Can anyone tell me why DD does this?

(14 Posts)
worrymerchant Sun 13-Sep-15 13:26:26

Hi MN - I think there are lots of strands to this issue so please bear with me and if you can help with any of it I'd be grateful. I have a DD age 6 who is really delightful most of the time but also can be incredibly defiant, stubborn and worse of all, negative.

My first problem is that although she is v bright and clearly loves learning (she's working at the top end of the class) she also seems to like "pretending" not to know things. You'll have to trust me that it really is a case of genuinely pretending. Sometimes she doesn't even try. Her favourite phrase is "I can't" - I have no idea why she does it other than to try to wind me up. Sometimes (usually when I am dog tired and can't see the wood for the trees) I react by getting frustrated (playing into her hands, I know I know), and she then goes into full scale crying mode and I immediately feel terrible. Most often, however, I respond by ignoring the bait and quietly put the book\work\game\whatever away and say we'll come back to it later. This produces an even worse result. Like a full blown tantrum accompanied by throwing or even hitting sometimes. It seems as though whenever things are going well - whatever we might be doing (baking a cake, drawing, homework, reading) - if it's going well and I seem happy and dare to praise her - she takes it as a signal to become destructive and "spoil" the ambience. I just don't understand why, when she is so bright, she seems so bent on creating the opposite impression.

The second problem is that it seems as though she has lost all her motivation. She used to love a challenge but now, even though she can clearly do it, she will use the above strategies to avoid anything that might require her to try. It's almost like a fear of failure. But I don't understand where this has come from. School, perhaps? We're (genuinely) not pushy parents and always praise dd's efforts. How can I get her to change the "I can't" mentality to enjoyment of " might be tough but I'd like to have a go" ?

I've lost all perspective on this so I'm open to constructive criticism if it's clear I'm doing something obviously wrong.

Many thanks

WM

Snoozebox Sun 13-Sep-15 13:47:51

Perfectionist tendencies? Usually associated with anxiety and an overwhelming desire to please.

I would only be able to advise continuing with the positive reinforcement and ignoring all destructive behaviour. Completely disengage from activities and give her no attention if she refuses to cooperate. Explain that such behaviour has spoilt the activity. I think being persistent on this is the only way to go towards making her understand her deliberately negative behaviour has much worse consequences than accidental mistakes when she is so young.

Darcourse Sun 13-Sep-15 13:51:27

I heard a great article on the radio the other week about this sort of behaviour from bright kids who were praised by being told they were bright/clever etc, and that they were then afraid to try something new/harder for fear of losing their 'clever' status. The programme said that the children who were praised by statements such as 'you really used great problem solving skills' we're much more like to try harder problems.

Pico2 Sun 13-Sep-15 14:10:23

She sounds scared of failing to me. If something goes well then she'd rather knowingly end it than have it fail while she was trying.

teeththief Sun 13-Sep-15 22:09:31

I'm assuming from your thread that, as she's top end of the class, she doesn't react to praise or refuse to do things the same way at school?

If so, then I'd stop with the praise for doing well with something at home and just let her enjoy it without saying much at all other than general chit chat. Maybe then she will relax in to it instead of feeling like youre, not judging exactly but, testing her every move when you're doing what she assumes are fun things

Sorry if that's worded badly. I hope you know what I mean!

MMmomKK Sun 13-Sep-15 23:41:28

This sounds very familiar. It started with with Dd1 a little later, when she was around 7. I hear "I can't" often - whenever she is faced with something new or different, that she hasn't cracked without effort. Many things do come easy to her, so she gets frustrated when they do not.

I think it is it is a fear of failure. Girls are often perfectionists and are hard on themselves. I have been aware of not praising her for being bright - focusing on effort, etc. But having been top in many/most academic things in her class since YR - she knows people think she is "bright" and it must be a hard burden.

I haven't figured it out. She is now 8 and in Y4. Every time I hear "I can't" - I just say - let's try, I'll help you. I leave her to have her tantrum, then come back and we try. And when she manages to do whatever she couldn't before - I remind her -- see - you did it, just needed to try.

Also - I try to tell her that making mistakes is OK. Tell her about things I did wrong.

It's not easy...

margaritasbythesea Sun 13-Sep-15 23:45:53

Apart from the fact that dd is at the bottom of the class this sounds very familiar so watching with interest.

educatingarti Sun 13-Sep-15 23:50:39

Yes yes to what the previous poster said about prayers for cleverness and achievement being demotivating. Try praising her for her efforts or the way she's stuck at doing things rather than for the end result. Also make sure she knows it ok to make mistakes and try and fail. You may need to re emphasize this lots of times before she really believes it!

educatingarti Mon 14-Sep-15 09:45:17

praise - not prayers! Though prayer could also help!! :D

worrymerchant Wed 16-Sep-15 22:36:14

Thank you all for your helpful comments. I agree that focussing on efforts (rather than praising achievements) is paramount - and this is what we have always done - but it hasn't made any difference, really tbh. MMmomKK your dd sounds v similar to mine - and I think that to a certain extent it is exactly because they are bright that they can often see through our strategies! And I agree that knowing they are bright or hearing themselves referred to as such (not at home, where we are careful not to open that can of worms, but by other people that we have no control over) can be a real burden. She must feel pressure to conform or live up to expectations. I think with my dd there is also definitely an element of anxiety / fear of the unknown / fear of not being in control. And she's only 6! Well, I guess we'll just have to persevere with trying not to react /praise too much/in the wrong way/ maybe even let her fail so she can understand that the world will not explode if that happens!

blueemerald Wed 16-Sep-15 22:40:44

I would look into fixed and growth mindsets. Schools tend to not be great at encouraging a growth mindset (I'm a teacher!)

worrymerchant Wed 16-Sep-15 23:01:57

Thanks - yes, I'm v familiar with Carol Dweck. Not sure if DD's school is though.

educatingarti Thu 17-Sep-15 15:28:22

One thing that helps with the children I teach is to praise them when they make a mistake and put it right. I'm talking in terms of academic learning but I think it could work with social things too. So if they are doing maths and make a mistake but correct it ( either spontaneously or because I've encouraged them to look again at a calculations) I'll say something like - "Oooh that's good. I really like the way you corrected that mistake" It might work with other things too " I really like the way you had a go at x, even though you thought you didn't know how to (play along with her statement that she "Can't do x"?) or I really like the way you realised you were being a bit mean to Lily/your brother etc and changed your mind and started to share or whatever.
HTH

HeisInfuriating Thu 17-Sep-15 17:45:45

Good god I need this thread!

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