Monday, January 25, 2010


So my oldest who is five is a bright, fun and thoughtful girl. She's also extremely melodramatic, and can't seem to let things go... everything that doesn't go her way is literally the end of the world in her mind.

Lately this behavior is disruptive in her class. I am at a loss as to how to deal and manage her behavior...and help her change it.

This morning as we walked to her class, she was running around with her friends and her umbrella when her ponytail came loose and her clip holding her bangs fell out...and she had a sobbing breakdown, halfway to her classroom. I explained that standing there and crying would not fix her hair, the best choice was to walk over to her classroom and then I could fix it for her. She was incredibly worried about what people would think of her.

Eventually she calmed down and we were able to get in line and do her hair, give her a hug and a kiss. I talked to her about how when she was crying and freaking out it didn't help solve the problem. I explained that being calm and having me help her solved the problem. I could tell she was still holding onto those frantic emotions she had. I watched her walk into the classroom with her classmates and then watched as she broke down into tears again.

That's when I went over and she did her routine, "I'm scared!" and "everyone's looking at me" (when no one cares or is even looking at her) talk and starts to really freak herself out... she knows how to make herself more and more the point where once she has her freak out she's fine. Every kid in the 24 kid classroom walked in, deposited their coats, backpacks, lunch boxes and then picked their work box up from their cubbies and sat down to work. My daughter was cowering next to me, refusing to let it go. The teacher eventually had to come over and work her magic. She is magic to me. I told her how sorry I was and her teacher told me to go take a breath, she'd take care of it.

This is frustrating because... intellectually - my 5 year old is at the top of her class... socially... incredibly immature when it comes to anything that doesn't go her way.

What do I do??? I've started to give her specific, consistent chores... ever since she was 18 months she's been into her appearance... she's so overly aware of details and what people think... or what she thinks people think ... I worry that if we don't get things taken care of now...she's going to have a hard go of it as a teen with peer pressure.

I don't know what to do. My 3 year old could not give a rat's bum what anyone else thinks. Rewards, timeouts... don't work on her. With my 5 year old... anytime she's told to go to timeout for talking back, poking her sister in the eye, etc... it's instant tears and manipulation "you don't love me, you hate me... you don' t think I'm cute."



wendysue said...

Oh my, my, this is exactly my oldest. It doesn't seem like that long ago that she dramatically ran to her room after being sent to time out and bawled. . "I'm NOT a princess anymore!!" I do remember thinking I had done something, or was disciplining wrong, or that I seriously needed to fix things or she was going to be anorexic, or some major thing. I talked with my mother, teachers, everything. I think what she really needed was time. That's hard to hear when you're in it (I know.), but I think at that age, they just need to figure out their own emotions. Sometimes, yes, they are blown way out of proportion, but she'll figure it out. I think it took until about 2nd grade for my Maddie. Sometimes I think the more that I talked about it, the worse it got. I just tried to acknowledge her feelings, validate her feelings (whether it was crazy or not), then try to talk her down. Sometimes it also meant leaving her to deal with those crazy emotions by herself.

So, she WILL grow up, and learn how to handle those big emotions. In the mean time, just do what you do best, hold her and love her, and tell her you do.

wendysue said...

Oh, and Maddie is now a well rounded, happy as can be 5th grader, with bits of acne and a bra, and she's as tall as me. That's a whole new ball game.

La Yen said...

With Jooj we have been really trying to give her choices about where she can have her meltdowns. Much of the time she wants an audience more than she wants to freak out. So when we say "You can cry in your room" she stops pretty quickly. I think, too, that it is important for them to learn that public freakouts are not okay. And that, while it is fine for them to be upset, they need to know that we don't lose it in the middle of the whatever.
Also, the more of the "older" shows she watches, the more of the drama. We have had to completely cut out anything that is not on NickJr or Noggin, and NOTHING that isn't Mickey from Disney. Anything with yelling girls is dead out--I think it gives her ideas.

Kalli Ko said...

Oh geez, this is why I am a mother to a boy, because I have no freaking idea how to handle emotional stuff. I mean I can barely contain myself most days as demonstrated by my last post.

My only idea would be the positive reinforcements, which I'm betting you're already on top of, for when she handles situations in a more mature way but that's it, all I've got.

cabesh said...

I think it's at least partially the 5 year old boy has discovered manipulation and ultimatums ("I'm never going to eat again if I can't have the blue plate"). Chloe didn't do much of it, but what she did was around age 5.

With Crossley, I pretend not to care. In response to above I'll shrug and say, "Your choice, your loss," and go on with dinner. I find that when we ignore the dramatics they stop pretty quickly.

Queen Scarlett said...

Wendysue - THANK YOU - knowing your oldest did go through this is so comforting. I think I need to have more patience with her...and I don't have much to begin with.
Today I took her out for soup and to find red hots. I think having her sister so close to her... really robbed my attention seeker of her time. I need to make more one-on-one time with just her.

La Yen - good idea... also both my 5 and 5 YO know how to...and do SLAM doors. Holy cow!

Kalli Ko - I need to do MORE... make a BIGGER deal with positive reinforcements... sometimes when they're so good... it's so easy...I forget...because I have brain damage. ;-) So thanks for the reminder.

Cabesh - I think I'll try that indifferent approach again. I tried that when they were younger...and holy cow they have perseverance... it would not stop... they could go for 30 min stretches...

Thanks ladies...really helped me feel less nervous about her sanity. ;-)

~j. said...

Wowza. Not an easy situation, for sure.

My first inclination is to say that it can be attributed to her being the oldest. My oldest did that, as did I, each in our own ways (the freak-outs, the need for everything to be perfect). But my current almost-6 year-old does it, too. So then I think that it's an age thing. But my 8-year-old didn't do this. So what I've come up with is this:


Brilliant, I know.

(It's what I do.)

Having been a freaker-outer, though, as well as a manager of freaker-outers, I agree with what's been said by the others here. Try those out. They may work, they may not. Some of it may very well be age-appropriate behaviour (albeit amplified). It can also be situational.

Sometimes a reminder does the trick when a meltdown begins in public; when it doesn't, we can remove ourselves from The Public, and I don't have a problem with letting them know how inconvenient that is (and what we might be missing out on, etc.).

Sometimes I do the Indifferent thing, but then upon hearing what they're saying I get the sense and understand that they really need extra attention.

At this point, my older kids understand (though sometimes they need to be reminded) that they are, indeed, allowed to feel the way they do, but they are not allowed to throw the kind of fits that disrupt everyone else around them (sometimes I'm giving this reminder as I take their hand and walk them to their beds, where they are more than welcomed to cry/scream into their pillow).

You can do this. You know your girl. You love her. Like Wendy said, tell her that you love her. If she's looking for reassurance, that will help her.

dalene said...

Excellent advice from everyone already. I think you handled it great. Like you, I tend to try the logic approach--let them identify the problem and ask whether asking for help or freaking out is more likely to help solve the problem. Proceed from there.

I don't really have any advice, but I will just offer the words of comfort a wise friend used to constantly share with me: this too shall pass.

In the heat of the moment it's easy to go to worst-case-scenario (currently i'm quite sure i'm raising a future juvenile delinquent). But time will add a little perspective and will help you worry less and hope more.


GreenJello said...

I found it really helped to acknowledge their feelings. Just mirror back what they're saying: "You don't like it when you think everyone is looking at you? I'm sure you feel uncomfortable." or "It's hard on you when you think everyone is staring at you. It makes you feel embarrassed."

Logic doesn't work when emotions are running high. Use the logic at a different time, by role-playing possible scenarios. Then, during a meltdown, you can say, "Remember what we practiced? We're going to do that now." And then do it.