Sunday, September 11, 2011

Coping. Or Not.

How do you cope with feeling like a failure? It has been hitting me hard lately. I just don't think I'm doing what needs to be done for my 8 year old, Katy. I'm missing something. She's so much like me, that might be part of it. She has this need to fight me on every. little. thing. Bedtime has always been an issue with her - since she was just a little squirt she's fought and argued and whined and complained. For years we sat with her.  Then we were able to move to sitting in the next room. Then, finally, she seemed to be over it. We had several years of pretty decent bedtimes - still a few problems here and there, but never for more than a few nights at a time.

Recently she's been terrible, horrible, no good, very bad. And I feel so guilty for saying that. But it is the worst it has EVER been. And I just can't handle it. Sometimes I just want to run screaming from the house, instead of deal with her. 5 nights a week it is just me @ bedtime.  DH works evenings - but often (even on school nights) she's still up when he comes home.  And on school days she's getting up at 6 - I just don't know how she can be awake for almost 18 hours a day.  And on nights when DH IS home - those are the worst.  No matter how calm I try to stay, he's got some comment about how I get her worked up and how I shouldn't worry about it and how I should just leave her be.  That eventually she'll get tired and go to bed earlier.

I've tried tiring her out (YMCA to swim/exercise.) Just made her more of a monster (even more over-tired.)

I've tried taking away important things (computer, Internet, TV, DS, fun family stuff.) She just cries and whines more.

I've tried (to my shame) spankings. Then she cries about her butt hurting.

I've tried the opposite - sweetness and light, loving, calm. I've even sat with her, laid with her - kept her company so she won't be "lonely." (One of her current favorite excuses for why she can't go to bed.)

I've tried music. She just waits until the cd has played through to come downstairs. (False hope, anyone?)

But she still doesn't go to bed without a fight. (Correction, she will go MAYBE once a week without a fight - no way to predict which night, so I can't ever bank on tonight being THE ONE.  Until it is and it is over.)

I'm trying so hard. All I could do tonight was lock myself in the bathroom and cry. She just stood in the hall and asked if I was crying and WHY was I so upset.

I don't know how to cope with this. But I've got to find a way. How can I not cope with this wonderful, spirited, brilliant, little girl? I love her so.


  1. Thanks for your honesty with this - although I am a bit terrified. I have been imagining that bedtimes will get better as the kids get older. I think the worst is the feeling that I am doing this to them. If I could set clearer boundaries, if I consistently had dinner at 6 and stuck to the 7:30 bedtime routine, or if well, I was just better at this, then the kids would go to bed nicely. I say this, but I also know that it isn't true. I know we do have clear expectations and that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Hang in there and know that in another part of the world, I am struggling with bedtimes and the shame I feel about it not going better.

  2. Thanks for your comment. It helps to know (and I've always known but sometimes forget) that other parents have the same struggles and feel similar guilt. Being in the moment can be so frustrating and hindsight (while it seems 20/20) often just makes me feel even worse (as in, "Why did I let this get this way?")

    I'll be blogging about last night later today. Right now, we are getting ready for school on 5 hours sleep. Yikes.

    Thanks again!

  3. I've only just come across your blog and though I have no idea if this suggestion will be of any use, I figure that you're probably up for anything, right?

    I am a primary school teacher and I have found this year with a couple of my more challenging behaviours that giving them ownership over the issue does help. Your daughter sounds very independent and strong-willed and at the moment she is fighting you because if she doesn't, you win. I wonder if taking the element of competition out of it might help?

    Maybe try sitting down when it's just the two of you and it's quiet and mapping out together on a huge piece of paper all the good reasons for going to bed at a reasonable time and all the bad reasons. (Acknowledging that their concerns with the issue are valid is often helpful, I have found, in encouraging them to be more reasonable.) Start it off as a brainstorm where anything can be written down in the space of, say, five minutes, (use the oven timer), and then at the end of that time, after BOTH of you have added your own points, talk about each of them. More than that, start out talking about each point by asking "why do you think I wrote this?" and allow her to ask the same of you. The point of this whole exercise is not that you are mother and daughter, where all the power lies with you, because that power struggle seems to be the issue. Neither is all the power with her. Rather, you are listening to each other and respecting and valuing each other's input.

    Then ask her what she thinks a reasonable bed time is. Since I don't know your daughter, I have no idea if she's likely to just go completely silly and wild and say something preposterous but really, regardless of her response, she needs to be given the opportunity to say it. She also needs, however, to be able to give you a reason for why that is reasonable and depending on what your brainstorming produced, you can refer back to that. Then you tell her what you think a reasonable bedtime is and why. This is still part of having an active dialogue where you listen to each other and nobody is "wrong". The next part is the decision-making.

    Give her three choices of bed times. I don't know your family or the situation so I can't suggest any other than as examples, but you might say 8.30pm with an hour in her room and lights out at 9.30pm, 9.00pm with half hour in her room and then lights out at 9.30pm or 9.30pm and lights out immediately. I have always found with my students that the more I can incorporate what they have said they enjoy about NOT doing something, (in this case, going to bed), the more likely they are to be on-board so you could include whatever her favourite activities are. If she wants time to think about it, give her time, but the point is the ultimately choice is hers. She doesn't get an open-slather whatever-she-wants choice but she still sets her bedtime. She owns it.

    Then get her to set her own consequence. I cannot express how powerful this has been in helping my challenging behaviours really start to take responsibility for themselves because it means that I no longer "punish" them. They set their consequences and when they break the contract we have, they are the ones who have established what the next step is. I don't even have to get angry with them, there is no power struggle because the only person they have let down is themselves.

    I have no idea if this is helpful, feasible or if it will work for you but I strongly believe that behaviour is a language. Learning to crack it can be tough but I think you have a beautifully strong daughter who wants to call her own shots. Maybe, in small guided doses, she can.

    - Karen