9 year daughter feels need to control everything(35 Posts)
My 9 year old struggles with feeling out of control with all sorts of situations. She is a real perfectionist and most of the time gets everything right, but gets anxious and opts out if she feels she might get something less than perfect. Homework can be a nightmare - she will take ages and tantrum over the slightest thing. Some homeworks are online; if she gets one Maths question wrong, she starts again - if we let her, it will go on for hours. She is a perfectionist over what she wears, which tbh I just let her get on with - one battle not worth fighting. She seems to need to feel in control and sometimes it affects the rest of the family - for example, she likes to control who uses the bathroom in the morning. We have one bathroom/toilet and she will lock herself in for over half an hour in the morning, so no one else can get ready - her dad has to leave work before eight, as he is a teacher and she seems to thrive on the stress she creates and uses it as an excuse to shout and yell. This has been going on for 3 years, sanctions and rewards work short term, but things go back to the way they were after about a week. However much time we give her, she always leaves getting ready until the last minute - we are never actually late (that wouldn't fit in with her image!) but I always feel stressed, even though most of the time I am calm outwardly. I understand her need to have some control over her life and try to insist only on the important things and although she is a high achiever, we have never pushed her or made her feel she needs to achieve to please us (I hope!). What is worrying me now is that she has started using food as a way of being in control, often threatening not to eat to get her own way. She has always been a good eater, although quite focused on healthy eating. Should I try to encourage her to eat or not make a battle of it? I work with children with emotional/behavioural issues - sometimes I wonder if I read too much into things!
Hadn't even considered pda tbh and had to google it to see if she fits the criteria - she shows no other signs of Aspergers or autism, although her older brother is waiting for an assessment for dyspraxia, ADHD and Asperger's, as these were flagged up by the Ed Psych when he was diagnosed as dyslexic. I will find out a bit more about it. My concern was that she is the classic perfectionist personality that often girls with eating disorders seem to have - not sure how to handle it!
It doesnt sound like you are reading to much into it to me.
I think you might need to get professional advice about this.
My Dd3 has asd/aspergers, she likes to be in control and has some demand avoidance issues.
I am not suggesting your Dd has aspergers but there are a surprising number of undiagnosed girls out there
I would recommend keeping a diary of her issues/quirks and if you are still worried after a few weeks I would go to your GP and ask for a referral to a developmental paediatrician.
I have just looked more at PDA, and there are some things where I can tick the box, but others not. The behaviours do not exhibit at school at all and she tends to be an overachiever not an underachiever. She has good insight into other people's feelings and is certainly not dominant with peers - nor is she a walkover. There are parts of her behaviours which are a bit OCD - she probably gets that from me! All of it has felt manageable until now, the eating control worries me though - not sure whether I want to go down the GP route yet in terms of her being talked to - knowing her perfectionist nature, if she felt she was being identified as being controlling with her eating, she would go out of her way to make sure she fulfilled this to the best of her ability. At this stage I suppose what I am looking for is some good low key advice to stop it going further?
Tbh, I would not make an issue of the eating because if she is using it to control you and she sees you getting stressed she is achieving the desired effect.
I would serve the food, eat your own and when everyone has finished clear the table, if she hasnt eaten, say nothing but dont offer an alternative. Dont let her see that it bothers you.
Before you start explain to her that there wont be an alternative but make sure that there is always something on her plate that she likes. oh and no snacks.
If it is purely control thing I think she will get message quite quickly.
If she doesnt you might need to consider seeking help.
I am not an expert but have 3 challenging girls 2 of whom are on the autistic spectrum.
That was really helpful - she has never (yet!) not eaten her food, she just makes the threat and when we say we want her to try to eat something, she will do so - it is just the fact that she sees it as a way of asserting herself that worries me - mainly I think because in other areas the control has become so entrenched. If she tries to control things by sitting in the toilet for ages, that is awkward for the rest of the family and not particularly pleasant for her; if she starts seeing food refusal as a method of control, the implications are more severe. I also know if she picks up on my anxiety that won't help either. Your post makes me realise that I need to be calm and be clear about expectations - thanks !
I'm no expert but I would be taking the lock off the bathroom door so she can't affect the rest of the family, give her a time limit in there and then boot her out, if she screams and yells, tough. Food wise don't make any fuss either way, chances are if she leaves one meal without you saying anything or offering an alternative she won't do it again.
Short term solution. Take the lock off the bathroom door, draw up a timetable (involve her but don't consult her) then give warnings when her morning time is nearly up and then open the door and remove her/replace her with DP. (She won't stick around when daddy starts his gross boy routine!)
Remember you are the adult. Look into the other suggestions but remain the adult in the situation and do not negotiate or argue with a child!!!
I like the idea of the gradually reducing timer, with a reward - I hadn't thought of that one. I will go and look into the PDA strategies and do some more reading, as being informed always helps me feel more in control of the situation - that is probably telling in itself! We do have a lock on the door, but it is one that can be opened from the outside in an emergency. I have not felt comfortable in dragging her off the toilet, kicking and screaming, which is what started to happen when we pushed it before. This is because the eating disorder thing has long been at the back of my mind - partly because of her ability to resist 'unhealthy foods' from an early age - about 4 - and also because of her perfectionism. I don't want her to link the control thing with body issues - and she is extremely self conscious about her body at the moment. I will happily drag her kicking and screaming away from the TV/computer/friends or most other things, but don't feel happy about dragging her off the loo. What do others think?!
What you said about her changing her behaviour to get something she really wants made me think. Re the bathroom, she has wanted her ears pierced for a while and we said she had to wait until she was 9. We also said the bathroom issue had to be improved too. We were looking for a couple of weeks of changed behaviour, as previously a week seemed her limit - it took 7 months to achieve that and she got her ears pierced this Christmas. Even then, although we did see a change in her behaviour, it had to be 'managed' by only letting her into the bathroom once everyone else had finished, so she wasn't affecting and therefore controlling the rest of us - it never felt a secure change, even though she managed it. We'll see what happens once school starts! She has already told me she doesn't intend to eat breakfast, which I didn't really react to. Now she is older, I do take the boys to school and leave her - she always catches us up by the end if the road. I am trying to take her at her word - she often makes an empty threat where only she loses - such as saying she didn't want to go to gym club anyway, when I insist on 'socks or no crocs' in January. I think her desire to be in control often overrides her need for achieving the other things she wants. These comments are all thought provoking!
We chose our battles very carefully in our house.
I only put my foot down i I think it
is a serious issue.
I have been fighting a battle over showering with Dd3 for some considerable time but have solved it this holiday with the help of mumsnet special needs and a visual timetable.
I really think your Dd would benefit from being involved in making as many decisions as possible. I find that Dd3 id much easier to manage if she feels in control but of course I remain in charge ultimately and she does have to remember that I am the adult.
Why are you letting her call the shots? She's a child. Take the lock off the bathroom door and hau her out after 15 minutes. Her ridiculous whims about getting into the bathroom first do not trump your DH's need to arrive at work on time.
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