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Dr. Rossi
Dr. Rossi, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  PsyD, LPC, CHt
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My daughter is nearly 9 and she has always been a challenging

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My daughter is nearly 9 and she has always been a challenging child. She is a child of contrast. Loving and affectionate but wilful - its her way or no way. Her latest school report says she must learn the art of compromise when taking part in an activity with other children in the class. She has always been very demanding of attention - I don´t think I have ever finished a conversation with someone where she hasn´t interrupted. But when she is occupied with something which interests her then you don´t hear a peep out of her. She doesn´t appear to form friendships very easily - I think she is too demanding and bossy for other children to like her. She doesn´t often get asked to other childrens houses for playdates or parties. She can play well but likes to take the lead in everything and I think most children, and adults, find her overpowering. She has a very strong sense of what she believes is right and wrong and of her own personal space but she has no sense or empathy of anyone elses personal space or feelings. I think her behaviour at home is worse than at school which on some level is reassuring because it shows she is able to control her behaviour when at school although she doesn´t try to do the same at home. She seems to be a child of extremes either being very good or very bad but nothing in between. She is not physically violent but can be very rude and she will simply ignore, or pretend she hasn´t heard, instructions if she doesn´t want to do something. To be honest we are getting to our wits end - we hoped that with growing older and sending her to an expensive private school we might address some of these problems but, although they seem no worse, they don´t seem to have got any better either. My husband and I have discussed getting her professionally assessed but we don´t really want her to be prescribed drugs (ritalin?). We love her dearly, she wants for nothing, gets lots of cuddles and kisses and seems a very confident and outgoing character. We want to be able to take her out and enjoy her company but trips, holidays and everyday life are spoiled by her behaviour so much so that we often turn down invitations just becuase we would rather stay at home than risk taking her out with us and it turning out badly. My husband has recently been hospitalised and it was put down to stress - i´m sure this was partly bought on by our daughters behaviour. She will eventually take notice of me if I am speaking to her but is completely dismissive of him - which drives him up the wall. Any advice you can give would be very much appreciated. Mandy
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Rossi replied 2 years ago.

Dr. Rossi :

Hi Mandy,

Dr. Rossi :

The behaviors that you've described are not really indicative of ADHD for which Ritalin is at times prescribed.

Dr. Rossi :

These seem to be more of personality traits.

Dr. Rossi :

Is she the only child?

Dr. Rossi :

If you've noticed the ability for her to control herself at school and act differently at home, you're right- she's exercising some control over her behavior( it seems to be volitional).

Dr. Rossi :

Her behavior should have not gotten to the point where her father's health was affected to that extent.

Dr. Rossi :

Getting her an evaluation by a psychologist would be appropriate and something to look into further. She can receive therapy. Only certain conditions are treated with medication while others are treated mainly w/ therapy.

Dr. Rossi :

The fact that you've mentioned that she does not feel or show empathy is a red flag. It is found in those individuals with narcissistic traits. It is one of the main sympltoms along with the need for attention/approval/admiration.

Dr. Rossi :

In therapy, she can possibly learn coping and social skills. The former to manage her feelings when frustrated or feels ignored, the latter in how the channel these appropriately.

Dr. Rossi :

The fact that she has a strong sense of what she believes can be directed to positive even altruistic behaviors i.e. volunteering (helping others) and gaining a sense of pride through her own contribution. That would also allow her to foser a healthy sense of self. Because, acting out powerful around others (or bullying them if she ever does), can be a sign of underlined low self esteem she's trying to compensate for.

Dr. Rossi :

According to the STEP (systematic training for effective parenting), children can misbehave because of 1) sense of inadequacy, 2) attention 3) power struggle, 4) revenge

Dr. Rossi :

The direction you were inquiring about would be 1) have her be properly evaluated 2) discuss treatment options w/ the clinician 3) set a weekly family time where every family members discusses how their week had gone so far (including how other family members may be affecting them) 4) try to speak w/ her or encourage her to journal her feelings (that could foster or awaken empathy ) 5) help her determine what volunteering she would like to try (even if it is going w/ you once a week to an animal shelter to feed the animals or a nursing home to read to the elderly)

Dr. Rossi :

Not sure if you're still online now. Feel free to reply!

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi - thank you for your reply. Ellie is not an only child but her older sister is 23 and so I suppose, to all intents and purposes she is an ´only´ child in that she has no other siblings around of her own age. She displays a lot of sibling rivalry and jealousy towards my older daughter (who is from my first marriage) but this daughter does not help the situation by responding when Ellie is behaving badly. Ellie loves animals - so I think by taking her to an animal shelter or something might be a good suggestion. To be honest your response has just confirmed what we first thought which is we should take her and get her assessed properly so that she, and we, can find ways of coping with and managing her behaviour. We are British citizens but based in Spain so the issue might be how to find someone but I will ask at her school. In the meantime, other than the things you have already mentioned, do you have any suggestions/methods for social skills/coping skills which we can start to work on immediately. Also, forgot to mention earlier she finds it very difficult to admit she is wrong or to say sorry. She tries to blame something or someone else and, she has a cousin who is 10 and Ellie really loves her but if they fall out it is always Molly´s fault and she won´t say sorry or make up. Molly is a very sweet child with a very calm disposition so she tends to give in the Ellie to keep the peace but I think this just makes Ellie worse because she thinks if she behaves in this way she will, eventually, get her own way and I want her to learn she can´t.
Expert:  Dr. Rossi replied 2 years ago.

At this age, she is still learning about herself through her interactions w/ others. You may always stress to her by giving her some specific examples of how asserting her way can be used positively as well as negatively. Cases where she's taken up for someone else (defended or helped another) or when she's remained strong headed just to get her way, can be some concrete examples to talk with her about. You would want to help her identify what she felt in each situation (pride, anger, assertiveness, helpful, etc), and point out to her how the positive feelings and positive outcomes are within her control.

 

In order to learn social skills, she'd have to continue to interact w/ her peers. If possible, enrolling her in some sort of a club or sport may be helpful. Even if it is a competitive sport with clearly defined rules i.e. karate, she can learn respect as well as cooperation. If there are any summer camps for children, that too is another thing to look into. Any activity where she would learn and need to practice self control while working w/ others can be helpful. Some of these activities can center on the need to cooperate w/ peers in order to achieve something as a team rather than individually.

 

You could also devise a system where she earns some sort of a desirable outcome for positive behavior and a negative one for inappropriate behavior. For instance, you notice her interacting in a helpful/patient manner w/ another. You reward her w/ something that is pleasurable to her i.e. extra play time, going to bed later, etc. If the opposite occurs, you use a consequence. Of course, you'd want to let her know ahead of time that this is what you'd be doing and let her know what the expectations are. This would have to be reinforced without you giving up the first few times if she resists. And, she may just as a form of control.

 

It would be helpful for her sister not to feed into her behavior. The age difference is large and her older sister does not have to antagonize her. Her sister can be someone that you ask to assist with this behavior modification of sorts by also rewarding her positive behaviors. If she's acting well with her, then her older sister may give her something or take her for a treat. Encouragement and praise of positive behavior is a reward in itself (complimenting her when she does well).

 

If you could find a movie for children where one of the characters is being bullied by others, and discuss it afterwords, it would help her process her feelings (whether she's feeling empathy, anger, indifference, etc). She may need to feel a sense of belonging. If she does not, she could be acting the opposite way (defense mechanism- reaction formation) Instead of attracting others to herself, she pushes them away in order not to be rejected by them first.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Rossi, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 4627
Experience: PsyD, LPC, CHt
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