Friday, April 29, 2011

Can You Send A Five Year Old To Boarding School?

I had a post mentally written today (thank you ear buds for breaking today for the time to write that post while I was running) all about how I am probably the only person in the world who has no interest in the royal wedding today. It was a good one, but it isn't going to happen.

I got home and was putting laundry away when I realized I have a far more important (to me) post to write, and the royal wedding one won't be timely after today.

I'm used to parenting Mister Man. He's a pretty good kid. Sure, he does things he isn't supposed to and gets in trouble both at home and at school periodically, but it's never malicious and purposely being bad. He always feels horrible about it afterwards, and much of it is related to his autism. It's frustrating, but I get it.

Little Miss is a different bird altogether. She's got "a lot of personality" I tell people, which is the nice way of putting it. She's the one I worry about as she gets to the teen years. She is "mischievous" but oh so sweet and wraps everyone (sans me) around her little finger. She's just got that perfect personality.

And I'm having a problem with her. The good news is that she isn't good at being sneaky and hiding evidence - yet. Last week, I caught her eating candy that she can't eat because it contains dairy that she's allergic to. In a way, it was my fault as I'd left it sitting on the kitchen table after the Easter Egg hunt until I'd sorted it and dealt with it all. Mister Man would never dream of sneaking candy, and I had assumed the same was the case with Little Miss.

When she walked into the office with a cheek puffed like a chipmunk, I knew it had been wishful thinking. After prying her mouth open - she refused to tell me what was in her mouth, but I could tell by her reaction that it was something she shouldn't be eating - I asked her to show me what she'd taken. In the garbage, I found more candy wrappers. And later, I found more on the floor.

I explained the necessity of not eating the candy she's allergic to (and thankfully, it isn't an anaphylactic shock issue, but it makes her sick) and to always ask me before she takes any food so that I know what she's eating. We talked about the treats that she does get from me fairly regularly and the importance of trust. And then I kept her home from the open gym we were headed to, just taking Mister Man.

Yesterday morning, I discovered more candy wrappers upstairs in her room. She claims that they were from that same day, and I have no way of proving otherwise. This morning, I found two more wrappers shoved into her closet that were not there when I'd done laundry on Tuesday. We discussed the problem with this. I did tell her that because she was honest with me about where she got the candy and why she was eating it, I wouldn't take away her soccer game this afternoon. That said, she'll still be punished. We had planned to go out for a nice Japanese dinner tonight, just the two of us, while my husband was at a school event and Mister Man was at a birthday party. Nope, we're going grocery shopping and then coming home to have sandwiches for dinner. There will be no special night for us tonight.

This afternoon, I headed upstairs to put away the laundry I'd done that morning when discovering the candy wrapper stash. I was admiring how well she'd made her bed this morning when I discovered this:

That isn't all of it. There's more, including her name written backwards and other doodles.

I am so angry right now that I could spit.

I'm frustrated and angry and bewildered why she would do this. She will definitely be cleaning it off herself (umm how do you remove crayon from painted wood?) this afternoon when she gets off the bus. If it makes her late for her soccer game, so be it.

But there has to be more of a punishment than that, right? Something has got to sink in to her that she needs to respect her things, not destroy them, tell me the truth, and trust me so that I can learn to trust her again. Because she's five. If she's doing this at five, what happens at 10 or 15 or 20?

I'm debating clearing everything out of her room except her bed, dressers, and clothes.

I'm debating telling her she can't go to her birthday party on Sunday.

I'm debating telling her that she isn't mature and responsible enough to be in the pre-team gymnastics class she was just invited to join.

I'm debating telling her that she's banned from the computer for a week - and she loves doing her Compass learning program on the computer when we have a free moment.

Somehow, I'm missing what's going to get through to her. I know I can't be the only mom going through this with a "spirited" child. How have you handled it? What should I do next? Any suggestions for punishments for this latest transgression?

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Amanda April 29, 2011 at 1:11 PM  

My advice: Perspective. She's 5. While you're right in knowing that what is acceptable and what is not needs to be addressed, she's 5. When I see the "Magic Treehouse" sketched on the wall, I see an imagination that was probably pretending that she was in her own treehouse. And the candy, well I have less willpower. Again, the allergy issue needs to continue to be addressed, she's 5 and doesn't have this whole "life" thing down yet. I'm 38 and still don't. Perspective. She's 5.

My oldest daughter turns 13 today. Time flies and it seems like yesterday that I was upset that she wrote her thoughts in her children's books. With pen. That makes me smile today. And I would go ahead with the special date. Use it to connect with her and talk about the rights and wrongs of being 5. (((hugs)))


Anonymous April 29, 2011 at 1:32 PM  

Elizabeth is 5. We are living IDENTICAL LIVES! This girl is driving me crazy.

1st - Amanda above? Thank you. I needed to read that.

2nd - Throw the candy out. I'm going to do it myself, because none of us need a basket full of chocolate tempting us, giving us sugar highs, and then making us all act nasty when we crash. GARBAGE. And next year? I'm hiding quarters in plastic eggs and skipping the candy completely. This isn't 1938 and candy isn't the "treat" it was before. There's always something sweet in the house--or in the check out line. It's accessible all year long. /sorry for the weird rant on Easter candy

3rd - Magic eraser takes marker/crayon off painted wood. I found doodles on the white built-in shelves in the playroom.

Not a Perfect Mom April 29, 2011 at 8:00 PM  

I am going through all of this right now with my 5 yr old son...I always tell people he's "my one". Everyone has one, and Jack's mine...
I have tried every way I can think of to discipline him and nothing works, whatever priveledges I'm taking away, etc. We actually have his 5 yr check on Tues and I was thinking of asking the dr for advice..I know, how much do I suck at parenting I need advice from the ped?
I need to write down Amanda's comment and read it to myself a few times a day...

JenU April 29, 2011 at 9:52 PM  

Hey there, I agree with Amanda -- deep breaths and patience.

As you know, I was an absurdly well-behaved (if odd) child, and I got totally busted when I was in first grade for drawing all over my carpet and the walls. I will swear until my death bed that it was not premeditated, nor did I ever think that I was being naughty. I'd finished my name in 3-foot letters, and I'd been planning to add a hopscotch to the carpet, but then I got called down to dinner, and I forgot about it totally, until I heard Mom yelling from the bedroom while I was brushing my teeth... And I grew up just fine. 5-6 year olds just don't think ahead. So don't fast-forward too far.

I'd have her clean with the Magic Eraser, and she can only use crayons/markers at the kitchen table for 2 weeks, end of story. Love/logic. ;)

Sarah April 30, 2011 at 5:21 AM  

Same here but mine is only 2 with a lot of personality (although because she has two older sisters she almost acts 5). The older girls wouldn't dream of doing the things the little ones does. I haven't had to deal with the problems I am having with her.

Breathe in, breathe out....

Laura May 1, 2011 at 1:22 AM  

What Amanda said.... and with kids who have special needs--be them dietary, behavioral, or what I'm most accustomed to, developmental and social ones--it often helps to make "zones" where crayons ALWAYS stay in crayon-safe areas; she can only color at the table, ever, until she's truly old enough to grasp consequences. Since your boy is well-behaved, keep all treats dairy free *except some you keep in the top of your own bedroom closet where they don't go and won't know!* Some kids honestly need things structured to ridiculous levels in order to not totally wreck the place.

Something to consider is the diet. Do your kids drink juice? They shouldn't. It's terrible for the body--it goes straight to fat and liver woes almost as rapidly as whiskey, it interferes with our leptin ("I feel full") response and instead of storing as glycogen it also becomes uric acid alongside the insulin-resistant fat-bound-to-muscle-tissue... candy, juices of any kind (because they lack the FIBER of raw fruit, which should still be moderated)... as bad as high fructose corn syrup is--and we all know it--fructose in powder, in fruit juice form, in ANYthing is toxic; it converts identically to ETHANOL if that shines light on it... and while the buzz isn't immediate, it DOES screw with kid behavior, so if you can make your home milk and water ONLY (and after a couple hours of truly rigorous sports, make the reward chocolate milk for the boy or *my favorite* hazelnut chocolate milk by Pacific Foods--gluten/dairy/soy free... because then and ONLY THEN will they benefit from the quick glycogen repletion from sugar...

My own fields are neurology and psychology, and there are very few things that diet doesn't do an awful lot to cause/exacerbate or not bring about in terms of things we need/want biologically... They need LOTS of fiber--even as kids, about 1g of fiber per every 1lb of weight is what we ACTUALLY need (blame Nixon and his "keep food costs off the political agenda so I win" motives for subsidizing things like corn/soy--two things I won't consume at all apart from verrry rarely eating a soup that will possibly have a touch here or there of organic corn to contrast something else--while the things we really need keep rising in cost)...

As for rewards and punishment... you have to pick battles sometimes, yes. Make her clean the crayon off and the "punishment" is "until I'm sure you know what you can and cannot color on, crayons and markers and pens and colored pencils etc--everything but regular graphite pencils!--stays down here and you have to ask me first." You'll have to childproof like you do with babies and be sure the boy knows to always put things back so lilsis doesn't run off with them (be sure he understands it is not to punish him but to take care of her so he gets his game time etc too--if she did financial damage via things like eating herself into shock since the allergy CAN get extreme at any point--mild can rapidly turn into breathing issues, depending on the immune response/sensitivity when she eats the dairy... if you have to replace an entire carpet because of something, that's money you can't spend on fun stuff. He sounds very responsible, so for him it should be fine as long as you can make him not-resent her ie "she's too little to know better, just like when you were really little" whether he ever WAS just like her/didn't know better or not!

Lots of breathing. LOTS!

Laura May 1, 2011 at 5:01 AM  

PS JenU--your story made me laugh so hard... my sister, also a Jen(nifer), was likewise a very spastically creative person in her own little world. She turned into a bookworm in time (back when contact lenses were only for the ultra wealthy)... but she's successful and about to finish her doctorate degree (she put off the PhD to run a startup for 15 years, and it is successful and she's a program director at a uni, so she's clearly alright). The real time to worry is if they run away from home or school... that's a huge issue. The other stuff, well, paint can be repainted and as an outsider, the magic treehouse is KINDA PRECIOUS. Don't kill us for thinking so. Our fingers are more easily wrapped than mom's should be, but scream if--like me the curious kid--she turns on the stove and thinks about cooking her own food despite being unable to see what's in the pot... (I got redirected to the spices, and by age 5 I could--blindfolded--tell you from smell or taste what all of our 30some spices were. I turned into a GREAT cook, too!)

If you can think like her, you can drive that energy to let her safely explore within boundaries. You may lose a wall or floor beauty, but if you still have 10 fingers and toes per kid, you're doing all right. Sorry I ranted on the nutrition thing, but better someone tell you and you know about things like metabolic syndrome and recognize what totally reshapes our old perceptions of food (ie processed veggies and fruits used to be okay... enriched flour too... now we know that bread like Dave's Killer Bread is pretty much the only good option and fruit and vegetable stuff should be eaten WHOLE never juiced, strained, etc.). If you get irked with me, I'm an online entity who happens to be an educator and moderator of a dozen pubmed/medscape based sites and follower of some interesting random blogs like yours. Can't turn off the fierce protective nature of moms or doctors either one, but don't take my rants as preachings--they're just fundamental teachings. I can back them up with a very detailed and boring discussion on mitochondria if necessary to get the point across, but it prolly suffices to give the advice and the basic reason and not burden you with terror.

Mrs4444 May 1, 2011 at 3:23 PM  

I'm sure you're calmer by now, and you've gotten plenty of good advice prior to my comment, so I'll just say this...

Live in the here and now. 100 years from now, and all that jazz.... :)

Pat May 1, 2011 at 8:47 PM  

I agree with those who said to throw out or hide the candy. Candymakers must put something insanely addictive into candy! Having LM clean off the crayon writing is an excellent idea. I recall when my youngest son made a cut with scissors into the lowest slat of the aluminum blinds in our bathroom when he was around 4. He'd seen me cutting some miniblinds with scissors to get them to fit better, and I guess he just wanted to see if he could do that, too. So I scolded him, but I understood that it was childish irresponsibility on his part, not a desire to destroy. When my kids were litte, I spanked them for defiance/rudeness toward me and for lying, but not for childish irresponsibility. I know spanking is frowned on these days, but my boys turned out just fine and have always respected authority.

Laura May 2, 2011 at 1:02 AM  

shock collar...

I'M JOKING mostly :) really make her clean it herself, throw out the candy and possibly make her wash a whole lot of walls to get it through her head she shouldn't write on stuff

Michelle May 3, 2011 at 10:31 PM  

Amanda - Thank you for talking me off the ledge. The "she's 5" works a bit, but she knows not to do that - and she had to go digging in the crayon box in the craft room to find one to bring up there. Boo! Allergy thing btw was fine until my parents decided to see how she did with dairy when I was out of town. We'll leave that one be!

Jaci - The candy was going to be thrown out, I just hadn't gotten there yet. It's long gone now :) Thanks for the eraser tip. Things we wish we didn't know!

Holly - Yep, she is DEFINITELY "my one" - lucky me. And isn't the pediatrician there to give advice? I wouldn't take that as a denigration of you at all!

Jen - Of course you do. You don't have a kid yet. I'll be throwing this back at you a few years from now ;) Crayons are already allowed ONLY at the homework desk. Can't take them completely away though, as she needs them for homework.

Sarah - I know this won't help, but mine has been like this since she was 1. I keep thinking it'll get better. Fortunately, I'm breathing well now :)

Laura - Actually, she's my NT and Mister Man is the autistic one. Crayons have always only been allowed in the homework room at their desks. *sigh* And nope, there's no juice in the house. Just milk (rice milk for her) and water. And thankfully, that's all they ask for. Lots and lots of fresh fruits and veggies though. Love that her school requires it for snacks, too.

Mrs4444 - Thanks. ;P And she's now cleaning the litter box herself for the next 10 days (10 words = 10 days of punishment). Perfect punishment for her as she continues to "help me clean."

Pat - It's long gone, and we don't keep candy in the house. Except for Yummy Tummy lollipops that we trade for after birthday parties when we receive all the junk. bleh!

Laura - Love your suggestions ;) I think she's getting it now. She was pretty sad when I confronted her, although interestingly she didn't tell me the truth until I told her that Daddy also knew and was less happy than I was so she should admit something to me rather than him ;) All the hinting around I did that I knew and giving her outs to admit to it didn't do a thing. *sigh*

septembermom May 4, 2011 at 12:47 PM  

Everyone gave such great advice already. I'm in constant battles with my 8 year old lately. So many punishments and nothing seems to work. I'm trying to pick my battles but it's tough. Kids can drive us crazy. Then there are days when everything goes so smoothly. Wish I could bottle those! hang in there Michelle. hugs.

Heather E May 5, 2011 at 8:06 PM  

I don't have any advice cause I don't have any kids BUT I think you have gotten a lot of good suggestions and that from what I can remember about me, it was a phase that I went through and then I was done :)

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