Something Beautiful or Humorous: Apples that Eli painted

Monday, April 6, 2009

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Emelia?

I told my mom the following story about Mia's day in preschool the other day and she laughed and laughed and begged me to write it down... So here's my attempt! :)

My kids don't get to see their grandparents that often, but Mia already has a reputation with my mom. The last time my mom spent time with Mia at a family reunion, she was always getting in trouble. She put sand down my mom's shirt at the beach, continually got into my makeup and lotion, and once when my mom wasn't looking, poured maple syrup on floor, smiling sweetly when my mom turned around. In reaction to my mom's horror, Mia picked up the pepper shaker & shook some pepper onto the mess like a little garnish.

Well, I had a warning that she had been having a few problems in her preschool class when we had our parent conference and Ms. Janice mentioned she does have a problem hitting other kids at times & being too aggressive when things make her mad. Oh, and she is a messy eater! Ok that's not news to us. We just shook our heads and said. We know. We don't know what to do. We're trying to work with her.

The next conversation with Janice was after Mia had been sick for a week. She came back to school on a Friday. I picked her up and the teacher said she had some problems that day and didn't want to talk about it in front of Mia, so she would call me. It turned out she had had several meltdowns and bent someone's fingers back and been in time out several times. She was so devastated about being in time out that she was just bawling. The teacher wanted to know if anything was going on at home that might be causing her to act extra bad like this. Ummm, no. Besides the fact that we're not perfect parents, life is pretty average, even above average. But I said that I thought she might at times do bad behavior to get attention, so Chris and I were beginning a campaign of one-on-one time so we could give her some positive attention. And whenever I do this, it works pretty well and I see a good change in her behavior. I said I thought time outs didn't work for her & the teacher agreed. Ms. Janice said she would try to sit down with her once in a while and maybe do something Mia enjoys like crafts.

Chris and I talked about it and decided to step up the "Special Mommy Time" & "Special Daddy Time." We even keep her up past her bedtime because we have noticed such a good change. So I thought we were home free! Nope.

At the end of this last preschool week, my friend who I carpool with dropped her off and said, "Mia apparantly had a horrible day. Ms. Janice is going to call you." And this is a run down of what poor Mia's day was like:
  • She got a treat from story time. When she got back to class the teacher's assistant asked her to put it in her cubbie. Mia said, "No. I don't have to." The assistant said, "If you don't we will take it away." Mia said, "Give me my treat RIGHT NOW!!" And then Ms. Janice stepped in & asked her to put it away and Mia said, "Ok, Whatever!" with full-on teenage flair. I think she might have had to serve a time out.
  • At music, apparantly the teacher asked her to do something & Mia said, "no, I don't have to." Lovely.
  • At lunch, Mia didn't like her sandwich, so she threw it on the floor. Ms. Janice asked her to pick it up. Mia looked at her and then STOMPED ON IT!!! As if to say, "Sandwich? Here's what you can do with the sandwich!" Ummmmmm Ms. Janice didn't take to that too kindly. She is pretty stern with the kids & uses quite a loud voice sometimes. She made Mia pack up her lunch to eat later at home and sent Mia to the Director's office for a BIG time out. Mia was so mad that her lunch was being taken away that she started a huge tantrum and threw her chair. Now putting on a show for the rest of the class, it went back and forth like a big power struggle between Mia and Ms. Janice. Mia didn't want to go to the office, and I guess Ms. Janice pretty much dragged her there: "You can't make me." "Yes, I can." (The stomping part is what my mom got a big kick out of. ) :)
  • Well, there are toys in the office & Mia thought she was there to play. Well, Ms. Janice said the office staff reported that she sassed them, too, when they told her she couldn't play, but needed to sit in time out.
Again I got the question, "What is going on at home?" just like "You've got to be doing something wrong to produce this kind of craziness." She called Mia the "M" word (manipulative.) I was kind of wondering where all this was leading. Are they going to kick her out of preschool?

Luckily, the teacher seemed willing to brainstorm with me. She said Mia may be feeling a lack of control of her world and so Janice would be willing to try to give her more choices now and then throughout the day. She gets there late every day & misses her Free Play. So that might be something we can try and fix. And to ask Mia if there were certain activities she'd like to do at preschool, maybe Janice could let her choose some things like that. I thought it was nice that the teacher was willing to do all those things to try and help.

One thing occurred to me later that I didn't think to mention to Janice. Eli has the opposite problem, and we have been coaching him a lot to be more assertive: "If you have to go to the bathroom, don't be afraid to ask! Don't be afraid of the grown-ups. If you really have to go, you're allowed to ask them to go." Some kids were bothering him on the playground and Eli had to go to the school's counselor to get extra assertiveness training. We were role playing & coaching Eli to say, "Stop that! I don't like that!" In a really loud bold voice. Maybe Mia took too many notes from that???? I don't know!

So I talked to Mia and let her know she had to be obedient and listen to her teachers. But I'm terrified to send her back knowing that it's hard to take a label off a child once you have it in your mind that "This kid is trouble." And I also think my heart would break if she had another terrible day like that. I'm sure she probably deserved it, but I don't like to think of her being yelled at and humiliated. As her mom, yes, I see her worst, but I also see her at her best and there are so many things that are fantastic, sweet, beautiful and praiseworthy about her.

So what do I do with this problem? Any ideas????????????????????

My mom had ZERO ideas. She said pull in the big guns professional help. I am hoping to sign her up for a "social skills" class that deals with emotions, dealing with her friends and conflict resolution. It sounds a lot like what Mia needs. I may also try to get a consultation with the owner (developmental psychologist) as well. We took a class from her a little over a year ago, but obviously we flunked because THIS is all happening in poor Mia's life.

Just look at this face. Would you have thought this sweet munchkin-angel capable of all this trouble?


Annie said...

oh no, i'm so sorry! i will do my best to be on time for my last month of carpool!

SAHMinIL said...

I came across your blog via flylady and twitter. To me she sounds like a normal 4 year-old: testing the bounds to see what and what she can't get away with!

Does her acting out correlate with her staying up late? Is she more likely to act out if she had a late night the night before? If so, I would say that she's just "tired".

Children don't show tiredness the same way as adults. It can come out as behavior such as your DD, hyperactivity-jumping off the walls, etc. I'm no expert!! It's just something that I have read and have noticed with my own kids!

I would track how many hours she sleeps and her behavior the next day. I would see if their is a correlation and if so I would just make sure that she gets the correct amount of sleep that she needs.

Good Luck!

Jenny said...

It's easy to smile while reading this since it's not my kid. Sorry you have to deal with this, I've had similar problems with Emma and the only thing I can tell you I've learned is this: I'm her mom so I'm her only advocate. I have to get over what I think other people think of her and just love her for who she is and create the best enviornment I can for her. It's hard, it's really hard. Especially being a girl. I think when boys have strong personalities like this they are looked at in a different light "boys just being boys". But girls are considered unruly when they are so assertive.
I think maybe she just has a super strong personality that will probably one day open great doors for her. However, as a child is hard to deal with. It's hard to teach anger management to 3/4 year olds and I'm no expert but it just takes patience and time. I'm sure as you stated there are some people that you can ask for some tools but I think she'll be just fine.
One more idea - maybe that preschool just ins't a good fit for her and she would be better somewhere else next year. There are so many different kinds of preschools and teachers out there don't be afraid to shop around for something that might fit her personality better. Maybe she doesn't like Ms Janice? (sorry for the novel)

Ryann said...

So sorry that you are having problems with Mia. The class seems hopeful and I hope that it will help her to deal better with her emotions. I also hope that it will somehow be resolved and you'll be able to laugh about this when you look back at it! Good luck!

Michele said...

It makes a really good story although I feel for you and her. I know almost nothing about parenting but we just finished a five week Love & Logic course taught by Matthew's preschool instructor and it has revolutionized the way we interact with him. I won't say the power struggles have ended but we deal with them more efficiently and with less emotion. I've seen alot of improvement when we give Matthew two choices--both of which are something we can live with--and he seems to be more pleased thinking he has more control in life. Even simple things like "do you want to put on your pj top or bottom first?" It sets up the expectation that it's going to happen so how are you going to be involved and help. I wonder if there is something happening at preschool that she's not comfortable with. Matthew had a hard time a little while ago and we finally got out of him that he perceived that some of the girls were being mean to him. His director was really nice to work with us and gave us ideas about it. The good part is that in 20 years her personality will get her just where she wants to go! I've really enjoyed the Love & Logic principles though. They have some books and tapes out that are helpful.

Michele said...

A I said before, I am by no means an expert but I did just think of one more thing from Love & Logic that has been so helpful. It's the delayed consequence. I've been using this one alot lately when Matthew has a sandwich incident like Mia. He expects to be punished and then takes delight in telling me or whomever "no" and he refuses to do what I tell him for punishment. Now I just smile and tell him that he can make a choice but if he chooses not to do what I ask that I WILL get back to him regarding his actions. He always asks what will happen and I just tell him that I'll have to think about it but "try not to worry too much." I can tell the wheel start turning. When I do get back to him, he's much more rational and compliant. The books have a section on the delayed consequence which may give you some ideas. Delaying has worked so much better for us than having the fight when they want it and it also catches them off guard because our reactions are no longer predictable which is sometimes exactly what they want because they still have control. I can smile for every parent in the world as I think of sweet little Mia stomping. She is so cute.

Aunt Spicy said...

Oh gosh! I was torn between laughing and crying! I hope things have been improving!