Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hell Week

Just about exactly when Zane turned three, he started to have episodes of defiance and anger.  At first I thought it was just because he was going through a lot of changes.  Potty training, leaving daycare, starting school, going on a trip to Maine.  He also had begun to skip naps at school.  I was confident that this phase would pass soon after we got back from Maine and settled into a routine.

But no, it got worse!  Because he was skipping naps at school and only having to stay on his nap mat for 30 minutes, he decided he no longer needed to nap at home.  I didn't get it at first, and I just thought he was having an occasional bout of wakefulness, which had happened before.  We began having hysterical fights about staying in his room for nap time.  One day he was shrieking and screaming at me and crying.  He finally was sobbing and told me to say I was sorry!  I felt so bad.  What was going on?  Why did he feel like I was abusing him when we were doing what we always did?

He also began having blitzkrieg flashes of astounding anger.  We had never experienced this with Zane before!  What was going on?  He would be fine one moment, and then all of a sudden would snap and shriek and yell and try to run or struggle.  He would lash out and hit.  The trigger could be something like, "it's time to put on your shoes."  There was no reasoning with him.

Mid-October was just the worst.  It was Hell Week.  We did have some fun going to a how-to-fight-zombies book release party with Michael doing a martial arts demo with his horse chopper, then to Zane's first play The Cat In the Hat, and later in the week a trip to Remlinger Farms.  But at any moment he could have a full freak-out breakdown, even about things we thought he would like!  After the play, he got incredibly upset when Michael bought him a super cute puppet he had been admiring!  I began to have chest pains, and I was afraid to announce any changes to Zane, because I never knew when he would explode.  I still followed regular routines and rules, I didn't give in, but I was stressed about it.

So, I checked out some books.  I started reading about three year olds and positive discipline methods.  I'd read some of these things before, but I needed a refresher.  I reached out to other parents for advice.  Basically, the upshot was that Zane was being a completely normal three year old, testing his boundaries and his new-found independence.  One book (and a friend), said that they fight most against their primary caregiver, and don't be afraid to just get a sitter.  We found through talking to other parents at Zane's school that they were having similar issues.  School is wonderful for teaching independence, and we were seeing the blow-back at home.  The child thinks, "I can make almost all of my own choices at school, so I get to at home, too!"  Nooo-ho-ho-ho!

I gave in to the idea of Zane giving up his nap.  He does have to have a 30 minute rest period, just like at school.  I bought a special clock which shows in red how much time is left within the space of an hour.  He can see exactly how much longer his "imprisonment" in his room will go on.  If he asks for us to come in, time gets added to the clock.  I also use the clock at bedtime to help him see how much time is left before lights out.  It helps us to get him in his pjs with teeth brushed in time to read a book.  He can see if he is running out of time, and one night even said, "Mama, get me dressed quickly!  Time is running out!".  Hurrah!  The upside of having no naps is that he goes to bed earlier, so I have more time to myself at night, and sometimes in the morning, too, as he is doing all of his sleeping at night.

We are being stern about the surly turns of mood.  I make Zane restate complaints in a positive way.  If moods don't improve he starts to lose belongings.  I find I even lay out consequences ahead of time, even before his mood turns dark.  That helps to keep the surly turns at bay.  Every day is still a lot of work, but I think things are better in general.  I'm glad we're working through it, but I sure will be glad when this phase is over!


Emily said...

Where did you get that cool clock/timer you're talking about?! We need one! Evelyn is going through the same kind of stuff and having a time allowance is a remedy I have in mind. Very cool.

Julia Pequlia said...

Here's the clock on Amazon: