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Norman M.
Norman M., Principal psychotherapist in private practice. Newspaper contributor, over 2000 satisfied clients on JA
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2568
Experience:  ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), ECP, UKCP Registered.
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Helo, I have 3 daughters age 10, 7 and 5. My 7 year old has

Customer Question

I have 3 daughters age 10, 7 and 5. My 7 year old has a very kind caring nature but for the past 5 years she she has been very strong willed in the sense that when she doesnt get her own way she lashes out e.g when role playing with friends and the friend wont do as she says she resorts in a physical manner, pushes, pinches. she may also scream followed by pouting and folding arms. Of course this happens when i am not looking. She knows she is doing wrong . when she carms down, i speak to her about it . She does appologise meaningfully and explains she doesnt know why she does it and goes on to say that its her stupid brain that makes her do it( of course you cant help but laugh inside about her opinion) but this is really getting me down and as she is just turned 7 it does concern me that she is too old for this to continue. I also realise that its been happening since my 3 child was born and that it is some form of jelousy, but surely this should not still be continuing.I praise her when she is good and explain to her how nice it is when we are all getting on and she agrees but it would only take a second of her not getting what she wants and we are back to square one.May I just add that my other 2 daughters have never reacted in this way. Could you please advice. Ann
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Norman M. replied 7 years ago.

Hello, and thanks for visiting JA.

The first thing is that you and your partner (if you have one)have to make sure that you are in total agreement as to what standards of behaviour are acceptable, and which are not. That way, she cannot play one off against the other. Discuss this with your partner, and get things really clear.

Children of her age are rather liable to push things to see what happens, and what they really need are firm boundaries. Being ‘soft’ just makes you easier to manipulate, and anger just teaches them to be angry when they in turn are faced with a difficult situation. Smacking just teaches them that it is appropriate to use violence to get what you want.

In your situation, the arrival of her little sister has probably have left her feeling a bit insecure, and she is going to need a lot of reassurance and support even now. Lots of praise and physical attention.

You need to re-evaluate your parenting style a little, perhaps, although I must say that what you have been doing so far is pretty good.

She is quite old enough to know about actions and consequences. We humans only indulge in behaviour that brings reward of some kind. Only when that reward (whatever it might be) disappears, or the consequences of our behaviour promise to be unpleasant do we consider changing what we do.

Here is the clue to sorting things out. When you are faced with non-co-operation – give her choices, and make sure he understands the consequences of their choice – and always follow through. If you don’t she’ll just get confused. Please make sure though that all her small successes are praised and occasionally rewarded.

Choices are not always about punishment - they can be offered in advance.

"We can go to the park today, but only if you promise not to shout at Jane. Now, would you like to do that or would you rather stay at home?"

Make it clear what you expect "When we go to see your best friend Amanda today, I expect you to play together nicely. If that is not going to happen, may be we should just call and say we are not coming."

When it does come to punishment, try to make sure that it is something that will have an impact "To your room, and no TV today at all." And make sure you vary it otherwise it becomes stale, and therefore more or less ignored.

Ask her too, what she is prepared to do to change her behaviour in future – tell her to research what might help her, what help she feels she needs, and even consider a ‘contract’ between you. In other words, involve her in her own change, with a prospect of a reward for success.

Never get angry, stay cool and in control, matter of fact and stick to the facts. Avoid drama.

Never, never be blaming or accusatory. Tell her how you feel about her behaviour, and make sure she understands that while you love her, her bad behaviour is hurtful and will not be accepted.

I’m going to suggest that you get a copy of the book “How to talk so kids will listen, and how to listen so kids will talk”. Its ISBN is 1 85340 705 4.

Not only will it help you turn things around round it is also a good read!

Best wishes, NormanM