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Can't seem to discipline my daughter!

(60 Posts)
TinHat17 Mon 04-Dec-17 12:12:23

I'm at my wits end and would really be grateful for some advice.

I'm sure this topic is best placed elsewhere, but I'm looking for a broad range of advice and perhaps some tough love for myself.

I have three children 8, 10 and 14. The middle child (my daughter) is the one who I'm struggling with.

Very long story short. I left their dad 4 yrs ago after 17 years in an emotionally abusive relationship.

The kids were happier the moment I left. It's taken some work and hardship, but on the whole, we are better than we've ever been. I'm working, we have a lovely home and good family and friends around us.
They still maintain a relationship with their dad on an every other weekend basis.

My daughter has always been hot headed from a toddler. I have always been firm. However, she has never responded to discipline in the way my sons have. The two boys have never pushed me to my limit. They learn from their bad behaviour etc. My daughter doesn't.

She will argue back, stamp her feet, slam doors, is very selfish and will sometimes scare her younger brother.

Things I've tried

1- tell her off, warning, time out

2- speak calmly but firm, explain why I won't tolerate her behaviour and make her aware of her impact on others

3 - confiscate items

4 - ignore her until she apologises

I have been consistent with each form of discipline for a long period before trying something else.

She's had counselling, I've worked with her to overcome her anxiety (which has improved), I've been there for her emotionally as every parent should after issues with her dad. I feel I have done everything I can to ensure she isn't too emotionally damaged from mine and her dads break up.

She claims she is happier now, she has a good bond with my partner (It was a gradual introduction not forced), she said she loves homelife etc.

I don't understand then, why she is so badly behaved out of the three?!

Her teacher thinks she is as good as gold, my parents never witness this side of her. Why does she only behave like this for me?

I wonder if I need to get tougher. But if I'm honest, she spent years in an environment watching her dad verbally abusing me and shouting. I don't want to shout at her or loose it as I wanted to create a calming household when we left him. Plus, I feel guilty that I allowed my kids to witness their dads behaviour because I was too weak to leave him.

My partner has full custody of his son. So he knows first hand how tough it can be. But he has observed that I'm too soft on her. He has been nothing but supportive and has been a positive influence in our lives. We don't live together as we want to wait until our children are older. But we do spend a lot of family time together.

He never interferes or tells me how to parent, but does advise me.

My daughter is now back chatting him. I can't believe how rude she is.

I'm worried that as she approaches puberty, if I don't nail it now, she will be a nightmare to rein in.

I love her, but I don't enjoy being around her (I hope I don't give off that vibe as I always try to be positive - but it's forced) I feel guilty feeling that way

Sorry it's long. Just wanted to add all the relevant info.

Please help!

grimeofthecentury Mon 04-Dec-17 12:15:29

What kind of things does she do/say? How is she with your other kids/stepson?

cakeflowerswine

Allthewaves Mon 04-Dec-17 12:18:55

How are you too soft?

Some kids are just hard work. I have a lippy ds 9 year old who eye rolls and stamps.

TinHat17 Mon 04-Dec-17 12:29:22

Thanks for replying.

Examples

*. She argues back all the time. If I say Kids can you please tidy your room. I'm met with a list of reasons why her brother should do it. Then when I demand she does or else xyz, she stamps around muttering and pushing past her brother etc

*. She never shares. She will take the last of something and give no thought to whether her brothers would want some. (They boys would always ask/share)

*. Is argumentative with adults she spends a lot of time with. Or will ignore them. Same with children. She has one friend only and falls out easily with her siblings and step sibling.

*. Had to be first/the best at EVERYTHING. We can't play board games without her crying or getting annoyed if she doesn't win.

*. Tells tales on her siblings to use to her advantage. I.e. She'll grass her brothers for something they may not have done just to see them get in trouble so that she is favoured more by her dad. (Her dad is a piece of work but that's a whole other thread). He indulges her behaviour and no amount of pleading with him will make him change.

She generally sucks the joy out of any family time we spend together.

TinHat17 Mon 04-Dec-17 12:30:40

No idea why my post is in bold!

Armadillostoes Mon 04-Dec-17 12:42:42

To be fair if her teachers and grandparents think that she is well behaved then she can clearly manage good behaviour. It sounds as though you feel quite negative about her. Does she feel this? Have things got into a negative rut between the two of your?

ahatlikeprincessmarina Mon 04-Dec-17 12:44:05

Have you tried setting aside time to devote yourself totally to her, and only her? Just even maybe half an hour once a week when you are ALL hers, with no distractions, fully present to talk and listen to her about anything she wants? I know it must be really difficult if you're a single mum, but could it somehow be arranged? This 'love-bombing' can have really positive outcomes as when the child feels closer and more connected to you, they are more inclined to want to please you and keep the atmosphere happy at other times ... worth a try?

nellieellie Mon 04-Dec-17 12:52:24

I didn’t want to just read your post and run. Must be so hard for you, and well done for getting out of your abusive relationship. My DD is also 10. The background is nothing like yours though so I’m not sure how helpful if at all this will be. My DD can be very stubborn, rude, with a bad temper. I honestly think at times, she doesn’t want to be like this but gets caught up in it and can’t back down, or doesn’t know how to turn the situation around. These things have helped me a lot. Firstly, I think the bad tempers are because she finds it incredibly frustrating not to be in control. So, I give her loads of little pieces of responsibility - cooking tea, making smoothies, training the dog. If I need her to do something, I find that if I talk to her like a friend, on side, like “oh, I have no idea how Im going to finish all this stuff, could you and your brother just do the veg, and then you can watch some tv?” But this is also in the context of treating her a bit like an adult in other ways. So, I ask her view on things - eg help me choose what Xmas decks to put up and where - “what do you think?” I know it’s a cliche, but I do tend to give her choices, and if Ive had a rubbish day, I might ruefully share a bit of it - only lightheartedly obviously. I talk to her (on a simple level) about current affairs and see what her view is. This sounds like I let her get away with stuff. I don’t. I try to make “punishment” follow naturally from what she does. So if she is unpleasant to her brother. I just tell her that if she wants to be downstairs with the family, she has to treat people nicely. If she wants to be unpleasant she’ll have to go upstairs and be rude to her teddies. I have also explained to her that a times we all get cross with people. It’s fine to be angry - even if it’s unreasonable, but it’s not fine to be show it by being horrid and unfair. So, we have an agreement that if she gets cross, she should absent herself until she feels calmer. If she is really cross and disappears to her room with door slamming, I leave her. If I need her to do something - like get ready for school, I’ll avoid issuing orders or being confrontational, because then the situation creates a winner, and a loser - and DD will feel compelled to win. I’ll knock at her bedroom door, and then talk a load of rubbish that is nothing to do with what has occurred - eg yesterday evening we needed her to come down for tea. I went in her room (always a mess) and started looking for clothes to put in the wash. I kept up a bit of a monologue, occasionally asking her if something was dirty, ignoring her lack of response, made a few jokes, told her a few funny things the dogs had done, and she thawed pretty quickly, Her dad was downstairs and had given me instructions to “tell her if she doesn’t come down she won’t have anything to eat”. Ignored of course. Had I done that she would have seen it as a challenge, refused to come down and basically spoiled the rest of the evening. Sometimes, it’s too much and I just yell and get cross ! But these things have definitely made a difference.

Newinthegame16 Mon 04-Dec-17 12:53:48

Is your DD close with her father? Does she favour him? Is it possible she blames you for the break up? Maybe some further counselling or help from CAMHS could help? And they could do sessions together to build on your relationship?

nickEcave Mon 04-Dec-17 12:57:53

Wow nelli you could be describing my 7 year old DD! Your techniques sound brilliant and I really identify with what you say about not forcing her into a corner and trying to avoid situations become win/lose.

CloudPerson Mon 04-Dec-17 13:01:37

It's very possible to behave in other settings but "let go" at home where you feel comfortable. Being able to apparently choose to behave well in some settings but not others does not mean there aren't some difficulties.

I have two boys with PDA (a form of autism), and home life is very difficult as they will do whatever they can to avoid demands, and consequences do not work, threats do not work, discipline does not work.
Instead we have a book by Ross Greene, the Explosive Child, which teaches collaborative skills, and helps both of you to learn how to work together more effectively.

Some children are more difficult that others for whatever reason, it isn't a reflection on your parenting, and some children just don't respond to normal parenting strategies, again not your fault, but it means you have to find other ways that work. The Explosive Child will help. It might also help to look up PDA strategies, even if you don't suspect it in your dd, the strategies can help.

ObscuredbyFog Mon 04-Dec-17 13:01:57

Try some PDA strategies with her, give her a choice but using specific phrasing and breaking tasks down. Not remotely suggesting she has PDA, just advocating a different style of communication.

e.g. for getting dressed, don't just say 'Put your socks on please' but instead 'Red socks or blue socks?'
more info www.pdasociety.org.uk/families/strategies

Ross Greene has a different approach with challenging behaviour too www.livesinthebalance.org/

Good Luck, you'll get there flowers

LemonysSnicket Mon 04-Dec-17 13:06:22

Thos sounds like my DSis to a tee ... except shes 24. I know that my sistets behaviour comes from a feeling of abandonment and like nobody loves her 'the most' out of the people who they love. I'd do some one on pne time.
The not sharing/selfish part has just always been a part of my sisters personality .. whereas im an asker. I think it comes from thinking she'll be denied it if she asks.

FireCracker2 Mon 04-Dec-17 13:07:44

on the whole, we are better than we've ever been. I'm working, we have a lovely home and good family and friends around us.

Yeah, that's your perspective,Because you are idyllically happy with your new boyfriend and his son, doesn't mean your DC feel the same way!!¬she probably is not so thrilled about having these 2 foisted on her invading so much of your family time.

nellieellie Mon 04-Dec-17 13:08:08

I think it’s a bit like the “love bombing” that Princess Marina describes although I never thought of it like that. I make a real effort to natter to DD as much as possible. Eg I’ll help her tidy her room, and it’s a real opportunity to talk to her about school, friendships etc - I’ll tell her a few funny stories about when I was at school, or maybe horrid/nice things my friends did, and then we muse over how pleasant/unpleasant that is. She’s developed a real passion for certain things now, so we can talk about those too. It’s actually really enjoyable.

TittyGolightly Mon 04-Dec-17 13:19:02

Have you tried setting aside time to devote yourself totally to her, and only her? Just even maybe half an hour once a week when you are ALL hers, with no distractions, fully present to talk and listen to her about anything she wants? I know it must be really difficult if you're a single mum, but could it somehow be arranged? This 'love-bombing' can have really positive outcomes as when the child feels closer and more connected to you, they are more inclined to want to please you and keep the atmosphere happy at other times ... worth a try?

This. Middle child, only girl, traumatic life events. She needs your understanding.

knittingwithnettles Mon 04-Dec-17 13:28:03

dd (middle of three with two brothers, one with SNs) was like this.

She is so much better now (15). We found strictness did not work, tough love did not work (except in the sense that we encouraged independence, that WAS good, ie: she took two buses to secondary school every morning and felt proud of herself for managing this) What worked ultimately, although with several false starts and prepubertal and PMT ish outbursts along the way (think throwing laundry off bannisters, screaming at us, demanding items that "everyone else has", insisting on going to concerts that we didn't approve of, never sharing, being extremely touchy and territorial) Okay, so that all sounds awful and yes it was awful, but now:
she is a girl with friends, a girl with confidence, and she is conscientious, and she is warm and funny, and very confiding about a lot of stuff. She is lively, and organises herself, and enjoys life and school.

I think we got there, not quite, I'm sure there will still be hiccups and demands, because we did a lot of love bombing attention wise, a lot of laying off the demands for chores and tidiness when it was a question of picking battles, and a lot of routines/regular stuff which she felt safe around: ie mealtimes with her fave foods, someone to see her out of house first thing in the morning on cold winter's am (I'm talking 7am)

Her Dad also did lots of things like - supermarket trips with her to buy favourite foods, even if they were just fads (think cheese strings or smoothies) going to cafes with her to buy hot chocs, going to stationery shop to buy sellotape, time wasting things which build trust and confidence. In short, a lot of things which might seem pointless add up to a relationship.

And her room, it is NEVER that tidy, but she tidies it herself now because she wants to, not because I make her.

Hold strong, keep loving her and show it in little boring ways, and she will get there. We drew line at her being mean to siblings though, we tried to make sure that was a boundary we maintained, even though it was easy to get sucked into rights and wrongs. But still acknowledging WHY she felt angry with them in first place.

knittingwithnettles Mon 04-Dec-17 13:31:31

btw Dd now does all her own laundry, changes her own sheets, will do online grocery shopping for me, and is academically and socially independent, so laying off demands has not turned her into selfish spoilt brat by any means.

NoSquirrels Mon 04-Dec-17 13:35:12

I honestly think at times, she doesn’t want to be like this but gets caught up in it and can’t back down, or doesn’t know how to turn the situation around

If I need her to do something - like get ready for school, I’ll avoid issuing orders or being confrontational, because then the situation creates a winner, and a loser - and DD will feel compelled to win.

Sometimes, it’s too much and I just yell and get cross !

YY to all of the above - great post, nellie.

I have a DC like this too, and it is frustrating, but it is born out of control and wanting to lead. Of course, DC have to learn that sometimes they can't be in charge, and it's unpleasant to always try to get your own way, and sometimes things just need doing. But I find if I can approach it from the point of view of explaining why it would be a good idea to e.g. tidy your room (because the quicker we get it done the quicker we can XYZ) then that works.

For the more unpleasant grassing up her brothers/refusing to share/board games competitiveness, I always try to ask DC how they would feel if situation was reversed - it might not work in the heat of the moment but it does get through eventually.

And my DH thinks I am too soft, but then I know these methods work with DC better than laying down the law, and as I am not raising a child who must do what I say just because I am the adult, but I am raising a human who will need to make choices throughout their life, I don't see the harm in modifying my approach.

Giving an "out" is so important I find, when it starts to escalate. And the middle child only DD is probably a really hard dynamic in a lot of ways - perhaps she subconsciously feels she needs to "push harder" to be heard?

brasty Mon 04-Dec-17 13:35:28

It is really common for middle children to get less attention. Parents think they don't do this, but I have seen it happening. I think with middle children you have to make a real effort to give them extra attention, as they are easily over looked.

Also some of the things you describe, although annoying, just seem like normal behavior to me. Like the always wanting to win, or arguing back. Most kids go through this. Which makes me wonder if you are judging her very harshly.

Goodasgoldilox Mon 04-Dec-17 13:37:56

All the methods you describe are good ones but different things work with different children. You are right - your DD needs something else.

There is another thing too. You do seem to compare her to her (much better behaved/kinder/less selfish) brothers quite a bit. Try not to do this in your own mind. It is something she is likely to be doing too and it might well make her feel that she needs to take this 'bad sister ' role. It could be a habit.

As mentioned above, perhaps your DD needs really positive contact with you. More than seems reasonable. (If she is being selfish - is she being kind to herself because she feels some kind of lack. You've all had a tough time - so it wouldn't be surprising.)

Try really hard to say yes to her -whenever you reasonably can. Surprise her!

Can you find ways of getting her to do the right thing by choice - to offer to be helpful etc. - as if it is her own idea - and catch her doing it - then give her extra praise and make her feel that she is very special when she does this.

Try not to notice so much when she isn't kind/sharing/helpful - just notice her brothers more at those moments. (So you are not ignoring her in any dramatic way- or drawing her attention to how they are being better than her - just seem to notice the others more.)

TinHat17 Mon 04-Dec-17 14:14:28

Thank you so much for all your responses. I'm on a quick break so can't respond to all individually.

Thank you for the book recommendation. That's something I'm interested in.

I have tried to set time aside with just her in the past but I think I need to make more of an effort to do that consistently. So will definitely make sure I do that.

My daughter is happier with life. She was a shadow of herself when her dad and I were together. She has told me and her therapy leader numerous times how it's nice to not live in a house where there is shouting etc.

Her dad makes her cry every other weekend but she still chooses to go. I can see what's happening. She is going through what I did with her dad. She is always seeking his approval and no matter how mean he is to her, as soon as he is nice she forgets the bad and believes he has changed.. until the next time. I have in the past contacted social services and spoken with the school and gp about my concerns that he is emotionally abusing her etc. But it's past on to families first twice now and they can enforce anything.

I didn't meet my current partner until a couple of years after I left their dad. He was gradually introduced into their lives. He is a good man who gives my kids a lot of time and affection.

My issues with my daughter have been there since she was a toddler. They have just got progressively worse.

I do wonder if she can sense my feelings. I hope not. I really do love them all the same. But I find her hard work.

I'm not being unsupportive. I'm here because I want to help her and because her behaviour impacts family life too. I can just ignore it because of what's she's been through. That won't help anyone in the long run.

TinHat17 Mon 04-Dec-17 14:16:26

*passed
*can't
Can't

thehairyhog Mon 04-Dec-17 14:42:52

It sounds as though you feel quite negative about her. Does she feel this? Have things got into a negative rut between the two of your?

I agree with this. It sounds like you labelled her as difficult at a young age and so she is.

I also think some of the techniques you mention sound bordering on cruel. Ignoring her until she apologises?

Add this to the situation with her father, and she's had a hard time.

Personally I would ditch the punishments and work on the relationship and connection. Be with her, see her, enjoy her. I don't mean let her walk over you, but you need to be firm yet kind.

She's not a young child any more but it sounds like she needs some nurturing. Individual time together yes. But you have to be realistic and you need to be able to work on stuff day to day at home. Room needs tidying? Help her do it, share techniques for getting organised, chat about why it's nice when things are a bit tidier, with no expectations. Repeat, without frustration (hard, I know). Doesn't share? I'd let it go for now, and model kind behaviour yourself and let her see why it can be nice, rather than punishing her for it. Competitiveness is not an awful quality. Let her be who she is and be kind to her.

I hope I don't sound too harsh. It won't be easy and it may take a long time, but you obviously care very much.

thehairyhog Mon 04-Dec-17 14:43:26

Sorry first para was meant to be in quotes!

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