Tuesday, June 25, 2013
When You Know You Messed Up
The big downside of this past weekend was--surprise, surprise--Jacob's behavior. Just when we think it can't get any worse, it does. And just when we think there's no hope, he turns back into a normal loving kid. I am so confused, so frustrated, and so sad about our current state, and I'm truly to the point of feeling like we need to start searching for a good family counselor. We need an outside party to either help with our communication issues, or give us some advice for how to handle a child like Jacob.
Over the past few days, Jacob and I have had some epic battles. And no matter how I try to not let things escalate, it ends up happening anyway. There are many problems that we're dealing with. The overarching one is that Jacob just can't get it through his head that I am his parent and what I say goes. I'm not talking just about big things that I ask of him, or just petty little things. I'm talking about everything from picking up his toys to getting ready for bed to cutting out the potty talk. Regardless of the request, he immediately thinks I'm being "mean" for interrupting his current activity or vetoing something he wants to do (even if it's completely ridiculous). I could give him all the warning in the world for transitioning activities, like the experts recommend, and he'd still be indignant the second I finally say, "It's time to do this instead." We have pretty much the same morning and evening routines every day, and yet every single time we meet with resistance. You'd think he'd learn by now that resistance is futile, but no...he is a challenge every single day.
And when it happens, he'll act out. He will yell, name-call, have a tantrum--anything BUT obey. He gets upset when I yell at him, despite the fact that I tell him all the time that I wouldn't have to yell if he just listened. Stern voices, gentle talking, taking things away, a couple spankings for particularly heinous offenses...I feel like we've tried everything. He simply does not accept that he has to listen, no matter what we do. In addition, he can turn on a dime for no reason, and in the end we end up yelling at each other because he won't listen to reason and I'm not going to let him get away with name-calling. It's absolutely awful. I truly think we need help. I want to get him to listen to someone else who can tell him that he needs to listen to his parents. I also want tips for dealing with his outbursts and outright defiance.
I'll admit that there are times I probably don't handle it well. I try to keep my cool, but what are your options when your kid doesn't respond to anything? Dole out a punishment, sure. But we've taken away a lot and nothing has worked. Try a sterner voice? Ha...nice try. Yell? It might get his attention but either doesn't work or fires him up more. Spanking? I try to reserve that for only the worst offenses--when he says something truly nasty, for example--more as an attention-getter than anything, but that only makes him want to act out physically, which doesn't help anything. But no matter how I try to remain calm and rational, I feel like I simply run out of ammo to get him to obey. And it all goes downhill from there.
And for those wondering, he can be like this with Craig but it doesn't happen as often. Part of that is probably because I'm more often the taskmaster and know when things need to happen. Part of it is that I'm less likely to let him get away with things, and part of it is simply that he must find me the easier outlet for his frustrations. I don't know if he doesn't want to make Craig mad for fear he'll take away time playing sports, or what...but for whatever reason, it's mostly me. But it does happen with Craig sometimes.
As a prime example...lately he's been having issues with pooping. I had talked to the doctor last week about his giant, toilet-clogging poops, which she said is the result of not fully emptying. Everything builds up over time and stretches out the intestines, which makes the poop bigger and causes some vague internal discomfort, which I'm pretty sure matches what we've seen with him--not outright pain, just something that's bothering his butt. We've been using 4 oz. of pear juice each day to try to soften things up so he can go easier and his intestines can shrink back to normal size. But in the past few days, he's been having accidents. He doesn't fully poop his pants, but he often ends up with a little nugget in his butt crack. It used to happen once in a while, but recently it's been a recurring problem. We have no idea why it's happening. He can't seem to give us a straight answer. It could be that he's afraid of the pain so he's holding it in, but eventually a bit sneaks out. It could be that he just can't recognize when he has to go until it's a little too late. He just can't seem to tell us. And inevitably, when we're either trying to talk to him about it or trying to wipe out his butt after an episode like this, he gets angry. He complains that it hurts, and we explain that it's important to get it clean because his butt will hurt worse if we don't. When we continue, he gets angrier. He'll name-call, try to take a swipe, and practically fling himself around the bathroom (which, of course, is dangerous given the room's small size and plethora of hard surfaces). I know he's probably frustrated with what's going on, but it doesn't stop the fact that we have to get him clean and need to figure this out...and yet he freaks out. We just want to help him, particularly with Kindergarten looming, but we get nothing but resistance no matter how calmly and sweetly we approach the subject.
But it could be anything...bedtime, getting dressed, picking up toys, staying in bed, eating his dinner, running an errand, debating a fact...and before we know it he's yelling and getting all worked up about it. I don't know exactly how we got to this point, but it definitely feels like we screwed something up along the way. I don't know if he learned this sort of rage thing from kids at daycare, or if he's translated what he sees when we get angry with him into his immediate go-to response for any little inconvenience. Either way, somehow we apparently didn't communicate things appropriately because he can be truly out of control at times. And yet, this morning when I left him at daycare he had to hug and kiss me about 20 times. After moments like that I'm even more confused.
Ideally I'd like to find a counselor that has a Christian slant, since the other day when I told Jacob that God says that it's important to obey your parents, he told me that he didn't care. I wasn't too happy to hear that, and apparently Sunday School and what we talk about at home aren't enough. I think adding the moral element into it is important because it gives us a little more basis for what we're trying to teach him.
What makes me saddest is how we can barely interact nowadays without getting into some sort of argument or having him act out in some way. Having Carter around has been a reminder of how awesome and blissful Jacob's infant days were. And seeing the contrast to now has been sobering. It makes me sad how far we've fallen, and makes me worry that the same thing will happen with Carter, either because we're going to make the same mistakes, or because he's going to learn from his brother's example. Jacob probably never had to hear yelling for at least the first year of his life, but Carter has had to hear it far too often already. He seems none the worse for wear at the moment (though a couple times the noise has made him cry, which kills me), but I have no idea how it will impact him in the long run. Will he be so used to it that it doesn't even phase him when it's finally directed at him? And again, I don't want to yell. I do everything I can not to, but when your child doesn't respond to gentle talking or a stern but even-volume command, you get desperate.
I wish we could force him to go to sleep earlier--no matter when we put him to bed, he does not fall asleep until nearly 10pm these days--because I wonder if more sleep would help. I wish I could get him to talk to me about things--the poop, his feelings--but so far that's not working, no matter how hard I try to remove distractions and look in his eyes. I'm not sure what else to try, but I know it has something to do with me since he can behave like a civilized kid at daycare. I'm not sure what the next step is going to be, but the last few days have definitely moved me one step closer to taking action. I never thought it would come to this, but I suppose it's better to do it now than deal with the older-kid version of all of this down the road...