Constant negativity - alternative strategies please

(8 Posts)
BlueyDragon Thu 27-Dec-12 13:42:47

DD is nearly 6 and DS is 2.75. This morning they have had me in floods of tears because their behaviour is starting to really get to me. DD refused to eat anything for breakfast at all - she's been ill for nearly 2 weeks, hardly eaten anything in that time and I'm really concerned about her not eating. DS, having asked for porridge, then refused to eat any of it and insisted on getting down, probably because DD wasn't at the table. DH and I had a heated discussion, within DCs earshot, about how to handle it - he was all for sitting DD at the table until she finished the yogurt I'd given her and I disagreed, she'll eat if she's hungry. The point DS refused his porridge was the point I lost it; he then changed his mind but by then I'd chucked the bowl in the kitchen sink, followed by mine, not that I'd have given it back anyway. I'm not proud of this, I know I'm the grown up and shouldn't throw things and burst into tears like some sort of teenager, but I did.

This is just an example of what happens at home. Neither DC listens to us, does as they are asked or responds to requests/offers with anything other than "No". Mealtimes are particular torture, we all eat together as much as possible but any conversation is overridden by constant chivvying from us to eat, to use a fork (DS) or cut food up (DD). Any interaction with them on their terms seems to go out the window in just trying to get the basics of day to day life done, partly because they both need so much asking/persuading/and sometimes (too often) absolute ordering around that time has run out. Arranging anything to do with them feels pointless as they don't seem to want to be involved with anything we arrange.

Other relevant background: both have been ill for a couple of weeks so we are all exhausted. I'm having chemo at the moment which doesn't help (includes hormone therapy that's essentially a mini-menopause which might explain the teenage behaviour). DH can be good with them but is also finding them very tough at the moment - he expressed it the other day as not liking their company at all - and his response is to go head on into opposition with them, which creates a horrible atmosphere. DD is going through quite an imaginative phase and is perfectly capable of making stuff up to suit what she wants, which makes it difficult to judge how she is really feeling, which means that both of us question what she's telling us so she probably doesn't feel very trusted right now. Neither DH nor I would win any patience awards normally and, both being tired, we're on very short fuses. DSIL is recovering from an eating disorder so I am ultra-paranoid about creating food issues.

I want to have a family where we're happy most of the time and unhappy occasionally, but seem to have the exact opposite at the moment. They are wonderful, chatty, funny children who respond beautifully to everyone - except me and DH.

Any suggestions for alternative strategies to improve the situation so we're not all spending our time at loggerheads?

GingerJulep Thu 27-Dec-12 14:01:27

Ok, so, DD is ill and off her food? That doesn't sound as though it is negativity. It sounds as though a young child is ill and off her food.

DS is pretty young to have great table manners - does he have a 'special' fork or anything that will make cutlery fun? Does it matter if he eats with fingers? (Assuming we're not talking soup here!)

TBH it sounds as though both you and DH are having a tough time with your illness and /feeling/ the kids are being negative when actually they are just being kids iyswim?

I'm not a mum yet but both DM and MIL are/were in education...

Could you get yourself to some parenting classes to give you some perspective/try taking them to play groups/play dates as appropriate? Not to say you aren't stressed out by this, just that it sounds, as you've pointed out yourself, to be more an issue with the way you both react/feel than anything the kids are actually doing wrong?

Plus there will be a lot of MN experts along in a while :-)

BlueyDragon Thu 27-Dec-12 14:11:59

Thanks Ginger. Having some perspective is hard at the moment. DH has suggested parenting classes; that feels a bit like failure to me although I will do it if things don't improve. You may be right that they are just being kids but I have it in my head that this constant battle can't be right. Maybe we (me and DH) are being too controlling.

DS is young for perfect table manners but he can use a fork, he just chooses not to. Using a fork for soup would be an improvement!

Lulu777 Thu 27-Dec-12 14:35:24

That sound hard, and that the negativitiy/behaviour is connected to deeper anxieties within the family, perhaps related to your illness and/or relationship with your husband which the kids are picking up on and 'acting out'. If you are not happy, they won't be happy, kids are like emotional sponges. First of all, if you're worried about your daughter not eating I would go to your GP about it, though issues at mealtimes with young kids is most likely to be about seeking your attention. Then I think you need to approach this on two levels - lighten the stresses around mealtimes and stop making them a battle, perhaps through having occasional pizza nights, BBQs (even in the cold), making pancakes etc (forget about table manners which aren't important in the grand scheme of things), as well as dedicating time to do fun stuff with the kids (not necessarily even going out - dressing up box, watch a film or simple things like going to feed the ducks at the park). And on the deeper level working out the underlying issues that are causing your family upset, perhaps through counselling with your husband or one-to-one therapy for yourself, as well as seeking advice (from your doctor or a cancer charity) on how to support your children to cope with the inevitable anxiety around your illness and chemo treatment. Perhaps another strategy is for you and your husband to dedicate some regular time for each other by going for a meal / having a takeout after the kids have gone to bed. It sounds like you need alternative strategies that help you and your husband to release some tension and support each other, as well as reassuring the kids that you're ok by spending quality time with them.

BlueyDragon Thu 27-Dec-12 14:48:08

Lulu, everything you are saying instinctively makes sense to me: make less of an issue out of stuff that doesn't matter, try and spend more time with them, that the mealtimes thing is an attention seeking device which we are feeding (no pun intended!). DH and my relationship is actually v good and we are usually good at talking to each other and working out how to support each other, but there hasn't been a great deal of it just recently because we've both been so tired. Not sure about any deeper underlying issues, although neither of us is particularly patient and we both can be quite controlling. It's another thing to consider in the mix of it all. Putting the more relaxed approach into practice will be a challenge.

On DD not eating, she saw the GP yesterday who could find nothing wrong with her, but she had a soaring temp again this morning. She is usually a great eater within her range of foods she likes, which is pretty good really. I'm just torn between concern that she's not eating because she's ill, not wanting to give her food issues, wanting her to eat something because she's only a skinny thing anyway and not wanting her to get away with being manipulative with food.

This parenting thing is bloody hard to get right, and nothing I do at the moment seems to be right for anyone sad.

GingerJulep Thu 27-Dec-12 15:29:18

"feed a cold, starve a fever" - not necessarily good medical advice but it is what DD will be feeling like if hot. Perhaps concentrate on getting her to have small sips of nutritious fluid to keep her strength up and little things she fancies and abandon 'proper' food for a day or two?

And have healthy finger food if it makes it more fun and easier for all - make vegetable 'faces' (cress hair, cucumber mouths) on crackers with peanut butter/order pizza etc.

Parenting classes aren't about failure, they are about learning a new skill the same as driving lessons or whatever. Just because lots of people drive doesn't mean they just hopped in a car on a hill and drove off without stalling the first (few!) times.

Good luck.

Lulu777 Fri 28-Dec-12 14:05:20

Hey BlueyDragon - how's your DD? I know it's one thing to say or 'know' what needs to be done and quite another thing to put it into practice - I have totally been there myself. But I think recognising the unhelpful stuff, which you already have done, helps to change patterns. It is definitely possible to change the pattern. I also think men can often find it even more difficult and get frustrated with kids behaviour and lack of peace/time for themselves, my DH certainly has. So I think having time with your DH and talking about how to respond to the kids is very important so that you can support each other to change the dynamic. Also, a very long shot, but if your DD still has a temp and they can't find any symptoms at the doc, ask to do a urine sample as a friend's little girl has just been through this - UTI's are apparently a very common source of general unwell-ness/lack of appetite/grottiness but often misdiagnosed.

Wishing you all the best with everything.

BlueyDragon Fri 28-Dec-12 16:37:23

Hi LuLu, thanks for checking up on us! Doc did check for UTI and drew a blank there, too - both DCs have the same symptoms so we'd be particularly unlucky for both to get a UTI. From speaking to others there seems to be a lot of something like this going round, it's just taking time to clear in DD.

She had a rough night last night but she's needed a lot less Calpol/Ibuprofen today and the temps are much less scary. She even ate a little bit of lunch completely voluntarily. So I'm hoping we might be over the worst - DS has had no temp today at all and he seems to be a couple of days in front of her symptom wise. I had a chemo cycle yesterday which is a whole day in hospital, and my parents came to look after the DCs so DH came with me and, even though it's for a hideous reason, I think the day off helped.

Fingers crossed we are on the up with some lessons learnt for next time!

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