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Re: PLEASE HELP! 23 Month Old Emotional Problems Out of Control
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Published: 16 years ago
This is a reply to # 1,052,630

Re: PLEASE HELP! 23 Month Old Emotional Problems Out of Control

Hi -

You know, I really hate it when someone blames the mother/parents for causing poor behavior, for it certainly isn't always the case. People seem to have no idea that there are some 2-year-olds that struggle with emotional difficulties just as some adults do... and it's through no fault of the parents, except possibly genetics. Before either of our children were even born, our pediatrician told us that there will be a small percentage of children that will be high-strung and difficult to manage, just because of the personality they are born with. And I have two of them.

I have gone what you are going through and feel your pain. Ignore the "bad mother" burden that people will try to put on you. If you are raising your child in a loving environment, providing structure and rules defining appropriate behavior, making sure that your child knows that the adults are in charge, treating your child patiently, and modeling appropriate behavior yourself and it is still not working, then IT IS NOT YOU! You have to find your own confidence about that from within, because relatives (perhaps even your spouse) and even complete strangers will think that they somehow have enough experience to tell you otherwise. And they will think that they are somehow doing you a favor by "enlightening" you about this.

Your son's behavior is a warning sign that your child is struggling with something, but it can be extraordinarily difficult to figure out what it is.

It sounds like your situation might even be more difficult than what we went through. We didn't have the abandonment issue... perhaps because our kids were in daycare and were used to not always having me around. Beginning at 18 months, our second son began having extreme non-ending temper tantrums that would go on for hours. This went on for years. Finally at age 8 or 9, we learned that he was struggling with a language disability, ADHD and other learning disabilities. I was foolish and assumed that the school would tell us if there was a problem, but I learned later that the teachers at the school were actually discouraged from identifying childhood issues. I deeply regret that I didn't know enough to get him help sooner but I was inexperienced and didn't know what was normal. (Our older son was also difficult to raise, although definitely not to the same degree.) Please do not interpret this to mean your child has learning disabilities or emotional problems. I can only tell you what happened in our situation, and not whether it applies to you.

In hindsight, I believe what was happening with our son is that he just could not communicate what he wanted or what he was feeling. We also learned later that he could not "put on the brakes." Once in emotional despair, he did not have an effective mechanism to calm himself down. This was described to us as difficulty with Executive Functions - initiate, suspend, inhibit and sustain. The acronym is ISIS. His language disability became apparent by the second grade, although the school fought and fought and fought me for years on providing tests to evaluate him. That's a whole nother story, and if you find yourself in that situation YOU must become your child's best advocate. The schools usually don't have your child's best interest in mind when determining how to utilize their limited funds.

I know what I would do differently now if I had the chance... but that doesn't help me much now. But perhaps these thoughts will help you in some small way.

The first is to consider both of your childhood backgrounds. If either of you (or any siblings) had any known childhood issues, such as delayed speech, reading difficulties, etc. that is a huge red flag that your child may need more help than you alone can provide. My husband had delayed speech until age 6 and some mild reading issues, and unfortunately, this was unknown to me until far too late.

If your son is indeed having trouble communicating, then try to find ways to help him let you know what he is trying to tell you. Some parents teach their child sign language. Or you might say something like, "I can see that you are trying to tell me something important. I will say a few of my ideas about what it might be, and you can nod your head if I say the right one (or clap, or whatever he's good at)." You and your child can also make some clever signs or cards with different pictures like milk, water, a favorite snack, happy face, sad face, a heart, an angry face, pictures of all members of your family... anything that he can point to, or combine to try to tell you what he is thinking. Your child may be able to master concepts in pictures, but not yet in words.

He also needs to know that it is okay to be angry once in a while, but he needs to help you figure out why... because it is not a good idea to be angry for a really long time. Be non-judgmental about it.

Over the next two years, you need to watch your child carefully for signs of learning issues. You are fortunate that you have three other children for comparison. Watch for motor delays, delays/frustration with word communication, odd pronunciations, difficulty learning sounds of letters, and difficulty with recognizing rhyming. Watch for difficulty recognizing sound similarities/rhyming words. Learning disabilities take many forms, and these are the forms I'm familiar with, but there are others. Being way too talkative, having poor social skills, avoiding eye contact, poor comprehension of humor or lack of emotional control can be other signs.

If you see significant signs that continue to concern you, you can go to the school before your child is even school age and request to talk to someone about CHILDFIND. I really missed the boat on this entirely... I had no idea it even existed. The schools are mandated to try to identify children who are struggling BEFORE THEY EVEN START SCHOOL. You will need to do the research on CHILDFIND yourself and learn what your rights are. This is about all I know about it, having learned about it far too late. The schools play all sorts of games to try to avoid letting parents know what resources are available and the process you must follow to get these services. With some schools you even have to know the "special words" to unlock the door to that world, and I can tell you from personal experience that the school personnel may even be discouraged from telling you what those words are. So do the research, and find out exactly how you need to ask for these services. You might even be told your child is obviously too intelligent to have learning disabilities, but this is one of the greatest misconceptions and may even be a subterfuge to turn you away. Do not fall for it. If your child is highly intelligent and still struggling, that is a major warning sign and may mean you have a gifted/LD child.

Both parents have to be supportive and sympathetic to the child. If at all possible, you need to work as a team on this. That is not how it went at our house, unfortunately, which simply made it even more difficult to help our son.

Best wishes on your journey. Hopefully you will find ways to help your child (and yourself) through this. It can be quite trying emotionally on you as well, and my heart goes out to you. It may be difficult over the next few years, until your child reaches their own "age of reason". Then hopefully the two of you will be able to have open, non-judgmental discussions about what they are experiencing which will be helpful to both of you. For most children, that is around age 7, but for our son it was delayed a couple of years. Get your child used to having these kind of sympathetic talks now, but understand that what you will hear at this age is closer to magical thinking than reality.

Always make your child be aware that you love him, and will always be there for him. I'm willing to bet that because you are already writing about this situation here, you are a loving mom and already do this.

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