Online Parent Support Chat

5.7.11

"My concern relates to the long term impact of her irritability..."

Hi Mark,

I came upon your program some months ago whilst looking desperately on the internet for some help managing my (then 3 year old) daughter’s behaviour. Emma is the oldest of our two children (her brother is 2 years old) and she has been a challenging child with respect to being very strong willed with a tendency to “grumpiness” since birth. The main problem with this is the impact on the rest of the family. My husband and I can wake in good moods at 7am and find ourselves as nervous and exhausted wrecks, twitching and muttering under our breath by 8am!

Before finding your program (and employing it with some success), I had struggled with many parenting books for young children which didn’t seem to acknowledge the impact of defiance that persists past the “terrible twos”. Firm limits and an understanding of “consequences” for choices made as recommended by your program, seems to have been far more helpful that the nefarious “1,2,3..” strategies we had trialed previously. I have since recommended your program to people with children of all ages.

When she is in a good mood, Emma is delightfully dramatic and creative, with the sheer will and determination to pursue a career as a UN negotiator. She is smart and funny and loves (me particularly) with intense passion. My concern relates to the long term impact of her irritability and difficulty “backing down” from any perceived “battle” (be it over choice of plate colour or getting ready for school).

I am actually a psychiatrist in Australia, and on more than one occasion I have had a sense that my own tiny daughter is on a path to a vulnerable personality style, with the attendant impact on relationships, education, occupation, etc. I see the reactions she generates in myself, my husband, the babysitter, grandparents etc. (all of whom are mature and reasonable people and all of whom have “snapped” and shouted at Emma on at least one occasion when pushed to the limit after hours of unreasonableness). This results, no doubt, in Emma feeling shamed and criticised, which I am sure feeds in to the problem. But it is hard to find the line between guiding her to understand the impact that her behaviour has on others and not making her feel ashamed about who she is.

We have spent the past 4 years putting these behaviours down to “teething”, “sleep apnoea”, “terrible 2’s, 3’s...”, “me working part-time” etc. but I suspect her underlying temperament is a major factor and is likely to be with us for life. With this in mind, how would you suggest we approach discipline to find that balance between avoiding unnecessary battles and not setting the stage for her to rule the household? How do we teach her to manage her affective arousal and mood swings effectively as a child so that this doesn’t cause her distress in her relationships as an adult?

I get the sense that we are standing on a knife edge and the next few years of parenting will determine whether we have a 14 year old with substance use problems and ODD or a determined and intelligent young woman who feels loved and cherished, living in our home in ten years time.

With your experience of managing kids and families over many years, I am hoping you can tell me there is hope, that there are things we can do now to give our beautiful girl and our family the best outcome. Can you recommend any references, strategies, therapies etc? We are equally committed and determined to find a way through.

With kindest regards, Lisa

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