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Monday, February 27, 2012

A Red Realization

So, as many of you know, we've been having a difficult time with Matt over the past couple of weeks.

Here are some of the behaviors we observed:
  • Outbursts (violent at times)
  • Not listening (not even appearing to hear us)
  • Shouting
  • Terrible tantrums over small things
  • Inability to be told "no" without verbally assaulting us
  • Insisting that he do what he wanted to do that very moment
  • Inflexibility
  • Unreasonable requests and behavior
  • Name calling...unending name calling
Many of you may attribute this to typical 3.5 year old behavior...I know I did.  The thing is, it started so suddenly.  Plus, a lot of this behavior was new for Matt...he would do one of these things occasionally, but not with the frequency that we were seeing.  We linked it to him being sick, but then thought about it further.

When did it really start?  What had changed between the beginning of the month and now other than him being sick?  Why was this happening?

Then it hit me.  All of the Valentine's Day was all so RED.  Then I thought back to stories that friends had told me about kids with ADHD reacting poorly to food dyes (esp Red #40) and articles that I had read linking misdiagnoses of behavior disorders to processed foods...particularly sensitivity to food dyes.  It hit me...Matt could be having a reaction to the dyes in the candy that he was getting.

It's hard around here when two kids get a ton of candy at random times throughout the year.  I don't want to dump all of their candy, be it Halloween or Valentine's Day, in front of them and say "have at it."  I think that's kind of gross and overdoing it.  So, I try to spread it out.  You finished your dinner?  Sure, you can get a special treat from your Valentine's Day bag.  They may have had one or two pieces a day...depending on the day.  And they were all so RED!

Could that be enough to change his behavior this much???

Husband and I discussed and he, very matter of factly, said, "just throw it out...get rid of it all.  We'll see if we notice a change."

So, we did.  It all went in the garbage.  A small part of me cringed because people had paid good money for that stuff and it was just all going away.  Plus, candy is so yummy!

Within 24 hours, we noticed a difference.  It was hard b/c Hailey was sick and we were busy taking care of her, but once I took Hailey out shopping for construction paper, Husband could spend some one-on-one time with Matt.  He said it was like being with a different kid.

When Hailey and I got home, I started to notice it too.  I'd ask him to do something and he'd do it without argument.  I'd take a toy away from him because he used a rude word and he wouldn't completely a matter of fact, he would walk away saying, "I get it Mama...I get it."

This was two days ago and it's just been getting better.  As we discussed it further today, we tried to go through all of the times this year that we've seen a sudden switch in behavior and tried to link them to an increase in food dyes.  Truth be told, every single time has been around a candy-ridden time (Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc.).  I shouldn't just say candy either b/c it doesn't happen with just chocolate.  It's so weird, right?  It's just with the candies that include food dyes...this means lollipops, some gummies, M&Ms (this one makes me sad), some frosting, some cakes, some ice pops, and anything else that has food dyes.

Source: via Chris on Pinterest

Keep this in mind...we don't eat a lot of processed foods.  We made that decision early on in the Crazies childhood and we've stuck to it.  It takes a lot more planning.  It's more expensive.  It's time consuming to prepare everything.  However, it totally pays off.  That may also be the reason for his behaviors being so notable.  We just don't eat a lot of processed stuff, so we don't see this behavior often either.

Does this make me a tree hugger?  Maybe...I'm definitely going to be searching for naturally flavored and colored jelly beans for Easter.  Does this make me a little crunchy?  Maybe...I'm definitely going to be more careful with our food labels.  Does this make me an overreacting mother who is desperately searching for a reason for her son's ridiculous behavior?  Maybe...but I think I found my reason, so there...I win.  Does this make me a food snob?  Maybe...but I'd rather be a food snob than deal with this shit for another few weeks.

According to my very "beginning stage" research, cutting out food dyes has also been beneficial in other areas...behavior in kids with ADHD, people who suffer from migraines, kids with violent/defiant behavior, and, quite possibly, many other things of which we're not even aware.

So, we'll see how it goes.  I'm going to be extremely careful.  I may let them have one day of candy and then get rid of it all.  It's true that the candy seems to linger FOREVER anyway.  It's just annoying.

What do you guys think?  What have you heard?  Any experiences?  Do you think I'm nuts?

Want more think-points?  Check out this post...very interesting.