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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Dd (7.5) fairly regularly gets pouty and punitive at me when I don't do what she wants. An example is last night, when I was sick, she asked me to play with her and I said no, I wasn't up for it. I mean I felt really lousy and I do not think it is too much for a 7.5 year old to think about my feelings as well as her own. But she doesn't; she gets angry, sarcastic, and mean. When I point this out to her and tell her it is hurtful, she says, "I feel angry and I just can't control it."

Here's the thing: she can. Occasionally I have instituted "points" for good and bad behavior and when we are doing this she behaves much better. She is capable of controlling her behavior when motivated to.

I have tried all of the strategies reglularly discussed on these boards. We've talked about it ad nauseum, when she is calm and receptive. When I validate her feelings, she tends to sink even deeper into self-pity, so that's not effective. When I ask her for suggestions how to help her, she says she can't think of anything. When I suggest ways for her to control her anger/feelings, she shoots them down: "it won't work". When I leave the room because I don't like being harangued (the natural consequence), she takes it as abandonment and it can escalate things. We talk about how other people feel, etc etc. We've been doing this for years. It doesn't seem to be motivating her to want to change her behavior. And I know she can.

When she was younger I did put my needs aside for hers, always; I think she is having trouble transitioning into being a "big girl" who has to take other's needs into account.

So I'm back to considering a point system as a motivator. It's not my first choice (I don't like having to keep track!) but I am clean out of ideas. Has anyone else had to deal with an unmotivated child, and can offer some experience?
 

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I am a fan of positive reinforcement for a child's behavior. Put in place the points system and slowly over time...really slowly phase it out in several steps. When I mean slowly it could take years. Maybe an easier system, might help like smiley faces or sticker chart.

HTH.

Denise
 

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http://www.amazon.com/What-When-Your...0829714&sr=8-3

The series of "What to Do When" books are wonderful! I can't speak for the "temper" one (we ordered it, but haven't received it yet), but we have the one for "worries" and "grumbles". My dd LOVED them and immediately after reading them has changed and I think feels more powerful over her emotions and more understood. I had some trouble getting them from libraries, so I ordered all of them as we have issues with everything they provide. Dare I say I learned some things myself?
Good luck!
 

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IME, it's easy to get into a cycle where I'm really focused on what I don't like about my child and her behavior, both in thought and in words/action. This, in turn, disrupts our connection and is discouraging to her which feeds the very behavior I don't like. It's a vicious cycle. I find that at times, what my child most needs in order to feel and do better is for me to work at repairing and strengthening our relationship/connection. Sometimes it necessary to focus more on the relationship, and much less on the unwanted behavior.

I find that doing things like making the effort to look in her eyes and smile helps: when she wakes up, when she comes home from school, when she's comes back to reconnect after playing on her own. It helps to spend one-on-one time with her doing what she wants to do, and for some reason this works best if it's my idea (not me saying yes after she's asked repeatedly, or saying yes to her every time-but more like a surprise or scheduled special time). It helps to make the effort to notice her positive attributes. It helps to make sure I'm really modeling the behavior I'd like to see in her. It helps to encourage her, and to enjoy being with her just as she is (if I'm having trouble enjoying her, it's really important to find something positive to enjoy about her). And so on.

There is something about taking the time to nurture our connection that either helps my child feel better so she can do better, or that gives her more motivation (or both, likely). I'm not talking about catering to her every whim or constantly setting aside and neglecting my needs. I'm talking about creating a quality of connection.

Along these lines, I really enjoyed Connection Parenting and Hold On To Your Kids.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Coleslaw -- thank you for the book recommendation, I've never seen that series. I'm overseas right now, but we are coming back to the US at Christmas so that'll be one of the first things I buy!

I remember when she was littler the Berenstain Bear books were useful -- I didn't particularly like them but she LOVED them, brought home a whole stack of them whenever we went to the library. There was one about the "greedy gimmes" and another about lying that I found myself reminding her of occasionally, and it really helped things to click in her head I think because those are two areas where she absolutely has no problems.

Sledg -- here's the thing; she's an only child and so we do spend quality time together, one on one, every day. I have it so much easier than those of you that are trying to juggle several kids!
Even when we have a blowout, we usually come back together really quickly (my dh works alot and isn't around much, so it's pretty much just me and her) and we genuinely enjoy each other's company.

But you made me think... I haven't been playing her favorite game with her because I've been sick (it's a "pretend" game which I don't like that much and I just didn't feel up for it) but yesterday I did play it with her for about 1/2 hour. Later that night, she started getting angry and oppositional at bedtime but it didn't escalate, she seemed to be able to keep it under control. I wonder if the fact that I had played her favorite game with her helped her to make that choice?
 

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Thao, yk I didn't mean at all to imply that quality time is like *the* answer. I just find that it helps sometimes to make that extra effort or to make sure she's getting the connection she needs. And sometimes I realize that what feels like good connection to my child is not the same as what I think of as good connection. Also, my oldest is one of those very sensitive kids whose "cup" doesn't seem to stay full for long. I do think kids are more receptive to parents' guidance, more motivated to do what we ask, when they're feeling connected.

Also, thinking of my daughter, how I phrase things is so important. So if I'm not feeling well and she asks me to play, and I don't feel well enough, it's really, really important for me to say "I would love to play that with you. I'm frustrated that I'm feeling to sick to play much, and I bet you are too. Can we play something quiet or read so we can be together even though I don't feel well enough to get up and play pretend?" It's not always magic, but that's the kind of thing that she seems to need to hear--it helps keep the connection, I think, where just saying "I really can't right now, I just don't feel good" feels like disconnection to her. It's the little things.

I think, too, that the "goodness of fit" between a parent's temperament and a child's temperament can be a real source of challenge.
 

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Perhaps a minor point, but I would differentiate between controlling feelings and behavior. Feelings, even negative ones like anger or sadness, are okay. They are part of life. It shouldn't be her job to stop feeling the way she's feeling. What isn't okay is hitting, yelling, etc. It may seem like a minor distinction but it is a really important one. I would emphasize her feelings are okay, and encourage her to set goals about her behavior.

I agree with sledg that sometimes even small differences in wording or tone make all the difference. I know it is hard when she's been unpleasant but I would try to get to a place of being really positive. Start with the most positive way of interpreting her behavior that you can.

Also, I think it is pointless to ask her in the moment what she needs. She's not going to be able to give that to you. I would work outside of the moment to make a plan with her. Take her out for a hot chocolate or something and make it a special meeting. Again keep it really positive. I know it can be hard at your age to struggle with big feelings. Let's make a list of options to remember when you are having a hard time. Let's read some books to learn more about anger and emotion. Set small manageable goals. Teach positive ideas - "we all make mistakes" "we can still make this a good day" "we can try again" "I forgive you"
 

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I agree with Roar.

I came back to add that I also find that in the moment, it doesn't help to criticize (even if I am trying to gently give feedback, my dd takes it as criticism in the moment). So if my dd gets nasty and sarcastic with me, if I say "I don't like that tone, what you said is hurtful" it's not only not helpful but if I'm doing it a lot it really makes things worse. I'm not perfect at this, but I do try to remember to just let it go in that moment (or just "translate": I hear that you're disappointed) and later on we can sit down, as Roar suggested, and talk in a positive, encouraging way about handling feelings.
 

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Maybe you talk about it too much? Maybe all of the endless discussion is just undermining her confidence in herself? Could you try more of a SOP/Anthony Wolf approach and just ignore the sarcasm/snotty talk?

I haven't parented one yet, but I think a 7 1/2 yo could take more reponsibility for the management of their feelings, and maybe a brief reminder would be sufficient.
 

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I could have written your post, Thao. Ds (7.5) does just the same and I've been feeling the same frustration.

Although with ds, if I can keep my frustration down and ignore the "that won't work" stuff he says, I've noticed that he *is* listening when I try to calmly say "you sound frustrated. let's think of some alternatives" For ds, I think part of it is frustration with his own inability to get a hold of himself - he gets deeply embarrassed and fearful (which he translates into unpleasantness). Don't know if that's happening in your case, though. But for me, knowing that helps me wade through the extremely frustrating string of huffing, insults, etc. and propose some solutions. It's my hope that continuing to do this modeling will "click" later.

I know ds can control himself many times, and has. He's getting better with time and experience. But on a day-to-day basis it sure is a challenge seeing that.

Roar, like your suggestions a lot, and I will try these. Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Roar, thank you for that reminder. I have talked to her about the distinction between feelings and behavior, but maybe I've slipped and haven't been clear about the distinction lately. I obviously worded it badly in my OP! I'll be aware of that when it comes up again.

I hear what you and sledge and chicagomom are saying about not saying anything at the moment, but it doesn't sit right with me at this moment. Because for most of her life I have let the rude talking slide, talking about it after the fact and thinking she would pick up better communication from modelling. Well, she hasn't. At 7.5, I think I need to try something else.

My sense with her is that this is not a result of being a highly sensitive child or explosive child that really can't control herself. This is more an issue of transition. When she was littler, mommy did everything for her. She could lash out when angry and mommy allowed it with only some talking/occasional snapping. Etc. Now mommy is asking more of her and she is resisting making the shift.

Take teeth brushing and showers. I always assumed that by 5 or 6 she would get to the stage where she wants to do those things by herself, the whole independence thing, right? She's 7.5 now and still prefers me to brush her teeth and give her showers. I've managed to move her into doing it herself, but she'd "revert" in a second if I allowed her.

Maybe I mislabeled this thread, maybe it should be more about helping with the transition to "big girl".

We've talked about what the perks of being a "big girl" are. There are some things she loves to do on her own, like I'll let her run to the corner store by herself or with a friend to buy something and she is very proud of (and responsible with) that freedom.

But I think the thing with the lashing out in anger is, it feels good to her in a way (she says it helps get her anger out) and she is unwilling at this point to take the harder road of controlling her behavior while dealing with the anger inside her. (Please note that I am not saying that full-blown temper tantrums "feel good", I know they do not! She rarely progresses to a full-blown meltdown, maybe 4-5 times her whole life. I'm talking about rude comebacks, like "no, sweetie, I can't play with you right now" "you NEVER play with me, you don't love me!" (said snottily, followed by grumpy, rude behavior for the next 10 minutes))

Any advice from you wise mamas about how to motivate a child to learn these "grownup" skills?
 

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Is there an adult around that she's emulating? First thought I'd have if my dd did that would be 'omg she sounds just like my mother!' Doesn't have to be someone she lives with or sees every day either, kwim?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yes and no. Dh has problems managing anger too, but he has been steadily improving over the years and at this point his communication skills are pretty good. So he's been a bad example, yes, but he's also been a good example in that he has worked very hard to change his behavior.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Thao View Post

When she was younger I did put my needs aside for hers, always; I think she is having trouble transitioning into being a "big girl" who has to take other's needs into account.
I think this is your major problem here. If you've always done it, why should she expect you to change? I started taking my needs into account as soon as dd's "needs" (as an infant) became "wants"- (different ages, depending on the "want")
Maybe explain to her that you need to take care of yourself too, and that you haven't been doing that and need to start.... I don't know if she'll get it though.
 

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So I'm thinking now about Anthony Wolf's ideas (The Secret of Parenting), and there is something he says that is helpful to me. He says that often when a child persists in complaining or engages in back talk (the type of rude comebacks you seem to be talking about) after being told "no," that what the child is doing is attempting to prolong the discussion, maybe with the hope of changing your mind, but often at least with the result of getting more attention-even if it's negative-from the parent. (Maybe responding to your saying you can't play with "you never play with me, you don't love me" is an attempt to get you to change your mind, and she'll settle for any negative attention you give her for rudeness in lieu of play.) Wolf says that there comes a point when it is more helpful to disengage from the interaction than to continue (even through reprimands), that sometimes continuing to remain engaged in the interaction just feeds the problem (and ime, he's right).

He says that parents feel obliged to not let their children get away with back talk, but that ("assuming that the children do not fear harsh reprisal") if a parent's true goal is to reduce back talk to a minimum the most effective response is to not respond to it at all (not responding shows that "back talk is completely ineffective at getting anything further from [you]"), and just move on. "In not responding to back talk, by not bringing in the threat of harsh punishment, the threat of harsh reprisal, you are indeed allowing it. But allowing and approving are not the same thing. If you disapprove of their back talk, let them know. As with other infractions, do it later. But, still, unless you are willing to bring in real fear, some back talk will continue. They know it is wrong but they do not feel that it is very wrong." So his example is: "No, Aaron, the TV goes off now and no more fussing." 'You're the one that's fussing.' "Aaron, please turn off the TV." (so, stick to the subject, don't respond to the back talk or lecture about it.)

I have very much found, in my own home, that the less I try to control how my kids talk or behave (the less I try to make them stop whining/use a gentle voice/whatever) the less they do whatever it is I don't like and the more willing they are to do what I want them to do. I find that stating "I do not like to be spoken to that way" (preferably later, when they're more likely to hear me) and otherwise dropping it, not turning it into another power struggle, really helps. I can't control what they say, I can't control their behavior. I have a lot of influence, I can model what I wish to see, I can communicate with them about what I like and don't like, but I can't control. And the less personally I take back talk/tone/not listening/noncompliance, the better.

And if this problem really is one of adjusting to a transition, maybe all you can really do is support her as she moves through it, encourage her, and keep making your expectations clear. I think if she's adjusting to change it's going to take time, and patience on your part. I realize I'm recommending something that you've stated you're uncomfortable with. I don't mean to be rude or pushy.

All this said, I will say that sometimes we get into a habit and it's hard to begin to break out of it. Around here we've been having problems with siblings yelling and fighting all.the.time. It was to the point where there almost wasn't really any positive time to compliment them on, there was just fighting at every interaction it seemed. It got really negative. So what we've done with the goal of gaining a little positive "space" to build on is start a system where each child puts a marble in a jar whenever they're interacting respectfully (they each have a jar, when it's full they choose something special to celebrate). We're putting marbles in jars left and right, just so we're focusing on the positive instead of the negative. So far this has worked in that they've reduced their fighting enough that we've been able to start giving positive feedback, we're less stressed so we're not as tempted to give negative feedback in the moment (which tends to make things worse), and they aren't as discouraged. So this is giving us kind of a "jump start." I don't think rewards like this are a good long-term plan, but on occasion they can help us get moving on a more positive note. Our situation is different from yours, but since you mentioned points before I thought I'd share this experience with you.
 

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We have been trying the collaborative problem solving (explosive child folks) approach and have been seeing lots of success http://www.ccps.info/.

Basically you work to solve problems with your child and it is best to do it when you are not involved in a negative interaction.

In your case it may have go:
(Mom) You want me to play.
(DD) Yes, I want you to play now!
(Mom) I'm not saying no. You want me to play now. What is up with that?
(DD) (eventually, with your help gets her ideas out)
(Mom) My concern is that I am sick and need to rest.
(DD) Maybe if I read quietly near you. Maybe if I make you a card. Etc.

Of course, it will take its own path, but the ideas of working out a solution and getting to the real issues are central.

My first thought when I read your post was that she may have felt at a loss of how to help you when you were sick and was also a little scared. Just an idea, but it may have been her saying, "I don't know how to make it better now."
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Thao View Post
But you made me think... I haven't been playing her favorite game with her because I've been sick (it's a "pretend" game which I don't like that much and I just didn't feel up for it) but yesterday I did play it with her for about 1/2 hour. Later that night, she started getting angry and oppositional at bedtime but it didn't escalate, she seemed to be able to keep it under control. I wonder if the fact that I had played her favorite game with her helped her to make that choice?
I wouldn't see it as making a choice, but seeing it as giving her the emotional reserves to be able to hold it together. I like the metaphor in Playful Parenting -- you're "filling her cup" of emotional needs. When it's full (or at least got something in it), then she can draw from it when she needs to. If it's already empty, no way, no how.

The Magination Press stuff that someone posted is good. They actually have books on a lot of good topics - from death and divorce to new siblings, to anger and learning disorders.
http://www.maginationpress.com/bbytopic.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Sledg -- trust me, "rude and pushy" and "sledg" are two words I would never use in the same sentence! I very much appreciate your feedback!

You are right about not letting it become a power struggle. It's when I engage in the power struggle that things deteriorate. But neither am I willing to let the behavior go anymore. When I think hard about it, I think the response from me that most often gets a positive response from her (i.e. she calms down) is when I just say, "I won't discuss this with you when you are talking like that. If you would like to talk to me about something, we need to talk about it nicely." It doesn't always help, but it has a better success rate than any other method.

With her, if I ignore it, she just keeps it up until she gets a reaction from me (I dunno, maybe she's more persistent than your kids!
). Basically all I can do is either snap or leave the room. Snapping obviously is no good, and if I leave she takes it as abandonment and escalates, so either way it ends up a mess.

I loved your idea of the marbles in the jar however!

Almama, it's true that she has been angrier this week while I've been sick. So I asked her how she feels when mommy is sick and not able to spend as much time with her. Her response was "bored".

Lynn, I'm definitely going to get some of those books when we get back to the US! About the choice thing, though, I do believe that she can choose. I've seen her do it. I've seen her start up her "fussy" motor and then suddenly cut it off, as though she suddenly decided, "ah, I'm not in the mood for this now". This is just based on my observations of my kid, of course, I'm not trying to make a generalization of all 7 year olds.

Last night we had another incident. She came back from Kung Fu class, all sweaty and happy and energetic. She and her friend shed their tops and kung fu belts and were playing. After the friend went home, I picked up her shirt to take it upstairs to the dirty clothes, and asked her to hang up her belt on the coat tree (right there in the living room). As I picked up the shirt, her friend's belt slipped out without me seeing it. She went off. "Mom! You don't just throw things in the middle of the floor like that! You aren't being responsible! I'm not putting his belt away!"

Honestly, where did that come from????? I do tell her not to throw things in the middle of the floor and put them away, but I do not yell at her.

Well, I told her (calmly and nicely) we were going back to the point system. 8 points for the week, and every time she lashes out she loses one point. That means she can have an honest slip once a day and still not get down to zero. If she does get down to zero, she doesn't get to go out on the weekend.

We've done this before, and she never gets down to zero. At the most I think she's lost 2 points. She simply stops the behavior.

Her response when I told her was interesting. She accepted it with no drama whatsoever. As though she had been waiting for it. We'll see how things go this week...

Sorry my posts are so long, but it really helps me to write it out and get feedback!
 
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