CD was officially four and a half yesterday. I have no idea how she went from 17 months to 4.5 already. Having turned 40 this past weekend I am finding myself noticing how quickly time seems to fly by. It has triggered a bit of an existential crisis. I know, I am so unique, having a crisis (really some moments of serious introspection rather than a crisis) at 40.
Anyway, having a preschooler is a reminder that though my eldest has only 3 years until college (which is freaking me out), I have many more parenting years ahead of me to come. More than I ever planned before CD entered our lives, that's for sure.
Like many parents with multiple kids, I have those that are easier than others. CD is the most challenging of my three children. By far.
The personality traits that may very well make her a great CEO one day are the very ones that, at times, make me feel like my head is going to explode.
You see my little princess is a control freak. If she doesn't get her way, it is a problem. She will stick out her tongue, sometimes hit or kick (never to actually hurt anyone, it is a light kick or hit) and say some pretty rude stuff. She has already told me that I am ruining her life. To her credit, she doesn't have tantrums and is able to self-soothe quite well.
CD will also act out with strangers who are asserting authority over her. As a result, she was so uncooperative at her psychological evaluation and more recently with an audiologist, that they were not able to evaluate her.
CD's occupational therapist and I are working closely together to navigate CD's need for control and to test new authority figures. Fortunately the OT completely understands CD's behaviors and CD is becoming more and more compliant with sessions as time goes on. The OT knows not to get into control battles with CD. She also knows not to negotiate with her (it is pointless) and how to set boundaries (no, you cannot play with that toy, we are only playing with the toys that are in the middle of the floor). Before each session CD and I discuss who is "in charge" of the sessions, how nice the OT is and how much fun she can have if she follows the OT's rules.
CD is in OT because she is constantly "on the go," in need of more stimulation than the average child. It is believed that the root of her behaviors is a hypoactive vestibular system which requires more input to function and keep CD alert. It is believed that exercises that provide CD with appropriate stimulation will help the vestibular system regulate itself. It is possible that this is a product of neglect in CD's early life. It's possible that this is just CD. The OT explained that many children who are adopted later than infancy have the same issues as CD. Fortunately, the OT believes it is reversible.
Other stuff we do:
I review rules when we get to the park multiple times a week so CD is reminded of my expectations.
My husband and I use time out. Often.
We find approval, kisses and hugs to affirm appropriate behavior to be way more effective than stickers and prizes.
When CD expresses an emotion inappropriately (like hitting) we try out best to reflect back the feeling she is expressing in words (I know that you are angry because you wanted another candy and you didn't like that I said "no").
I am making a conscious effort to ensure that my positive interactions with CD far outweigh the ones in which I have to redirect her, correct her or in any way discipline her. I know too well what happens when kids internalize a sense that they are "bad" or that the grown-ups in their lives can't handle their big feelings. I work with a lot of those kids.
I have a pretty loose parenting style by nature. I believe in only making rules that are necessary and avoiding power struggles with children. CD needs a different mother than my sons do (and each of them need slightly different mothers) and I am working really hard to be the mother that CD needs me to be.