Hi there! I am a mother of two and my child is out of control! She is a diva! My son will be 4 in November and my daughter will be 2 1/2. My husband and I are in our 30’s and have really enjoyed parenthood for the most part. My daughter has always been diva-ish but it is out of control now. When I say always, I mean I took her to the doctor when she was small (few months old) over and over thinking that she must have another ear infection to no avail. The paediatrician finally told me it was her “personality” that we were seeing. “Are you kidding me?” is what escaped my mouth and I still ask that question every day. I am not one of those crazy women on TV who gives into their children’s every whim and I try to be as consistent as possible but she is blowing my mind. For me to reach out to help over the internet is me at my wits end.
Her temper tantrum throwing screaming fits are too much. I do not intend to live like this and she is not a happy human being. No one should cry and scream every single day of their lives, should they? She has these tremendous verbal skills so I know she can use words and for months I have repeated that over and again, “use your words”. Nope. She won’t. When she screams I now have her go into the bathroom and shut the door. She won’t stay and I have even sat in there with her to try and get her to calm herself down but she gets more irate. All of these experts say that the kids are getting something out of the fit in order to do it again and again..what is it? What can a human being get out of sitting in a bathroom? Negative attention from me you might say, well, I’ve thought of that as well and I make an extremely conscious effort to praise her on “good choices” and very “thoughtful behaviour”.
Both of my children are in Montessori and we believe strongly in respect for children. But I must admit I have even tried spanking my child but quickly realized that this was not doing any good. I felt horrible taking advantage of someone so small and I was hurting her, which was a dead end! I apologized to her and have even gone so far as telling her that the book I have been reading is helping me learn how to help her cope with her emotions. Can she be in constant pain that makes her so mad? I was diagnosed with Lyme disease a couple of years ago and went through 6 months of IV antibiotics. I called my family doctor this am to try and sign up a time for her to be tested! I am just looking for answers. Surely this is not her personality? Can people be born to throw crazy fits all the time? I thought those people were made by irrational parenting.
I am exhausted every morning before my day starts because there is always a “fit” about something. and I feel horrible because I truly feel like someone can do a better job raising her than my husband and I. This is just not a good fit. Can you believe these things are coming out of my mouth? Whew, I’m losing it aren’t I? Help! Tiffany
No, you’re not losing it, even though I’m sure you feel like it at times. But if there was ever a time I should for your own sake come out and say, please look at my behaviour intervention service this would be it. That’s not to sell myself but it’s because you obviously need help and as much as I can try and establish what to do in a letter, my efforts will fall short as all I can do is give you an idea as to the big picture.
Having said that, I recognize you want as much help as you can get in a letter so I will try and address what’s happening the best I can. First, I understand you’re simply getting desperate and there isn’t a mother on the planet that hasn’t felt those emotions at one time or another. Take heart, you can get through this and both her and you will come out on the other side. Here are some things that I’ve garnered from your letter that I think will help you out on that journey.
You are practising avoidance
I’m going to be very forthright with you because I think that’s the only way I can be really helpful. I’m also going to speak as though you have ruled out medical issues as causing these problems. Ok, firstly, you are practicing avoidance. Every morning you wake up dreading the day in front of you and no wonder. However hard you might try those feelings will likely affect the way you act during the day. It’s natural as a human being to avoid those things or activities that are likely to create problems.
Your daughter, despite being only two and a half knows subconsciously that you are not in control. Her moods are affecting your day and that of everyone else in the family and your days seem built around her and her moods. She has taken the position of Queen Bee and needs to be removed. Why? Because it’s not good for her or anyone else. Control is not a bad word and helping parents establish it is what I do.
Your daughter is trying to send you a message
Now, to why she’s acting like this. Children are very smart and also very intuitive. They feel comfortable when you are taking care of things. The moment that balance changes, they feel lost. They fight, scream, yell and participate in a number of rotten activities to get you to change that balance back to where it should be. When you are in control, you make her feel safe. When she feels safe she will stop doing many of the activities that currently drive you crazy. She may always have diva tendencies but you can get her current behaviour to stop.
Ok, now you may ask exactly what is is that gives me the feeling that you are not in control, after all you’re putting her in time-out and you’re being fairly consistent etc. If you tell a child that you’re reading a book to help you deal with her emotions, you are sending a very powerful message. That message is, “I don’t know what I’m doing. You are causing me difficulty and I’m lost.” When you avoid activities based on her mood, you are doing the same thing. In addition, when you put her in the bathroom one minute but then change to hugging her the next minute, you are again sending that same message.
To fix this you have to take the lead
So to fix this problem, here’s what you need to do. You have to take the lead. That means recognizing when she’s doing things right and completely ignoring her drive to get negative attention. To start with if you see any good behaviour, notice. All kids want attention and want to be noticed so make sure that if she does do anything kind or helpful, encourage her and thank her genuinely for her contribution.
Consistency in parenting is everything
For challenging behaviour devise a time out strategy and stick to it. Practice the same response every time she misbehaves. If you decide to put her in time-out and she won’t stay there, take her firmly back and have minimal contact with her so you don’t give her any attention for behaving badly. If you must say something, keep it brief. You have decided you simply don’t want to have anything to do with her if she behaves like that. If I invited you over and you screamed blue murder at me I’d be unlikely to invite you again. All you are teaching her is logical consequences. Believe me, once she knows that you mean business and you are running the shop things will get better.
Provide two paths
As soon as she figures this out, much of her behaviour will stop but this is not an easy process. At the same time as refusing to negotiate with her, praise her for any remotely good behaviour. Give her opportunities to help you and make a big fuss when she does. Make sure that you and your husband are on the same page and behave with her in the same way. It’s really a question of providing two paths. On one path she gets lots of positivity and being noticed for being helpful and on the other, she gets no attention at all. You are simply saying if you act nicely people will want to be around you. If you don’t then…..
Try to start this only when you have some support as for the first few days that you implement this plan, her behaviour will get worse. That’s because she really wants to find out if you are steering the ship and she will do everything in her power to make sure that’s the case. Analogies aside, it won’t be fun but I’m sure you can do it. A few days of misery is all there is between where you are now and success.
For a precise guide to time-out, do a keyword search in my archives as I’ve described it several times or better yet, take a look at my behaviour intervention service as that comes with a plan, and step by step notes based on your family. Take care and all the best,