Toddler Health/Wellness · Toddler Issues

The root of the problem, Part 1

This is Part 1 of an ongoing vent I’ve had in regards to my often-challenging son, B. For those of you that have been following for a long time, things recently came to a head.

When I was in college, I took some class (I can’t even recall what it was, family and child psychology?) and the professor was talking about the nature of arguing. How quickly an argument can spiral out of control, get nasty, and bring out some serious emotions when you’re not careful. He told us to always, always find the “root of the problem”. Underneath whatever the argument is about on the surface, there’s always a deeper issue lurking beneath and it needs to be addressed.

My husband and I have been together a very long time, and some of the harder years together were in college. This makes sense, of course – it’s a time for finding yourself, hanging with new, fun people, trying new things. It’s all NEW, and my husband and I, at the same college, were NOT new. It was hard for us as a couple to make the transition over those years. We did, though, unscathed and moved on to the rest of our lives after that.

But one day after a time period of some nasty fights, I went to his dorm room with my notebook from class and asked if I could talk to him about making our arguments go more smoothly. He, thankfully, obliged. 12 years-ish later, I recall opening the notebook on his bed and showing him the notes I had taken from class. From that day on, I (and he) tried REALLY hard to get to the root of each and every argument or issue we faced. It saved a lot of hurt feelings and ugly words when we didn’t have to react to the surface-level crap, but could dig deep to find the true source of the problem. I’m still thankful that he was willing to listen to me and not dismiss what I had to say. This relationship was in it for the long haul, and at 20 years old, I saw the importance of finding the source of the issue.

This college experience popped into my head today, as I’ve spent many hours (and days, and weeks, and really – months and years) thinking about my now three-year old, B. He’s always been a challenge, but not in the “typical” way. He was never a climber. He’s not adventurous. He never would blatantly “defy” what we told him to do. But yet, he had all these small little issues.

A few weeks ago, I waved the white flag. I spent all summer trying out different, typical strategies for managing his 3-year old behavior – the hitting, pushing, talking back, arguing, screaming, etc. That pleasant stuff. It’s normal, to an extent, I think. So I tried out the normal ways of handling these issues. None of them worked. None of them helped him push the “pause” button, none of them quieted him down, calmed him. Then the baby was born, and a few months later, I tried potty training.

Finally, one morning we had somewhere fun to be and we were all in a rush. He wasn’t having it. I’m certain he could sense my urgency and he fought back against it. What was the surface level issue that brought it all on? It was his waffle. I can’t even recall – I think he wanted both crunchy and smooth peanut butter, but I had done them in the wrong order. No – he wanted to help me smooth them out on the waffle but he wouldn’t come to the table to do it. THEN they were in the wrong order. Then I missed putting peanut butter in one of the holes. Then I grabbed the wrong napkin. Then – everything was ready to eat, finally, and he just couldn’t get himself to calm down. He started trying to dump his chair at the table. He pushed his plate away. He started screaming. Now, I had C who needed breakfast and a baby in the other room who needed to sleep just a few more minutes before I had to feed him. I put B on the deck. I didn’t know what else to do. The deck was right next to the dining room table so I could see him at all times. I told him that he would stay out there until he calmed down. When he was calm, he could come back in and try again. I had to lock the door. Yes, I locked my  3 year old outside. I was at my wits end, after, like I said, a long summer.

To make that morning’s story short – he screamed, SCREAMED for 2 hours. I tried bringing him inside, trying to feed him, putting him back outside, etc, etc. He was so upset outside that he went and dumped over all our deck chairs. He JUST turned 3. Dumping deck chairs. So much time passed and we were already late, so eventually I put his waffle in a bag. Breakfast would have to wait, he had plenty of chances and he wouldn’t eat. HE LOST IT. So as I was loading the other two into the van, he was screaming bloody murder on our driveway. Soon, a man came up the driveway. A neighbor I never talk to. He wanted to know if everything was okay. If B was hurt. If we needed help. That he heard B for a very long time and he was concerned. Yes – this really happened.

That was the final day, the final straw.

That evening, after he had another nuclear meltdown for my husband which stressed both of us out, I called our old Birth to 3 lady. I never really thought she knew her stuff when she came to our house, but I didn’t know where else to turn for advice. Knowing that B had some sensory issues when he was younger (vestibular system stuff due to lack of crawling, and then sensitive to foods and textures), and after I described an incident that same day where B asked to swing, and after I said no, said that he would go and rock on the couch instead – she thought perhaps he still might have some sensory things that could use assistance. Maybe some outpatient OT might help him. I started making some phone calls, but I also mentioned his issues to the chiropractor working with Baby I for his tongue tie (another long story). I ended up bringing him in to see her.

More to this ongoing story…to be continued!

When Your Toddler Wants Control, Twin Edition


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