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Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 4824
Experience:  Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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My daughter just turned 8 and I am noticing "an attitude" for

Resolved Question:

My daughter just turned 8 and I am noticing "an attitude" for everything! She also gets upset very esily, and doing homework has become an ordeal:(
My patience is running out! Help!
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 10 months ago.

Dr. Z :

Hello

Dr. Z :

I believe I can help you with your concern

Dr. Z :

I am so sorry that your daughter has been exhibiting this behavior, I can imagine how this can distress you greatly

Dr. Z :

I would like to ask a few questions to get some more information, so that I can better assist you

Dr. Z :

Exactly for how long has she exhibited this type of behavior?

Dr. Z :

Has she been acting this way with others or in school with her teachers or peers?

Customer:

Thank you. I think this has been happening for the past 6 months

Customer:

I met with her teacher a few weeks back and she said she is very sweet, relates well to her peers but can hardly hear her voice! Totally opposite to what we see at home

Dr. Z :

Has anything changed her life to precipitate this behavior?

Customer:

This has been a difficult year for us... my husband is working outside the country and commuting back and forth almost every weekend to be home; my son went away to school and moved to another country, and I am in a new role as a stay home mom because I was laid off. Because all of these, we downsized and moved to a condo by the beach, which myb daughter loves

Dr. Z :

And when your husband comes home for visits how does she act?

Customer:

Happy and nice because dad is home and it is "play time"... go to the beach, pool

Dr. Z :

So let me ask, would you say you are more involved in your daughter's life now because you are a stay at home?

Customer:

Definitively. Roles are reversed now as I was working 12-14 hours and traveling too much and my husband was the one who was home. Additionally, I see homework has gotten more difficult this year due to the change in public schools to boost academics in the US, so I am on top of that to help her everyday

Dr. Z :

So I think your daughter is acting out against you in this way because she is not used to your involvement and also she is frustrated with the difficulty of her homework and not getting right the first time. She feels that she is not good enough and then acts out against you in a form of displaced anger.

Dr. Z :

One thing you may want to try to do is to encourage her more, even though I imagine you are doing this already. Also try to teach her what she does wrong with her and not just correct her mistakes

Customer:

I checked her homework before (2nd grade) but it was simpler and faster, despite the fact that I would be home after 7pm. Now she is in 3rd grade and homework requires a lot of critical thinking, which is where the difficulty lays. Everytime I try to tell her, that she has to read again and follow directions is a problem! She wants to zoom through homework without thinking and they turn out very sloppy and of course, full of mistakes. The other issue is that she doesn't ask her teacher when she doesn't understand, so she doesn't know what to do

Dr. Z :

Okay, so definitely her frustration is with school and the critical thinking and she is taking her frustration out on you because you are an safe target because you will always love her. Have you thought about getting her a tutor to work with? She most likely will respond better to a tutor because she will not lash out with a tutor as this is not a safe target.

Dr. Z :

Also a tutor may give you a break from this behavior too and lessen your stress

Customer:

So, you think this happening because she is not used to having Mom around so much? Yet she was telling me she doesn't want me to go back to work. At the same time, when she is in a mellow mood, she wants me next to her as she does homework

Customer:

the tutor is a good idea but we need to be extremely careful with our expenses now

Customer:

and I guess menopause doesn't help either:(

Dr. Z :

I understand, there are some low cost tutors out there I believe, but I understand about the expenses. I think what is occurring is that because you are there more often, you are correcting her homework more and this frustrates her because she feels she is not smart enough, when in fact this is a learning process and making mistakes helps people learn. When she is mellow doing her homework are these easy assignments that she gets right away or are they just as hard? Because her frustration may be reserved for the difficult assignments

Customer:

it could be for both but now that you mention it, it is problably trigered by the difficult ones(math). She is far better in reading and writing than math

Dr. Z :

So she gets frustrated because it is not as easy as it used to be for her and she acts out against safe targets, and unfortunately this is you. Most students her age will adapt and adjust to the more difficult subjects and she will thrive and be less frustrated, but it takes a little time for this to happen unfortunately. This has happened for 6 months, so this is another reason a tutor may be helpful because she may respond more to a tutor instead of her usual response of dismissing you and being frustrated with you. While I am sure you give her great techniques and give the right answers, she is just not listening to you and may need another medium to listen too.

Customer:

How can I get her to focus and finish homework faster? How can I avoid confrontation because her look and attitude drive me nuts... it is as if she knew everything and she is in denial...

Dr. Z :

Does she only lose her focus with homework or is this a general thing for her where she cannot maintain her focus?

Customer:

Her grandmother was visiting last week and she saw all of this behavior. She was very surprised and concerned and talked to her a lot about it. She has a great relationship with my daughter but even with her, she was "radical" at times. I know she wants to excel and get good grades because she is higlhy competitive... she responds to challenge right away but her grades are erratic right now

Dr. Z :

Also for rewards, spending time together doing a fun activity can be a good reward as well to motivate her more.

Customer:

She can be easily distracted at school. However if she is reading a book or watching a movie that she likes, she gets into it totally

Dr. Z :

Okay, well for a minute there I was concerned about ADHD possibly, but there is no way she would be able to read an entire book even if it is a good book.

Customer:

Yes, she is taking surf lessons because she loves sports so we are doing that during the weekends. And when dad comes home, he does all of those sporty things with her

Dr. Z :

Here is also a good link that may be able to help you, but so far I think you are doing a lot of the right things so far

Dr. Z :

That is good, sports and hobbies are very good for a child's development.

Dr. Z :

I think by giving small rewards/incentives here and there will help her behavior

Dr. Z :

Also give your daughter choices too or make her feel like she can choose...for instance which homework do you want to start with? When do you want to start homework time? This will give her a feeling of more independence

Customer:

I dont think its ADHD. Already asked at school and it is not. She is a great reader and according to her teacher, the reading assesment at school was great. She is on the highest score ranking

Customer:

how should I approach the "rebellious", mean attitude?

Dr. Z :

Yeah I do not think it is either, I just wanted to ask the question to rule it out. Has Math though always been a difficulty with her or just recently?

Customer:

let's say this is not her favorite subject though she can get straight A's for a month and suddenly F's

Dr. Z :

Well your daughter is angry and frustrated, so she must learn to properly express that frustration in an assertive manner to better communicate with you. Here is a good technique I use to teach patients to be more assertive with their anger and not lash out

Dr. Z :

Okay, well she most likely is just not fond of math and it really depends on the level of attention and motivation she gives it. If she was consistently bad at match there is a learning disorder called Dyscalculia that involves numbers and math related subjects that would have needed to be ruled out, but that is not the case here

Customer:

do you think she is angry because I am on top of her to do well in school or because our whole life changed?

Dr. Z :

I dont think it is because your whole life changed because you mentioned that she likes the condo because it is by the beach and she enjoys her time at school and with your husband. Most of her anger is directed and you and its not necessarily because you are "on top of her" with her homework it is because she is frustrated with her homework and not getting it as easy as she used to and she is expressing that frustration and anger towards you as a form of displacement because you are the one correcting and showing her that she is not getting it, so basically in this case she is shooting the messenger

Dr. Z :

when she lashes out at you

Customer:

what is the best way to deal with this?

Dr. Z :

Well like I said I think being positive and encouraging will help, giving small rewards here will help too as an incentive, give her choices to help her feel she is more independent and in control will be beneficial for her psyche, and also work the problems with her and allow her to correct her own mistakes by posing questions to lead her to the solution

Dr. Z :

Also that worksheet on Anger Decision Making can help your daughter be more assertive and use her words appropriately to tell you when she is frustrated

Customer:

ok, will check both links provided. I appreciate your help! Thank you very much:)

Dr. Z :

Anytime, I am always happy to help. I wish you and your daughter all the best. My goal is to provide you with excellent service, so if you ever have any further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me at anytime.

Customer:

thank you! Good night

Dr. Z :

You are most welcome :)

Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 4824
Experience: Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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