyond angry and had the good sense to stop smiling and laughing. After a very stern discussion she shed a few tears and we agreed that if she hurts him again we’ll have to institute some new consequences because the naughty chair does not seem to be having an impact on her.

If she hurts Hugo again, her swing is being taken down. That will be a big loss for her. I hope I can remind her with enough time for her to stop, think, and not do it.

Meanwhile, I am still baffled by her behaviour. She really was being very good, right up to the instant she started being very bad. There was no trigger other than opportunity.

It goes without saying that I will be extra careful about leaving H&H together from now on, but it’s just not a practical possibility to watch them every second of the day, so Hunter really has to learn that the no hitting/pushing/shoving rule is non-negotiable.

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What am I doing wrong?

Hunter’s behaviour has been so completely and utterly appalling the past few days that I don’t think a written description can even do it justice. The only thing that has changed in the past week or so is that Leigh has gone back to school after a five week break.

I know that one of the results of this is that I am even shorter tempered and crankier than usual. I can only assume that her behaviour is a reflection of my poor parenting skills 😦

She’s always been…challenging. Right after Hugo was born, she became really incredibly difficult, but improved considerably by the time he was 10 weeks old.

Now, I just don’t know what to do. She’s more openly defiant than any three year old I have encountered, and she doesn’t care about consequences At All. I thought maybe she just wasn’t getting enough positive attention or was having to compete too much with Hugo.

But yesterday while Hugo was asleep I did paintings with her and danced with her to the songs on Play School. When Hugo got up we went to the park and poor Hugo sat in his stroller for ages while I pushed Hunter on the swings.

And then after that she went completely berserk. As the day wore on she was getting more and more narky. She’d give Hugo a little shove or snatch something out of his hands or knock his arms out from under him while he was crawling. If she was told not to do it, she’d immediately hit him again – or hit me.

On the naughty chair she’d scream this crazy high pitched scream which she knows only serves to get her into more trouble. She’d be on the chair screaming, kicking walls and furniture, throwing things and maniacally screeching about not wanting to be left. I tried to let this behaviour go and not give her any attention for it, so it’s not like she was getting that ‘reward’ for it.

By evening we’d tried naughty chair, taking away toys, reasoning with her, shouting at her, distracting her – you name it. She just didn’t care.

The final straw came when she hit Hugo for the millionth time and I asked her to go to the naughty chair for the millionth time. She picked up a toy and hit him over the head with it. I’d had enough and told her she was going straight to bed.

And there followed the most almighty tantrum I have ever seen. She was screeching and screaming, slamming and kicking the doors and walls, throwing herself on the floor, throwing toys, hitting out – seriously, it was so over the top I could not possibly exaggerate the magnitude.

She was practically hyperventilating and totally out of control. It took about 20 minutes for me to help her start to calm down. Initially I couldn’t do a thing, but as she became physically exhausted she let me eventually sit with her, then talk to her.

It was really upsetting for both of us. I can’t stand to see her like that. She’s clearly angry and frustrated and I am obviously not meeting some need, but I don’t know what it is or what to do. I feel like I spend the whole day telling her off, and I don’t want to do that. It’s a terrible way to parent, but what else am I supposed to do??

ETA yesterday was not an anomaly – it was typical of her behaviour this past week. We had friends over on Monday and she spent the whole time pushing and shoving, grabbing things off the other kids, crying like a madwoman every time she didn’t get her way and back answering non-stop. On other days I’ll ask her to do something (“could you please put your bowl in the sink?”) and she’ll offer a reply like “I won’t, and I won’t be your friend any more and I won’t love you and I’m going to hit you/throw this/hurt you”. In between she has moments where she’s totally reasonable and polite but usually only when she sees some immediate benefit.

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