OUR DAUGHTER MEREDITH Our youngest daughter has always been our challenge child. From an early age, she was always fiercely independent and prone to throwing tantrums when things didn’t go her way. Having two older, easy going children, Meredith threw us for a loop. We were not quite sure how to handle her frequent outbursts. At first, we thought that she would grow out of it. However, at the age of seven, she was still throwing daily tantrums when something seemingly minor took her over the edge. She would literally flail on the ground kicking her legs in every direction. Sometimes she would destroy things (shred paper or completely mess a room by strewing clothes everywhere). Even when I was having a normal conversation with her during a quiet moment, if she didn’t like what I was saying, her body would slither around, especially her legs. At one point she actually curled herself up into a ball and squeezed her body under the cocktail table in the family room while I was talking to her. It was almost humorous if it wasn’t so pathetic. I realized that Meredith was not a typical child and my husband and I simply did not know how to deal with her. It was wreaking havoc on our family, and effecting our older son and daughter, both of whom were very easy, respectful, easygoing children. We took her to a couple counselors, hoping that an outside objective person could talk some sense into her. We wanted her to get help in her anger management, because she seemed to be a very unhappy girl within our household. Thankfully, she was a “model” student at school and a wonderful little girl who had many friends. There was something in our family dynamic that made her anxious, frustrated, and angry. We had a few sessions with the counselors, but she was not very receptive to any of it and was convinced that we thought “something was wrong with her.” She even underwent an extensive (and expensive) personality test, which told us, for the most part, that she was a normal little girl. Finally, as Meredith turned ten and after debating what other alternatives we had, we found Sheryl. Sheryl was a “parent coach” who has literally changed our lives. Although she has never met any of our children, my husband and I have been meeting with her once a week for the past couple months to discuss how to best parent our children. During one session, we had a breakthrough with how to deal with our daughter, which I am happy to share. With Sheryl we discovered that Meredith’s “freak outs” were part of “her process” (a Sheryl euphemism) in dealing with life’s stresses. We decided to embrace the fact that she needs time to freak out (or tantrum), we should let her have her episode, then have her take a deep breath when it is over, and deal with the problem. So the next time she fell to the ground and kicked her legs in frustration, I said, “OK, you need time to freak out, that’s okay – let’s give it ten seconds”, and I began to count down from 10, 9, 8. . . she, of course, was screaming that I should stop counting while flailing on the ground, but I kept going 7,6,5,. . . When I reached one, she stopped. I reached to give her a hug, took a breath, and told her we were now going to deal with the problem. The amazing breakthrough happened in the car a little later when I talked about it with her. I told her that she is a wonderful girl who just needs to “freak out” for a little while when dealing with little problems that crop up – that it is just “part of her process. “ I told her that she is who she is, she needs the “freak out” and that we were going to embrace it. I asked her what she needs to help her feel better during this freak out period. She eagerly told me that she needs to move or kick her legs. I suggested possibly squeezing her hands together (something less dramatic) but she said that she needs to move her legs. I asked whether we could keep the freak out down to 10 seconds, and she said yes and that she really wanted me to count even though she tells me during the tantrum to stop. Now we were getting somewhere! Then to my surprise she said “And maybe when I get older I can get my freak outs down to 5 seconds, then 1 second.” I was about to cry. It seemed as if she felt that I finally understood her, and that she was actually trying to better herself while accepting that she is the way she is. I, too, was embracing that she is who she is, that I love her, and that I accept her exactly the way she is, freak-outs and all. Susan B. (coached along with husband)