Thursday, March 18, 2010

Well gee, thanks for that advice, Dr. Helpful

Yesterday I gave in and took Liza to the doctor. She's been complaining every night for the last two weeks about having a sore throat, but the complaints only come as part of the litany of reasons she can't get ready for bed yet, so I've been ignoring them. Yesterday she started with the runny nose and cough, though, so I figured it would be a good time to get her checked out and find out what the doctor recommended for seasonal allergies. Humidifier and Zyrtec for the win!

I also wanted to talk to the doctor about the anger management issues that Liza has been having recently. I know that the time change messes with sleep schedules, and stress can make kids do weird things, but the tantrums have just been out of control for the past few weeks. It's not just that she gets upset about normal things, like getting ready for bed - it's things like having a 20 minute screaming/kicking the wall/throwing things fit because "one of the kids started eating his snack before I was done making it into a smiley face on his plate" (not that she had told the kid to wait, or that she was doing something special with snack, or anything). And once she decides she's upset, it spirals out of her control, and we're in for seemingly endless inconsolable screaming over every. single. thing. She won't look at us, she won't be consoled, she won't stop flailing around - it would be entertaining if it was some other person's kid on YouTube, but it's my kid, and she's pissing me off.

Luckily this sort of crap just happens at home, not at school or at the park, but it's still not getting any better despite our attempts at helping her through it. Rationalization doesn't work, ignoring her doesn't work, consoling her doesn't work, deep breaths don't work, threats don't work, and we're starting to run out of ideas. Jason and I have both had to restrain ourselves from attempting to beat some sense into the kid. We know it won't help, but on the 10th day of "I-huh-can't-huh-stop-huh-crying-huh-because-huh-I-huh-don't-huh-want-huh-to-huh-brush-huh-my-teeth-huhwaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh" it starts to sound like a reasonable option.

Unfortunately, we got to see the "sick kid" doctor instead of Liza's regular pediatrician - yes, the practice is large enough that they have one doctor just for handling the kids who are sick and need to be seen the same day - so we didn't get the usual sympathetic ear. Instead we got:

  • This is very common in kids her age. [yeah, common in everyone except every other child she has ever played with]
  • Don't send her to her room, she has to learn to cope with the frustration where it happens. [that's going to be fun during playdates]
  • Hold her arms firmly in front of her, [did I mention it takes two of us to hold her down to brush her teeth some nights?]
  • Look her in the eye [you weren't paying attention to the "won't look at us" part, were you?]
  • And explain to her why her reaction isn't appropriate [you also tuned out the part where we already do that and it doesn't do squat because she still can't calm herself down, didn't you?].
  • Set a timer and tell her she has 10 minutes to calm herself down [also fun during playdates]
  • And ignore her during the 10 minutes but stay nearby [I guess you also missed the part about how she crawls up the front of me bodily, using my clothing as handholds if I refuse to pick her up? And what am I supposed to do when the 10 minutes is up and she's still not calm? Do I get to whack her then?]

I was polite and told her I would give it a try, but I also got her to give me the list of pediatric psychologists they recommend just in case we needed to up the ante a bit. Because honestly, she knows she's overreacting, and she understands that she needs to do things differently, but we haven't managed to come up with a coping strategy that will help her calm herself down. I swear, some days its like she's got the Niagara River of emotions going on in there, and she's just the poor schmuck in the barrel going over the falls (again and again).

The doctor did have some helpful suggestions about bedtimes, so we're going to try doing things a little differently. Instead of dinner - play a few minutes - bath - teeth and hair - books - bed, it's going to be dinner - teeth and hair - calm play longer than we used to - books - bed, and we'll do her bath in the mornings. That gives her more time to play outside now that it's light later, moves the toothbrushing so it's no longer part of the going-to-bed battle, and lets me do her hair in the mornings when she's more tractable. Bonus: with her hair wet, it's easier to convince her to let me pull it back out of her face into ponytails or braids, and it stays back neatly for a longer time.

The best part is that doctors of any sort are one step below God in Liza's list of Those Who Must Be Obeyed, so when she whines about the new schedule, I can just pull out the "sorry, the doctor said we should do it this way" card, and she's likely to go along with it. Boy, do I love using authority figures for my benefit!

And I've got that list of psychologists, just in case I need to call in another higher authority* for backup.

* Not sure she'd agree to the authority, though. When we went in to meet my mother's therapist, Liza didn't want to talk to her at all, and I think the longest sentence we got out of her the entire time was, "If you're a doctor, then where are your licenses and stuff?" Apparently having paintings and tapestries on the wall rather than diplomas makes you suspicious, as far as my daughter is concerned. I guess I'll have to pre-screen the potential psychologists for office decor as well as bedside manner ... sigh ...


Kimberly said...

It might help ease your mind to know that Morgan is going through the EXACT same phase. Her behavior is most frequently directed at her sister, but occasionally it also comes out with friends.

Our strategy is to tell her to calm down or go to bed. We've sent her to bed about it several times. She kicks the walls and screams like a banshee, then eventually she's calm again and we let her get out of bed. One day she actually fell asleep after her fit. Instead of psychological problems, I end up thinking she just needs more sleep because of a growth spurt or something.

Good luck, cuz it does suck!

mlf said...

My 7 year old is finally starting to mature out of this phase. For some reason, my 10 year old never entered it. I guess different kids are different.

I agree with Kimberly.

We used the "dump the kid in the room" routine when the kid threw a tantrum. While this might not be the pediatrician recommended practice, it certainly helped my sanity (and helped keep social services away).