In June I posted the following (though I've edited it so it's not so long) on the Always Learning unschooling group.
E and L were playing in the wagon. It has a little door and E wanted it closed and her sister wanted it open so they were fighting
over it. I intervened and tried talking about ways we could solve the problem.
Set a timer? Take turns? I asked her if she had any ideas too. But she could
hardly hear my suggestions because the whole time she is trying to push me out
of the way to get to the door to close it. I am trying to keep her away from it
so the girls aren't fighting while we find a solution. She would NOT stop for
even a second to try to figure something else out. She got more and more intent
on closing the door to the point where she is pushing me, running into me,
hitting me, just fighting with everything she has to get the door.
By that point, it knew it wasn't about the door. It's about the FIGHT. She
does this every day over random things. So I quit trying to give her ideas to
solve the door problem and instead said, "Right now I need to keep you away from
you sister until you calm down." And I tried to help her calm down. But
After trying to get her some water, holding her in a bear hug, seeing if she
wanted to push on my hands (helps with frustration sometimes) or throw a stuffed
animal, tried to let her have some space in her room, I finally ended up just
sitting on the floor between her and her sister with my hands out to stop her
from getting to her sister. She kept running into me and I kept pushing her
back (not hard, just away from me) because the only other option was to hold her
and restrain her. By that point I was angry and I ended up pushing her too hard
and she fell and got hurt.
Then she stopped.
I held her and comforted her while she cried and apologized for pushing her.
When she calmed down, her sister was done with the wagon and I said, "There you
go, it's your turn now!" She said, "No, I don't want to play with it."
I wanted to scream YOU JUST FOUGHT ME OVER IT FOR LIKE 20 MINUTES AND NOW YOU
DON'T WANT IT?!
This type of thing was happening every day for a while and even though it is not always that frequent, it is something that she has done since she was very little. She gets stuck on something and will. not. give. up. At the moment I posted that, I was feeling very much like she just likes to fight me, because the things she fights about seem so pointless to me and by the time the fight is over, she doesn't even want whatever she was fighting over anymore.
Along with other good advice (such as not taking it personally), the thing they told me that I really needed to hear was watch, pay attention, be aware, look for patterns of when she is doing this kind of thing. I already knew that she tends to get this way when she is feeling disconnected from me, but I needed that reminder.
So, I watched more and played more and connected more. And when I do that, this issue mostly just goes away. She won't do it at all for days, maybe a week. But then suddenly, without warning (or more accurately, I didn't pay attention to the warnings), I would find myself in another physical battle with her. While she is normally pretty open to reason and working together to find solutions, when she gets in this mood, I don't think she can even hear me, let alone consider what I'm saying to her. She doesn't look at me and doesn't respond except to say NO or repeat what she wants that she's fighting for. She doesn't see anything except her goal and I'm just an obstacle in her way.
I have figured out her triggers and can mostly help her avoid feeling this way. But I was still stuck on what to do when it happens. I felt like the only thing I could do was be a physical barrier until she inevitably got hurt and would calm down. (Oh and if you're reading thinking "just spank her or give her a time out," I am literally rolling on the floor laughing. She is one of those kids that if you spanked, you would have to keep doing it until you beat her unconscious, and a time out would likely result in a broken down door.)