Possible Parenting Help

Our daughter was the sweetest, most perfect baby ever. She did cry quite a bit though and never, ever took naps. Never. So the old advice that everyone kept telling me about “sleep when the baby sleeps” was not helpful. She did do me a favor and started sleeping through most of the night at around six weeks old. On the other hand, as she grew older, if she ever received the memo about how she is not in charge of the world, she either never read it or completely scoffed at it.

Fortunately, she is very well behaved for others. Don’t get me wrong, she is not a terror for us, usually. But I am certain not one of her teachers would ever believe the stories I could tell. I have put my time in here. I am thankful that she somehow managed to keep her temper in check until she got home.

I was encouraged recently when I heard someone on the radio say that a child that behaves everywhere else, but really pushes it at home, is a child that feels loved and safe. I let out a sigh of relief as I chuckled and said, “You must feel really loved.” She replied, “I sure do.” We both laughed.

I discovered something a few years back that I thought I’d pass along just in case it might be helpful to someone at a loss out there.

There were times when she was a toddler until about age seven when our sweet, precious, funny girl would fly into a rage. I am not talking a regular kid temper tantrum. It was something much more than that and would last for quite some time. Then finally, in mid-tantrum, a tipping point would come, a look in her eyes, when I learned I could reach out to her and hold her, and then she would settle down. It was the kind of thing that made me feel like I must be the worst mom ever. These outbursts didn’t happen always, just enough to know that something wasn’t right. I was worried about her.

What was the problem? I thought of some kind of food reaction because I have a niece who had to stop drinking orange juice because of similar outbursts. But there didn’t seem to be a pattern or noticeable reaction to anything in particular.

Finally, one night while waiting around during my kids’ dance classes, I was listening in as one of the mom’s talked about a kid they knew who had a reaction to red dye. Then I remembered and it finally made sense…

When my daughter was around three years old, I gave her some children’s Benadryl. Instead of dropping into sleepy slumber as I would, she revved up and was as cantankerous and mean as could be until 3:00 in the morning. Then when she was six or seven, I took her to urgent care because she had a rash that looked like groups of welts all over her body—she was having an allergic reaction to some prescribed medicine. The nurse gave her some Benadryl. I was a little nervous about how she would act and what I might have to put up with, but I was more nervous about the welty rash. This time she didn’t react to the Benadryl.

The difference? The medicine I had given her was red, the medicine the nurse gave her was dye-free. So, when I heard the mom talking at dance class, the light turned on.

Ooohhhh, red dye. I would have never thought of that.

I started eliminating obvious red dye foods from what she ate and her over-the-top tantrums disappeared. She still gets plenty upset with us, but now she keeps herself in check—unless, of course, she has eaten what she shouldn’t. For her, it seems a red dye-sugar combo is a particularly unholy alliance. I can always tell when she has too much sugar because she flies as high as a kite. I can always tell when she’s had too much red dye because she gets mean. So no more pink cupcakes with pink icing for our princess.

It seems impossible to completely eliminate red dye from her food supply, because it is in a lot of food you wouldn’t expect. But if we can remember to keep it to as minimal an amount as possible, she does well. She is still strong-willed. She still has not read the memo about not being in charge, but now at least, I don’t cry at night wondering what I’m doing wrong.

I know this is not an answer for everyone, but if your otherwise awesome kid has behavior problems that don’t match up with who they normally are, check the food. It may be that your child is having a reaction to something.

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