Dear Dr. Meg,
My 4 1/2 year-old-son has started chewing his shirts around the neckline, badly! He now has started chewing on his sheets when he goes to bed at night, then cries and complains he can’t go to bed because it’s too cold. (Which of course because it is so wet from him chewing on it!) I am at my wit’s end! How do I stop this and his behavior, I am also very concerned about. He has always been a very sensitive person. He cannot stand loud noises and covers his ears when he thinks something is too loud (which the noise isn’t even that loud). I know I have been yelling a lot at home lately, with a 4 1/2 year old and 2 1/2 year old who fight constantly. I can’t help myself. I try not to but after hours and hours of this I can’t take it anymore and I don’t know what to do!! Neither boy listens to anything I say and nor do they take me seriously. I don’t know how to turn this around. I’m worried about them and my behavior as well. It’s not good for our house to be in such a loud chaotic state. I really want to help all of us function better. I try to be patient but can only take so much disrespect then I blow up. I need help in so many ways that I feel overwhelmed and don’t even know were to start!
Thanks for any suggestions and thoughts on all of this.
Mom At Her Wit’s End
You are in a very stressful situation and I want to remind you that it should be peaking right about now. So hold on. Your children’s ages are tough ones, particularly since you can’t reason with them. I would encourage you to do a couple of things.
First, you must have some regular time away from them. You need to find a friend, family member or high school student who will come over a few afternoons a week to give you a break. If you are yelling all the time, you need to find a way to diffuse some of the stress and that should be done away from your kids. I also encourage you to tell a close friend that you are at your wit’s end and ask if she would be willing to help out. Many mothers find themselves in similar situations and women friends can make all the difference in the world.
Secondly, I am concerned about your son’s behaviors. Biting shirts can be a compulsive behavior and this combined with his noise sensitivity makes me wonder if he has a neurological issue. I would make an appointment with your pediatrician and then see if you can get a referral to a developmental specialist or pediatric neurologist. These are symptoms that children with very high functioning autism can have. I’m not diagnosing your son, but there is enough peculiarity about his behavior that warrants deeper investigation.
Finally, where is your husband in all this? If he is willing, you need to get away in the evenings either together or alone in order to get a break. It is better for your children to have a more relaxed mother who is apart from them for a while than a mother who is constantly with them but is a wreck. As I said, these days will pass and your children will grow.