What to do when your kid is a jerk...
Okay, now before you judge me as a terrible mother for calling my kid a jerk, let me just explain something: Behavior and identity are two separate things, and sometimes kids act like jerks! My kid just happened to act like a jerk a lot because her gut and brain were inflamed.
Let me back up a little bit. My oldest is now 7 years old, and over the course of these 7 years, there has been a progression of behaviors that caused significant stress in our home. Over the course of a few years, we have discovered several layers of the problem. The majority of them being her body's response to food allergens. Where some people might develop anaphylaxis or skin rashes, her symptoms were almost entirely neurological. Her gut was so inflamed that it was causing neurological issues.
This meant that she would have 45 minute rages where I would have to hold her in a safe hold for 40 minutes at a time until she utterly exhausted herself and fell asleep. I would be holding back tears, sweating and trying to stay calm while she flailed in my arms. I limited our schedule significantly so that other moms wouldn't see her atrocious behavior and judge me as an incompetent mother (I know....maybe an insecurity I have? But lets be honest...it happens). We stopped inviting people over because it was just too much to try to keep her in line and you never really knew when she would blow up at you or have a meltdown over something small. We had to keep her on a strict schedule because she couldn't handle being out past her bedtime or past her naps.
This led to significant stress in the home, as you can imagine. As I stated, we finally found the source of some of her issues which were more food allergies (yay...jk...super annoying and I'll talk about that later). Once she calmed down and was able to regulate more on her own, we discovered how much of our parenting was reactionary and not TRULY what was best for her. We were just trying to survive.
We didn't have the finances at the time to get the help I knew we needed, but God in his amazing provision opened the door for me to take a job that paid twice as much and required half the hours. I was able to get her into neurofeedback (This is where we go if you are local to Vancouver, WA) to help create healthier patterns in her brain that were not able to develop due to the food allergies. I also received some parenting coaching from a dear friend which helped tremendously! Neurofeedback works with the brain by measuring activity while simultaneously providing "feedback" to the brain to help balance areas that are either overactive or under active. I will post more about this at a later time!
Once she began to heal and her behavior began to regulate, the happier moments began to become more frequent, and she could actually respond to discipline. It's like her neurons were so busy firing off haphazardly that she she wasn't learning or receptive at all to the discipline and consequences we were providing.
As a mom- this hit me extremely hard. I didn't like my own child. I know... I sound cruel but it's the truth. Her behavior was EXHAUSTING to say the least. Not just was I physically exhausted, but emotionally I felt tapped out. Most days I was just trying to keep my head above water, and the happy moments between us were few and far between. I felt like my child hated me. I was super careful not to give all of my "happy" emotional energy to our younger, easier child. It didn't change how I felt about her, but it did help in the tough moments that I made a conscious choice to love her in spite of my feelings.
Some tips that helped me to survive
1. Really learning that my feelings didn't make me a good mom, my actions did. In the moments when it was really really hard, self control was my best friend. I didn't like my kid. I thought bad words about her in my head (just being real). I envisioned stomping my feet and yelling at her- but MOST of the time I didn't do any of those things (winning!).
2. Realizing that HER behavior towards me had NOTHING to do with how good of a parent I was and had everything to do with her overall picture of health (or lack thereof). This was honestly REALLY hard for me. I began to place note cards all over my house and would simultaneously inhale essential oils to help calm my limbic system (read more about that here).
3. I vented to friends who understood my heart was FOR my daughter, but also understood that I desperately needed to be honest about how hard it was to be a mom during that season.
4. I stuck close to the friends who didn't judge my hypervigilence over her diet- because one little tiny amount of corn meant 48 hours of tantrums, rages, defiance and unquenchable sensory cravings (needing constant firm touch, wrestling, jumping, bouncing and vocal tics). I made sure they understood that I was in no way judging their food choices when I asked to see food labels or brought my own food to parties. (Thank you to those friends who made extra effort at birthday parties to include her!
5. I took breaks. Honestly, this one was really hard because my husband is also in school, but even if it was a bath by myself with headphones on- it helped!
6. I forgave myself for not being perfect. Not everyone is given the added challenge of a "difficult" child, and I had to give myself grace for not winning every time.
7. I forgave her and let go of my expectations that she would be like other kids who were calmer or more lax. I began to see how uniquely God made her.
8. I accepted the fact that our road was going to look differently than others simply because she was different! And that was okay.
So, if you are like me and your kid is a little outside of the norm- it's okay! You are not alone! I would love to hear what things have helped you to be "successful" in your season!
To your wellness,