Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why?

Why won't Jacob listen? I know he's two and it's no two year old's strong point, but still...I have to think Jacob is particularly bad in that department. And now it's not just us who seem to have been tuned out. Daycare has been experiencing it more and more lately. I just don't know what to do.

Considering all of the ear infections he's dealt with recently, part of me wants to think he might have trouble hearing us sometimes. But we know he does hear us sometimes, too, and his speech is good, so I tend to think that's not his problem. He just doesn't seem to care. He's a selective listener, and it's really becoming a problem. Actually, there are a whole host of problems right now that are all converging and making him a nightmare to deal with on a regular basis. First, his obsession with sports is really starting to get to me. Yes, the goalie stance is cute, his skills are impressive, and while most kids choose a soft, snuggly lovey as their constant companion, Jacob instead loves his hockey sticks. That's fine. But he's constantly throwing balls around the house, and at daycare he uses everything as a piece of sports equipment, to the point that a play kitchen sauce pan is his lacrosse stick and every round piece of fruit is his ball. Yesterday he was using another play pan as a bat or something, and almost hit another kid in the face. It's so not cool when you get that report from daycare.

He's always hitting or fighting under the guise of being a "nasty hockey guy". And no matter how many times we explain to him that nasty hockey guys are naughty and have to sit in timeout in the penalty box, and try to explain that fighting is bad and hurts people, he keeps it up. I've been threatening that if he doesn't stop fighting and hitting, we're not going to hockey games anymore. You'd think that would be a motivator since he loves going, but so far it's had no effect. No amount of guilt about hurting people (his friends or us) or reminders that fighting is bad has any impact on him. Lately, I've been trying to teach him to keep his hands to himself. He's frequently touching me in less than loving ways (like poking me repeatedly when I brush his teeth or hitting me in the arm in the middle of dinner--either with his messy hand or a fistful of food), and there's just no reason for it. No matter how I try to tell him that he should keep his hands to himself, he just doesn't get it. We've tried timeouts for hitting--and because hitting is one of his problems, I'm trying to lay off spanking for now, with limited success. Sometimes he just does something so bad, with a smug smile on his face no less, and there just doesn't seem to be anything else but a spanking that will get the point across. But really, even that doesn't phase him sometimes. And the hitting continues regardless of the punishment. It's one thing to hit one of us, but when he hits his friends, it's so much worse. How is my skinny little kid such a bully?

Another problem is that he's definitely in a mode of saying "no" when we ask him to do completely reasonable things, like clean up the balls he's thrown all over the living room. Dinner time is a challenge a lot of evenings as well, as he spends more time playing with his food, scraping his fork on the wall, banging his fork on the table, or throwing things on the floor than actually eating. Tonight he actually sat in timeout twice--once during dinner and once right after. The first time he was throwing food on the floor and laughing, and the second time we was just being generally annoying...playing with his cup and fork, and bothering me. He gives us trouble every time we try to put on his coat, particularly in the morning, always collapsing to the floor in a heap or contorting to avoid our grasp. When we pick him up from daycare, it's more of the same, though he also tends to run down the hallway as well if we lose a grip on him for more than a second. Even worse, he'll sometimes take out (or throw) toys. I feel like the most incapable parent every single day when I'm there. Seriously. First he doesn't want to go to daycare, and then he doesn't want to leave. And I get it, really. He wants to hang out with us, so leaving home each morning is hard. And when we come get him, he's had a full day of fun and stimulation that he wants to share with us. And at the end of the day he gets to do other cool things, too, like look at the Pre-K's gerbils and turtles or watch the guinea pigs in another room. Once we're there AND he gets to do the cool stuff, things are perfect. But he knows the drill, so it seems like an every-single-day tantrum just isn't necessary. It's never worked, obviously, so why keep doing it?

We get resistance on almost anything these days. Sure, the tantrums are just an expression of his feelings, and I try to be sensitive to that. But the fact that he does them so often, despite not ever getting his way from them, perplexes me. However, I think what bothers us the most is that he does nasty things so purposefully. He will poke me with a smile on this face, happily drop his food on the floor, and laugh as he runs away. He knows those things bother us (or at least, he should based on our consistent negative reaction), and yet he happily does them. I'm sure people would say that he's just looking for attention, but I think we give him plenty of positive attention so he shouldn't need the negative stuff. And really, is a timeout or yelling the kind of attention he wants? The thing I don't understand, though, is when they say to ignore the kid when they're doing something wrong, to remove all attention. I understand the concept, but in practice I just don't get it. Am I just supposed to stand there and not say a word as he dumps his food on the floor or punches me in the stomach? How do I not give him attention but also appropriately punish him? If he won't sit for timeout, how can I ignore him then? Silence doesn't work with him either. On top of that, isn't it a risk that if we ignore him, he'll just do more bad stuff to try harder to get our attention?

This morning his one teacher said that some parents take away prized possessions as motivation to curb the behavior. We've done things like that before, like taking away his hockey sticks for the night. We're also trying the "no hockey game" threat, but I'm just not sure he gets it because that isn't working either. Maybe we need to take away his sticks for longer, but I'm afraid that he'll act out more because he's angry they're gone, or he'll do even more of the random-toy-as-sports-gear thing at daycare because he can't get any of it out of his system at home. I feel sort of stuck. It just keeps getting worse, and I'm not sure what to do to stop it.

Tomorrow I may try to make an appointment at the doctor's office. Jacob is nearly through a round of antibiotics for his ears, but he's still be complaining about it a bit. He said it at daycare yesterday, then brought it up again in a post-timeout chat tonight when I asked him why he was being so bad. Maybe it was just a diversion, but I figure we'll go get him checked and see if he needs more meds to get him well. And if he does, something tells me we're headed for tubes. But if it helps him be a happier child, so be it. And maybe the doctor will have some advice in the meantime. I'm getting desperate.

It's been a rough week overall, and Thanksgiving can't come soon enough. Four days with Jacob is a little scary at this point, but I'm hopeful it'll be something we all need.

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