or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Preteens and Teens › 8 y.o. w serious emotional issues?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

8 y.o. w serious emotional issues?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
(she just turned 9 y.o., sry about title!)

I am not so much looking for advice but hoping to hear stories from others in a similar situation, because I am losing perspective here. We have a 9 y.o. DD who from about age 4 has become increasingly difficult and out of control. We are a large family (6 children, 7th on the way) and none of my other children are like her at all. I do have two children who have issues, PDD-NOS, but are typically very quiet, introverted, and rule-oriented.

9 y.o. DD has wild mood swings, tremendous anger, tremendous meanness, and is quite frankly expertly manipulative emotionally. She often shocks me with her emotional sophistication in terms of being able to say cruel things to make everyone around her feel terrible. She resents any of her siblings' happiness, mutters mean things about us under her breath, will go out her way to break happy family moments, bullies and goads her siblings until they snap and lash out at her verbally-- and once that happens all hell breaks loose, she starts screaming as though we were trying to kill her, flailing, saying we all hate her, and threatens to hurt or kill (!) herself. It is like she is a bully, drama queen, and wild, wounded animal all mixed into one.

When she calm she is beautiful, insightful, good hearted, but it seems like her "calm" periods are becoming fewer and shorter. She has even described to me-- when she is calm-- that she cannot control her behavior and she does not understand why she acts this way.

Sometimes her rages are over something understandable (a sibling not wanting to play with her, which they want to do less and less these days because she might start raging), and sometimes they are over something random and bizarre. Today she went from screaming and flailing that I had returned a book on tape to the library, in the next breath saying we all hate her and she wants a different family, and in the next breath sobbing hysterically that she will only be happy when she has a baby brother (she does not know I'm pregnant).

She has never been abused, we have been pretty AP with all our kids, we are very careful with what TV/ film thy are exposed to. I don't even yell-- although recently, with her, I have started to raise my voice because she is truly pushing me to the edge of my patience. We do (recently) give her 5-10 minute timeouts for pushing, hitting, or very cruel berating-- this is mostly to give her siblings some space from her and to protect them from her. But when she is in a time out she gets all the more hysterical and furious. It is impossible to talk to her or reason with her when she is raging, if for no other reason that she can't hear anything over her shrieking and screaming. She also won't let us touch her or get near her in any gentle manner.

I really don't understand her-- and I don't understand how she got to be this way when she was raised in such a loving, stable environment.

She was in school K-2 and we are homeschooling this year (she wanted to) but I am considering putting her back in just to give her siblings a break. She seemed very happy at school, but never happy at home.

Does anyone have a child like this?
post #2 of 23
Yes, I have a daughter like this...she is 10 but has been "intense" since she was about 6 or 7. We worry about the way she berates her younger sister and it often feels like she is a dark storm that the family has to take shelter from. I am constantly wondering what we can do to help her and the family from the storm that she is.

When you say your daughter is unhappy at home I can totally relate...my dd does go to school and does very well there and then I often dread weekends because it seems to be spent tip toeing around her mood swings. I sometimes wonder if she saves up all her frustration and stress from school and then lets loose once she is at home.
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
When my DD9 was in school she never raged during the school day-- in fact she never misbehaved or caused trouble, ever. They had a red/ yellow/ green system in her classroom and she never once went off green. She even won an award for best behavior. She seemed really happy there and was often angry about having to come home from school. However she insists she does not want to return to that school, and if she does go back to school it has to be to a different school.

I too dread having to manage/ deal with her, sometimes when I go to bed at night I dread morning because I know it's going to be another round of fury and drama depending on her mood.

I forgot to mention that she also lies/ borderline lies by exaggerating. For instance if her sibling pushes her (always provoked or from her pushing first) she will start screaming that we are trying to kill her and that she will tell the police. She will also do mean/ destructive things and then claim never to have done them just seconds later, even when we all saw her do it. For instance yesterday she snatched 2 books away from her little sister, I told her that was unkind and she needed to give them back. So she threw the books. She immediately denied having thrown the books or having done anything wrong.

Also forgot to mention that she is obsessive about clothes-- will have a screaming fit if something doesn't "feel right" or look "fashionable," (she has strange definitions of fashionable though!) and always dresses inappropriately for weather or for activities-- for instance demanding to wear dress shoes (that she can barely walk in) for a long walk, then once we are walking she is hysterical because it is hard to walk. Or demanding to wear a sundress and flipflops in 40F weather, then she gets hysterical because she is cold. This has always struck me as a very OCD thing but she doesn't seem OCD in any other way.

One of her worst triggers is if she sees me praising one of her siblings for something, so I have actually cut back on how much praise or encouragement I give the other children-- I know this is terrible but I am so afraid of setting her off that I have to tip toe around her. Her older sister draws wonderful comics but I have to be careful not to praise it too much or laugh or DD9 will go off on an hours long tirade. I am so sad about how this is affecting my family and my interaction with her siblings.
post #4 of 23
*I could be totally off base here with inexperience (so please no one flame me).*

My 11 year old DSD can be much this way, minus the rages (although I think she rages at her mom's). She can be emotionally manipulative, say very cruel things, be dramatic, excessively jealous, etc. She is coming to live with us full time in less than a month because her emotional needs are currently not being met. (Please understand I am not saying that anyone here is not meeting their child's emotional needs. I am only stating what is going on with DSD.) She requires a lot of attention and tends toward regressive behavior when she isn't the center of attention. I love her very much and want to work with DH to help her to grow into an emotionally secure young woman. These are some of the things we've done/plan to do when she arrives to live with us. Many of them have been proven to work with her during summer long visits.

We give her attention. Usually when she's pushing my buttons, I talk to her about what she needs from me. She has told me that sometimes she just needs to talk to me about nothing in particular. I responded, "So you need my attention?" I told her it was perfectly okay to need someone's attention just to talk, that sometimes I need to talk to her dad, about nothing in particular, just to talk. I let her know that she can ask for my attention anytime and that I will make time for her. She said, "But that would seem DESPERATE!" I'm working to help her identify her emotional needs and to talk about them with us.

I had DH start Dad/Daughter dates. She LOVES these and always looks forward to them.

Likewise, I take her out--just the 2 of us for a coffee date. The baby stays home with DH and she has my full attention. She's content to sit at the table and talk for a few minutes, to spend a chunk of time writing separately and to share what we've written at the end. But she has *me* all to herself during that time.

I praise her often. I tell her what a great job she's doing/has done/etc.

I involve her in the care of her younger brother. She loves to pick his pjs out every night (and once became very emotional when she couldn't pick out his pjs due to extenuating circumstances). She loves to read DS bedtime stories and 1-2 nights a week will be her special time to read to him. If she asks to change his diaper, I allow it, while letting her know that it is not expected of her.

Meanwhile, she can be very jealous of her baby brother, as well. I am very careful to balance the attention I give.

We talk with her at great length regarding her emotions and help her to process them. We help her to define her needs and to seek direct ways of getting her needs met.

I suggested to DH that he can read DSD a bedtime story, maybe a chapter from a chapter book, etc. I know that she will LOVE this and that it will help her to feel secure emotionally.

We plan (for a variety of reasons) to homeschool her (at least in the beginning). But I think the 1:1 individualized plan may be just what she needs.

We give her/encourage her to seek attention in developmentally appropriate ways. For instance, DS was getting attention at the dinner table, DSD became visibly upset/sad and asked if she could show us how the piggies eat. At that point, I redirected my attention to her and asked her to talk to us about something she was involved in, a project, an interest or what not. This way she is getting attention in a developmentally appropriate way and not resorting to regressive behavior.

When she gets a good deal of attention, she thrives. She's creative, imaginative, emotionally intuitive, is a great big sister, a good little sister, is sweet and affectionate. ... And when she regresses emotionally regarding her behavior, I ask her what she needs from me at that moment.

I realize our situations are different, as DSD has not been raised in an AP home. We AP her when she is with us and will parent in that style going forward. It sounds like you've already been parenting AP style. Best luck to you. I just wanted to toss some of what has worked for us out there, along with some things we plan to try when she's living with us.

Good luck.
post #5 of 23
My 11 yo DD is so much the same way. I'm to the point where I don't know what to do anymore, where I'd almost rather have her live somewhere else. The following quotes of yours are spot on with my DD:
Quote:
Originally Posted by frugalmum View Post
9 y.o. DD has wild mood swings, tremendous anger, tremendous meanness, and is quite frankly expertly manipulative emotionally. She often shocks me with her emotional sophistication in terms of being able to say cruel things to make everyone around her feel terrible. She resents any of her siblings' happiness, mutters mean things about us under her breath, will go out her way to break happy family moments, bullies and goads her siblings until they snap and lash out at her verbally-- and once that happens all hell breaks loose, she starts screaming as though we were trying to kill her, flailing, saying we all hate her, and threatens to hurt or kill (!) herself. It is like she is a bully, drama queen, and wild, wounded animal all mixed into one.
Quote:
Originally Posted by frugalmum View Post
Also forgot to mention that she is obsessive about clothes-- will have a screaming fit if something doesn't "feel right" or look "fashionable," (she has strange definitions of fashionable though!) and always dresses inappropriately for weather or for activities-- for instance demanding to wear dress shoes (that she can barely walk in) for a long walk, then once we are walking she is hysterical because it is hard to walk. Or demanding to wear a sundress and flipflops in 40F weather, then she gets hysterical because she is cold. This has always struck me as a very OCD thing but she doesn't seem OCD in any other way.
Just last week she sobbed and wailed for more than an hour because I wouldn't let her wear open-toed sandals with 3 inch heels to an amusement park. She's always had clothing issues, stemming from sensory issues I believe. Itchy tags and bumpy socks have been a concern since she was a toddler. Now fashion is more of an issue. Everything has to exactly match. Shirts have to a very specific length. Pants have to be very tight (which difficult because she is so thin and HATES adjustable waistbands). She spends an hour every morning doing her hair.

She is obsessed with her 7 yo brother. She watches him constantly for any misdeed and as soon as he makes a misstep yells out what an idiot or a retard he is, or that he is disgusting or lazy. When I tell her that kind of language is not allowed she screams at me that I'm favoring him and protecting him, that if I would do my job of punishing him then she wouldn't have to! She makes his life miserable. She threw a book at his face the other day for no reason (he was just sitting there minding his own business) and when I confronted her about it she burst into tears about what a bad day she'd had.

I don't know how anyone can be so cruel and irrational. I can never talk to her about it. She doesn't see the same reality. I, too, have raised her very AP. I never punished. I don't know what went wrong. My other 3 children have thrived under my parenting style, but somehow it went terribly wrong with her.

When she gets in her rages I'll ask her to go to her room but she won't go. I end up pushing and shoving her. I hate the person I become around her. I've never laid a hand on my other kids.

I spend more time and energy and money on her than I do on my other 3 kids put together and it is never enough. When she's not at school, she goes everywhere with me (the other kids prefer to stay home, just to get a break from her I'm sure)--so she gets a lot of one-on-one time with me. We play games together, we have TV shows that just she and I watch. When she "needs" new clothes, I take her shopping. But still, I've failed at meeting her needs. I've given too much.

But it's hot and cold. Like your DD, she can be so delightful and intelligent and kind. She can be so sweet and nurturing to her little sister. It's like two people in the same body. I'm fed up with walking on eggshells to keep the monster at bay.

I sent her back to school last year after homeschooling for several years. She does really well in a school environment. No behavioral issues whatsoever. Sometimes certain assignments will make her anxious, but for the most part she does well (she is academically quite gifted).

My DH and I were just discussing how best to deal with her this morning. I want to try counseling. He thinks that is the equivalent of throwing money away and knows they would want to medicate her. I'm to point of feeling like having her medicated would be better than dealing with all this.

Frugalmum, I have no advice. But I understand.
post #6 of 23


Here is what works for me: figure out my part in it, get her to own her part, be the adult, do not engage, praise the good, talk after (maybe awhile after) the blow-up.

In my house not engaging and owning my own part in my DD's blow-up has been key.

I genuinely do not have time to go into it here, but I truly understand much of what you have written, OP, I empathise and you are not alone.

If it helps at all I was somewhat awful to my family from 9-13, and we are now quite close and nice (usually!) to each other.
post #7 of 23
I have zero advice. I have a 10 yo son who this fits to a "t"

I'm subbing
post #8 of 23
http://www.livesinthebalance.org/ Take a look at his website. Does anything sound familiar?

In your situation I'd see if it would be possible to get her in to therapy. It can't feel good for her to be acting like this.
post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by springbabes View Post
bumpy socks have been a concern since she was a toddler.
My daughter gets hysterical over socks if they are bumpy too.

Quote:
Pants have to be very tight
My daughter has wanted to dress provocatively from a young age-- the tighter, the shorter, the better. She has even tried walking around in her underwear and a tank top.

Quote:
She is obsessed with her 7 yo brother.
My DD is obsessed with her two older sibling and their relationship. She watches them like a hawk and at the slightest indication of being left out, or of perceived favoritism, will start raging. She calls them terrible names as well.

Quote:
I don't know how anyone can be so cruel and irrational. I can never talk to her about it.
Right-- when she is raging it's impossible to discuss anything, period. I used to be able to discuss these things with her during a "calm" moment but lately any discussion of her behavior triggers rages and meltdowns.

Quote:
When she gets in her rages I'll ask her to go to her room but she won't go. I end up pushing and shoving her. I hate the person I become around her. I've never laid a hand on my other kids.
We also have to force her to her room. She is very small for her age (she just turned 9 but is smaller than her 7 yr old sister) so we can still carry her. Her older brother has to help me sometimes. I also hate who I am around her. I withdraw emotionally, act cold and stern, because she is so difficult.

I would love to send her back to school at this point but DH does not want to (he is not the one at home dealing with her though). I am similar to your husband in that I do not want to involve psychiatry or medication-- I figure she would be diagnosed as bipolar or perhaps ODD (but she is very respectful of authority figures other than her family) and put on mood stabilizers, which is not something I can do right now.

I have wondered, with her two siblings diagnosed with PDD-NOS (which is very similar to Asperger's), if she might have some lesser or "shadow" form of high functioning autism. It doesn't seem to fit though.
post #10 of 23
Get a complete run-down from a doctor you trust.

Examine the family diet for known triggers. One of mine is mean after too much wheat. I have a cousin who rages after being fed peanut butter. For some kids its food colors.

When she's out of control at home, I'd immediately send her to a time out space. Some place with minimal furniture and things on the wall. Do not let her strike you , damage your home or her siblings.

Enlist the help of the school. They may be able to do some testing for you on their dime.

Good luck.
post #11 of 23
I keep editing my post, for I don't know how to bring this up. But I'm wondering if being a middle child in a 7 kid family could have anything to do w/ it (especially when 2 have medical issues and a baby is on the way)? She is obviously seeking attention, and maybe is longing for consistent, positive one-on-one time w/ her parents. Perhaps she'll settle for negative attention if she can't find it any other way.

I'm also wondering why you took her out of school, since she was thriving? Maybe she needs a separate space in which to develop her own identity and build self-esteem via personal accomplishments?

Her rages indicate to me some degree of feeling powerless, voiceless, and lost. There may be a few contributors beyond a psychological diagnosis, such as family dynamics.
post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pregnant@40 View Post
She is obviously seeking attention, and maybe is longing for consistent, positive one-on-one time w/ her parents. Perhaps she'll settle for negative attention if she can't find it any other way.
We have been AP with her, loving, 1 on 1 attention. My withdrawing emotionally is a very recent phenomena as her rages escalate, and her aggression toward her siblings increases.

Quote:
I'm also wondering why you took her out of school, since she was thriving?
The school had many problems, including students with serious behavioral problems (one of my other daughters was assaulted). Her 2 sisters were very unhappy so I took them out to homeschool them. DD9 begged to be homeschooled too. As much as I disliked her last school I would send her back (if we could come up with the $$) if she wanted to, but SHE refuses to go back. She would like to try public school and I do think getting out of the house each day would be good for her, and her siblings would get a break from her.

Quote:
Her rages indicate to me some degree of feeling powerless, voiceless, and lost. There may be a few contributors beyond a psychological diagnosis, such as family dynamics.
I see people say the same things about school bullies-- I just don't buy it. I think kids bully because they DO feel powerful. Sadly she seems to genuinely enjoy making her siblings feel bad, she enjoys ruining close and loving moments between her siblings and us. This is what is so disturbing about it.
post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by frugalmum View Post
I see people say the same things about school bullies-- I just don't buy it. I think kids bully because they DO feel powerful. Sadly she seems to genuinely enjoy making her siblings feel bad, she enjoys ruining close and loving moments between her siblings and us. This is what is so disturbing about it.


I don't think there's a valid psychological basis for such a belief. I also believe that such a bias might be very damaging, not only to your DD, but to your relationship with her. Bullies might feel powerful IN THE MOMENT, but they end up in that situation because they feel incredibly powerless in general.

The very first basic step is to always assume positive intent. Feeling are valid. If she disrupts a close family moment, it is because she feels excluded (even if she misperceives the situation). This emotion is valid. Disrupting the moment is not acceptable, but her intent wasn not to disrupt, but to feel included--which is a positive intent. She just doens't know how to express this properly.

Even if you were right about her enjoyment in hurting others, and I highly doubt it, showing her that you believe in her core goodness is a much more constructive way to deal with the situation.

s
post #14 of 23
My son isn't quite as challenging as your dd, but I also only have one other so I spend a lot of time focused on him that you likely just can't. I just read 'The Difficult Child' and holy moly did it help me. I don't care for the title, and it was written before sensory processing disorder was really discussed much- it has a small mention in the back of the book, but he doesn't seem to believe in it.
However, it really does a great job of getting into understanding behavior and lots of great ideas for how to work for a successful set up and outcome to every day situations.

I also loved The Out of Sync child and I think you would gain a lot from reading these.

My son has been hell on wheels since before he was born. He kicked constantly and often hard enough to shake the furniture. He still has no real understanding of how strong he is and regularly hurts us without understanding. It's not necessarily hitting either, he rarely hits, he just grabs and squeezes hard when he's doing normal things. He used to have screaming fits for hours, but that has gotten better after learning to create a safe calmdown spot for him (bean bag chair!!!) He has a horrendous time with transitions, won't eat anything, just wow. I wish I had more time. many hugs mama!!!
post #15 of 23
I don't have a child like this, but it describes my mother completely. She is exactly the way you describe your daughter, and I know from my grandmother, aunts, and uncles that she's been this way since around age 5.

I wish that I had advice, but I don't. My mother is wonderful at her job. She's a hospital administrator. She's served on OSHA committees and did some work with FEMA for emergency training. She worked as an ER nurse before she moved to administration, and she's excellent at it. She's also a workaholic. She works 90-100 hour weeks and loves it.

At home, she was cruel. There is no other word for it. She was emotionally abusive, and I could not wait until I was old enough to move out. The plus side of having her as a mother was that she pushed my sister & me to perfection in everything we did. We excelled in all areas of our lives. I'm 30 now, though, and it's only been in the last 2 years that I've really been able to detach myself from her orbit of toxicity.

I know that's not helpful to you, but I do think that some things may just be who people are born to be. I don't believe anything happened to my mother to make her that way. She has 6 siblings, and none of them are that way. So I'm not saying *not* to look at diet or lifestyle or whatever else people are suggesting, but I also think it may be possible that it's just who your daughter is.
post #16 of 23
What's her sensory diet like?
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by midnightwriter View Post
I don't think there's a valid psychological basis for such a belief. I also believe that such a bias might be very damaging, not only to your DD, but to your relationship with her. Bullies might feel powerful IN THE MOMENT, but they end up in that situation because they feel incredibly powerless in general.

The very first basic step is to always assume positive intent. Feeling are valid. If she disrupts a close family moment, it is because she feels excluded (even if she misperceives the situation). This emotion is valid. Disrupting the moment is not acceptable, but her intent wasn not to disrupt, but to feel included--which is a positive intent. She just doens't know how to express this properly.

Even if you were right about her enjoyment in hurting others, and I highly doubt it, showing her that you believe in her core goodness is a much more constructive way to deal with the situation.

s
I specifically did not ask for advice in my OP because I knew exactly what I would hear, and believe me, we have tried it. What I want to know is if other AP parents find themselves with preteens and teens who seem, for lack of a better term, bullies and lacking in empathy despite their very tender AP upbringing.

As per my observation about bullies-- I was bullied viciously in school and whenever I hear pundits talking about bullies needing to hurt other people because they themselves feel powerless-- I'm sorry-- it's BS. The bullies who targeted me did so because they DID feel powerful in the first place and enjoyed hurting someone vulnerable and different. True bullies are like sharks in the water sniffing for blood.

My DD does seem to enjoy wielding her power over us-- she knows very well she has us all walking on eggshells-- I find this very troubling because we have never been harsh with her, and until very recently as her behavior escalates exponentially-- we have always assumed the best, given her the benefit of the doubt, and looked for any possible excuse in the book to look past her behavior. As she becomes increasingly combative and cruel to her siblings-- and us-- it is difficult to blindly assume positive intent when she, say, sprays mosquito repellent in her little sisters face, then smugly calls it an accident.
post #18 of 23
Autism spectrum disorder can be genetic and related to bipolar disorder. It is possible she has childhood bipolar disorder. I would google that so you can see the symptoms. Make sure you google childhood bipolar and not adult. It presents a little different at this age.

My dh has a bunch of people with bipolar disorder in his family and now we have 2 children with PDD-NOS. I suspect one of them might eventually turn out to have bipolar disorder.
post #19 of 23
I should add that it is my 9 yr old that we have similar issues with.
post #20 of 23
I want to also tell you to ignore any naysayers who will try to blame the home schooling. Fact is, if a child has troubles and attends school, then no one will ever tell you to pull her out and that perhaps going off to school makes her feel rejected and put out or anything.

I think it would be worth your time to take her to a neuropsych and get her evaluated. I would recommend going to a private one over a public school one if possible. Being a middle child does not cause someone to behave this way. Home schooling would more likely improve behavior rather than make it worse.

(((((hugs))))))
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Preteens and Teens
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Preteens and Teens › 8 y.o. w serious emotional issues?