Compulsions… Or Just Being Three?


Lately Nookie has been exhibiting some worrying behaviour… She’s started becoming rather obsessive about things, to the point where it’s making everyone’s life difficult. Climbing into bed is no longer a simple matter. It involves a set routine of steps for both of us, and if I make a mistake, climb too soon, or she slips, all hell breaks loose and she has a complete and utter meltdown! I don’t mean a little paddy, I mean a full-on screaming fit that takes her ages to come out of! Opening doors, allowing anyone into the house, getting dressed/undressed, passing her the TV remote… all these simple tasks have suddenly become immensely difficult and stressful for the whole family.

Sometimes it’s not an issue and she does it without thinking. But other times, woe betide anyone who doesn’t do what she’s specified (usually if she’s tired or has just woken up)! This evening she had a fifteen minute meltdown after Hedgehog didn’t take her T-shirt off exactly right. No amount of putting it back on for her would soothe the initial offense. She screamed the house down for ten whole minutes.

When I’ve asked others if this is normal three-year-old behaviour I’ve had a range of answers. Some seem to feel this is usual toddler stuff and that she’ll grow out of it. Others think she’s gone way beyond what’s normal and I should take her to see a doctor. I always err on the side of not over-reacting when it comes to behaviour, especially given Nookie’s “high-needs” temperament… but it really is starting to become a bit of a nightmare! Mornings have become hellish! She spent the first hour this morning after getting up going from one meltdown to another until I was screaming at her to stop screaming at me. The emotions in the whole house just up and up and up until everyone is shouting at everyone else. It’s really fucking hard.

People really aren’t kidding when they say three-year-olds are hard work are they? Damn rewarding work, but hard work all the same.

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3 responses to “Compulsions… Or Just Being Three?

  1. Georgina

    Oh no, I have this to come :( Sorry I can';t be of any help to you except to echo your last part, ‘three year olds are hard work’ is it terrible twos and tantrams at three?

  2. My thoughts are with you. I started to type one response but it just went on and on! I will try to make it coherent and make a blog post out of it. For now, I’d like to say Nookie sounds normal for a child who is allowed to express herself! We had a *very* difficult year three. Worse than year two. I almost sent cupcake to nursery – that’s how bad it got (sob).

    As for mornings – is she getting enough sleep? ha ha, I know, I know, the question is full of impossibilities for me too! Still, is there some way that could be a factor (even if you can’t change her sleep pattern at least understanding that it could be a factor might help)

    Also, watch out for low blood sugar – is she still breastfeeding? If not then try keeping a biscuit/muesli bar and a drink by the bed (to give her immediately upon waking). She may be going 12 hours or more without food if she’s no longer breastfeeding – enough to make anyone grouchy.

    What else comes to mind? Is she sensitive to dust/animal dander/ ever wheezy etc? Some people don’t suffer allergies during the day but struggle with the dust mite haven that our beds are. Buy anti-allergy pillow covers? Vacuum the bed? Seriously, it pays not to underestimate the power of physical dis/comfort in altering our mood.

    Clothing – have you considered her high needs may extend to some skin sensitivity with fabrics, labels etc? This might just be a temporary issue too.

    Also, I don’t follow the idea that giving a child choice means they are allowed to choose how the parents do any and all stuff. Consider her requests for you but do not let her requests lead you into distress. You need to protect your psychological wellbeing so you can protect hers. Model how to refuse another’s request without refusing the person.

    When declining unreasonable requests do so kindly (of course) then explain, empathise and console as necessary. However, stop your verbalising when she is caught up in a spiral of frustration – seriously, think head meet brick wall! Don’t go there! There is a time and place for talking, discussion, options, and it is *not* with a hollering 3 year old! Keep your words simple, kind, patient and repeat, repeat, repeat.

    Once things have calmed down and you’ve both reconnected you can revisit the issue more calmly.

    Overall, do all you can to keep yourself calm so you stand a better chance of calming her. Also, there’s a NLP thing – shake your hands out when you find yourself getting angry. If you can remember to do it before you’re in full frustration mode it will help release tension and defuse anger (there’s a bio-chemical explanation behind it that escapes me right now). I have also managed to distract Cupcake from her screaming whilst doing that – bonus!

    Anyway, I’ll do that post like I said – chin up buttercup, this too will pass (but not before it has shaped your life into something unrecognisable!) lol :-)

    • Thanks for the reassurance! :) She’s actually calmed down a little bit with it, but it’s still there… just not as intense.

      She’s never got what you’d call a “normal” amount of sleep for her age, but I think she’s getting what’s normal for her. She seems to have a string of days where she only gets about 11 hours of sleep in 24, but then every week or so she’ll have an epic straight 14 hours that seems to start the cycle again.

      Yep she’s still breastfeeding… a lot! I’m starting to become a little irritated at the frequency really. My “inner voice” is telling me no three-year-old should be breastfeeding this much. There I go with the “should” again, rather than just listening to her needs. :/

      Well the dust thing is a problem, and our bedroom is terribly damp at the minute… it affects my allergies and asthma but I hadn’t given any thought to whether it may be affecting Nookie. I guess we’ll see when we eventually move!

      Yeh I’m working on the requests thing at the moment, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. I don’t normally refuse her but lately I’ve just reached the point where I can’t do it anymore and have had to say no, regardless of her screaming and crying. I have to remind myself that she has every right to ask and to be upset, and that I have to stay calm and not get cross because she’s upset! It’s easier said than done isn’t it!

      Thanks for the tip. And as always for your support Lily. :)

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