A Challenging Child Part II

I posted this last week which explains the current situation with our 4yo daughter. I kept a diary all week to try and piece together any glaring errors and work out where we are going wrong. My main conclusion is something I’ve known for a while. There is a huge correlation between a bad nights sleep and very poor form the next day. Four year old children are never going to be immaculately behaved all the time, but at points on the bad days it feels like there is no reasoning with her. It’s as if she is in a trance and doesn’t even know what she’s doing. I know how grumpy and miserable I can get on a terrible nights sleep, so it’s no wonder really. The good news is that we’ve made the following changes recently and they definitely seem to be helping.

– ensuring she falls asleep by herself. Until a month ago she would fall asleep while one of us read her stories, but apparently this could be the root cause of night time wake ups, so we’ve stopped letting her do that. During a good bedtime when she is being compliant she has a story in bed, then we have kisses and cuddles and she goes to sleep

– not putting her to bed too early (to break the super early waking cycle). We’ve edged back to a 6:30pm bedtime over the course of this week

– turning a blind eye to minor altercations with her sister. As a baby cannot defend themselves we have always been strict with telling her off for being mean. Realistically, being so hard line has more than likely caused this to become a bad habit that she does for attention. Now that 16mo is mobile and capable of giving as good as she gets, we are letting the little pinches and digs go ‘unnoticed’. If she’s causing real harm that is of course another matter

– no more timeouts. They worked to a point, but now just cause everyone to get upset

– letting her learn her own mistakes rather than trying to pre-empt and stop them, i.e. if she eats three mouthfuls then says she doesn’t want any more breakfast letting her go hungry until lunch time

It’s been far from plain sailing. This week alone we had two full on half hour+ meltdowns at bedtime. Meals going in the bin. Refusal to do a wee before bed, thus getting up in the night to do one and not going back to sleep for two hours. We also had a night where she got in with us in the early hours, and I ended up relegated to the bottom of the bed like the family pet. BUT, we have also had a few breakthroughs and it does (dare I say it?) feel like we are *finally* making progress. Slow and painful as it feels right now it is progress, and I must remain positive. I’m convinced that if she starts consistently sleeping through the night then we’ll have cracked it. I’ll keep you posted.

If any of you lovely people have similar stories and pearls of wisdom to share I would really appreciate hearing from you 🙂

A challenging child

I started writing this post yesterday after a good nights sleep and very easy morning – not regular occurances in our house. As I’ve mentioned before, our 4yo has been very difficult these past 18 months. The official terms are ‘challenging’ and ‘spirited’ but lets not beat around the bush – she has been bloody hard work! She often doesn’t sleep well, and subsequently has behvioural issues. On days that follow nighttime antics she cannot behave no matter how hard she appears to be trying.

I have decided to keep a diary over the next week and write a detailed account of the morning, what happened during the day and the bedtime that followed. This should give us a bit of an insight into what’s going on and where we are failing. It would also be nice to see if any of you lovely folks have some pearls of wisdom to offer.

Towards the end of last year I was really depressed by all this, and looking back I don’t know how I held it together some days. I did what I always do in times of crisis though, and read a self help book over Christmas. Miriam Chachamu‘s How To Calm A Challenging Child was a revelation to me. A lot of it is aimed at older kids, but I found the relevant bits really useful. First of all the author writes in a way that doesn’t make you feel guilty or stupid. She asks you to look at the issue from your child’s perspective. She talks about ‘The Mountain of Anger’ – brought on by their behaviour and your lack of understanding, you and your child are slowly creeping up the mountain and it can sometimes be impossible to climb back down from it. She talks about the benefits of descriptive praise and reflective listening – finding the positive in every situation. All of these tips are wonderful and really helpful, especially if everyone is running at full capacity. The challenge for us has always been the hellish sleep deprived days.

I had a fair bit of success in the early months of the year. I was getting a lot less stressed out than I was previously, and even on a bad nights sleep managed to remain calm most of the time. Unfortunately over the last six weeks or so bad habits have crept back, and things have got out of hand again. On Wednesday evening after another horrendous bedtime, hubby and I were at our wits end and each others throats. We discussed the situation at length and agreed that no matter how hard it was going to be, change had to come from us. Four year old children are just not capable of changing themselves. Unexpectedly, that night was the first time all week she completely slept through. Yesterday morning was perfect to start hammering the descriptive praise again and biting tongues to diffuse potential kick-offs. She was immaculately behaved as a result.

Although she slept through she was still up at 5:15am, then went to nursery all day. A common theme amongst even the best behaved children is once they are tired they turn into little devils. She is no exception, and as soon I walked in to the classroom to collect her I knew there was trouble ahead. Remaining calm and optimistic in the face of adversity, I was still finding good in all she did. I also had the girls home, fed and upstairs by 6pm – not late by anyone’s standards. Unfortunately she was so exhausted and beyond reason by then that she proceeded to have a 20 minute meltdown in her sisters room while I was trying to get her ready for bed.

I got the baby down for the night so I could fully concentrate on the ‘big girl’ (as she likes to call herself). It was 6:35 and she had been rolling around the floor screaming for over half an hour. Hubby came home from work then, so I did the sensible thing and swapped places. My patience was in the toilet, and it was best all round that he took over. It was more than half an hour later when he finally got her to sleep even though she could barely keep her eyes open.

At 7:10 he came downstairs a broken man. That went well I said. It was all I could do not to burst into tears. I was anticipating an horrendous night, but she slept well considering. She was up at 5:30am today, and causing mischief from the minute she opened her eyes. Hubby managed to keep a lid on it though, and only repremanded her when she was causing actual harm to her sister. Turning a blind eye to her uneaten breakfast also seems to be helping – this has always been a massive bone of contention in our house. Along with the other tips I mentioned above we’re hoping these changes will gradually sink in, and become the norm. It will be a great day when all this becomes a distant memory.

Wish us luck! I’ll post again next week and give you an update.

Dude, where’s my libido?!

Years ago, when she was still Mick Jagger’s wife, I read an interview with Jerry Hall. She stated that in order to keep a man happy and satisfied with only one woman she needed to be a “maid in the living room, cook in the kitchen, and whore in the bedroom”. This made perfect sense to me, even though I could have only been a teenager at the time.

I met my hubby when I was 24, and travelling alone. We ended up drinking at the same beach bar, hit it off immediately and partied all night. I teased him terribly for the first year or so, proclaiming otherwise, but it really was love at first sight. He is a year younger than me, and was also travelling alone. He’d missed out on the post uni expeditions most of his friends went on as had to go back home and work for 18 months in order to save up to go away. His travels had started about four months previous, and had been pretty wild at points, but by the time we met he was more than ready for a companion. Like me he’d not had many relationships of any significance. He’s definitely what most would call good looking but more importantly he is an incredibly grounded stable person, which (on a primal level) is what I think attracted me to him.

I knew I had a keeper in my midst and took Jerry’s advice. I love food and cooking, so that box was ticked. I’m not a fan of housework (who is?!) but that’s fairly straight forward. As for bedroom antics, years of being a singleton had definitely put me in good stead. In those early days, my hubby and I loved having sex. Looking back, we’d often manage to squeeze in a quickie at inappropriate times and places, sometimes resulting in disaster, but always having loads of fun. Unfortunately between totally going off it when I was pregnant first time round, breastfeeding and sheer exhaustion, we didn’t get back on the horse as it were until 4yo was ten months. Even then it was very sporadic, and wasn’t until we were properly trying for another baby that we upped the game. We tried to make more of an effort second time round, and on the odd occasion we managed to it was a good quality romp, but with life being as busy as it is (and having a child that doesn’t bloody sleep) I can count on one hand how many times we’ve actually had sex this year.

Fortunately for me, my other half keeps himself busy with fitness, work and studying and isn’t constantly pestering me. Sometimes it’s actually the other way round. I used to get upset and think this was a sign that our marriage was going to pot, but I don’t anymore. A pop quiz amongst friends told me this was quite normal for most couples. I really hope to get things back on track in the latter half of this year though, I miss being intimate no matter how tired I am.

For poor old Jerry it wasn’t enough anyway to hold onto her rolling stone, but luckily mine isn’t a rock star, and I’d like to think he doesn’t have plans to look elsewhere or hit the road.

Facts of Mummyhood


I doubt highly there would have been anything I could have said to my pre-children self that would have put me off the idea, however if I had the opportunity to travel back in time and offer that me some parenting insight, it would probably go a little something like this…

– breast is best, but once you have fed a baby for a year you can kiss goodbye to your pert DD’s. They are gone forever, be grateful that you had them in the first place and don’t waste your precious energy lusting after them

– ditto the gorgeous skinny Diesel jeans with a 26 inch waist that you used to love wearing so much

– unless your little darlings are elsewhere don’t expect to go to the loo in private

– it will take you a whole year to read a 300 page book

– holidays will never be never be relaxing again!

– forget all about a sex life while the kids are small, and don’t even bother thinking about the R word

– you’ll argue with your other half about a hundred times more than you used to, and have days when you hate him for no reason at all

– your in-laws will pee you off no matter how hard they try

– every single parent on the planet has moments when they wish they could send their offspring back to where they came from

– BUT (and this is really important) no matter how hard your day has been, and how brutal the witching hour, when they are finally asleep, you will love them so much it actually hurts

They f*** you up

Although I don’t have her in my life any more, in many ways I feel sorry for my mother. She had a rotten childhood and it’s no wonder she turned out the way she did. My Grandfather was killed young, in a road accident, and left behind my Grandma who was pregnant with their sixth child, along with five kids aged between one and ten. They were living in the States at the time, and she came back to the UK to raise her family alone, and never allowed another man into their lives. She went to work six days a week and her kids all resented for it. They would have preferred to have had a mum who was home more, but she thought she was doing the best thing by ensuring there was always money for a roof overhead and food on the table.

Grandma was one of three, a very respectable lady who could always hold her head up high. Her sister and husband on the other hand were classic dole bludgers. They would regularly have their electricity cut off and not have any food to give their children. Fortunately for them help was never far away, although I can’t help but feel having a back up just exacerbates a situation like that. All I know about Grandma’s brother is that he was a businessman who was out of the country lots. When he came to the UK and stayed with the family, he would creep into my mother’s bedroom late at night. This hideous abuse would shape her entire life, much to its detriment.

My eldest aunt married young was left for another woman, and brought up their two kids alone. Aunt #2 married a violent drunk and endured a life of domestic abuse (towards her and their two kids). Next is uncle #1, the success story of the family – despite getting his wife pregnant at 15 they worked hard to have a decent life. He didn’t have much to do with his family when I was still in touch though. Then there’s my mother, who you’ll hear about on this blog. Next is aunt #3, a classic damsel in distress, always has a drama but always seemed fine in the end. Then there is uncle #2, the baby of the family who was given the name of the father he never met. Back in the early noughties before I was estranged from them all he was totally messed up in the head. He’d regularly get hammered on drugs and alcohol, and frequent ladies of the night even though he had a lovely wife and three kids at home. Oddly enough most of my cousins seem to have done fairly well for themselves, although my half brother and sister are another matter (more on them another time).

The psychologist and Guardian columnist Oliver James has written a series of books about how your parents mess you up. No matter how hard they try not to repeat history it almost always ends up happening. Classic example of this is my mother being hell bent on her girls not going through what she did with her uncle, but unfortunately for me, not doing enough to prevent it from happening. More on this later too, I’m not quite ready to open up that particular can of worms just yet.

I guess my point is that for my mothers lot, their childhood really did dictate their lives. The girls all chose partners badly and they and their kids all suffered the consequences. You have to actively break the cycle of dysfunction to ensure your own children do not have to endure the bad experiences you did. Rather than just talking about what I am or am not going to do, I’d like to think my actions speak louder than words and this will count for more when it ultimately comes to protecting them from the demons that stole my childhood.

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