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Teaching my six year old to be alone

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

DD is 6.5 years old.  She's a high-spirited, high-energy, smart little girl.  She has always always needed to have someone to bounce her energy off.  She finds it unbearable to be alone.  When I try to accomplish anything, from making dinner to talking on the phone for 5 minutes she _cannot_ let me just get the task done.  I never talk on the phone unless DH is home because I find it simply too frustrating to try to carry on a conversation.  (I'm not even talking about social phone calls, I mean even necessary ones!)  


If I give her a craft or project to work on, she will work diligently on it but she needs constant commentary.  If I leave the room to try to clean the house or do anything she will follow me and call out to me.  


Bedtime is an absolute nightmare.  DD wants to be snuggled to sleep but she's always had trouble falling asleep so that process can take anywhere from an hour to three hours.  (We used to cosleep until I had my second child and the bed just wasn't big enough and no one was getting any sleep.)  When we try to leave, even just for 10 minutes to get something done, she calls out, cries, gets out of bed, etc etc.  All this happens very loudly, of course, so we always risk waking her sister. 


My younger DD, who is 3.5, is much more self-sufficient.  Now the girls share a room - our room is about four feet away, with the doors facing and we can all look at each other from our beds.  Halfway through the night, the three year old quietly gets up , walks to our room, climbs into bed with us, and goes to sleep.  But our older DD wakes in the middle of the night and calls out angrily to us until we go to her.  Then we must help her calm back down to sleep.  Some nights she is content to have one of us spend the remainder of the night sleeping in her sister's bed, other nights she insists that we sleep in her twin bed with her.  I don't think, in her entire 6 years that she has ever slept through the night.  



To add to this I worry that in order for me to get anything done around the house, it is my 3 yr old who ends up "entertaining" her sister.  Of course, she loves it.  They get along well and my younger DD adores her older sister.  But I feel it isn't fair for her that always ALWAYS they must be interacting when they are alone together.  DD2 loves to play imaginary play but when they are together, my older DD dictates what they play.  


She's always been this way (as a baby never ever slept unless I was right next to her etc).  I always thought she'd grow out of it, but she simply hasn't.  Everything we try to help her is met with huge resistance.  We've tried so many things!  Complicating things, she gets fiercely jealous if she feels her little sister is getting different (she assumes better) treatment.  


Does anyone else have experience with this kind of neediness?   Do any of you have ideas on what we can do to make DD more self-sufficient and able to entertain herself and be content just "being", or at least entertaining herself???


post #2 of 6

DS (age 8) is also really extroverted. And I am not. A couple things that helped:

-- Learning to read chapter books on his own was HUGE. When he made the leap from Magic Treehouse to Harry Potter, it was amazing for everyone.

-- Books on tape. He has listened to these at bedtime (after we read to him) since he was three. They are lifesavers.

-- Around 6 I began insisting that he spend time alone. I tried not to frame it as a punishment. So, say, coming home from the park in the car I'd say, "Okay, everyone is going to spend 15 minutes in their bedroom with the door closed when we get home." And lo and behold, he FINALLY began playing on his own sometimes. It's still not his first choice, but he can do it for up to about 45 min.


I think until you begin to really set boundaries it isn't going to happen. I would totally re-do the bedtime routine (with her input) and let her know clearly what the consequences will be if she wakes up her sister. (For my kids it would be 1. Lose treat the next day, then 2. Lose your TV show the next day.) And she probably WILL wake up her sister the first few nights, but for me it would be worth it. She's old enough. Right now she's in charge and she knows it. I would try incorporating an ipod with stories/music, used with headphones.


Good luck -- I know this isn't easy.


post #3 of 6

My son is a bit the same way. I insist on a one hour quiet time after lunch. It has been hard to implement and at first it was only 15 minutes. He gets a star sticker if he is quiet. He listens to a story on cd and it's the only time he will sometimes set up an imaginary game on his own. I think it's really important for both of us. I need a break from his constant questions and chatter and he needs to learn to be on his own. He is a mess by dinner time if he doesn't get this down time. He's almost 5 by the way. Luckily, his little sister is starting to become a good companion for him.


Its hard hearing about kids younger than him playing on their own for two hours while I still can't even pee on my own, so I sympathize. 

post #4 of 6


post #5 of 6

I could have written your post, OP.  My DD is 5.5, but she has been like your DD since birth!  She is intense on so many levels and it is difficult to do anything non-child when we're at home. 


One thing that has helped is that I let her help me out with chores, etc.  She is fairly satisfied with this arrangement because she can continue to talk to (or at) me when we are doing various tasks.  I think the thing that wears me out, however, is the constant pretend games and fantasies that she plays ALL THE TIME.  I'm always a character in these games and it just doesn't occur at home, it occurs on walks, on the train, in the store, etc.  It leaves me mentally exhausted.  Yesterday I locked myself in the bathroom just to get a break.  I felt terrible about it, but my mental health had to trump her need to pretend. 


I can't offer a lot of advice because I'm right in the middle of it myself.  I hope to hear from others here too. 

post #6 of 6

yes my dd is like that. 


and honestly i didnt have a problem with that. 


some are more needy than others and as long as they dont impinge on others i think its ok.


i didnt try anything different but around 7 or 8 i noticed she was more ok with being by herself. 


she was the kind who loved playing on her own and did a lot of play quietly and on her own but i had to be within ear and eye shot as she always craved an audience. she always wanted to share something new or interesting she discovered. 


honestly to put it gently mama, you might be making a little too much out of this. both your children are happy with the way things are. 


bedtimes. still the same issue for us. for me i have found peace with it. my dd is 9 already showing signs of puberty. pretty soon she is going to be gone. dd has some needs that i cant see. she is not being needy to spite me. yes i dont have another child thrown in but i do have a busy life and sometimes it does cut into my life. but seeing how deeply dd needs it i know its important for future that she gets nourished now. i have seen how completely independent she can be when her needs are met. 


what i am saying mama is sit back and review your life. is this more about her or about you? 


have you demanded your needs get met? is she aware that you have needs too? my dd has known from very young that i cant always play with her. sometimes i can sometimes i just dont want to. and she has had to live with that. 


that means at 9 it has made her very sensitive to people's needs including mine. 


in my family my younger brother was very much like your older dd. so it was the same dynamics in our house. i never ever resented my brother that i may have to play babier games. in fact i think it really bonded us. my mom had no idea how to manage both kids so i was resentful i didnt get enough time with her. but all taht is gone now, now that i am a mom and fully understand how she tried to do her best and never had parenting sites to help her improve her parenting. 

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