Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What's goin' on

Halloween went OK. Bella was an enthusiastic Barbie Mariposa, Bubba a reluctant and petulant monkey. I went as a grumpy mother who hung back at the curb and let my husband do all the door knocking with the kids. We were out waaaay too late - Bubba has a self-imposed 7:30 bedtime that he likes to stick to, and by the time I pulled up to the house at 9:30 he was a screaming, snotty mess. However, the mini Hershey bar that my husband had given Bubba kicked in around 2Am, when Bubba decided to wake up and play for three hours. He fell back asleep around 5AM, and I was miserable.

I worked all day Saturday on minimal sleep, then after work I took the kids and my MIL to the hayride where my FIL works. I was sick, tired, and very, very grumpy. The games and food were open for 15 minutes after we got there then promptly closed down. We got in line for the hayride and waited for an hour for our turn. And after the hour wait, with a fussy eight-month old, the kids hated it. Bella spent the time time with her head buried in my MIL's sweater, and Bubba screamed almost the whole time (the other people yelling and screaming scared him) and buried his face in my neck. I had done a wonderful job of not complaining up to that point - I did not want to be there but kept that to myself. However, when Bella was cowering under the sweater and Bubba was screaming into my neck I could take no more, and looked over at my MIL and said, "Boy, this was worth the hour wait, wasn't it?" She just kind of laughed and nodded.

Bella has seemingly lost her mind. I am completely at a loss. She has not only kicked the general bad behavior into high gear, but she's also suddenly on a destructive binge - just over the last few days she has started breaking things. And she has never done anything like that before. She cut the pre-measured yarn for a needlepoint thing she is making into teeny-tiny pieces that are not usable for sewing, despite being told not to do it. And when I told her she wouldn't be able to use the yarn she just kind of shrugged and said, "Throw it away, I don't care". Yikes! She has broken multiple toys, the towel rack in her bathroom, the plastic kitchen colander.....I could go on, but I don't want to relive it.

I am alarmed. Something is brewing. I and don't know what is up. Her teacher sent home a note Monday with a circled frowny face and a note that said, "WILL NOT STOP TALKING". Yikes. I e-mailed her and asked her for a conference, because something is going on. Every bit of my maternal instinct is screaming with alarm. I don't know what is happening, but something is awry. I can't get Bella to talk to me, so I'm thinking at the conference Friday afternoon I might see if the guidance counselor at school will meet with her, and see if she can discern anything about what might be at the root of this sudden 360-degree behavior change.

Bella has never been an angel, understand, nor do I expect her to be. I don't expect perfection, but for the last month or so things have just gotten really, really bad. I have come up with a plan for around the house, I think - here are a few ideas that I have been kicking around:
  • To get into a routine that we will attempt to stick to as much as possible
  • Make rules for the house, that will be somewhere in plain sight and that everyone will have to follow - grown-ups included
  • Establish set consequences for rule-breaking
  • Make Bella more responsible for her own day-to-day care - making sure her bookbag is packed, making her own lunch, laying out her uniforms, etc
  • Actually make her do the chores on her chore list (gee, what a novel idea)
  • If we are home together, we eat dinner together - and no television
  • We are going to move ahead with the TV coupon idea - I think it's kind of lame but I also think it is necessary - the child has toys and games and anything else you could imagine to play with but all she wants to do is watch television
  • Sunday is going to be family day - it generally has been, unofficially, but now it's official
  • Bella is going to start getting an allowance, but bad behavior at home or at school and/or not completing her assigned tasks can cause the amount to drop

Those are just a few notions I've been considering. We'll see, but at this point I am willing to try anything. My sweet little girl has been replaced by this sullen, angry, belligerent, destructive child that I feel like I don't know, and I didn't expect that to happen at least until she was a pre-teen or so.

I think, in my heart of hearts, the place where you know the truth but don't want to admit it, that it is a matter of attention, or rather what she is perceiving as a lack of attention. The whole 'negative attention is still attention' school of thought, on her part. I don't think we are paying her enough attention, and I think she is acting out because of it. And my reaction to that thought is mixed - on the one hand, I feel horrible and guilty, but then on the other hand I just think, that's life. People have siblings, you have to share the attention, that's just how it is. I think I need to find balance between the two.

If anyone has a suggestion - teacher, parent, whom or whatever, I'm open to it. And eager to hear it, because I'm baffled and fresh out of ideas.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Hooray! My education, development, and classroom management classes are coming into use!

Rules! Post them, make sure she understands them, and make sure she understands that there will be punishment. The key is to find one that works - writing sentences, removing toys, allowance, etc. When Mac was a toddler the best punishment was to make him sit by himself in the hallway. Simple and bloodless, but it pissed him off ten ways to Sunday.

Bella was jumping around on the chair I was sitting in last Saturday and I told her to stop. She didn't. I stopped doing whatever I was doing, and in my best teacher/mommy voice (honestly I think they're the same thing) I said, "Bella, I told you to stop. I am not playing around. (dramatic pause) Stop." I eyeballed her till she stopped and found something else to do.

I mean, she's a doll when she's with me, so it's easy. I think you have all the right ideas, just be consistent in whatever you do. My experience with teaching leads me to believe that predictability, routine, and consistency are some of the best preventative measures you can take.

Maybe we should have a girls night out...go get a pedicure and see a movie. I saw a girl her age at a salon getting a pedicure and she didn't seem to hate it. Think she'd be up for it?

You're doing fine...I can't think of anything else to add to what you've put down already.

Make a list for your conference so you won't leave anything out. Be skeptical - I mean, you've seen her acting out at home, but don't take the teacher's word as gospel. She has one side of the story, and from what you've told me...(shrug)

Lemme know how it goes, or even if you want help. :)