Scared for our 5 year old

Amanda - posted on 05/19/2015 ( 7 moms have responded )

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I am the mother to a 2 year old and a ste mother to a 5 year old, I have been in her life since she was 1. Her mother was in and out of her life and she has been traumatized by this which is completely understandable. What I don't understand is the way she acts towards herself and other people. Her mother gets her eveything other Thursday-Monday and has been doing well with getting her every time she is supposed too. Her mother has a 1 year old as well. We had 50/50 custody by the time Abby was around 2 and received full custody not long after. We have always dealt with things that were not normal to me atleast, my fiance had ADD/ADHD and still deals with it, without meds. Even before Kennedy was born Abby had a hard time sleeping, listening, playing, being nice to other kids, dealing with her emotions, etc. After Kennedy was born we would make time for Abby, have play dates with just her, because we didn't want her to feel left out and she wasn't. She has always been the type of child who craves attention and can NEVER get enough, even if it's bad attention.

She has punched, and broken, my friends little boys nose who is the same age as her. They were 3 at the time. She has choked kids at the babysitters. But most of all she hurts Kennedy on a daily basis. I could understand if Kennedy was provoking things, siblings fight, but 95% of the time it's like something snaps in her and she gets an evil look in the middle of playing and does something. When Kennedy was 6 months old she pushed Kennedy off the couch (while she was sleeping) into the coffee table and gave her a bloody nose. She has pushed her into walls, slapped her, grabbed her and just the other day she held a pillow over her face. This is all done right in front of us and she has no remorse afterwards and says she doesn't know why she did it. She also hurts herself. She has bitten herself to the point it draws blood, scratched herself open, tried to pull a boiling pot of water down on herself, tried to jump out a window and the list goes on.

Mentally she can be fine one minute and freaking out the next but it's almost like all of her emotions are fake, when she's happy she doesn't really seem happy, crying for her is usually fake, she feels no pain. She is not attached to ANYTHING, I have gone as far to remove every single toy from her room and she helped me bag them up. She destroys any toy she does get. She is self conscious, saying she wished she looked like other little girls. She's manipulatjve, and constantly lies. You are unable to joke with her at all or she has a breakdown. We are unable to reward her with anything because she does not care about anything, being good to get something is not worth it to her. She is nearly impossible to discipline, when we put her in the corner she pees herself everytime, we have ignored her but it continues. Smacking is pointless because she does not care, she laughs and turns around and does the same thing. She does not care about anyone else's feelings and it's terrifying to be u Der the same roof sometimes. She has come I to our bedroom and stared at us while we were sleeping, filled Kennedys crib either food and water when she was an infant, while we were sleeping

Abby has been saying things like "I hate my life", "I don't want to be like this", "somethings wrong with my head" for years..


She has been to numerous counselors and psychiatrists who either seem to want to push meds or see nothing wrong because Abby knows how to play them. When she was 4 she was put on 5 MG of Ritalin and by the time I put an end to it they had her on 40 MG, it did not phase her. She went to another counselor who saw the issues she had but unfortunately was not certified to prescribe meds as he thought she needed them.

Her father, mother and I are at ours wits end, we do not know what to do anymore. We our concerned for the safety of Abby as well as our other children and the children at the babysitters. She starts school in August and although she is very smart (too smart for her own age) I don't feel that she will excel and will instead be sent home for doing terrible things.

At this point we have thought about admitting her or giving custody to her grandmother, as there is no other children that she can hurt there. We do not want to give up on her but rather get the help that she needs but it seems we have run into roadblocks every step of the way especially because of her age but she needs help. Has anyone else gone through this. Advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Ledia - posted on 05/21/2015

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The mother could quite possible have some of the same issues the child has....

"Even though her mom has hurt her so bad in the past Abby still wants her more than anything..."
I completely get this. I wonder about my birth parents all the time, and one of the things I worry about the most is "Would they love me if they met me today?" I'd really want them to, even though they hurt me REALLY badly, and that thought affects almost every decision I make in my life about who I am--I always think, "Will this make me the kind of person my biological parents would have loved?" I know it's stupid. My real parents love me unconditionally, and they are super proud of who I am, but I still want to please my biological parents, and I don't even know who they are!

Hurting Kennedy at her mother's request makes sense. Her mom knows you'll send her away if she is too much trouble, and that's a way to get her back in her home, and your step daughter wants to please her because she's her mom. The mom probably has attachment disorders too--she wants her child, she wants a good relationship with her, but she apparently cannot figure out how to take care of that relationship. There really isn't much you can do about the mom's influence on her--it is always going to suck for that little girl. You CAN teach her that you love her so unconditionally that you will never send her away, no matter how bad she acts, and eventually she will learn that hurting Kennedy, or whatever else her mom puts her up to just won't work, and she'll stop listening to her. (It is important to solidify that idea now when she is too young to do any serious damage, as the behavior does usually worsen for a bit before it gets better, and that can be dangerous in the tween and teen years)

The nanny cam is a great idea. When a relationship is begun with a new doctor, it can take several weeks, even months, for the child to actually reveal crucial information to the doctor. The child isn't keeping information on purpose. As I said before, she may not know how to express emotions with anything other than anger, and she may not even be able to identify them with words yet--meaning she knows the word "sad" but she cannot tell the difference between when she feels sad, or afraid, or angry--they all feel the same to her. The first few sessions, the doctor will need to build a relationship of trust with her, so he/she is not going to say or do anything that makes her feel sad or angry, because then she won't trust him/her. She's not manipulating the doctor on purpose, she just doesn't know how to explain what she is feeling when she is acting out.
By using the nanny cam, the doctor can still focus on trust building during her sessions, but can get a head start on developing a treatment plan. He can see her expressing her anger and analyze her behavior and the events leading up to the outburst to determine her true emotions, and thus, help her identify and deal with them more productively without having to risk breaking her trust by invoking her anger. His/her first few talks with her will give some idea as to how her brain processes things going on around her, but it would still take a while to understand what she is feeling and why she feels that way in these situations at home, and he/she can only start a real treatment once that is understood.

Amanda - posted on 05/19/2015

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Yeah the mother has almost everything to do with this, I know she feels abandoned. I went through the same thing with my father, but it seems worse when it's the mother. We have tried to get rights signed over, have called CPS due to rape allegations and absolutely nothing has been done. It's sickening to me because if the tables were flipped my fiance would be in a lot more trouble. The only time Abby was starting to get better was when her mother went to jail for over a month, it was like she didn't have to worry about pleasing her mom. Even though her mom has hurt her so bad in the past Abby still wants her more than anything, which I completely understand. Although lately when she goes there she is just as bad if not worse. A lot of the stuff started with Kennedy when Abby told us her mom told her to hurt Kennedy so she could come back to her house, even though she had no intention of keeping her. She continued to hurt her and continued to get worse. Now her mom is 3600$ behind in child support and is facing jail time again, I feel that if this happens again this time it is just going to make her worse. It's a damn shame that my fiance gets the short end of the stick because he is not a woman, we have offered her to drop all the support and sign her rights over to make things easier on Abby but to no avail. We are not going to give her to her grandmother, we are researching Dr's to try and find the best one for her. In the mean time we will try keep our littlest safe and work on Abby. I plan on ordering a nanny cam so the Dr's can see how she really acts rather than what they see when she is there for an hour a week.

Ledia - posted on 05/19/2015

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What the first psychologist said about her missing out on the initial bonding time with her mother when she was a baby has a lot of merit to it. I was not placed into my permanent home until I was about 3 and a half years or so (not sure exactly how old, but around that time). It was a foster home, and those parents eventually adopted me. I have no memories of the time before my father found me in the basement of his office, but doctors have decided I probably never bonded with a mother or father. I have issues very similar to what you are describing in your step daughter.

You need to find a psychologist or psychiatrist (if you want medication) that you can stick with. Interview a ton to find a good fit, then stick with that one for at least 2 years. You'll need at least 6 months with the same doctor in order for him/her to get a good picture of your step daughter and develop a treatment plan that will benefit her. Any doctor who tells you that you will see quick improvement with their methods is a quack.

Discipline can be very tricky. Taking her toys away is never going to work because she doesn't want toys. They are completely meaningless to her--I'm the same: Stuff is just stuff to me. Unless it serves an IMPORTANT purpose, I really don't care whether I have a thing or not...Why? Because things come and go--they can ALWAYS be replaced, but people cannot be.
What she DOES want is stability, love, connection, and confidence that her situation isn't going to change, and if it does change, confidence that you will be there to help her adjust to it.
When she displays a behavior that you find unacceptable, the consequence should teach her WHY the behavior is not beneficial to her. Her choices are going to be self centered right now--due to her past, she is in survival mode, thus all of her actions and choices will be based on the effect they have on her alone--she can't care about others right now. She'll get there, but she's not there now.
The only time you should take her toys, is when she is mistreating them. Take them, and donate them to a charity. Eventually, if she wants toys, she'll start treating them well, but if she doesn't want them, don't waste time buying them for her and trying to teach her to take care of them, because it's a losing battle.

Her emotions probably seem fake because she doesn't understand them. She translates any negative emotion--fear, sadness, etc.--to anger because anger is an emotion that lets us be in control. She was left by her mother, bounced back and forth between mom and dad with no time to establish a true bond, then when things finally started to normalize for her, a new baby came into the picture threatening to take mom and dad away again. She can't understand that you can love both her and her sister equally, so she is afraid that she will be pushed aside in favor of the younger child. (Sending her away will solidify that fear, and only make things worse). Because she is afraid, she is acting out in anger--being afraid leaves us vulnerable, but being angry puts us in control. We can easily force people to respond to anger, but there is no guarantee that anyone will respond to fear (plus, she probably doesn't even know how to express fear), and if her experience is anything like mine, she's probably right--people won't bother if you are scared, if you get any response at all, they just use the fear against you, so we don't show fear. I still don't know how to show it.....but I'm fine without that one.

Do not put her in the corner! She is already feeling pushed away, putting her in a corner by herself will only make her feel more isolated and alone. Understand that when she is displaying anger, she is likely scared or sad. Try to find the source of the anger and address that root cause in a way that lets her feel she has some control over her life and what is happening to her. Give her choices connected to consequences: If you hurt Kennedy, you will have to play alone in your room. If you want to play out here with all of us, you must be nice to everyone.

Amanda - posted on 05/19/2015

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Right, unfortunately the psychologist she was seeing was not covered by my new insurance. She was seeing him twice a week and he was willing to testify but then I surname dropped and we couldn't afford it. We have tried speaking to the mother on this but things are off and on. I'm hoping to find someone who is willing to understand, the one we have now seems to blame my fiance and I for the way she acts and says she is "just acting out". My other daughter is 2 and can have tantrums but is so different from her sister in that she can play by herself and wants to cuddle.. things abby never did.

Dove - posted on 05/19/2015

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If a psychologist thinks she needs to be away from her bio mother for a trial period... you need one willing to testify in court that that is in her best interest. This child NEEDS professional help and if the bio mother is concerned as well... did she hear about the psychologist's suggestion?

You all need to be working VERY closely w/ a professional... and not seeing one after the other after the other... that does nothing to help create stability for this child. Granted, you need to find a good fit, of course, but she should still be actively involved in counseling... at least once a week if not more often.

If she is doing things to the baby while you sleep... keep the baby in your room and lock your door at night. You need to protect BOTH of these children to the best of your ability.

Other than getting some consistent professional help and taking the advice of the professionals (whether that be meds or staying away from bio mom or whatever)... There isn't really much more I can advise.

Amanda - posted on 05/19/2015

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I really don't want to send her to her grandma's because it isn't going to fix the situation but I feel as though if we cannot get help my other daughter is going to suffer. She has gone to a psychologist, he was the counselor I was talking about, I apologize. He said that she may be bipolar and wanted to keep her from her mother for 6 months as a trial period but it's just not possible. He said she lacked a motherly bonding period when she was little and that may be the root of all the problems.
The problem with giving consequences is that she cares about nothing, I have taken things away but she doesn't care about any of her toys. I have taken tv away but it doesn't bother her. The corner does not work, talking to her does not work. I don't know how else to discipline a child that literally has no attachment to anyone or anything.

Ev - posted on 05/19/2015

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It sounds like she may need a psychologist rather than a counselor or a psychiatrist. A psychologist can look deeper into things going on with her by evaluating her in ways the other two do not do. She might need some sort of program to be worked with on these issues. But sending her off to grandma's is going to send her the wrong message. Its going to tell her even at five years old that she is not worth anything to anyone and that they do not care even though for the adults its not the case. She is going to see it as you gave up on her or abandoned her. She would not necessarily be better off in the care of her grandmother's custody and she would still have to be in school and then what? There are children there too that could be at risk for her behavior. And what makes you think her grandmother would be any better at handling her behavior.

If this is not the case at all, then what consequences have been used to deal with her behavior too?

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