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A Tough Day at Home with my 4 Year Old- it happens to all of us.

Posted by admin 4:20 am, 4 April 2016

I am writing this blog today while winding down from a behaviourally challenging morning with my 4 year old. It is certainly one of our tougher days, not only for her and for me but also for my friend and her daughter who had the pleasure of seeing these moments and also for my baby who wanted to be nursed and carried through the moment. The intention of this blog is to normalise the experience and to accept that these moments are developmentally normal providing us as parents with a task to feel as confident in managing as possible.

This fallout really started yesterday with a trip to the movies and to dinner with a few other families. Not only was it is a busy afternoon and evening but also not the most nutritious for her growing body. Then following a later night to bed she was woken up by her little sister early morning ticking off the most likely contributor to today’s behaviour- Sleep deprivation and tiredness. This was easily recognisable within the first 30 minutes of her being awake.

The morning was filled with school drop off, gymnastics and play a date that are all things she normally copes OK with. Today however it was met with resistance, unkind behaviour, screaming and a few hits to me while distressed.

I noticed the emotion rising not only for my daughter but for me too. I was frustrated, tired, embarrassed and nervous not knowing her next move. I rolled through a separated chat including comfort as well as communication around behavioural expectations, time out three times and the throwing out of one of her Easter eggs (I finally followed through on a consequence I had been warning about for a week). My daughter was more distressed than I had seen her for some time and some of the screams had a pitch to them that I hadn’t seen from her.

I was fortunate enough to have a friend around who also works with children and whose daughters have had similar experiences. I shared with her my tears and she normalised the experience and looked after my baby while I kept focused on my 4 year old.

She finally calmed down and we spent time having long cuddles before I put her in bed for a day time sleep that she normally doesn’t need. She is now asleep while I write this blog and fortunately so is my baby.

Time for me! I still feel vulnerable but the combination of validation and connection with firm boundaries feels like the right move. Yes there are things that I did that were not perfect but I need to accept this and move forward. My job now is to move on and focus on reconnecting to her when she gets out of bed. The moments have passed for her (not yet for me emotionally) and she will learn best through emotional connection and validation.

I only hope this long day and efforts put in will mean a few weeks till the next day like this.

My message to those parents reading this blog that are faced with tough parenting moments most days, I empathise with what you are working through and have enormous respect for your perseverance. Parenting is rewarding and a wonderful experience in many ways but also tough work.

We look forward to helping you find solutions to creating a predictable and secure space to work through these challenges to create change over time.

It is not the success in the moment that determines whether a strategy is effective but the direction these strategies take you and your child to over a period of time.

Time for a cup of tea!

Dr Michelle Pritchard
Clinical Psychologist