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Over-complicated 5 year old(31 Posts)
Oh what to do....
I need advice on how to help my highly strung 5 (nearly 6) year old navigate the ups and downs of life.
She is an intelligent and articulate child who is kind and thoughtful but tends to over-think absolutely everything to the point where she is often crippled by indecision and lack of confidence. What to wear, how to greet friends, what to draw, how to make friends and keep existing ones, ask for things from strangers, influence her friends etc.
She has always been a 'heavy weather' child and I've been exasperated by her self-defeating behaviour so many times right from day one. Severe separation anxiety, pooing phobia, leg hugging at parties...it seems that where ever there is 'fun' by other children's standards, for her its a stressful situation which she'd rather not have to be involved with. If she does manage to let herself go and have fun it is nearly always followed by claims that she didn't have fun & somehow it's our (myself & husband's) faults.
I am not a critical parent (to her face!) and my husband & I are forever pep talking her, trying to bolster her confidence. She's not always like it but at the moment I feel like things are geting worse and she's holding herself back. I know she is very over-tired at the moment. She sleeps from 7pm til 8.15am when we always have to wake her up for school but get tears & tantrums most mornings. At weekends she's often pale and moody by the afternoon (same after school).
I really can't understand where it all comes from. She has a very stable day to day life, involved and loving mum, dad, grandparents. I don't work full time, we are not stressed at home about money or relationships. I used to think that this was just parenting but we have another dd (nearly 2) and she is sunny, fun, very out-going. Even taking into account 'second child' factor, it makes me feel even more sure that dd1 is not right.
Does she have mental health problems, is spoilt or will grow out of it. What do I do to help & cope with her moods/negativity?
Please help with any advice or comments!
Just taking the tired/pale/moody. Maybe a blood test at docs to rule out diabetes or aenemia (sp?).
You could always speak to her teacher to find out if there are any avenues you could explore at school to help with the other stuff?
Hopefully someone else will be along with better suggestions shortly.
Well, you could start by accepting her as she is. Stop the 'pep talks,' validate her feelings, and understand that she DOES know you are critical.
It's worth considering whether you have problems dealing with strong or negative emotions generally.
You describe having been 'exasperated' with her needs even as a baby, describe her as not 'right.' It's quite unpleasant to read to be honest.
I think you should go see your community child psychologist - ask your local children's centre for details.
Thanks both of you for posting so quickly!
I do think it's worth ruling out any health issue firstly, thanks for that. She is v pale n general, now I come to think of it.
WomanOfAbjectMystery - how do you mean 'understand that she DOES know you are critical'? Can you elaborate on that as I'm not sure I get the gist of it.
Reading over that I've put, it does sound quite negative. Really, I (and OH) love her so deeply. To me anyway, her being my first everything is really magnified and intensified - my love for her and my expectations perhaps. Maybe I need to calm down and do a bit of self-examining (sounds rude!). It's very difficult to try to see what you are projecting as a parent. Obviously you have to be yourself but within that, how are you to know what is 'normal'!!!
I know you love her, sorry if I sounded mean.
Children pick up very subtle stuff. Moods, body language, etc. We can't really hide much from them. They detect fake. They detect disappointment. Even a 'pep talk' is a form of criticism, because it says 'cheer up, what you are feeling is not valid and not acceptable, feel this instead.'
I know what it feels like to have the child who won't join in the 'fun.' I've had to adjust my expectations and work through some of my own stuff.
I do empathise, as I have a dd1 similar. Ignore it Don't cajole, just accept if she doesn't want to do parties and things.
I do agree get her iron checked though. Is her appetite ok?
You sound like my mother. Please accept your daughter for who she is, not all children are bubbly party animals. Unless you make your daughter feel she is worthwhile in her own right she will never find the confidence to emerge from her shell. She is a quiet, intelligent, sensitive child. Respect her needs and she will be fine. Continue with the pep talks and trying to mould her and you will both end up very unhappy.
I wonder whether it might be helpful for OP to read The Highly Sensitive Child (Amazon) or one of the similar ilk of books.
Hear hear onceamai!
Concentrate on YOUR CHILD: who is she? - your ideas of how a child should be are irrelevant and not as interesting as the emerging person you love!
Listen hard, watch hard and just appreciate what you see! Try to learn from her - she is fine (maybe with the exception of anaemia but that's a different question!). You can learn so much about her... the way she is!
(as for books, I like "Your competent child" by Jasper Juul).
I was a very shy, sensitive and unconfident child - not quite what you describe in your DD, but some similar traits.
I know my Mum very occasionally got frustrated with me, looking back, but on the whole she supported me and subtly bolstered my confidence by gently pushing me out of my comfort zone.
As an adult, I am a different person. Very independent, very social (positively gregarious, just as my parents are/were) and although there are still hints of the shy, sensitive person I was, to say I am not crippled by them is an under-statement!
I think what the others say is correct - accept her for who she is, support her, push her gently if appropriate and have faith in her.
I also think you are being a little hard on her. My daughters were both at times very clingy and one hugged legs at parties til she was about three, I just thought this was normal separation anxiety (which is a phase, not a personality fault) and didn't think anything of it and certainly didn't package it in with other 'issues' at all.
I think you need to reconnect with her in a nice way without all the pep talks. Every time you say 'try to do this' or 'you are so great at that', it sets up a dynamic where she sees you are finding a fault in her and providing a correct answer (which is not to be herself). Who cares if she is great at parties? She may well be a bit of a whinger about life, but the lighter you treat it and the less you respond to it the better.
To reconnect, try having a day out just the two of you in which you don't try to bolster her, or correct her, or give her tips. Let her lead you on where to go, what to talk about and give her lots of hugs. You could go on a shopping trip, or a park trip or anything she fancies. You can then spend time with her in the evening, talking about your fun day and cuddling her, and it will change the dynamic. I did this recently with my oldest (nearly 7) and she still talks about our special day and our 'conversations'.
I am also similar to 5DollarShake, I was a 'sensitive' child prone to crying and very hard to push out of my comfort zone. But as an adult, I am very gregarious, have a wide and loyal circle of friends and (not very modestly) a great career in which I have to be very confident and self-assured. You wouldn't have predicted that as a child. My best friend is similar, she was painfully shy as a child but now very confident and successful with a lovely family. Children change a lot as they grow up, and I do think accepting her for what she is rather than wishing she was different is very important (and something I have to consciously do sometimes with my own two girls).
Sorry if my advice sounded a bit critical, I sympathise a lot with your OP, I have felt like that at times too, but it's worth working on (my eldest is a bit 'odd' at times and I cringe about it, and it is my mum who has had to say to me that she just is how she is and I do need to accept her).
Just wanted to add that my mother felt about me, the way you feel about your daughter.
She wanted me to be lighthearted, pretty and popular.
I wanted to play by myself under the hedge, get dirty, wear men's clothes and read books about the civil rights movement.
When my child hid under tables at parties, it brought up my own issues about being good enough. Recognising this has allowed me to stand up for my awesome, quirky, wonderful child. I'm just sad my own mother couldn't do that for me.
Thanks to all of you for all or your comments, it's all really helpful.
I do have special time (just us) with her fairly regularly (last time was necklace making at a bead shop and chips and penny slot machines on the pier) it's always great & we do seem to reconnect. The only downside is she will follow being lovely with being dissatisfied saying whatever happened isn't enough and she's not happy. Does leave you feeling pretty gutted.
Today for example there was no snow on the ground she said 'it's not fair, I wanted there to be snow' I said 'well I'm sure it'll come, it's snowing in the rest of the country so it'll be on its way' (excited voice to try and pick the mood up) then I got 'it's not fair, everyone else has got snow except for me and now I'm going to be really sad all day' while she sat on the floor head in hands. So where do you go with that kind of thing? If you ignore it she'll tend to ramp it up and make the accusations and blaming personal until the point at which you get angry and point out she's being unreasonable then she'll apologise and be happy and I'm left wondering if I just imagined the previous 10 mins.
I am really glad to hear (just as I thought as I'm also a reformed character since childhood!) that she might not carry these behaviours through to adulthood. I just worry that if she does she is destined to be an unhappy, unfulfilled & hard-done-by. I really don't want anything for her than what she wishes for herself but seeing her unable to go out and get what she wants is painful.
Thanks for the tip about the books too, will get myself on Amazon now.
I think that this is just her being a pain and trying to get attention. Just ignore her and change the subject, don't try and make it better for her. She is obviously not going to be cajouled into feeling better. By changing the subject and ignoring her 'oh everything is awful' she will see she isn't getting anywhere with that behaviour. With regard to parties, don't go if she doesn't want to. Again, don't make a fuss about it, that's just what she wants, the attention. Say 'ok, you don't have to go to the party, how about we go swimming/shopping/etc. instead.
I wouldn't worry what others have said that you are being an awful mother for not understanding her 'sensitive nature', she just has to get on with things in life and it is mostly attention seeking.
I found Highly Sensitive Child to be rubbish and couldn't get past the first chapter or so. Give a mail address and I will gladly post it to you.
Try reading some James Hillman for a completely different take on this.
Ahha, I like your tactic! I will practice that one and bring it out tomorrow.
Lets hope it could just be the jolt we need to get out to this pattern of behaviour we're both in.
(Is it similar to the adice in 'How to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk'??)
Yes, that's exactly the kind of response they suggest in 'How to Talk etc'
I've nothing helpful to add but I just wanted to say I enjoyed reading this post as I think I needed to read it myself.
We don't suddenly become phsycologists when we give birth so the behaviour of our children can sometimes throw us I suppose.
I have a 3.5 yr old boy and im always fretting about his confidence
(ive always had low self esteem/confidence).
I notice he just copies other children. The nursery comment alot as do friends too so it isn't imagined.
He will copy how they stand, what they say, how they say it, what they eat etc
He seems powerfully influenced by children he decides to worship that day!!
I panic about lack of confidence so I tend to try everything to push him into 'being himself'!
Ive realised from reading this helpful post that it may just be my fear of him lacking confidence that is somehow coming over to him and making him this way.
He must be picking up my disapproval of his behaviour somehow and maybe even copying as a way of finding out how he should behave.
It's like a lightbulb has came on!
I did post about it a week or two ago but the advice was less helpful and I just got an earful instead!
With regard to the pep talks, try and be selective with your praise, give lots but give the right kind i.e. praise her individuality. For example if she draws a lovely picture try and praise her effort and imagination instead of the quality of the picture itself.
You will be surprised at the difference this can make. I definitely was.
She may well be highly intelligent, I was a similar child. Is she stretched enough at school? I hated being a child (although I would love to be one now). I was only happy once I went to a highly academic school where I felt at home.
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