I know that my daughter's attention and emotional well being seem to fluctuate more than some other people and that she is very sensitive to what she perceives others to be thinking about her. Also extremely verbal. (7 years old). Her shyness can also come across as rudeness or being less happy than she truly is. Being so verbal and having strong opinions, she has long thought that a well-articulated opinion (or just her mood) should sway decisions even after they've been made. I know I've played into this, but have been working on natural consequences to things like arguments, negotiating, etc (basically, trying to have it where when these things happen, the subject is immediately closed).
However, tonight was beyond ordinary. Rather than going into details (which I will if helpful later), suffice it to say that there were about 4 steps (things she wanted tonight, including a bath, piano practice, 'rag curls' and a story) that she complained about, lost because of the complaint, and then argued and cried incessantly about each one because she actually wanted each and "I didn't mean to say it that way." I'm trying to help her see that her auto-complaint mode actually has an effect on other people, and that negotiating and having a fit simply won't work.
Here's my worry. I know that the above has happened to others and that it seems like yet another spoiled kid trying to have fits to get her way, with mom who just needs to walk away. However, I'm finding myself shocked that she suddenly lashed out with "why do you do this to me? how can you ruin all of these things? i can't trust you..you say yes, but then say no." etc., etc. Serious anger. I'm not going to argue, and she's not able to hear when she's crying and moaning anyway. I was simply staying with her, trying to be quiet, and definitely being calm. But then she said------"I hate it here. I hate this world. I wish I would just be wiped out." And these aren't idle words...I do see tendencies for her to pick up the negative when there is a more positive way to see things, and she comes by this somewhat naturally with her dad and sometimes with me. But now I"m worried about real depression. On paper, this looks like a smart kid playing her mom, maybe. To me, it looks real and terrifying. This went on for an hour; when she wasn't crying and saying "please, please please," or saying what I just described, she was looking at me with such anger and pointing her finger at me and accusing me of being terrible.
I worry now that 1) my daughter needs emotional help for emerging depression, 2) she absolutely cannot see that she played any role in the results of not getting what she wanted to do, and 3) I've done an extremely crappy job if she's nearly 8 and still believes that tantrums or arguments are going to get her anywhere. Clearly, I've let it work or something...or at least engaged in the argument.
The other info you might need is that she often considers herself to be without friends, although she has many and is often at the center of play. She sees negative intent in what others do far more often than is real. She is not someone who you would think of as comfortable in their own skin (can be awkward at times), but is then a shining star in the ballet show she was chosen to do for a school talent show (for example). Any thoughts on a direction to take would be most welcome, even if it's something I don't want to hear. I think my husband thinks I"m being played, but I think he had a crummy parenting model in his parents, so I can't really rely on that. And others have commented that she does take a negative view of things. It isn't non-stop, but it is present.
Please help. I am becoming increasingly worried about her. I remember my very confident, happy 2-3 year old and wonder where I stopped giving her what she needed to be the person she was actually born to be, instead of this negative, hypersensitive and sometimes very angry 7 year old.
Thank you in advance,
I am sure someone else may have more helpful advice but with a dramatic 7yo of my own, I couldn't help but reply. Our daughter's sound similar in many ways and we have a family hx on both sides of depression (my side) and anxiety, ocd, and eating disorders on her dad's so I am always on the look out for 'issues'
I think you are wise to be watchful and if you have the resources counseling wouldn't be a bad idea (is it ever - I think everyone could benefit) and you might get a good objective opinion on the depression issue or perhaps even find tools to re-shape her negative thinking using cognitive behavioral therapy before anything gets too ingrained? Trick, as always, will be to find a good counselor and don't just stick with the first one you meet if you don't solidly click (I might shop around myself and then bring in dd when you find the right one) - My dd started showing some concerning signs of anxiety and my dh bought a great book (name ?) that helped us do this ourselves - (re-train her thinking) and it is no longer an issue at all ( right now anyway, and could have resolved all on its own without intervention, but a few simple responses helped and why take that chance?)
THAT said, if she's doing relatively well 'out in the world' then complaining to you might just be a normal way to vent and destress and process her emotions - 7 can be very tricky for kids as they are really getting a sense of how they 'compare' to their peers and her complaints might really be more her fears, but she doesn't know how to express it as such - make sense? And I do think it's important that we just be a sounding board for our kids and not try to fix or place value judgments on everything that she says (not saying that you do this)
I find that when my dd is in complaining mode it's most helpful to just listen - not fix, not really even engage as it seems to feed the drama, but just let her know I hear what she has to say - and then move on. For example, she had a string of days that she really just did not want to go to school - didn't like reading or her reading teacher (she is doing fine, grade level or slightly above) and declared on numerous occasions that she was not going to school and I couldn't make her. SOmetimes I would say that staying home would mean staying in bed all day, but mostly I didn't say anything and just moved fwd with our getting ready for school routine and she would go without any difficulty whatsoever... she just needed to have her say...
Perhaps even just a few counseling sessions might be enough to give you some ways to help her - while striking that balance of just letting her vent as I mentioned above....
Thanks, this is helpful. I have borrowed a book from her school's grade level counselor (I work at the same school) who also knows her well. About "when you grumble too much." Could you think of the name of that book you used? I'd be interested.
I also like your ideas about listening but not engaging....will definitely try that. Sometimes I think if we could both stop talking for 5 minutes, the storm would pass and then we could talk again. Like trying to reason with a drunk person when you try to reason with a hysterical child in the moment, I think. I'll work on that.
Thanks too for your thoughts on 7. It's been one of my favorites in a way....able to do so many things, but still a baby in many ways. And I know that "little girl" thing won't last forever, so I'm trying to enjoy this even amid the occasional turmoil that just seems so bad when it flares up.
Anyway, thank you again. Hugs to you re: your own
I'm just glad someone wrote back! You're also an expert if you've gone through this anyway....I'm about to re-post in another forum since I'm not really hearing back here.
Thanks for the book reference. You found it helpful? Our school counselor recommended two books that are more like journaling activities for her. One she recommended not using the cover for, because she sees that my girl would read the title and then say "Oh, I have anxiety?" and then latch on to that. So I appreciate your suggestion as well, especially since you found some success.
Thank you again!
As you'll see, the book I recommended is for you to read- not something to read with your child - if you think she has anxiety, even just the normal variety - I think it can be helpful - a good discussion on cog beh. therapy - and also how to walk that fine line between understanding/empathizing/supporting your child vs. indulging (not the right word) or enabling the anxiety to take root - I thought there might be some good parallels with that in your dd negative thinking ....We did get another book to read together that had some activitiies for her to do, and while she would read it with us at night before bed, she never did do any of the activities....
Queen, I appreciate the reminder (I'm the OP), but if she hadn't posted (and later realized she maybe wasn't supposed to), no one would have replied. I still wait for the expert to share her thoughts. In the meantime, I've sought my own help, but I still would have appreciated even a "this isn't something I can address now" comment.
So sorry to not have answered you before this. I kept posting answers and receiving the message that they needed to be moderated, and then they never showed up. But I think that is now solved, and I look forward to this forum. I also want to thank bonamarq for her book recommendation; that is a terrific book for parents whose kids tend to be anxious. For the record, I don't have any issue with others weighing in on this forum.
So to Lily Sophia's mom: Yes, you have reason to be concerned. Your daughter is not happy. She does not feel listened to. She has some big feelings that are getting in her way. Yes, she is seeing the glass as half empty, and that may be a inherited tendency. But you may be able to parent in such a way that you can teach her to work with this tendency.
I understand that you don't want to reward arguing, but the strategy of her automatically losing what she wants if she complains or argues is clearly not working to teach her not to complain. Instead, it is making her feel hopeless and enraged. That's what you're sensing, and naturally, that worries you.
That approach is essentially a behavior mod approach. It isn't working because your daughter can't manage the emotions that are driving her to complain. Which is why she's now feeling helpless and hopeless, not to mention very much alone. I suggest that you approach this a bit differently. Specifically, I suggest that you look at the feelings that are driving her behavior. Help her to "vent" those feelings, and to feel happier inside her own skin, and I think you'll find her much more able to manage her behavior.
Recognize that your daughter is complaining because nothing seems quite right to her. That's because she's got some big feelings stored up that are making her uncomfortable. She needs your help to surface and express these feelings. Not in words -- words actually suppress feelings. In tears, or shaking, or raging.
Luckily, she is still young enough that she will cry with you, right? Instead of seeing that as a negative thing, try welcoming her tears. Hold her in your arms. Tell her that you see how sad she is, what big feelings she needs to let out. Everyone needs to cry sometimes, and you will stay right there and hold her and keep her safe.
It sounds like she did cry with you on the evening you're describing, but she went back and forth into rage. Rage is a defense against feeling sad, or, most commonly, frightened. I think your daughter has some fear locked up and needs to let it out. You don't have to know what it is about to help her with this. When she erupts at you in anger, stay calm and kind. Look her in the eye, which will bring her back to the more vulnerable fear that she's fighting down. Be open to listening to her anger. "You think I am being mean. Tell me more." If she attacks you verbally, take a deep breath and remember that she is just trying to keep that fear under wraps, and the best defense is a good offense. If you stay calm and kind and signal that she can trust you to keep her and you safe, she will eventually dissolve into fear. When kids vent fear, they tremble, sweat, get red-faced, thrash around, and often cry without tears. If she does this, just tell her that she's safe now, you're with her, you will always keep her safe. Don't talk too much, or it will shift her from emotion to thinking and push the feelings back down. Throughout all of this, keep breathing and stay as calm as you can. This is the hard part for most parents.
Why is it worth it to endure such a "tantrum" from your 7 year old? Because afterwards she will be a different child. You will see her at her most positive, I suspect. She may need to do this a few times to begin to feel better inside her own skin. And she might need to "try it" a few times, with her upset getting bigger each time, to be sure she can really trust you. But this will make a tremendous difference in her anxiety level. Why? Because fear is anxiety.
So will this solve everything? Maybe. Your daughter may have a tendency to anxiety or depression that is innate, but if you give her help with her emotions, the degree to which a tendency manifests can be limited.
What I am describing is basically a therapeutic approach to emotions. However, most of the time children will not trust therapists with their emotions enough to do what I am describing. This is something she needs you for.
For more info on this approach, here's an article from my website:
I would also highly recommend the Hand-in-Hand.org website, which consistently advocates for this approach. Here's a link to one of their articles.
Now, is helping her with her emotions sufficient? I don't think so. She is showing us that her mind is seeing things negatively. Whether that is a result of negative emotions or of some innate tendency to see the world pessimistically, we don't know. I wouldn't blame yourself. Instead, I would help her to notice and manage her mind. After all, it is our thoughts that give rise to our feelings. So if your daughter is perceiving the glass as half empty, she will feel angry. If she can take a more mature view that every situation has both good and bad in it, then she can have more balanced feelings.
We can definitely help kids learn to perceive the world with more optimism, and here is an article on how to do that:
I would also recommend Tamar Chansky's book Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Resilience, Flexibility, and Happiness-- either in addition to, or instead of the one recommended above. You might spend a little time looking at the tables of contents to see which looks like the best place to start.
Finally, I would like to suggest that you try to reframe the way you see your daughter. I understand her behavior is totally aggravating. But she is who she is and she is trying the best she can. For you to help her emotionally and with her perceptions, she needs to feel your unconditional love. Here's an article on Working with Your Child's Temperament that might be helpful to you. And of course, Special Time with her every day to strengthen your relationship is a must. If you can figure out ways to get her giggling during that time, it will help you connect AND help her let off some of the feelings she would otherwise need to cry about.
So this is a four-pronged approach:
1. Help her with emotions
2. Help her manage her mind and perceptions
3. Reframe your own attitude so you can better support her
4. Strengthen your relationship with her.
I think you'll find it transformative. Please let me know what happens. And enjoy your daughter!
this is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for your perspective on this! I see what you mean re: the behavioral approach versus actually helping deal with the feelings at hand. Your rage descriptions and definitions are also helpful. It's easy to take those moments personally or as irrational without a sort of 'definition' like that. This is like taking a step back and watching what is happening....I appreciate it and your recommendations.
I will definitely check out the resources as well.
Thank you again...
also, we're together for the summer without work or school, and not even at home, as our family is on a very long vacation (how we were able to swing this is a very long story). But before I"d heard from you, her grade-level school counselor had recommended also the "bucket filling journal," as all of the kids in the grade are familiar with this analogy and Lily likes it. It would give her something to DO as well. I brought this up one afternoon in the vein of "this summer, I'm going to work on ____ for myself, what do you think of that? Would you like to help me?" She agreed that this was a good idea :-). Then I asked her if there was anything she wanted to work on too, since we aren't so busy, and she said "arguing and complaining and being so shy." So I don't know if this comes from her or partly from her and partly from her knowing that arguing and complaining have been a topic, but when later I bought the journal (she's unaware of the conversation with the counselor), she got very excited about it and even pushed to read through the book that I got with it. Maybe the familiar? Maybe that I am actually trying to work on something with her? I don't know. EIther way, it's clear she's not thrilled with how things are right now.
I'll post back if that's okay. Thank you again. I'd welcome your thoughts on whether I should keep up full swing with this journal thing or just gently keep it going while doing other things.
The journal sounds like a terrific idea. Anything that brings more awareness is good. I think your daughter's desire to tackle this is sincere. She doesn't WANT to be a person who complains. She just can't quite manage her emotions to express herself differently. It's interesting that she put shyness on the list with arguing and complaining. They aren't usually related in our minds, but they are in hers. That indicates to me that the arguing and complaining are coming from fear and anxiety, just as the shyness is. So helping her express those feelings will be very helpful to her. I want to add that for kids to trust us with their fear, we need to spend positive time with them building that trust. I think the interactions you have been having around the journal project sound perfect for that. Good luck, and feel free to check back if you need support.