What is age appropriate behavior for a 9 1/2 year old? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 08-22-2007, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Dh and I are having problems agreeing on just what is and is not 'normal' 9 year old behavior.

DSD is in counseling, and is stealing, lying, being passive aggressive, and just generally a real pain. I believe she resents me and is mad at her dad for having a new relationship so soon after her mom died when she was 6. We're trying to sort these things out, but he seems to think that all of this behavior is normal, and I just don't see it. I didn't lie and steal at 9, ds didn't, and frankly, I haven't known that many people who did.

I could be considered someone who was not a 'normal' child, so I really don't have any frame of reference for this. I am convinced she is screaming for help, but other than that I am just baffled and dh refuses to even entertain the idea that what she is doing is not just a phase.


I am ready to accept that I probably have no idea what 'normal' is. But where do I go to find out?

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#2 of 20 Old 08-22-2007, 05:59 PM
 
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DSD is in counseling, and is stealing, lying, being passive aggressive, and just generally a real pain.
IMO, stealing and lying are not normal behavoirs for any age, but I think that it is fairly common for girls to be passive aggressive in our culture. Passivity and *being nice* are valued in females in our culture, making it easier for girls to express their negative feelings in passive rathter than active ways.

I'm not saying that it is OK for girls to be passive agressive, just that I think that a lot of girls in any age group are, so it isn't out of the ordinary.

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I am convinced she is screaming for help, but other than that I am just baffled and dh refuses to even entertain the idea that what she is doing is not just a phase.
Have you guys talked to the therapist about it? Your DH must have some clue that something is wrong, or she wouldn't be in counseling. Does counseling seem to be helping?

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#3 of 20 Old 08-22-2007, 06:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Counseling doesn't seem to be helping, but she expressed a desire to have 'girl' counselor, so today when we go I'm going to tell our regular guy that we need to make a switch.

Dh knows she's messed up, but he is in denial as to just how bad it is, and frankly, I find it a little insulting when he tells me 'all girls are sneaky and dishonest.'

I have no use for those kinds of women, and I do not think it is a 'female' trait.
Passive Aggressive behavior is about being afraid to openly express anger, so you do sneaky things instead. I can see that as a 'child' problem, or a problem for a woman who doesn't feel like she has the same power in a relationship as her husband, for example, but I think there are plenty of passive aggressive men, too.

I just never know what causes this stuff. Is it because her mother died and she thought it would just be her and dh forever? Is it because we're in a fairly new school and home situation and she just doesn't fit? Is it because she's just generally a sneaky dishonest person?

Dh never thinks she is responsible for any of her behavior. I think she is very responsible for stealing and lying, and no matter what her age she needs to know it isn't acceptable and there should be some natural consequences.
I just don't want to go overboard because she irritates me and seems to direct most of it at me. I'm trying to not overreact, but I don't think looking the other way accomplishes anything.

Because I don't know what is normal for 9, or what is normal for psychologically messed up, or what is normal for 'normal,' I never know what is an appropriate reaction.

Dh thinks I should not brand her a liar and a thief, but I think she should have to earn our trust after violating it this way. We were in her room showing her where to put some things to make it look neater and we discovered things that she had stolen from both of us. Today I looked in her room and found things she had stolen from ds. I am aware that I probably shouldn't have done this, but she was acting so funny this morning that my curiosity got the best of me. I returned the item to ds's room and I am quite sure she won't mention it because if she does, she's admitting she took it.

She doesn't respect anyone or anything, and she does things at school that just baffle me. Her teacher and I just talked today, and apparently she wrote an essay about her crush on an older boy and read it out loud in class.
The other kids were merciless on the playground and on the bus, teasing her about it, and the teacher was concerned that 1) that wasn't exactly normal 9 year old behavior, and 2) you would think she would know better than to open herself up for teasing in such a public forum. As it is, when the construction workers are at the neighbor's house working (or drinking beer afterwards) she puts on skimpy PJs and tries to go out the door that is in clear view of them. She is obsessed with older males paying attention to her and it scares the hell out of me. I don't want a pregnant 12 year old, and I don't want a thief or a liar who can't be trusted to not bother other people's things.

I think the new counselor is the first step, but I honestly don't feel like we're ever going to get anywhere, and I find myself counting the years until she moves out and is no longer my problem. :

It took me 3 years to get him to let me take her to counseling. I couldn't take her on my own because our insurance is through kaiser and they refused to let me be the one to decide until I am legally her adopted mother. It's very fair. I deal with her 95% of the time, and I can't make any decisions about her according to them. That means if DH is in denial, nothing happens. Just getting him to OK counseling was HUGE.

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#4 of 20 Old 08-22-2007, 07:15 PM
 
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From your other threads about her yes I think it's "normal". Well normal in the since that it isn't abnormal given her history.

It's too soon to make a judgement about counseling helping. It's completely normal for behaviors not to get better and to often get worse during counseling. It could take a year of regular therapy before you seen noticable improvement. I don't say that to discourage you, but to give you hope and the realization that it is much much too soon to change things. You will have better long term success IMO if you stick to one method for awhile and give her a chance to trust and open up to one person than to expect fast results and change things a lot.

And ITA with your dh, you can't brand her a liar. Unless you want to create a situation where the lying continues. Kids fullfill our expectations. She has to learn she is valued by you and you find her worthy, even if you don't approve of some of her actions. You need to make sure you seperate her actions from her personhood. If you don't, she probably won't get better.

I know it's hard try and remember that you are helping her to become the awesome person she will be in the future. She needs to see that awesome person she will be in your eyes.
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#5 of 20 Old 08-22-2007, 07:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What about restitution? I feel like when she took my eyeliner, for example, I have no way of knowing who used it, or if I could get an infection from it. For all I know she passed it around at school, or put something in it. I have no way of knowing, really.

Am I out of line if I expect her to buy replacements?

What is an appropriate response to this. I don't think ignoring is the answer.
Do I just say 'what you did was wrong, and you need to do this to make up for it?' And then force myself to stop thinking of her as dishonest?

I know I need to lighten up a little, but I don't think she should just be told 'we're very disappointed' and that's it. What happens if I take her to the store with me today and she steals? I have no idea how long this has been happening, or just how far it's gone.

Do I mention it in therapy and then not talk about it till the next session?

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#6 of 20 Old 08-22-2007, 07:33 PM
 
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I'm hoping that you are having individual therapy with her therapist without her there at least monthly. I'd discuss with him what the best way to proceed is when she does stuff like this. The thing is that you want to create a situation where she doesn't see you as just the person that punishes her. My guess is that it's possible she is acting out with you because she feels she deserves punishment. I don't know though, since this is the internet and well I'm sure this is only a fraction of the situation and only a small part of her personal history. Which is why a professional that can learn all the nitty gritty details is so much better in giving guidence.

I will say that for stealing from a store, I'd make her return the items and apologise to the store manager and take whatever justice the manager thinks is appropriate even if that means the authorities are called.

As for taking your stuff. I don't know. I know I'd do everything I could to try and preserve whatever positive relationship I could with her. It seems that being punitive might actually be worse in the long run, if it allows her make you the bad guy in her head YK.
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#7 of 20 Old 08-22-2007, 07:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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probably, but I keep looking at the GD list and restitution is right up there.

She already sees me as the bad guy, and grounding her, or talking to her has zero effect, so maybe if she has to pay for things she takes, it will sink in.

I'm at the point where I think anything I do is going to be used to keep thinking of me as the bad guy. But it seems pretty silly to tell dh he's going to have to call her every afternoon and I'll save up any infractions for him to deal with.

I was going to let her get one of those little dvd players that sells for about $80 so she could watch movies in her room, but I feel like if I do, it rewards her for being a little shit. I also am aware that it would make it much easier for me to not deal with her if she sits on her butt and watches movies all the time, which is kind of a cop-out.

I seriously don't want to spend any time with her because she's always doing something sneaky and she has never given anyone a sincere apology in her life, so it's pointless to insist she say 'I'm sorry,' when she so obviously is not. Nothing I do is good enough, and she's always saying it isn't fair when she doesn't get to do something because she dwaddles, but it isn't fair to everyone else to have to wait for hours while she fools around. She is always late, and takes longer to do the same tasks than anyone in the house, but I'm being unfair if I tell her to stop stalling.

It seems like anything I do to try to give her some consequences for her actions is going to be construed as me being the evil stepmother. But if I just ignore everything, then I sit here, and my ds does the same, feeling like she can just make everyone have a miserable time and that's OK. If DS was whining about something we did as a family, Dh would call him on it in a minute, but he thinks every time I mention something dd does wrong, it's because I'm not a good mom to her. I'm in the impossible position of having to deal with psychological issues that were caused by other people. Nothing I say has any value because I am not her 'mom.' But I catch all the fallout because it's 'my job.'

How do you mother someone who hates you and obviously wants you to leave her alone? All she wants is DH, and I'm damn happy to give her to him at the moment. Unfortunately, he is rarely home, so I have to deal with her most of the time anyway.

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#8 of 20 Old 08-22-2007, 08:03 PM
 
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Dh knows she's messed up, but he is in denial as to just how bad it is, and frankly, I find it a little insulting when he tells me 'all girls are sneaky and dishonest.
I'd find that more than a little insulting! Ack. So he thinks you are a big liar or what? What about his mother? Geez. Girls can be sneaky and dishonest, and I can see that this is a culture that sometimes encourages or expects it from females, but it isn't just a girl thing by any stretch of the imagination. I totally agree with you on that.

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I just never know what causes this stuff. Is it because her mother died and she thought it would just be her and dh forever? Is it because we're in a fairly new school and home situation and she just doesn't fit?
These are very likely triggers for some of her behavior. Changes are hard even under the best circumstances, so I would guess that this is even more of a struggle. Also she is facing these things while gearing up for puberty. (She might be a bit young yet, but it's around the corner just a bit.)

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Dh never thinks she is responsible for any of her behavior.....

She is obsessed with older males paying attention to her and it scares the hell out of me. I don't want a pregnant 12 year old, and I
I see a big connection between these things... between the fact that her father appears to not "see" her at all, even the "bad" things she does and the fact that she is looking for older male attention. I suspect that his relationship with you has caused her to feel vulnerable in a really big way. She might be wondering if she still matters as much to him or if you are more important. Also if there are other children (step siblings) involved that is another aspect to consider. She needs to feel seen, heard, and valued. I agree that the stealing and lying are not desirable or appropriate, and I do think you should continue to address it consistently and as calmly as possible.

I hope a new counselor helps. I say stick it out with the counseling and see what develops. Best of luck to all of you!

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#9 of 20 Old 08-22-2007, 10:16 PM
 
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I absolutely would see taking the eyeliner as normal in this situation. Girls this age think about makeup and other womanly things. When a girl has lost her mother, it's normal to feel cheated. She feels she's missed out on the guidance and information about becoming a woman that everyone else gets. Kids that feel cheated, feel justified in taking.

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Dh thinks I should not brand her a liar and a thief
He's right. Branding her a thief is not going to do anyone any good. When a kid acts her most unlovable--that's when she needs you the most.
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#10 of 20 Old 08-23-2007, 12:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, fwiw, we had a fairly decent session today, and we are switching to a woman counselor. I told dd that I would not bring up the past transgressions anywhere other than therapy, new slate. But, if she does something wrong I will call her on it whether dh is home or not.

The therapist actually backed me up a little. He told me that if the switch doesn't help, it will be my turn to tell dh that I have worked for 3 years on this and now it is his turn. I won't be moving out or anything, but he will be dealing with his daughter and going to EVERY session if we don't see some progress soon. He agreed that DH's expectations were a little too high and that dd probably feels very threatened by our relationship, especially since someone told her we were having an affair when her mom was alive and all kinds of other awful stuff.

I know curiosity about makeup is normal. But she never asked me about it, she just took it and hid it, and stole from DH and DS also.

What isn't normal is stealing like 8 different things from me, a couple from DH and one from DS. And that is just what I know about, it may not even be everything. I have no idea how long this has gone on because it never occurred to me that she would steal. I was completely blindsided by this, and DH's lack of support and sneering references to me being a bad mother because I can't fix his mess have not helped any.

He has given me an impossible task, and it's time for him to step up and shoulder some of the responsibility for her mental health. It shouldn't all fall on me, and under no circumstances should I take all of the blame for a situation that existed before I even knew them! She needed therapy 3 years before I convinced him to let me take her, so I can hardly be to blame for his denial and delaying.

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#11 of 20 Old 08-23-2007, 05:29 PM
 
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But, if she does something wrong I will call her on it whether dh is home or not.
I think phrasing like this is adversarial, and it tells her that you expect her to mess up. Saying something like, "what can we do to make sure this doesn't happen again?" might be more effective. You want to show her you are on her side, working together to get over these problems.

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It shouldn't all fall on me, and under no circumstances should I take all of the blame for a situation that existed before I even knew them! She needed therapy 3 years before I convinced him to let me take her, so I can hardly be to blame for his denial and delaying.
This shouldn't be about finding fault or placing blame on anyone. I wouldn't worry about what got you to this point. Helping this troubled girl is the important thing.

I agree with you that your husband should step up to the plate and take charge of helping his daughter. It's impossible for a step-parent to take on that responsibility.
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#12 of 20 Old 08-23-2007, 06:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree.

I need to not look for reasons, and let her know that we expect good behavior instead of saying you'll be in trouble if I catch you doing something.

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#13 of 20 Old 08-24-2007, 10:11 AM
 
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I just wanted to say that a lot of kids go through this stage without all the things your dd has gone through. Notice how i say kids. It is not just girls. I have 5 kids and my ds is by far the toughest of them all He is 9 1/2. He is my second oldest. It is not that he is a bad kid. He just has a hard time telling the truth sometimes. He won't do bad things, just well things he should not. The other day i found a cup filled with hard plaster in it. It was hidden behind the tub. Hmm....I thought who could have done that? He can lie with the straightest face, i swear.

Well here is how i am dealing with it. Unless it is a very terrible thing, i am not making a big deal about it. I make it known around the dinner table, or in the car that I found someone's experiment in the bathroom. I tell ALL my kids that if they wanted to make something with plaster, they needed to come to me. because they chose to do it on their own, one of our cups was ruined. I also have told all the kids many times, that if they do something that they can't clean up, that i will be less upset if they come and get me right away.
I also remind ALL the kids that as they get older they will get more and more opportunities to do things on their own. It they want to be able to say, stay alone in the house for an hour, or walk to the store, they have to prove that they can be trusted.

Now for the very terrible crimes, I am very firm. I will not tolerate my child stealing or hurting someone. By stealing I mean when they take something from a store or a friend's house or maybe take money from someone. I don't mean swiping a can of mom's pop and drinking it in their closet. (It is this kind of stuff my ds does not the terrible stealing.) For these crimes I put my kids under house arrest. They are not only not allowed out of the house, but they must be by my side at all times. They have to help me with whatever I am doing. They may go to school and that is it. NO sports or activity they enjoy. Depending on the crime, this could last for a day or a week. They also get less opportunities to do things for a while. They have to earn my trust again.

Good luck. I hope that you and your dh get on the same page. I don't think it helps that you both don't see eye to eye on this.
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#14 of 20 Old 08-24-2007, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I feel that way, too. If you have done something untrustworthy you should have to earn trust.

I don't know if I'd go as far as house arrest, but I banned dd from our room and bathroom because of this.

Unfortunately, dh thinks I should just trust her again, and everything I know tells me that's not very smart. If someone lies to you on a daily basis and steals from you and everyone else in the house, then how dumb would you have to be to just give that trust back again without some 'proof' of change? She isn't going to change without extensive therapy, and may not even then.

I don't see how not trusting someone who has time and again proven themselves to be untrustworthy makes me the bad guy, but he seems to think it does.

I'm trying to walk the line between reminding her she stole and just saying 'no, you are not allowed in our room.'

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#15 of 20 Old 08-24-2007, 02:40 PM
 
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It sounds like you and dh don't really need to be fighting over whether her behavior is "normal" or "age-appropriate" or whether "all girls" do or don't do this or that thing.

The reason to work on changing how things are going with her is not because she isn't "normal" or "age-appropriate," it's simply that things are not working well, there seems to be a lot of unhappiness going around, and you all would like things to go better. I don't see why anyone needs to fight about what is "normal" - in the end, who cares about normal? What you care about is having a functioning, content family that gets along, and that's worth working on.
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#16 of 20 Old 08-24-2007, 03:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It sounds like you and dh don't really need to be fighting over whether her behavior is "normal" or "age-appropriate" or whether "all girls" do or don't do this or that thing.

The reason to work on changing how things are going with her is not because she isn't "normal" or "age-appropriate," it's simply that things are not working well, there seems to be a lot of unhappiness going around, and you all would like things to go better. I don't see why anyone needs to fight about what is "normal" - in the end, who cares about normal? What you care about is having a functioning, content family that gets along, and that's worth working on.
True. I just get really tired of him making excuses for every single thing she does when if ds does something he doesn't get a pass. For 3 years I've heard how she's a year younger than ds and shouldn't be expected to do the same things, yet, for 2 of those years, she has progressed to the next age and still doesn't do the same things. How many years does she get to use that excuse? I seriously have nightmares about her being a young adult and him trying to get the rest of the world to agree that she's 'trying' and doesn't deserve to be held accountable....as she's going to jail. He does not get it.

And the funny part is, her mom's family is all about infantilizing each other and making excuses as to why several of her siblings can't hold jobs or stay off drugs/booze. It infuriates him, but he does the same thing with dd.

You can't say something is wrong except for the times when you do it, and then it's OK.

I just want things to get better, because even though I'm right, I don't want him to go through the anguish of finding that out the hard way.

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#17 of 20 Old 08-24-2007, 03:17 PM
 
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I see a big connection between these things... between the fact that her father appears to not "see" her at all, even the "bad" things she does and the fact that she is looking for older male attention. I suspect that his relationship with you has caused her to feel vulnerable in a really big way. She might be wondering if she still matters as much to him or if you are more important. Also if there are other children (step siblings) involved that is another aspect to consider. She needs to feel seen, heard, and valued. I agree that the stealing and lying are not desirable or appropriate, and I do think you should continue to address it consistently and as calmly as possible.

I hope a new counselor helps. I say stick it out with the counseling and see what develops. Best of luck to all of you!
I really, really agree with the above (emphasis mine), and wanted to point it out again...any way to approach it from THIS angle with your DH? That she's doing these things to get his attention, even if it's "bad" attention?

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#18 of 20 Old 08-24-2007, 03:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OH, yes, I have approached him about this.

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#19 of 20 Old 08-24-2007, 03:38 PM
 
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I know curiosity about makeup is normal. But she never asked me about it, she just took it and hid it, and stole from DH and DS also.

What isn't normal is stealing like 8 different things from me, a couple from DH and one from DS. And that is just what I know about, it may not even be everything. I have no idea how long this has gone on because it never occurred to me that she would steal. I was completely blindsided by this, and DH's lack of support and sneering references to me being a bad mother because I can't fix his mess have not helped any.
Some things to think about:

1. She may be stealing your things to get closer to you (and/or her father or your DS). If she can't have or isn't receiving affection or love or connection that she craves, she may be replacing it with things.

If a child is lying or stealing, it is important to get at WHY they are engaging in the behavior. What function is it serving? One way to reduce the behavior is to fulfill that function in a better way. My suggestion above is only one idea
of a possible function that the stealing may be serving.

2. Also, if your DH is disciplining your DS, then he is, in a way, showing more respect and connection with your DS than he is his own daughter. He cares about DS and DS's behavior (and, by extension DS's personhood, character and future) enough to respond to his behavior and do something about it. DD's perception of the situation may be that her father doesn't care enough about her to respond to her behavior or connect with her in any way. (Although she may not be able to articulate these ideas, even to a therapist.)

DS, 10/07. Allergies: peanut, egg, wheat. We've added dairy back in. And taken it back out again. It causes sandpaper skin with itchy patches and thrashing during sleep. Due w/ #2 late April, 2012.

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#20 of 20 Old 08-24-2007, 04:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think you're right. There is anger at her dad for not being around, but maybe doing things to get at me is her way of getting at him.

sigh

long road ahead of us, I'm afraid

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