Surviving a Strong Willed, Clingy Child - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 03-06-2014, 11:16 PM - Thread Starter
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My daughter is almost six years old. And she is VERY strong willed. As a three month old, she went on feeding strikes until I got home from work -- she would go so long without drinking ANYTHING that my last week at work was spent going out to the car every three hours to breastfeed her while my husband sat there with her because she wouldn't eat otherwise. As a toddler, baby gates were pushed or climbed over.


We still co-sleep and we homeschool so I am literally never too far from her. She often requests "cuddles" -- these are often sensory driven, a way to calm herself, but I can't always drop what I'm doing to give them to her. Furthermore, it's almost as if she's seeing me as a cuddle machine, at her beck and call.


She's become very sassy and rude (this is likely developmental), and the second we say something she doesn't want to hear, she acts up. A lot. Homeschool is often a battle. I give her a lot of leeway for completing work; she can bounce around all she wants but she has to complete her tasks. When I try to circumvent her time wasting, she throws a tantrum. When I lay down the law, explain what is going to happen and give her chances to do the right thing -- and inevitably she'll use those up -- more tantruming. Tantrum. Tantrum. Tantrum.


These days, I'm feeling more and more like she's taking over and dictating what the household does. It's really frustrating me and it's taking a toll on everyone in the household: me, my husband, and even our roommates will try to avoid her when she's in full on Strong Mode.


She's an only child and very attached to me. She often plays at my feet; she's even made an "apartment" under my desk and she'll stay there most of the time if I am at my desk. She dislikes it when I see other kids photos on Facebook and has actually asked me NOT to look at any other kids photos. She separates me and my husband -- she has even told us she doesn't want us being together at all (!!) She loves her Daddy but if I even give him a hug, she'll come running over and demand to be hugged, all the while separating us. She won't leave us (me) alone for even an hour.


Yes, this is definitely having detrimental effects on our interpersonal relationship as a couple. The only time we get together is when she's asleep by which time we're so exhausted by the day that we have very little time together. Oh, and if we try to get intimate, guess who interrupts? It's like she has a radar or something...


I rarely go out without her. She's okay with me going out shopping by myself (sometimes) but outings of more than 2 hours, she'll curl up, start drawing pictures and then start demanding that my husband send me text messages of her pictures to me. If I go out, I often get extra "cling" time where she starts fighting for even more of my undivided attention. If that doesn't work, she'll act up. Again. 


WTF are we doing wrong? My husband is now blaming AP -- the co-sleeping, the responding ot her needs, the babywearing, etc.-- we have always done. She has no respect for other people's boundaries and often treats me as her own personal slave. I don't let her but she will do things like push herself onto my lap when I've told her not. (I have lupus and often have pain issues. We've explained this to her and she knows I'm sick but doesn't really "get" that she can't always be on my lap.)


We set generous but firm boundaries. We correct her firmly. We are consistent. Please don't tell me about 1, 2, 3 Magic because it doesn't work with her. 


I know some defiance is expected at this stage but holy smoke... she was never very compliant to begin with and these days, she's even worse. To top it off, she's 2e -- gifted with articulation issues, ADHD and sensory issues -- so she's prone to what i call "lawyering"; if she listens, it's to the letter of the law and she'll do something related but not covered under whatever I asked of her.


I'm at my wits end.

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#2 of 5 Old 03-06-2014, 11:53 PM
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I don't have a solution but I can commisserate! I can tell you that it's definately a personality thing, not an AP thing. My current 5.5 yo is much like yours-we call her a future lawyer too because she will argue the most minute point to death and find a loophole in every request- but her older sister was raised the exact same way and has a very compliant personality. They are total opposites; cosleeping & attached parenting has nothing to do with it. smile.gif
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#3 of 5 Old 03-10-2014, 09:40 AM
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Maybe I'm off base here, and maybe it isn't possible, but I'm going to suggest regular school for everyone's sanity. She will get services for the ADHD and sensory issues in a public school, and (after what may be a bumpy start) she will learn boundaries, at least with other people. If this doesn't work for you, I would try to get her involved in some activities - Taekwondo was helpful for my DS7. It may be time to transition her to her own bed so that you and your husband can get alone time and sleep.

You didn't mention how she does with other children and adults? That's a significant part of the equation.

It strikes me that some of this is developmental, some is due to the sensory and ADHD, and some because as a gifted child, she is very adept at getting what she wants when she wants it.

Although we're affectionate parents, we weren't classic AP in our approach - and my son was very difficult up to about 5 1/2. A lot of the interruption and jealousy may be the entertainment factor (my son likes to push our buttons, although he's growing out if it at 7) and anxiety-- kids can become anxious if your attention isn't focused on them (mine did).
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#4 of 5 Old 03-11-2014, 08:36 AM
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Also, wanted to suggest that you view the Davidson forum, if you haven't already. They have a board devoted to 2e children. My son tests as gifted, and he was a hand full as a preschooler (this, without 2e). 


A gifted child with ADHD, sensory, etc., is likely to be quite a challenge for parents, and if you're considering regular school, there will be other challenges and questions. It would be good to get some support and information- it's possible that there are some play therapies or other interventions that may tone down some of the willfulness that you are experiencing. 


It also sounds like you have some health issues and need some time to yourself and with your husband. I have long made peace with the fact that I am an introvert, and a much better parent if I have some downtime, and alone time each day. 

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#5 of 5 Old 03-20-2014, 08:29 AM
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My son has this type of personality, and I feel that things would be a lot worse if I had been with him all day, every day for years.  As it was, because I like my job and it was needed for family economic stability, I went back to work part-time when he was 3 months old and full-time when he was 4 years old.  Although this got him accustomed to being away from me and gave me regular breathers from him, he has often resisted our being apart and demanded that I spend every moment with him when we're both at home.  It is hard to separate the idea, "He really loves me; that's good!" from the fact that he is often rude, argumentative, demanding, and annoying when we're together, and when he was 3-6 he would often kick me, step in front of me to make me bump into him, etc., and then argue that it was an accident.


One thing that's been very important for us is being firm about when we're going to be apart: no hanging around the school until he's "ready" for me to leave, no cancelling my scheduled activities so I can be with him, no taking him along to things I really need to do by myself.  On the last point, I have to stand up to his dad, who often expects me to "rescue" him from parenting if he's not feeling well or the kid is annoying him.  When I'm planning to go shopping, doctor's appointment, overtime at work, etc., I need to decide whether I'm willing to bring the kid or not, and if not I have to really hold firm against both of them!  It's so easy for me to start feeling guilty and get talked into bringing the kid when I really don't want to, and then he can sense that and it's one of the reasons he behaves badly toward me.


It also helps a lot to have pleasant rituals for saying goodbye at school and when he goes to bed.  He became a lot less clingy when we got more structured about this, in preschool.  In his years at public school (now in 3rd grade, his 4th year at this school) HE has been the one to decide when he's ready to drop a part of the routine and say goodbye a little earlier: I went from settling him in his classroom for a few minutes every morning, to walking him to the door of the class, to waiting with him outside the school until the bell, to saying goodbye outside as soon as we got there, to just saying goodbye at the bottom of the steps to the schoolyard (I've actually been in his classroom only ONCE this year!)...and he's decided that when he's in 4th grade and I'll be taking the new baby to the sitter in the mornings, we can say goodbye at the end of our block and he'll walk the rest of the way to school himself!  But we will still sing our morning song together every day after we leave the house.


I agree with CamMom that public school might be very helpful in reducing the clinginess and the jealousy of other children, but that it would likely be a very difficult adjustment for both of you.  (Expect to feel horribly guilty.  Know that this means you are a good, conscientious mother.)  However, depending on the reasons you decided to homeschool, I understand that you may not be willing to put her in school.  Another option would be to find another way for her to be apart from you and with other kids for a certain period of time every week, in some kind of activity or playgroup.


It's been crucial for me to remember that sometimes doing the right thing for my son's development means denying him the experience he believes will make him happy.  The best way to understand this is to remember the many times when I have caved and done exactly what he wanted, only to find that he's still unhappy, even more so!  Often he really needs me to set limits--he just won't admit it consciously.


When I lay down the law, explain what is going to happen and give her chances to do the right thing -- and inevitably she'll use those up -- more tantruming.

Try giving fewer chances.  This works for me, especially when things get persistently difficult and I'm feeling angry about giving leeway only to have it abused.  Often the best approach is to give NO WARNING of consequences but impose them when you do not get the right behavior in response to your first request, and when the child objects to the consequence, THEN offer a second chance.  Examples here:


She separates me and my husband -- she has even told us she doesn't want us being together at all (!!) She loves her Daddy but if I even give him a hug, she'll come running over and demand to be hugged, all the while separating us.

My son does this.  Our response is to announce joyfully, "Family hug!!!" and snuggle him in between us, with each of us putting one hand on him and one hand on the other parent.  For several years he tried to adjust this by pulling my other arm onto him or pushing me away from Daddy, but our repeated insistence that we would ALL be included in the hugging eventually got him to accept it.


He still does not like us to have a conversation that doesn't include him.  When we're all together, we do try to include him while also making sure everybody gets a chance to talk.  But if he is in another room and then comes in saying, "What are you talking about?" we refuse to recap the whole conversation for him.  He's persistent about wanting to know everything, but I am holding firmly to my right to converse with others without having to explain every bit of it to him--because my dad has this annoying habit of walking into other people's interactions and demanding, "What's going on?" and my mom has always responded as if she can't believe he has the nerve to do that and she really resents it BUT feels forced to explain the whole thing, which often derails the original conversation and delays getting anything done.  I have given myself permission not to feel forced.


I totally understand why you're at your wit's end, and I hope this discussion is giving you some helpful new ideas!

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