My daughter for the past year has just been too full on. There’s being excited, and then there’s being over the top, and she is definitely the latter. Her triggers are people; specifically any person who isn’t me. Thankfully we have gotten her out of shouting hi at strangers, but we still have a lot of problems. For example:
- When an adult visits the house. Any adult. The post man, the gas man, the social worker, even my Dad. Any adult who isn’t me will be bombarded the moment they walk in with “Do you want to see my bedroom/my toys/my new made up dance” or “Did you know I did/made/saw this the other day” among many others, in a steadily oncreasing volume while she jumps and climbs around them.
- When we see other kids in the street. Any kid will do, but particularly other girls and the closer they look to her age the louder she will shout. I swear my neighbour hates me; every day we see her walking her daughter to school (not the same school my daughter goes to) and every day my daughter absolutely screams across the street. “Hi!!! Do you want to come to my house?! I have (insert random toy or object) in my bedroom!!”. The other kid looks understandably shocked before carrying on walking with her mother, head down, ignoring my daughter’s garish cries.
- School. This one is the worst for me. My daughter wants to be friends with everyone, and that’s lovely, but when she barrels into the playground at 8.45am full of energy and talking so fast and so loud that she can’t catch her breath, even her best friend looks a little overwhelmed. I’ve seen kids give up their place as first in line just so they can get away from Sprog. I don’t honestly blame them.
- Shops. When a shop assistant smiles at my daughter and perhaps asks if the kinder egg she just put on the counter is for her, my daughter will not only answer the question but proceed to give the shop assistant her full name and address, and then launch into her life story. For safety reasons I am glad that she can give her name and address, but I really wish she wouldn’t do it to every stranger who smiles at her.
We have, of course, had conversations about this behaviour. About how she shouldn’t talk to strangers. About how there is a difference between friends, family and professionals. About how it is okay to hug Granddad but not the gas man. About why she shouldn’t be saying “I love you” and trying to kiss the support worker. She takes in what I’m saying, seems to understand and then forgets the whole thing within ten minutes.
During one of her insanely loud, hyper, desperately attention seeking episodes, my daughter is deaf to my voice. I ask her to calm down, to stop what she is doing or to use her inside voice. I remind her that we talked about this behaviour. She looks at me as though I have sprouted another head, throws me a defiant eye and then continues whatever she was doing. If I remove her from the situation to calm down (which is almost impossible in half of these situations, I’m talking dragging a 5 year old down the street while she continues to yell over her shoulder to a kid who is staring at her like a deer in headlights) she will sulk, and when she comes back into the situation she will carry on where she left off.
I discovered recently that a lot of children can behave this way, and that it isn’t a major concern. It has prompted comments from professionals ranging from “some sort of attention based issue” to “ambivalent attachment style”, but I hear it is a common phase so I am clinging to that. I’d also like to share with you my tips for dealing with this kind of behaviour; none of them work well enough to stop my daughter altogether, but it’s all I’ve got so far.
- Talk about stranger danger, CONSTANTLY. Seriously, you need to be telling your kids what constitutes a stranger, and then reminding them that we do not talk to strangers. I usually remind my daughter that if you don’t know their name and haven’t met them before, they are a stranger – which is supposed to cover the gas man visiting, too.
- Talk about the difference between friends and family. It is okay to hug family. Friends though… Well there are limits. My child is too full on with her friends, and sees no difference between her friends and my friends, which means when an adult friend visits me for a brew she expects them to spend their whole visit entertaining her. This is not how it works, and I try to regularly remind my daughter that there is a difference in relationship between her and her friends, my friends, and our family.
- Try to calm down. Maybe have a code word for when your child is being too much – as sometimes telling them to calm down in front of company can just make things worse. Try different ‘calming down’ techniques (such as removing themselves from the situation, counting, deep breathing) to find out what actually works for your child. If they are like mine, they have no regulation at all and nothing will work. Tough cookies I’m afraid.
- Pre-empt where you can. I try to forewarn my daughter; if the gas man is coming round I will explain that he is coming to do a job and not to see her, and that she isn’t to be mythering him. Usually this leads to her bargaining with me about “only showing him one dance” but if you are sure to shut this bargain down right away you might see some results.
Does your child struggle to behave appropriately with strangers? Or to regulate their excitement around visitors or other children? I’d love to hear your stories or opinions!