I’ve written before about our eldest being a rather challenging child. Food intolerances, poor sleeping and unpleasant behaviour have ruled our lives for the best part of two and a half years now. We’ve had some pretty desperate times, a particularly bad phase being when I posted this in September. Hubby and I put all the tips and advice we received to good use though, and I’m pleased to say we saw improvements. By the end of the Xmas holidays we were in a great place. 4yo was sleeping all the way through most nights and she and 2yo had never got on better. We thought we’d cracked it at long last.

Then along came her baby brother, and her ability to sleep and behave seems to have disappeared. She’s gone back to waking up most nights, and is getting up for the day at 5/5:30am. On Wednesday morning she screamed the house down at 5:10am because we tried to get her to go back to bed, thus waking the other two up. By 9am I had an inconsolable baby on my hands refusing to go sleep, and I couldn’t get him to settle until almost noon. As you can imagine the day was hard going, only to get a million times worse when she came home from school. Cue three hours of tantrums, picking on her little sister and ignoring me every time I tried to talk to her. And repeat on Thursday…

Fortunately school have been really helpful, and she now has a daily reward chart whereby they’ll highlight all the positives for myself/hubby and 4yo to talk about when she gets home. We also have a communication book so we can give the teachers the heads up if we’ve had a particularly bad night, etc. This is a fab idea, as it means they can have little chats with her throughout the day which we can then build on at home.

A child that gets enough sleep and is generally well behaved will more than likely be thrown off kilter by the arrival of a sibling, but with our girl it goes much deeper than the obvious. Right now it feels like she’s fully embracing every opportunity to do the wrong thing, and there is no reasoning with her when she’s this tired. It makes me too sad to see how selfish she is capable of being, and how utterly vile she treats her sister at times. On the flip side she can be super kind, caring and loving when she wants to be. She’s really bright, but channelling it in the wrong places. I think she feels that everything is on her terms, which is too much power for a child that isn’t even five to have.

We had been successful this year with a star chart and weekly reward of £1, but this will be the third week in a row that she has failed to get her stars and it’s clear the magic has been lost. We’ll be taking the chart away at the weekend, and starting the beans in a jar reward method instead. This idea is inspired – you let the child put a dried bean into a jar every time they do something worth praising, and take a bean out when they’re being naughty.

Once the jar is full they get a treat of some description – read here for further details. I’m also going to get her retested by our allergy nurse, so we can rule out food being the underlying problem. This may sound like clutching at straws but her eczema has flared up recently, and that’s usually a tell tale sign of an allergic reaction. It could also be down to the stress she’s putting herself through daily with these awful tantrums though.

I’ve been reflecting a lot over what we have or haven’t done and how things need to change. Permanently. What we’ve been doing clearly isn’t working, and it’s time to find something that does work.

54 thoughts on “Reflection

  1. I really hope you continue to have good nights and she gives you a bit of a break! Parenting is so hard…just know that there are lots of us out there going through the same thing and feeling like we are failing…but we are not! We are all fabulous mum’s doing our absolute best in difficult situation! Hang in there. Things can only get better x

  2. Thank you so much, for the thoughtful comment and info. I’ve never considered coeliacs tbh as she always tested fine for wheat when the intolerances were diagnosed. Seems much more complex though, so I think I’ll go to the gp and get her referred for it. Glad things have improved for your daughter.

    The beans are working most of the time, but if she’s beyond tired then even the lure of say five extra beans doesn’t snap her out of it. The only thing that (semi) guarantees a good morning is a good nights sleep. She slept 12 solid hours on Sunday and woke up a different child. We actually had a pleasant start to the week!

    Thanks again, I’ll definitely be frequenting your blog for recipe ideas xxx

  3. Wow! What a fabulous post. I feel so much for you. We have a pretty challenging little girl too…I often wonder if it is how us girls are! But, her behaviour has got better (now 6) and we put a lot of her terrible tantrums and anger down to her coeliac disease. She was diagnosed just before her third birthday and if she is ever accidently exposed to gluten she goes back to the terrible anger (which she now asks for help to get rid of). Perhaps it is worth exploring coeliac disease as you mention that she has food intolerances? Take a look at Coeliac UK’s website…, and pop over to mine if you ever want any inspiration on recipes, information etc.
    Wishing you lots and lots of luck and love…
    PS marbles in a jar worked for us for a while but make sure the jar isn’t too big or they never get a reward and give up

  4. I agree with you, it’s all boundary testing and attention seeking. Once we get her sleeping again I know things will get better. She proved this morning (after her first solid 12 hour sleep in weeks) how lovely she can be. Now we have the magic beans, hopefully we are on the right track xx

  5. Thank you honey. I love the music idea, will definitely consider it once we get her sleeping on track. Think we”ll need all the help we can get, the clocks will be going forward before we know it xx

  6. Thank you so much hon. I’ve organised a playdate this weekend with her best friend from school. Hubby is taking 2yo swimming, and although the baby will be with us he’ll likely just be sleeping in the sling. Hubby is then going to take her swimming on Sunday… Hopefully that’ll give her a good chunk of time just for her. She slept well last night and we had a lovely morning, makes me so sad to think how easy it can be, but how hard it’s made when she doesn’t sleep xx

  7. Thank you so much Suzanne. The more I speak to parents of older kids, it seems to be very common place that one will give you a harder time than the others. I love the idea of a set of clear cut family rules. Once we have her sleeping sorted, this will definitely be worth doing. Unfortunately with our girl, when her sleep is as bad as it has been lately it makes everything else so much more difficult. She’s responded well to the bean jar, so hopefully it’s the start of things improving. Thanks again xx

  8. Thank you so much for your kind comment. The reason behind the £1 reward was because she had been given some Xmas money and really enjoyed spending it in charity shops. You’re right though, and other things such as time with just me or daddy might be a better motivator. I’ve asked her to think about a reward for when she fills up her bean jar
    I’m interested to see what she comes up with with xx

  9. Thanks so much for the book tip, I ordered it right away as it looks great. Explaining emotions to a sleep deprived 4yo can be almost impossible, and I’m sure it’ll really help us. We started the bean jar too and so far so good! The best thing about it is you can dish out beans for everything and get into the positive reinforcement cycle. We started with a small jar, which should be full by the weekend. Fingers crossed xx

  10. I love the tower building idea Maddy, thank you! Our biggest problem is the sleep, when she’s this tired it’s impossible to do anything with her without hell breaking loose.

    After a fraught Saturday, she was up half the night with a temperature and vomiting. She was very forlorn all day yesterday, but then perked up at bedtime and slept 12 solid hours. It’s not an exaggeration to say she was a different child this morning. Just hoping it lasts.

    Thanks again for your lovely comment xx

  11. Thanks Sarah. tbh I think it’s taken her this long to get over us having her sister, then it all changed again. I’m sure she’ll get there, just hope it doesn’t take two years this time!!

  12. Thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful comment. I need to investigate the sensory diet further as have heard it can work wonders. Interested also to learn about melatonin and how to get more. Hope things improve soon for your son too xx

  13. Poor you. It is not easy when you have a new baby and one of the older ones is regressing. The bean in the jar idea sounds great. I remember reading a couple of weeks ago something similar with pasta, and the reward was a ‘mummy and me’ activity like baking together or a ‘special time’ together (from Let Kids be Kids if I remember well). Good luck. Motherhood can be tough. x Mel #ThePrompt #WotW

  14. Sounds like you’re all going through a tough time. I, like others have said, am no expert, but wonder how much one on one time she’s getting with you at the moment? I wonder if some of this is a way of trying to test how important she is in your life – new babies are all-consuming so perhaps there is an element of attention-seeking (not in a spoiled brat way, but in a “I’m still here mummy!” way)? Is there any chance you could have some regular time together (I know this is easier said than done). I do hope this works itself out for you all quickly, but am really glad the school are being so supportive. Good luck x

  15. Wow, this sounds incredibly tough for you. I have no advice whatsoever, but can offer some words of support: It sounds like you’re doing brilliantly well at finding strategies and problem-solving. I can only say keep at it and keep strong. Things will probably get easier, and then harder again and so on. Good luck with all of the hard times (o:

  16. I’ll start by echoing what everyone else said, it sounds like you are doing exactly the right thing and I can empathise on the sleep deprivation.
    I had a thought I had when I was reading and I wonder of you have had her assessed in other ways except for food allergies like giftedness ? it just struck a chord when you said about her being really bright, my eldest was the tantrum king and barely slept and he was really bright but would get extremely frustrated because his brain exceeded his physical abilities and language capabilities, it might be worth investigating x

  17. What a nightmare – you poor thing 🙁 I have to say that the star chart worked for us. Plus, we bought Grace a CD player that would switch music on when it was time to get up – something she loved and it worked! The jar does sound like a good idea. I hope it works out for you soon. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

  18. I like the idea of the bean jar and I think maybe the idea of one on one time with your eldest (if you can manage it once in a while) might be really valuable too. I remember JJ’s behaviour went a bit haywire when EJ came along but as he was only one of two there was no other sibling to take it out on. His eating habits were rubbish, not so much sleep problems but I remember him (at 2 and 10 months) trying to touch other women’s boobs (like the midwives who came round or other friends of mine) and that was a bit of a nightmare! It did calm down though, pretty quickly too if I remember rightly. Whatever strategy you decide to take I wish you the best of luck and a speedy return to normality. X #ThePrompt #WotW

  19. Oh no I really do feel for you, it’s so tough! I wish I had some advice to give you but luckily star charts always worked with my older two. I will have to repeat something Sara above said, I have also found taking one child out on their own for a couple of hours has helped me in the past. Good luck x #WotW

  20. Yes, as others have said really sounds like you are doing all the right things! And fab that her school are being so supportive. Am sure she will settle back down into some sort of routine soon. Having 2 younger siblings to contend with must be a challenge for any 4 year old!
    Best of luck, kx

  21. Oh honey, I wish I had some magic solution for you. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things and I do like the sound of the jar. Much as I prefer positive reinforcement (in my ideal world in my head!), often a real consequence is more powerful and is the only way to go. I’m so pleased to hear that the school is helping too, that support will be invaluable. I know that one-on-one time is the most difficult thing for you at the moment, but I have found that when my oldest’s behaviour starts to slip taking him out for a couple of hours, just me and him, works wonders and really improves things. You might not manage it for a little while, but that is worth thinking about. Suzanne’s thoughts are really good too, fairness is a big thing with my boys. Sending huge hugs, and I’m always around for a chat xx Thanks so much for linking to #ThePrompt xx

  22. Oh my! Sounds like you are really going through it at the moment….
    My youngest isn’t the best sleeper but she has got the hang of staying in her room when she gets up early and reading a book or playing until a more sensible hour….

  23. Oh no poor you. Sounds like you’re having a really tough time of it. I’ve noticed someone else has mentioned this in the comments already but I would echo what they say and perhaps try keeping a diary. It might help you spot patterns in what’s happening – and also help you to see positives Good luck #PoCoLo

  24. Gosh this could be my middle child that you are describing. She has always been a ‘challenge’ right from day 1. She has a wonderful personality (when she wants to show it) but can also be mean to her siblings, vile to me verbally and also physically aggressive. We tried so many different techniques but although they worked initially, always failed after a while. This year we were encouraged to bring her into everything eg hold a family meeting to discuss what is and isn’t working. We then make a suggestion of a new regime and all the children agree to it. We work out the terms and make sure that the rules never change, unless it has been pre-agreed with all of them. To be fair, she is the only difficult one but it’s important that she knows the rules are the same for everyone. They have no problems with her at school, her behaviour is exclusive to home life. This seems to be working. We make sure that everything is uber fair and that she has an opportunity to ‘voice’ her complaints in an organised forum. Obviously she is older than your child (at 12) but I think a 5 year old could cope with this. Maybe worth a try? This has also meant that the competition and horrible behaviour towards her siblings has lessened as she knows they are all treated the same. Good luck. Hope this helps in some way. x

  25. You must dispear at times, you poor thing. As your trying all you can.
    1 suggestion and I’m no expert (I don’t have children yet- but I have 4 nieces who work the chart system) But as she is still quiet young is money the right reward does it mean the same as an older child; would a reward of something she wants hold her interest, it doesn’t have to be a valuable gift – but say 2 hours with mummy alone at the park or 1 hour of swimming etc something she gets enjoyment from and physically sees the reward for of her choice. If it is a valuable treat she wants you could make it a month of being good with mini rewards in between to keep her interest.
    I hope you find answers and your hard work pays off for you soon.

  26. Oh my heart goes out to you. My children have never really responded to reward charts so the jar sounds a fab idea and the school being supportive really will help. When we had issues the school didn’t want to know and it was so hard. Does she have a favourite activity like drawing or writing or colouring at all? If she’s struggling emotionally she might find it easier to put it onto paper somehow. It doesn’t really matter whether you see it or not, it’s for her to ‘let go’. It’s worked for us. The other thing is a book called ‘Today I feel silly’ and by Jamie Lee Curtis, it’s all about emotions and how it’s OK to feel lots of things, plus there’s an emotion face at the end where you can choose your emotion for the day. I hope this is of some help x

  27. I really feel for you! I had my third baby a year ago and the early weeks are such an emotional spin for the whole family. I found it was my middle son who had the hardest time as he went from being my ‘baby’ to feeling a bit usurped I think!

    It does sound like your daughter is having a particularly tough time of it. It is hard for siblings and I can see why – if you’ve struggled with her behaviour in the past – it is bound to flare up now. Would it help to reassure her that she is still loved just as much? I did a little thing with my sons involving building blocks that represented love. Each member of the family had a pile of blocks that represented love that we felt for each other. I showed my big boys that when the baby came along he brought love (blocks) with him so that all our towers of blocks got higher! Not sure I’ve explained that well but it seemed to help them understand that the baby’s arrival did not take away from my love for them.

    Wish I could be more helpful but my best advice is probably to look after yourself as much as possible! It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job in a tough situation. I find coping with things when sleep deprived is so hard! you’re doing great. Hope things improve soon. xx #pocolo

  28. Oh no, such a difficult time for you all. I so wish I had some advice to offer, though I’m sure that someone will. Will be thinking of you and hoping that you can find some new ideas to put in place that allow life to run a little more smoothly x Thanks for sharing with #WotW x

  29. Poor you! What a week. That must be so hard with a new baby to cope with too. Really hope you find a solution soon. It’s really good that the school is working with you. My eldest was the same age when his baby sister came along and he was pretty challenging too, although I have to say not this bad. To be honest, even though he’s 12 now and she’s nearly 8, he’s never really got over it.

  30. I am so sorry to hear you are having a tough time. I hope it’s just a phase of getting to grips with all that’s new around her. Glad the school is helping. I hope it gets better for you my dear. It’s never easy to keep one child from waking the others. Sending biggest hugs I wish I had more wise words for you. You sound like you are doing an amazing job though. Give yourself credit. #PoCoLo

  31. Oh gosh, sounds like you really are having a tough time of it! As you say, the arrival of a sibling can be difficult for any child, so I guess it’s no wonder it has affected her and taken her sleep and behaviour back a few steps. Best of luck with it all, sounds like the teachers are very helpful and I really hope you can get things back on track soon! Take care! Xx

  32. I really feel for you as my son has sleep issues too and I spent many years dealing with what I thought was bad behaviour at the time but he’s since been diagnosed with autism (bad mummy). The best piece of advice I’ve ever had about dealing with behaviour is to try to work out the cause/trigger of the behaviour and see if you can spot any patterns. I don’t know if you’ve tried this already but it might be worth keeping a little diary. Look out for environmental factors (noise levels, temperature, lighting, weather, amount of people, smells), food/drink intake, clothing, activities, etc. There might not be any patterns but you never know. Our sleep issues are still a nightmare but we’re trying a sensory diet at the moment which is 20 minutes of exercises that send calming signals to the brain. Also waiting on an appointment with a paediatrician to speak to him about Melatonin (my son doesn’t produce enough to make him sleepy).

    I hope you see improvements soon lovely and manage to get a full nights sleep x

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