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.