I'm new to this forum but can see that it is a friendly place to receive fantastic advice from others who know and care.
I would really appreciate some advice from anyone who has ideas on how to handle asynchronous development in a pre-schooler. My son is 4 years and 3 months, and has recently been assessed as gifted. This was done informally by a visiting friend of my parents - she is a Professor at an American University with a PhD and is a clinical child psychologist. She confirmed our suspicions as he has so many of the characteristics of giftedness. My GP thought he may be ADHD but we didn't go through with that referral for testing as thought it would label him inaccurately. He will sit for hours at something he is interested in, especially the computer and learning games.
So, we have struggled with his behaviour since the age of 18 months but before then he was always busy, energetic, wouldn't sit still, met milestones early and needed a lot of attention. Was also intensely aware, curious, could see and notice things far away or up high we would never see; has a memory that is incredible and talks about God, angels, death, where his bones will go after death; is affectionate, empathetic, emotionally intuitive and has such a thirst for learning about real things in the world. He is also incredibly sensitive to sounds, noise, light, and busy situations. He will often roll on the floor of a store or at the airport or spin around when he can't cope. This is very limiting socially, and for simple things such as shopping.
With all of this, it has become painfully apparent he is not progressing that well socially. He has been aggressive toward similar aged kids since 18 months and although much improved now, it still happens especially with kids who don't match his intensity or level of interest. (He loves older kids who take an interest in him). I can see he is frustrated, and we teach him about his emotions to try to help him identify how he is feeling and how to learn to deal with that instead of hitting or lashing out. Kindy was a disaster as they didn't know how to handle him, and it was a fairly loose sort of place in terms of supervision. We moved him to a fantastic early learning centre with more teachers who work with him and me, and they have stronger boundaries and more structure which he likes / needs. He is doing well there, but in his before school check (which I felt a bit suspicious about) he was assessed as borderline in terms of socialization and moving around a lot (staying on the mat etc).
I have always tried to take him to places where he will learn those social skills and have persisted even though I've left many of those places in tears, and feel as though I've apologized to half the city's parents for the things he's done to their kids..pushing, hitting and obstructive behaviour. Coffee groups - what an experience! I persisted for two years until I got so sick of being the only mother who NEVER sat down, and looked after all the kids as I was chasing my son anyway, all the while the other mum's enjoyed their sit down and cuppa! I have questioned my ability as a mother, cried, tried all over again and cried some more. A glass or two of wine each night helps! I've never felt so isolated in my life, and I am meant to have support as the books say - but am not meant to say anything to friends as they don't / can't understand, and my family don't really understand - "just say NO to him", or "a smack might help", or "maybe if other kids hit him he will learn", or the best yet "maybe you could send him to ---- (my brother)'s house and he could learn some manners from them". Can you tell I'm frustrated and lonely?
My questions (after a long-winded post) is; if I'm right in thinking he has asynchronous development which is not helped by the fact he is in the 99th percentile for height and looks a year older than he is, but perhaps has the social maturity of a 2 1/2 or 3 year old for conflict resolution.........
A) When will it get better?
B) Do I keep placing him in those social situations that melt him down in the hope he'll learn eventually? Such as the non-friends 5th birthday party?
C) Or do I let him do his x3 days a week at the early learning centre and forget about the playdates with other kids he doesn't really like to play with anyway?
D) Has anyone got advice on how their kids went at school with this issue?
Re: 4 yr old with aggressive behaviour - need advice!
Date: 08-10-10 13:12
No mention of siblings. I'm wondering how your son would cope around an infant or smaller child? Would he rise to the occasion of being the 'big boy' and setting the example? Just another angle to look at it from I suppose.
My son, now 6, had his diabolical time. Not as bad as you relate, but 3-4 yo testosterone surge++. He had a wonderful kindy and started reading -that gave me a good break and capacity to cope with the rest of the time.
Re: 4 yr old with aggressive behaviour - need advice!
Date: 08-10-10 14:09
Ah, for our asynchronous wee people, I questioned my parenting and was awfully hard on myself. That's not worth it!! Sounds to me like you are an amazing mum and have great insight into your son. You're living in a culture that just doesn't fit! My advice (others may well be different) from my own experience is forget the playdates that don't work. Cause they're not going to! After about age 7-8 things got a whole lot easier as the kids went through that change. I decided to home school so we didn't have to 'fit in' which would have been a disaster for the children.
What I've found useful it to think about socialisation. What does it mean? What do you want for your son in the long run? A healthy individual who is content in himself, feels good about himself, is respectful to himself and others. Is positive to try new things and stick with them? And how can that be achieved? Does our usual cultural model of raising children work for your son? It didn't for ours.
I've found that by sticking with them with the deepest respect for who they are - which sounds like what you're doing from your indepth description - the most important thing. But I have to say it's been a big job, being mum who provides all the rules and boundaries and never gets to sit and have that coffee or chat - so I would recommend taking good care of yourself! When our people were that age they didn't fit at all and there was often conflict or the unsaid air from others that it wasn't ok - or often, that odd rule where they had to be respectful of other childrens needs but their parents we're respectful of ours - which stems from a lack of understanding. I found it quite a challenging time to say the least. Now when people look, as they are older, they see articulate and kind people, who are interesting and engaging to converse with. So it does change, and really gets better and better. For me the hardest thing was really the lack of support and understanding from others, that I needed.
Anyway, that's the path I took. It gets easier and your son sounds beautiful to me. Remember the qualities that adults often find challenging as children are venerated as adults, if guided well.
You are definately not alone. Oh and something I wish I'd heard when the boys were younger, keep them away from the computer (even though it's a sanity saver), they just want more and more and it becomes a battleground when they're older(definately not a sanity saver). If they don't have it, they can't ask for it. (we've passionate all or nothing boys.)
I could have written your email! It rang so many bells with me. My son is 5 1/3 and from the day he was born, he has not stopped moving - constantly on-the-go. He became quite aggressive when he was about 2 and I was also one of those mums who couldn't just sit back at Lollipops and enjoy a quiet time-out - I was always on guard, checking his behaviour, telling him over and over again "just use your words, not your hands". It was exhausting and embarrassing apologising to other mums constantly. Worst of all was the fact that no-one I talked to (except hubbie) understood any of this. I lost friends because one suggested that "some kids just need a good smack" and another baled my son up after a temper tantrum one day and told him that "only nice boys are welcome at my house." I didn't know back then that he was gifted (he was my first child so I had no benchmark). After researching giftedness and attending a course on it, I began to realise that I was not alone. I remember turning up to a course about living with gifted children, not really sure if I was entitled to be there, and bursting into tears after hearing others talk about their exuberant (mainly) boys. What a relief! I had questioned my parenting endlessly and gave myself a really tough time. I am a full-time mum so would have little time away from him which was also tough. Then I had another gifted child as well and the whole thing was major stress, day-in, day-out.
It all started to change for me when he started school earlier this year. I put him up a year so he is with older children. (He is physically big for his age, articulate and relates best to older children). I thought he needed to be one of the younger boys in the class, if nothing else, to learn a bit of humility as he always bosses anyone around who he doesn't consider his equal. It has worked really well and he is thriving.
One thing that never seemed to work was play dates with children he would think were not on his level - he was diabolical - so aggressive, angry and rude. All his school friends now are older than him and play dates are now really fun for him (and the other kids!).
A couple of things that make him worse are TV, computers, (even a relatively small amount of time makes him aggressive or angry), time-out (I now make him run around the house a few times instead), being told what to do (he needs the ability to make lots of his own choices).
Stick with it, Nikki. You sound like you are doing a wonderful job. Don't doubt yourself. Surround yourself with other parents of gifted kids if you can, maybe through Small Poppies or Explorers or similar. The connections your child will make there are invaluable, not to mention the support you will get from other parents who do understand. Best of luck.
Thank you Linda, Twix, Sarah and Ness for your replies. I immediately felt so relieved to have people understand and know what it is like to raise a child with such challenging behaviour. I even had tears of gratitude at being understood!
Linda: he is our first and only son - I cannot have any more unfortunately. He seems to be drawn to the very little babies, often seeming to want to care for them. He does engage in many other areas of interest though and I'm teaching him about respect for every individual's time in the family..mummy and daddy time to talk, space for me to write an e-mail or make dinner etc. It is slowly beginning to work and I have a little more space to work with - on a good day! Interestingly, as a mother of one, I feel I am judged (not by you!) often, and the only child thing has been thrown at me by two principal's of prospective schools, and other people who jump to conclusions about my / our parenting. How frustrating. I have learned to have such a thick skin. And the disapproving looks from people..(how could you let your child climb up and stand in the frozen food section at the grocery store?!!!! Shame!!! And then from others ...why would you put your child for said incident in time out on the floor in the grocery store...oh, he really is naughty, in time-out he is now holding up a bag of biscuits laughing......), and so it goes. Another day.
Twix: Thanks for the hyper-focus information; I've checked it out and it goes into the melting pot. He certainly may be gifted with a learning challenge also. I'm going to wait and see how he progresses between now and school, and also once in school, and then have testing done if needed. We had him all lined up to be tested next month for giftedness as well as any other childhood disorder, but he doesn't want to do it at all. He has separation issues sometimes (which is at odds with his super confident outgoing try anything, totally fearless personality..the kid wants to go sky-diving!). Anyway, he doesn't want to be away from us to get tested so I fear he won't have an accurate result, and at this stage we wouldn't do anything different with how we are managing him. I would love to know his areas of strength and weakness though.
Sarah: Thanks for the guidance, I will keep the big picture in mind. That is what I needed to hear, it can all seem too hard some days especially when you've been doing the same things over and over for nearly 3 years. I went on instinct - something I am so glad I did - after realising none of the parenting books were dealing with my son's issues or behaviour. Except Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's 'Raising Your Spirited Child, which was fantastic. Now I'm learning fast and furious about giftedness, the right track finally. The funny thing is, that when I do what is right for him - get away to the beach, or wide open spaces and go exploring, we have such a great time...fantastic times really, even in the rain, or on cold windy days when other families are inside. He is a great kid. Taking care of myself has taken a back seat, but I'm working on it! So important I know. Same with the relationship with my husband.
Ness: You made me cry! It is so good to hear someone with the same issues. Friends can be so thoughtless can't they? My closest friend kept saying "SO?" to me when I'd tell her how my son constantly ran away when I was paying for things (I've realised out of boredom and / or curiosity), or how hard it was to go to the vet, or Dr. and deal with climbing on the bed, going behind the venetian blinds, opening file cabinets, pushing over the screen, running out of the practice etc. (all interspersed with moments of being interactive and sweet). She is not my closest friend any longer, my choice as it was exhausting to try to get her to understand when she so clearly didn't, but it also leaves a bit of as hole socially. New people will come into our lives though as we pursue other options - we don't have anything in the city we live in though. It's fairly small (60k), but I'll keep looking, or maybe start something up.
Thank you all for your comments..so enlightening and a relief to know I'm not alone. I welcome more!
Re: 4 yr old with aggressive behaviour - need advice!
Date: 09-10-10 19:29
What about speaking to the Plunket nurse about finding good social links for you? I imagine a mum with an independant child about your son's age and a couple of very young ones could make a good match. I'm imagining that the older child would be independent enough to not need your son and happy to share the younger siblings and the young ones would provide such awesome training for your boy. Fictitious situation but just seeing win-win in it.
I don't judge the one-child situation of course but wonder if the 'takes a village' concept might work for your boy.
Is he aware and gentle with very elderly people? Just another situation that could help him practise modifying his behaviour and keeping self-control.
Hi again Nikki
Thank you for your lovely reply. I have had exactly the same experiences at the vets, the supermarket and worst of all, at the end of a dance rehearsal when he refused to put his shoes on and leave with me, and had a huge tantrum. I started to make my way out of the auditorium with my other child (keeping a close eye on my son but letting him know that I was not going to respond to his behaviour in the pandering way that he wanted) then had to deal with other parents running up to him saying "I'll help you put your shoes on, sweetheart" and giving me the evils! Like you, I feel very lonely at times and find it hard to talk to people about this because opening yourself up to these issues seems to give people the right to comment about all aspects of your parenting, without them actually understanding the issues that you're dealing with. For example, I have had family members say "have you given your son the 10 minute warning before you leave?" etc...i.e. good advice but basic parenting skills that I have been using for years that just don't "cut the mustard". I have nothing to do with the "friends" I mentioned in my previous email but I do now have great relationships with two other friends who really understand my son - one is my nanny/friend who has known him since he was 3 months old and the other has a gifted son of her own. They get that my son is intense, domineering, requires high-attention and unwavering, but they also understand he is empathetic, super-sensitive, funny, quirky and great company.
We also have strained relationships with my parents as they think he needs to "be brought into line" - not surprisingly, in the same way they tried to parent me.
If you're ever in Auckland and want to meet up for a coffee or wine, do let me know! I'd love to meet you and your wee boy! He sounds delightful. Anyway, all the very best and good luck with the schooling thing. Ness
Keep up the good work, all of you. Similar, not identical issues with my dear 4-yr-old. I was stressing near the parents-in-law. Last week I got: "Where does he get it from? It must be in your genes, Heidi. That Viking Blood." But when my mother pointed out (to me) that my father-in-law's angry response to my son's tantrum was just another (adult) temper tantrum, I've been chuckling ever since.
Anyway, I just wanted to mention that La Leche League has a great library on parenting. You don't need to go for breastfeeding advice; you can go to get support to be a nurturing parent who accepts each child for who they are. "Raising Your Spirited Child" was one title that comes to mind, but I'm sure there were lots on the subject. (I haven't been for years so I can't be more specific.) And of course "Unconditional Parenting" is fantastic.
My 7 year old is a lot like your boy. We are currently being assessed by the Kari Centre (Mental Health at Auckland Hospital). He has problems socialising with kids his own age - only good with older kids. He is pretty much an outcast at school which has led to a lot of anxiety for him (all surrounding school now - although we often cop it at home).
In his anxious times, I cannot take him out of the house without my husband to help control him.
We did have that testerone rush at 4 too (We called it "terrible twos" and the "F*****in' fours" - it was terrible!!).
Anyhow, the Kari Centre have already helped him understand to recognise his behaviour and that he gets "taken over" at times by the anger/frustration/ anxiety and he can't control it. We are learning tools together to stop being "taken over" and it's working!! (2 steps forward, one step back).
Get help. Ask your GP for a referral to the Kari Centre (If you're in Auckland). Yes, he will have a full mental screening, which is a bit scary not knowing what will be uncovered but best to do that early on than much later when things are getting even more difficult.
I have such hope now. My boy is happier. We are all happier. The whole family suffers with the behaviour. Keep fighting for help!!
I am so glad I wrote to this forum - your words are like a salve to my spirit.
I really like the behaviour management tools you briefly touched on Robyn - helping your child to identify and work with the out of control feelings. That's what it is - this surge of frustration that my son doesn't seem to be able to handle well. He said the sweetest and most revealing thing that made me re-evaluate how much slack I was (or wasn't) giving him, while in bed the other night after a difficult day and many tellings-off. He said he wished he could cut out his daddy's heart (oh gosh I thought...that's a great end to the day!) but he went on...."I wish I could cut out daddy's heart, and cut out my heart, and put daddy's heart where mine used to be so I could know the right thing to do". Oh, the joy I felt realising he DOES want to please us, the sadness I felt not realising how much he was aware of his short-comings and the guilt of knowing I could have handled him so much better. I isn't it an amazing journey of ups and downs, sometimes all in the space of 5 minutes. I hugged him so tight, and told him what an awesome boy he is, and pledged to myself to do better.
Now a quick vent before I have to pick him up from kindy:
Family: My mother-in-law sent an e-mail saying she thinks our son may have oppositional defiant disorder, that they were scared of him when they visited, and are concerned for their safety and others.
(She is SO off the mark, and this happened because they make him crazy, fighting between themselves, not giving him any boundaries and not engaging him in any activities that truly interest him. He did throw a saveloy at her once.......). He has never once even attempted to hit my parents and is well-bahaved for them, but then they engage him and set limits.
Husband: love him to death, we are best friends, BUT he gave said mother-in-law the link to the main website. My one thing I had just found that feels a bit like a diary, and is personal to me.
Friend: well the ex-friend that I finally agreed to meet at the park yesterday after fobbing her off for ages said after observing my son running around a lot and doing his own thing: "why do you keep bringing him (our son)
to the park?...Me.."well because it has a cafe and its outdoors", she..."my mother would NEVER have taken my brother to a cafe (apparently he was busy) - she just didn't do it. Why don't you take him to a different park that has fewer children there and just take a picnic?" Me..."hmmmm", but thinking...because I want to feel normal - I'm already so isolated, and the park is a great place for him. Amazing how she has so much to say that is uninvited, and not appreciated and most of all, not helpful. I always think of great replies after I get home. Has anyone ever put their friends/ family in place? Is that a good idea? I have chosen to take the high road so far, but boy I am tempted!
Thanks for the friendship: unfortunately I'm way down at the bottom of the South Island! I would love too have a coffee Ness! We do have family and friends in Auckland though, so maybe one-day. I should save your e-mail.
Re: 4 yr old with aggressive behaviour - need advice!
Author: Tiz Me
Date: 19-10-10 09:03
Nikki, I chopped out the "dead wood" big time - and yep taken a few people to task - turned out life was MUCH better with a few of the right people in it rather than a whole heap of people who contributed little more than stress.
It actually made me feel far less isolated not being surrounded by people who made me feel alien.
Your experience reads a lot like mine, my son is now 8 and a half and doing fairly well. He is now generating his own friendships which is a relief. I recall almost removing him from social contact for almost three years since he was two. What we did do was closely monitored by me. When he started school I worried that he would overreact and yes there was feedback that apparently he would occasionally hit someone or get angry. Before the year was out his boundries narrowed and he is now the most well behaved boy at school. Now in year 4. He was assessed as gifted with ADD. Which I understand is very common. Recently the teacher told me he was the least of her propblems and isn't even considered as having a learning difficulty. His EQ seems to be huge and so my worry focuses around his fragile emotions, which isn't any easier then my previous worry about his behaviour.
One of the best things I did do which had a huge impact is react to his moods with humour, sometimes that would mean having to tickle, etc. Now everything seems funny to him and he has a humour beyond his years. We also got a dog 4 years ago mainly as a friend and to increase his nurturing sense. All going well and still having all childhood experiences just took an extra 4 years to be able to be one of those sit down with a cuppa mums.
Thanks so much for the great advice. My instincts have been to stay away from these so called friends, but one in particular just won't give up with invites for coffee and kids to get together. She is the critical one. I think it actually makes her feel better about her kids and parenting to see me struggle so much. Did you just fade away with people that didn't work in your life or with your child / children, or did you say something to them? If so, what did you say, may I respectfully ask? I often struggle with saying anything about my son as a reason not to attend a party, or BBQ or get-together as I don't want to 'blame' him for just being who he is, yet know I am being judged if I make an excuse. Heck, I'm judged either way it seems.
p.s.. my best days are those when we take off to the beach to look for crabs, or run in the sand-hills, and my worst days are those when I try to fit my son and myself into conventional situations. I'm glad you've had success with being true to yourself and child, and I know I need to get a bit more tough. Can do.
Hi Nikki - if ppl won't take the hint you're gonna have to be more forceful with them. You can do it politely but firmly - ie I'm sorry but we have so much on at the moment that I just can't make any time to catch up. Or - I know you mean well but right now I just need to focus all my energy on my family.
If you keep repeating the same message they will eventually give up and go away.
But when all is said and done, put it this way - You are the only one in the world (apart from your child's dad hopefully), who will stand up for your son's rights. Therefore you are going to have to develop a backbone and get over worrying about being judged for it. You're his mother and therefore you need to be there for him - in whatever way it is called for.
You do get used to it, you do get used to saying 'no'. And remember, life is a learning curve - you don't stop learning until you die! So take each step at a time and just focus on what needs to be focussed on in the present moment and forget the rest.
That was beautiful, what your boy said. If only the world recognised how beautiful he is just as you do. That's the worst part of it all.
He sounds like he needs someone to unravel the tangle of emotions he's feeling but not understanding or dealing with (my 6 year old has the cognition level of a 12 year old - if that doesn't mess you up and frustrate and infuriate you what will??!?!?!).
Re: 4 yr old with aggressive behaviour - need advice!
Date: 19-10-10 13:55
We've found a book called The Explosive Child by Ross Greene really helpful. Although it's aimed at slightly older kids I think, you might find the approach helpful.
Although he doesn't use the word asynchronous, and it's not specifically about gifted kids, the general principals fit well IMO.
(check out the comments section, it will give you a good idea if it's useful)
Re. social outings. My advice would be to pick your battles. A few carefully selected outings that you can leave easily rather than going to lots and trying to stick it out when it starts to go to custard (hard work for everyone).
I have said to my daugher in the past before we get to someething that might be challenging for her: " we're going to this place, these people are likely to be there; you don't have to play with everyone I would like you to say hello and answer when people talk to you; and it's not ok to x,y,z (whatever your bottom line is). If X, or y, or z happen, we will get in the car and come home". (make sure that you can leave if you need to.) Also, if you think x and y and z are brewing, leave while it's still positive. Accomplishing some short outings that don't end in meltdowns, is going to be better (for you and him) than lots that do IMO. In fact, maybe plan to go for only a very short time to see if you can get a few positives under your belt.
This isn't a punishment so much as saying, if you're not managing then we'll go (and he might be needing to leave). If X, or y, or z do happen, then pack up and go. ( I had to pick my 6 year old up under my arm once with her wailing and screaming and lashing otu. It was mightily embarrassing, but she'd completely lost the ability to manage herself in the situation. She is three years older now, and we've had to put in quite a few difficult hours but she is so much more able to manage her frustrations now.
Re. playdates. Your child might not need a big circle of friends at this point. I'd hang back from playdates for a while (a few months and then review?) - he'll be having social contact at his EC centre, and may develop some friendships to pursue from that.
Re: 4 yr old with aggressive behaviour - need advice!
Author: Tiz Me
Date: 19-10-10 23:49
Mostly I have found it necessary not to be too polite and to be very direct - keeping in mind whether I actually want this person in my life or not. Some people it has been a case of straight out saying "I no longer wish to have any contact - please do not contact me again!"
In the case of my father I used a two fold approach (he was hypercritical and I always ended up feel fart useless whenever I had any contact with him) - first of all I let him have it both from barrels (ok he took a couple of years to speak to me again - but that was mostly because of the shock I think .... hes not the sort of guy people stand up too !) but also, I decided that a bit of role modelling was in order .... I mean maybe he didnt know what "acceptance" really looks like .... so I gave him exactly what I was seeking .... acceptance of "his ways".
My mother on the other hand ... well I packed her bags and quietly but firmly told her she was no longer welcome and have had nothing to do with her since.
Others it was simply a case of stop doing things for them .... I had A LOT of people who called me "friend" .... but never so much as called in for a cuppa unless they wanted me to help them get out of some predicament or another.
Its been an incredibly freeing experience - through it I learned I didnt need to "try and fit in" anywhere .... just be who I am and give people the option of accept me or dont - Im not going to sweat it.
Hi again Nikki
Please do keep my email or feel free to email me away from this forum. I have family in Dunedin so am sometimes down your way too. I can't really chat now but I just wanted to say that I also cut away the "dead wood" and feel so much happier in general. I think the loneliness is better than the feeling of constantly having to justify your behaviour. I have just let people fall by the wayside - haven't really done anything overt but they've clearly got the message that I prefer to spend my time doing other things.
As for family, that's a wee bit harder but we're having time out from my parents. It might be a good thing that your dear hubbie directed your mum-in-law to this forum. She might learn a thing or two and give you some well-needed support rather than criticise you. It's so easy for others to jump onto the internet and give you their opinion on your child, coming from a misguided understanding of your child and a 2 minute synopsis on some website...anyway, stick to what your heart tells you is right for your family. I like to think that if others feel they have to judge/criticise you, even if they are doing it from what they think is a place of support, they are subconsciously ignoring their own problems (let's face it, everyone has them or one sort or another) and trying to make themselves feel better. Best wishes,
Re: 4 yr old with aggressive behaviour - need advice!
Date: 21-10-10 16:59
What a beautiful thread this is! So many mums with so much love for their children. I don't know if you need any more thoughts, Nikki, but here goes any way:
Relationships with family: I truly think that part of parenting is about trying to get through the early years with the whole family intact. It's hard when the whole extended family seems to judge harshly and have a different set of values. But your children will be better off as teenagers and young adults if they have a wider set of mentors and role-models. So how can you do it when the some of them are b******s!? One older mum said to me she had to "minimise her involvement" with her inlaws, and I tried that with one of my family. It worked! Every time she pissed me off, I didn't tell her, I just sorted out what my philosophy was and kept somewhat away. It took several years, but now we're fine - we're not in the baby stage any more and the issues have simply gone away. With an inlaw of mine, I found that every time I did bite back, it just gave her more ammunition. My husband's now onside. We just minimise our information to her. She's missing out on what's really going on for our children, but they're not having to miss out on having her in their lives. I think what keeps me sane is taking the time to really think "Why did what they say really upset me?" Then I can think more quickly on my feet, not necessarily to have the right reply, but to feel better about not replying, because I'm choosing not to reply, and nothing can rock me because I can see the flaw in the advice.
Relationships with friends: Totally different situation. There's no need to pursue anything that doesn't work. One approach that might work is, "My son needs me so much more when I have playdates with you... I think it's because I'm so focused on my conversation with you. I find it exhausting. Do you have time to go to the movies sometime, just you and me. That'd be nicer."
And just one thought: it's our tribal ancestors who keep me sane, honestly. As soon as I'm in a conflict of values situation, I think, how would this have been for our tribal ancestors? Having to sit still on the mat? Time out? Having to play with only their age-peers? It's all rubbish really. Our tribal ancestors were much more physical, spent time with all ages, breastfed for a long time (which you can think of as having lots of cuddles with mum for 7 years or so), were creating or doing with their hands a lot of the time, and spent most of their time outside.
You're doing wonderfully well and he'll be a wonderful accepting adult as a result of your love and acceptance.
Another book you may find helpful, which I am currently reading, is "The Highly Sensitive Child" by Elaine N. Aron. I have only read a couple of chapters so far, but already had a fair few "so that's why..." moments! By the way, I've ordered the spirited child book and am looking forward to that arriving.
I was really shocked and saddened when I realised I couldn't talk to some of my good friends and family about my children. I took the approach of not telling them anything about my kids' "uniqueness". It has meant some of the friendships are no longer as close, but I have generally found that I'm not missing them much, as it is hard to feel close to someone you can't speak freely with. You definitely need at least one friend with a similarly "unique" child though, that does understand what you are going through.
There has been some fantastic advice on this thread - some of which I for one will be following up on!
Yes, what wonderful advice..so needed and helpful. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I truly needed the 'velvet hammer' Rebecca!! Thank you!
Funny thing is - I have a very strong back-bone. Sometimes I forget it is time to get it out and use it! My mother drummed into me growing up that it was "others before self". That one seems to be a bit hard-wired, but I am becoming much more aware of that and how to put up boundaries. No-one is as important as my wee family, and as my husband keeps telling me, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. I'm actually looking forward to looking after me more, and my son and being more of a wife! Modelling how to do this for my son is also so important.
I have read Raising Your Spirited Child, and loved it. It was the first validation of my son's behaviour I had ever known, and it was such a relief. I saw him on every page just about. I look forward to reading The Explosive Child and The Highly Sensitive Child, thanks for the recommendations. I love reading and have found it to been an invaluable insight, especially when I was trying to figure out my son, and not believing what others thought.
Loved your advice on relationships Heidi, especially the thoughts on the tribal aspect - so true; and BBSM, and Ness and J - all of you actually. I am very ready to cut loose some friendships. I do think relationships with family are important, and worth putting effort into building in whatever way you can - as long as it isn't toxic. I love the bit about pulling back with information for friends and family, saving it for those who know and can offer support.
Two new friends have come into my life recently, and although it is very early on, they understand very well. One has a gifted 10 year old son who played beautifully with my 4 year old - the FIRST hour I have ever had to talk with another adult uninterrupted while in the presence of my son! And the other, a mother who has a 10 year old gifted son and a mildly autistic daughter with some other learning disabilities. These women quietly support me, and see beyond the bahaviour (over-excitability, sensitivity to noise and boredom) don't judge, and just 'get' me without much explanation needed. They radiate quiet wisdom, and this is what I also feel here with you all.
I go to bed tonight, feeling heard, and appreciate the feed-back.
I thought I'd post a little update on my son: things are improving at his early learning centre with social relationships somewhat, and I have seen him go to push or hit a child, then stop, and bite his hand, or hold his hands together so as to not follow through with his first response. I see him trying hard to do the right thing. It is still very challenging, but I am feeling more confident and know I'm doing the right things for my son.
I've pulled away from my so called friends, and stopped play-dates that weren't really working. Instead I spend time with my son, doing things that we both enjoy..like being outdoors, and it has really helped create a rhythm to our week.
I also discovered "Sensory Perception Disorder' and had a major aha moment. He is a sensory seeker, and has auditory sensitivities. It explains so much of his behaviour. I'm reading Carol Stock-Kranowitz's book 'The Out-Of-Sync Child' which is fantastic. Her other book of fun things to do for the out of sync child is also wonderful and has helped calm my son as well as provide big sensory input in a helpful, fun and safe way. I notice him jumping when we walk together, and often crashing into me when I'm at the sink, and spinning around and around especially when tired or overwhelmed, or rolling on the floor of the supermarket, or lying down on the floor in a department store...all these things seem to fit with sensory processing, and go hand in hand with giftedness for some kids.
I realize I will need to have someone qualified to check this out formally and am doing some research into who to go to. Getting my GP to understand is another thing however and just another person in our lives who doesn't 'get it'. I end up questioning myself, but know deep down I am on the right track. My GP thinks it is a development problem, or a parenting issue!!! He has told me not to get our son tested for giftedness or sensory issues, but to go first through a specialist paediatrician and then branch out into "other" things. I am going to humour him, and see what happens. I am scared of a misdiagnosis though.
On another note, has anyone experienced their child being mean to pets? Our son is 90% genuinely kind and empathetic but will often very quickly do something quite horrible to the cat. He has thrown him off the deck, sprayed him with a hose, clipped haemostats onto his fur, thrown a ball at him, shut him in a room, and tried to poke a pin in him..very gently - as if that matters! I have reprimanded him every single time and put him in time-out, removed toys, taken away the much loved 'treat night' on the weekend and of course educated him about being kind and how it hurts etc, but the behaviour persists. It seems impulsive. He told me recently when I asked WHY???!!!! that he did it because he felt mad inside and he was trying to let it out. I told him of other things he could do instead of hurting the cat, and we purchased a boxing bag for kids to use, and I told him about hitting a pillow etc. I was amazed he could identify why he did that to the cat (he is 4 yrs and 5 months) but still somewhat sickened that he is doing this. I don't leave him unattended with the cat, and if he is mean then I put the cat in a place where he can't interact with him. Clearly there is a level of frustration my son is trying to manage. He also was crying out one night in bed just after hugs and kisses good-night. He sounded mad. I asked him what the matter was and he said "I'm making noises to try and stop all the crazy thinking in my brain". I taught him some relaxation techniques. Oh, I feel for this little guy, and feel like I am on this path of daily discovery and challenge. I hope I'm on the right track.
Re: 4 yr old with aggressive behaviour - need advice!
Date: 06-12-10 12:36
I have a 4yo with similar issues. He's doing great now since I read a book on EQ - teaching your child emotional intelligence. "How to raise a child with a high EQ" by Lawrence E Shapiro.
Time out became inconsequential and the "sorry" delivered at the end was more in the tone of "can I go now". So this book said to create an inner level of expectation so the child meets their own expectations or falls short, letting themselves down, which gives them a much stronger personal impression than any punishment.
With disrespect or antisocial behaviour, he must repeat 10 times the correct behaviour. eg. my angry son pointing to sister, "No, she can't have strawberries. I want them. You have to give them to me right now!" then 10 times he is made to walk from the lounge to kitchen, sit on stool, smile, and say "Can I have some strawberries too please?" If he doesn't he spends 15mins in room then comes out and tries again. (Freedom loving child dislikes confinement). Not listening, he writes "I listen" twice (not gifted in reading/writing so this is hard for him).
Anyway, actually, I am writing to say that I understand your boy's crazy thinking in his brain. I get that and had it as a child. Couldn't sleep because my mind was so busy. A couple of solutions which work well for me:
1) If it's question based... why everything, he is allowed to call for you and you answer all the questions he has so he can be calm and sleep, could take half hour or more. (Once questions start it's hard to stop and every aspect has to be answered before rest can come).
2) If it's weird images... create a magical story where he is the hero and all these fantastical things happen that he has control over and can manipulate with his special magic wand so if they become scary or overwhelming he can shove the image in a bottle, put the cap on and throw it off the planet. (Don't bury it or put it on the shelf because inevitably the image will break free stronger than ever and be more powerful than him.) Help him draw or write these stories down the next day and share them with his Dad etc.
3) If it is a clamouring jumble of thoughts he can't understand... teach him to meditate in bed, tightening each muscle group starting with face, torso, arms, legs, feet etc. then imagine stepping into a lift on the 10th floor, press the button for ground floor and count along at the lift goes down. When the lift opens, walk out of the deserted lobby and into a beautiful meadow. Sun shinning, birds chirping, grass smell etc. Walk along a dirt path in his bare feet and over a small wooden bridge. He can float a leaf boat in the stream beneath if he likes. But when he is ready, he can walk through a small thicket of trees to the other side where a gentle old man/lady will be sitting on a fallen log looking out over the valley and waiting to answer all his questions. (By the time he has imagined all of this he may be asleep, if not, he can ask questions of his subconscious. Do the same thing in the day if the need arises).
4) Dream interpretation... teaching him that there is such a thing as dream interpretation will help him to find meaning in his thoughts (even if they aren't dreams, just pre-sleep thoughts) and feel in control and that there is a helpful purpose to all these crazy ideas. Buy him a little dream interpretation book and you can help him find the answers to his thoughts then if it's not quite right, he can have a guess at what he thinks his ideas mean. This will eventually become a self directed exercise that he can do by himself. Day or night.
Finally, tell him he is very lucky to have so many great ideas. It means he sees all the possibilities, can make up creative stories in the playground with friends (a great way for one with social issues, like my boy, to interact and engage friends well), can come up with answers no one else has thought of, can invent cool things to help with all areas of life, and can have wonderful discussions with his parents.
As for the doctor thing... once a "diagnosis" has been given it is very hard to say "wait, I have another diagnosis that he's gifted" and have your doctor actually give that any credence. Do your own methods first and if you get a helpful diagnosis that you know fits your son, take that to your doctor and he will be more likely to work with you in future. Give the doctor what he wants with a popular ADD or whatever diagnosis and that with be the end of the matter. If you change doctor, the file will follow you and the next doctor will draw similar conclusions. Be careful. You know what the truth is. Guard it, support it and be an advocate for it.
We were advised to go to a pediatric doctor and when I rang to make an appointment I asked what sort of things the doctor specialises in with behavoural issues. The receptionist said, "ADD, Autism, Aspergers that sort of thing. Can I make an appointment for you?" ... I said "Not at the moment, thank you." And I never phoned back. Instead, I made an appointment with an Ed Psych recommended on NZAGC website. Much better choice for us.
Good luck. All the best with your normal, precious boy.
What great advice! Thank you so much. My son has often said his thoughts bother him, and sometimes shakes his head to make them go away during the day too. My child psychologist assessor / friend of the family lady said he stays open to sensory information and processes that same info much more rapidly than other kids his age, so I know this is overwhelming for him at times. I have a dream journal, so can help him begin his own. I love that idea. And the imagery is awesome...great stuff.
I know I know I know about my GP. I have gone back and forwards about this for a year now. I cancelled the last referral as had the same reaction as you did when I made the appointment. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what he thinks. He is someone I used to babysit for, and with whom I otherwise have - or maybe had! a great relationship with. He has said a few things though that have offended me regarding my son and my observations / thoughts that he is gifted, and probably twice exceptional, and possible with sensory issues: "I've met so many grand-parents that think their grandchildren are SO "special"because they can recite this thing, or do other amazing things that - lets face it - most kids can do" (was the use of grandparents instead of parents meant to obscure the obvious train of thought he was having?); and "the internet is a great place, although you have to be careful because you can type in symptoms and come up with the answer that you want".
My ideas are hard won through years of trying times, voracious reading on all sorts of topics and at least half a brain. You know when it fits your child, you know in your gut, and the aha moments I've had have hit me like a ton of bricks, sometimes giving me goose-bumps or reducing me to tears as I finally seem to have answers to certain behaviours. It is such a fight to be heard and understood. A lovely person I met told me once...it would be nice if they got it, but it isn't necessary. So true, whether a friend, family or Dr.
Thanks again for your ideas which I will put into use tomorrow. What a gift.
Re: 4 yr old with aggressive behaviour - need advice!
Author: Sport Betty
Date: 07-12-10 00:16
Just a thought have you tried any sports type activities with your son? We never did anything until our son was over 5 1/2 but looking back it might have helped earlier too. Something where the requirements for preschoolers are fairly small but there is some gentle exposure to rules and the emphasis is on fun. Also, when a bunch of boys are all running around you may well be surprised how normal your son seems.
We have been lucky that my son's school provides an enormous amount of physical activity for their year 1's and for my son this has coincided with increased confidence and more control generally over his body. He seems more mature through learning some outdoor games with basic rules and while he is no future All Black or Olympian he loves the competitiveness of all the games. He also has a male teacher which has been great too. Suddenly all the energy of my little boy that his all female preschool staff seemed to be not quite capable of 'enjoying' (and yes it was unpleasant at times) is taken as natural and just needing an outlet. (My son was never at the craft table).
So while we are not naturally sporty people ourselves and having a gifted child seems to bring to my mind intellectual stimulation we have been pleasantly surprised at how pursing physical stimulation has been so beneficial.
On another note (but sort of related as it cuts down the indoor options) we removed the television from our lives when DS was 2 1/2 as it made him crazy and me too trying to enforce time limits. Though that level of extremes is not for everyone!
You definitely have to learn to trust your gut. I'm still trying!
My son is now 4y4m and has displayed "aggressive" type behaviour since he was one. We took him to an ed.psych about a year ago, because I was convinced there was something going on. We had had excellent help from this ed.psych with our older daughter, which was why in desperation we started there. Unfortunately we felt she just didn't "get" our son (although she said he is probably gifted (too young to fully test) with probable ADHD tendencies), so on we struggled.
The pre-school who were a huge help with our daughter, referring us to the MOE special ed early intervention team, again didn't really see a problem, as he is well behaved there (great but frustrating, with the result in my mind that I'm seen as a neurotic mother with unrealistic expectations!).
Next desperate move was assessment by the OT who (once again) was hugely beneficial to our daughter. This did help in that she identified some dyspraxic tendencies, retained baby reflexes and sensory integration problems. (The Out of Sync books are on my wish list!).
Unfortunately finances are tight so we have only had a few sessions with her, and although I'm positive they will assist with helping prepare him for school, we have other more pressing concerns which are currently taking precedence.
Our OT suggested we seek referral to a paediatrician, as having an "official" diagnosis (e.g. dyspraxia) can apparently help with requesting extra support when he is at school. Ridiculously, an OT cannot make such a referral, so we had to go through the uncomfortable GP appointment where you are made to feel like an idiot. Luckily the GP took account of the detailed OT assessment, and made the referral. We could not afford to go private, so saw a hospital paediatrician.
That experience was um, interesting... After a quick read of the OT report I was asked, "So what do you think I'm going to do for you?". She agreed our son has some sensory issues; rubbished the NZ education and health system; rubbished the term "dyspraxia"; told me in essence "he is a boy"; then offered me an official diagnosis of dsypraxia "if I thought it would help" but on the understanding of her thoughts about it!
Our OT sympathises with the fact that because our son's problems are not "bad enough" we do not qualify for funded assistance.
I'm part way through reading the highly sensitive child and spirited child books, both of which have some fascinating and useful information.
Our family life is dominated by our son's daily mood and behaviour, which are extremely variable, including his ability to do things for himself. He is the middle child, with an older and younger sister.
Two recent aggressive outbursts - one of which involved him getting out of his car seat and attacking me while I was driving at 100kph; the other saw him crack a bone in my friend's face while throwing his head around during a meltdown - brought me to breaking point.
Constantly being told things like "he's fine when he is here", "isn't he just being a boy", "he's not that bad", "he'll be fine by the time he's 5", "he doesn't do that for me", "you need to toughen up"... are not only unhelpful, but have me question my sanity and ability to parent him.
Last week I went to the local Women and Family Centre and asked for help. I had no idea what to expect from them, if anything, but from the initial meeting I am hopeful that at last I may have struck gold. For one thing, the woman I spoke to knew exactly what I was talking about, having four children close in age herself, two of whom sound very similar to our eldest daughter and son. She has recommended a parenting course which covers children with "difficulties" (although I fear attendance will be impossible due to location/timing/childcare), and is going to set up counselling and family support. This won't happen for a month, but just knowing this is coming and that someone understood me and didn't belittle my experiences and feelings, was in itself a positive.
By the way, although I think the suggestion about sport is good, in that physical activity is HUGELY important, some children will be like my son who struggles with organised sports both physically (getting his body to do the correct thing) and emotionally (the intensity of feeling/excitement can be overwhelming)... so finding the "right" activity and environment for your child is important.
Sorry for the ramble/rant... I know you all understand, just hope there may be something helpful/interesting in there for someone else.
Merry Christmas! We'll be endeavouring to keep it low key for our son, and change our expectations of how he may react!
It has been 3-4 months since I posted, so thought I'd give an update.
Our son is 3 months shy of turning 5 and will be off to school soon. His aggressive bahaviour has improved incredibly, and now is rarely a problem, mostly with the occasional rough pat to the cat. He is doing very well in kindy which is great, but the teachers there think I am neurotic for pursuing further testing as they don't see the behaviours that are still problem areas at home........
(Melting down at the airport, licking cars, running off while I pay for things at shops, inability to self-regulate when over stimulated, needs to be engaged ALL the time in an activity that is interesting otherwise he will find 'experiments' to do or will wander off looking for something to do, walking around like a cat on all fours when overstimulated, behaving poorly at the Dr.'s office out of boredom. And all this in spite of consistent firm boundaries and parenting........)
So, we had a wonderful OT from Nelson visit us in our city to assess him for Sensory Processing Disorder and found out he is highly 'sensory seeking'. She gave us really helpful strategies for managing busy unfocused behaviour that we've had immediate results with. I highly recommend this for kids that are sensory - she gave us tools to parent that aren't in the usual parenting books.
The kindy teachers don't believe in it, in fact , not many people I've talked to do in general but I hope SPD will become more recognized in time.
We also had him assessed by an developmental paediatrician (after my GP insisted for the last two years we did this) who said he looked a lot like ADHD, but didn't quite fit the profile. Our son sat for 50 minutes on the bed playing on the IPad during the appointment. He wants us to reassess after being in school for a few months, if needed.
All in all, what we thought from the very beginning is still probably true; busy boy, probably gifted, has sensory issues accounting for his need for movement and big experiences (jumping, tasting things, walking on all fours etc), not ADHD, and still gorgeous, and still spirited, and still very misunderstood, as we his parents are!!!
Other people have been the other hard part of this whole thing, and where I'm at today is to say good-bye to those who just don't get it, I have other more important things to spend my energy on. I have a few good friends who don't judge and that is all I need. Forget the rest.
I refer to what others call "ADHD" as "Stress Not Otherwise Specified" (NOS) .... simply because they are EXACTLY the same clinical 'symptoms' - not similar but identical.
Stress - especially ongoing stress/distress has a big impact physiologically (including biochemically) and psychologically - and for children and adults alike this can prejudicially affect the likes of self moderation.
In your case, you have identified stressors - and I said bye-bye to the 'dead wood' in my social circle years ago - BEST gift I ever gave to myself and my children.
I took the opposite course with my grandson - I went out of my way to 'be kind to his senses' while little and keep him out of age based 'socialisation' where there would be any expectation of him being 'like' ..... the aim being to 'teach' contentment and respect in more readily controlled environments where he would also experience those things.
I think it unfair (although we are encouraged to do so) to 'judge' a childs maturity based upon situations where they are highly stressed - apples and oranges comparing them to children who dont have the same sensory issues going on - ditto 'social skills' and socialisation.