Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A Push Too Far

PJ is and has been pushing trying to push the boundaries. I say in 5 minutes it is time to go and 5 minutes later, I say it is time to go and she says: just one more go and carries on doing what she was doing.
I say leave the cat alone and she runs again to the cat and grabs him.
We are about to leave the house and she runs off around the downstairs, rather than going to the front door.
We are at her toddler dance session and she runs off up onto the sectioned off with chairs no go area. I have spent weeks bringing her back down to the dance floor and re-showing her where everyone dances and then again and again explaining where it is safe to dance, dancing with her and helping her to connect with the dance teachers and the group and have some sense of calm and beginning to join in. It was hard work. The dance teacher said: everyone do this and put her arms in the air. PJ shouted: everyone do this and bent her body over double and walked around like a crab. All the other toddlers were confused. Who should they copy? Who was the dance teacher? PJ tried several attempts to give differing instructions to the group and then resorted to sabotage. when all the toddlers had lovely scarves to dance with she nicked them all. Then ran. We have worked hard at establishing a sense of calm and routine and structure to help PJ settle and join in. She now just can't maintain it. She joins in and then suddenly, glances over at me and then goes to the back up and over or in and through the chair boundary. There she runs up and down, shrieking and giggling and thinking it is great fun. I look at her and point to the dance floor and she re-joins the group. She now does well for a short while again and then she is off again. I re-set the boundary: we join in or we go home. She runs off again. I get her and our things and we leave. Early.
She screams. She cried all the way home and asked for a DVD. I explained it wasn't DVD night and we were leaving early because she kept going where the chairs say no we cant go there to dance or run. I said we were going home and that once home and calm it would be time for our usual routine of a snack and a story and then CBeebies, whilst I cooked tea. She cried in my arms for half an hour. Every now and then she would stop crying and say can we watch a DVD now. No. Tears and sobs and pleading again in my arms, oh please can we. After an hour since we left the dance session we were finally watching CBeebies as planned and as usual, calm after snack and a story.
We are at one of her group sessions at toddler group and she pushes a child. I chat with her about it and she says they were in her way. I chat some more with her about asking people to move out of the way, suggesting phrases like: excuse me or suggest using the horn on her toy car she is making her way around the room in, at the time. She gets out of the car and runs full pelt across the room to push the same child again. I go to her and remove her from the by now crying small child and remind her that we will have to leave if she continues to push. If we are kind and gentle we can stay. A few minutes later she runs across the room again to the same child and pushes her really hard from behind. I get her and our things and say we are going home. Early.
She screams. Arms and legs flailing, I stay outside the car with the door open waiting for her to calm down sufficiently to do up the car seat. After several attempts at soothing and one of the car doors that was closed being locked, I finally get in the car successfully and drive home with PJ calmly and safely in her car seat. We discuss through the tears the need to be kind and not push and who is the grown up and she sobs as she points at me and says: Mummy. She is calm and has stopped crying before we get home, which is an improvement on the toddler dance session.
The reality of letting go of control and allowing me as her New Mummy be in charge, learning to trust another is hard.
Today, we go to a toy store. We look and try some of the toy cars. Fun! We had already seen the bikes en route and I had said they were only looking bikes ( I thought they were stacked in waaay too tightly to be try bikes.) We go along the row of cars and try them all and I say, now we are going to look at the baby dolls. She says she wants to go on the bikes. I say no, as they are only looking bikes, remember but too late, like slippery soap she is gone. In the midst of the bikes, is PJ, defiantly stamping her feet and folding her arms. I call her and try and get in between some of the bikes but she is in too far and darting and weaving in and out in the middle of the rows of bikes. I bash my head on the next layer of shelving and try and reach her. I go round the other side and reach her whilst saying rather loudly NO! and Come out of there, it is not safe in here in the bikes. they are only looking bikes. I said No. I pick her up and she sobs saying she doesn't want to go. She starts to hit me in the face. I twizzle her around and hold her hands either side of her body so she can't hit me and we interweave through the crowd of shoppers and leave the store. I put her down outside the door and we walk hand in hand towards the car. She is crying and i crouch down and explain again why we have had to leave. She wants to be carried and we get into the car and the car seat and chat some more. She says we are going home because I ran. I say yes, you did and it wasn't safe in all of the bikes. She says is sorry. I tell her I am sorry to, thank her for saying sorry and tell her we will come to the toy store again another day because we have to go home now.
We drive home calmly.


  1. I admire your patience! I saw that sort of behaviour from time to time with particular children at playgroups I have volunteered with, and it is heart-breaking to watch.

    From my observations, it can be very stressful to be in a group situation or in a big space or to be treated as part of a group. Very few children were completely comfortable; I could see it in their interactions with each other, the staff and their carers. It's just that some children have the resilience and patience to cope with that discomfort (a 'wait and see' mentality) and some children aren't quite there yet. With such variation in coping mechanisms, it's easy to miss that the internal experience of the playgroup may actually be quite similar for many toddlers -- scary, confusing, overwhelming.

    I wonder if PJ is sometimes confused or anxious or overwhelmed in these situations and chooses to deal with it by becoming physically agitated?

    I felt such empathy for the children in the groups that always seemed like they were carrying a monster inside. No wonder they were always trying to get away from themselves. :-(

    1. Thanks for your comments - yes - she gets anxious and overwhelmed and reverts to what she knows - the fear and fight and flight - she gets into a heightened anxiety state and can't self regulate at that point yet - she is also pushing and testing my boundaries too! A complex mixed bag.


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