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miss mia

7 yo daughter - mean and spiteful behaviour. Advice please

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miss mia

Thank you to everyone for responding. I am sorry if the language I’ve used has caused anyone to have painful memories of the past. I too grew up with an older sister who was, and still is, like this. And this is why I am so worried.i don’t want my daughter to be like this into adulthood.

we do have regular mummy and daughter days in the school holidays but lately I’ve felt that it’s all so she can buy new things rather than spend time together. But I can change this to be experiences rather than shopping, hairdresser and nails type of day.

The comments around anxiety ring true for me when I think of her and her behaviour. I think I’ve contributed to this a lot by making her feel ashamed about these outbursts and I don’t know how to fix that or repair the damage. 

I think I’ll definitely seek some help for her and myself

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Froggilicious
2 hours ago, feelee said:

I'll preface this by saying that I've found this post and the language you've used around your daughter somewhat triggering.

I imagine my mother would have said similar things about 7 year old me and my younger sister.  I was very good at school but could be absolutely horrible at home.  Spiteful, scathing and mean.  As an adult I can appreciate that this would have made life very difficult for my parents and my sister.  But what no one seemed to recognise was that I was so terribly, terribly anxious all the time and struggling hugely.  I was also massively ashamed of how I'd behave.  Anxiety and shame are very big feelings to expect young children to deal with on their own.  It's really only when I got to my late twenties that I began to get proper help.  I am a (reasonably) well functioning, kind and considerate adult now but things would have been so much better for everyone in the family if we had the right support from the beginning.

Now I have no way of knowing if things are the same for your daughter.  But she's very young still and seems to need extra support of some kind. Don't just write her off.  I'd definitely recommend getting involvement from a good child psychologist at least.

I agree with this post, my DD, also 7, behaves very similar to the way you are describing. My girl is amazingly wonderful but uses me as her emotional punching bag a great deal of the time. We are in the process of obtaining an ADHD diagnosis for her.  The thing that I think needs the most emphasis is how much she hates her behaviour afterwards, and how badly she feels about hurting us. But these feeling of shame tend to exacerbate the behaviour because she doesn't know how else to deal with such big emotions except by lashing out at us. So we find ourselves in a never-ending circle of shame, anger and anxiety until we find a way to circuit break things.

Additionally poor sleep also exacerbates things, as does change. Right now in lockdown she has been a nightmare. 

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Lady Sybil Vimes

I'm not sure what state you're in but if you're in Sydney then Macquarie Uni has a programme for kids with anxiety called Cool Kids which involves assessment and counselling. They also offer counselling for children who have difficulty with emotional regulation. They're excellent and I'm sure there is similar in other states.

I'd just add that rather than experiences with you I would start by focusing on the day to day stuff - big hugs every day, you looking excited and happy to see her, you noticing what she does well  or when she tries do the right thing and commenting positively on it, every day tell her something that you like about her and that makes her special. All those things can go a long way over time to building up your connection and helping you feel more positive about her even when her behaviour is difficult to cope with and you feel at your wits end. It's important too that you see her as her own person and you aren't projecting your experiences with your sister onto her because they will always heighten your response and make you feel more negative about her.

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Froggilicious
Posted (edited)
29 minutes ago, miss mia said:

Thank you to everyone for responding. I am sorry if the language I’ve used has caused anyone to have painful memories of the past. I too grew up with an older sister who was, and still is, like this. And this is why I am so worried.i don’t want my daughter to be like this into adulthood.

we do have regular mummy and daughter days in the school holidays but lately I’ve felt that it’s all so she can buy new things rather than spend time together. But I can change this to be experiences rather than shopping, hairdresser and nails type of day.

The comments around anxiety ring true for me when I think of her and her behaviour. I think I’ve contributed to this a lot by making her feel ashamed about these outbursts and I don’t know how to fix that or repair the damage. 

I think I’ll definitely seek some help for her and myself

As hard as it is try not to shame yourself. Managing our girls is really hard.

I know I often fail to be calm, gentle or kind to DD when she is at her worst. What I try to do when I loose it at her and shame her is to take a breath, take a break and then when we are both calm sit with her,  explain why mummy's behaviour was wrong, apologise, acknowledge that I am human and doing my best and that sometimes even mummy's do the wrong thing. We then talk about how even though I've done the wrong thing DD still loves me and still thinks of me as a good person, and use that to illustrate that no matter what DD does she is still valuable and worthy of love and I remind her that nothing she could ever do would make me love her any less. We have a cuddle and sit quietly just the two of us for a little while then try to find something fun to do together, even if it is just some colouring.

On a seperate note I have found that short regular mummy DD time (10 per day) is far more effective than less frequent whole days with regard to connecting.

 

Also the positive parenting solutions program to be really helpful. I have done it with DH and it has made a big difference in our house.

Edited by Froggilicious

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Fizgig

Miss Mia my daughter is 7 and has many similar behaviours to yours. She is very anxious but not everybody can see it. She is a perfect angel at school but can be a screaming banshee at home and can be very unkind to her sister. Not sure where you are but if you need some help straight away and you think that your daughter is anxious can I recommend two online programs for anxiety - The Brave program and Cool Kids. From memory the Cool Kids one is for the parent of an anxious child and the Brave program is for the child (I could be mixing that up). Also the Raising Children Network has lots of excellent info for parents on anxiety.
 

My daughter is very hard work and sometimes I do worry for our family relationships. I try very hard to understand that it is all stemming from the anxiety but when you are the one copping the screaming all the time it is hard. I do find that reward systems work much better than punishment/shouting etc. I have rolling reward systems - I use the same approach but the goal and the reward change based on the behaviour I need to change. For example, last school holidays the kids were fighting and being unkind all the time. I told them they now had to earn screen time. They got a gem (small gems from the $2 shop) each time they played together nicely, spoke to each other nicely, or were caring and kind. They needed to earn 5 gems to get screen time and 6 if they wanted kids you tube. Then through the day I would catch them being nice to each other, praise verbally and give a gem. If we are in the car (the car is like the hellmouth for us) or out of the house I have a signal that means “you earned a gem”. At the moment we are struggling with anxiety about being at school on time. DD gets 50 cents for the canteen if she gets through the morning without shouting at anyone or telling her sister what to do.

 

Every day is a struggle and sometimes I just want the delightful child that school gets. It can be really lonely too as other people without an atypical child don’t understand how hard your child can be. Happy to talk to you more if you need.

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ainira

My DD1's psychologist says labelled praise is important for reinforcing positive behaviors that you want continued. Examples with my DD

"Thank you very much for offering me a drink. That's very kind of you" 

"Thank you for using your manners"

"Thank you for helping your sister"

Etc. 

Basically you want to de-emphasise attention on negative behaviours, and emphasise the positive. 

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PocketIcikleflakes

I agree with PPs that it is likely not something your DD has control over as such. It's a reaction for what is going on for her, whatever that is, and it's important to get professional help to work out what that is.

In terms of spending quality time with your DD and changing from shopping to pampering etc as your time together, have you asked her what she would like to do? Not that your ideas aren't lovely and thoughtful, but it may be that she'd like to have her sibling go out for the afternoon and do Lego building or watch a movie with you or something like that? I guess what I mean is, allow her to include you in the stuff that's important to her, give your time to her interests?

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Crombek

Yes anxiety, shame, perfectionism & affect regulation difficulties popped out at me immediately. At the minimum I think it would be useful seeing a psychologist. 

I have one the same, he didn't meet criteria for ADHD as he can generally hold it together at school, but he's been intense from day 1. We've done so much work on understanding emotions and being able to get to what's behind the anger. FYI - anger is an activation of the fight/flight/freeze response. It's about needing to DO something with big feelings they can't process. And often that means pushing it on to you to fix it. And when you can't it makes them scared and confused and they blame you because you're the mum and you are supposed to make things better, right?

Parenting a kid like this is so much about managing your own responses too. 

Cool Kids & Brave are great programs, but they don't deal so much with the explosive fight version of anxiety. I'd recommend looking onto GoZen, or anything that focusses on distress tolerance. 

Hey Warrior is a great book about anxiety for kids. Hey Sigmund www.heysigmund.com  has a great range of resources too.

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ainira

^^ Hey Warrior is an absolutely fantastic book about anxiety for kids. It's very positive oriented and describes the physical sensations of anxiety. 

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blimkybill

Lots of great ideas and responses here, i just have a couple of thoughts to add. My kids weren't the same as yours but one of my daughters did have many years of being overly hard on her sister so we struggled with some of these dynamics (similar but different). 

Firstly, I think there could be a bit of a negative spiral happening, where you feel sad and let down by your daughter for her mean words or behaviour, then either from your (understandable) words or from your behaviour she feels shame and rejection, which sets her up to use these behaviours more, as they are her coping tools and they are a habit and she has not learned better coping tools.  

My favourite phrase re kids is "the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice". This kind of mean behaviour comes from feelings of anxiety and inadequacy; we don't want to reinforce those feelings but we want to build more positive feelings AND ways of acting and coping. So as a PP said, really explicit recognition of any positive behaviours is important. If your DD hears 'you are a mean person" too many times, then yes she will make sure she becomes a mean person. If she hears "you are kind hearted, I know because you just did xxx", then she will grow more towards being kind hearted. 

Sibling rivalry can be a huge thing in the minds and lives of children; it's worth addressing this aspect of family dynamics once you do get some help; I would recommend a psychologist who works with family dynamics, if you can find and afford one. 

In terms of special time, I agree more regular 1:1 time but for shorter periods and not related to shopping or spending money would be my suggestion. Eg half an hour twice a week, or an hour on the weekend. I read of a way of doing it where you just say you are going to spend time with them and follow their lead. Let her dictate and play together. Nothing fancy, you don't need to buy or make new things, just let her choose from what you have, what she would like to do with you. Don't criticise or make suggestions, just make it a time when she leads your interaction, and have some no-expectations fun. 

She's going to lead to learn new tools to deal with her tricky feelings, whether they be anxiety, inadequacy, poor self esteem, perfectionism or sibling rivalry. I would definitely recommend trying to work with a psych to help her build those strategies. 

 

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Fizgig

I just wanted to add that some of my one-on-one time with my tricky child is spent working on The Big Life Journal. We get to spend time together and to talk about a growth mindset and resilience. It's a lovely thing to do together.

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Contrebasse

At 7 My daughter used to try to get ‘revenge’ (usually if I’d told her not to hurt her sister) by stealing my shoes and hiding them....

She hasn’t been diagnosed with anything, but we found a psychologist very helpful in helping change some of her thought patterns, and give us parenting strategies.

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mandelbrot

I've just started a five minute talk at bedtime where we each talk about three feelings we'd had that day. It's been a really good way of connecting and also helping unpack some of the more complex emotions - not just anger, but jealousy etc as well, which are pretty tricky and often come out as just 'angry'.

I'm not sure how it would work for my older kid who very much avoids anything that could be shaming. I have been meaning to try it with him but can only be in one place at once!

I got the idea from 'Why Smart Kids worry' by Allison Edwards, which had a series of suggestions at the back as well as help on which techniques to use for which kids. I've read most of the Raising Children Network and other sorts of resources about anxiety, but this gave me some new ideas to try and also lots of feedback on what to do if the technique doesn't seem to work.

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Lou-bags
6 hours ago, ainira said:

My DD1's psychologist says labelled praise is important for reinforcing positive behaviors that you want continued. Examples with my DD

"Thank you very much for offering me a drink. That's very kind of you" 

"Thank you for using your manners"

"Thank you for helping your sister"

Etc. 

Basically you want to de-emphasise attention on negative behaviours, and emphasise the positive. 

I've also read that it's helpful to word it so that you identify the child as positive as well as the behaviour, like blimkybill says in their post upthread. So they can see themselves as that kind of kid, you know? 

So, for my DSs I try to say stuff like "thanks for getting your brother's jumper, you're a helpful boy". Or "that was a lovely thought to write a letter for your friend, you're a good friend". 

I think I might have read about it in the book "Unselfie" which resonated with me in a big way. I got the audio version so I listened on my commute. It's honestly a great read/listen. 

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blueskies12
Posted (edited)

Oh gosh, this post reminds me of me. I was like your daughter. My son is like your daughter and I have been you. I have found it extremely difficult to handle my son's outbursts (he has ASD)...where I constantly feel like the punching bag. It becomes very difficult to find the positives, positively praise and reward and fill their cup when you yourself are running below empty. It is of most importance that you take great care of yourself; a good GP, a psychologist, plenty of sleep etc. I am anxious too. So my son and I make a great team. He will lose it, then I might lose it and then I will feel great shame for a long time afterwards and like  PP said this does perpetuate the cycle. When I am at my best, when my cup is filled I notice I can be proactive other than reactive. I wonder what the reason might be for her? Fatigue, overwhelm with school, social issues, sibling jealousy?

Get some support and possibly have some time out to recoup before you have some one on time next with her.

Big hugs for you and your daughter. Things will get better.

 

 

Edited by blueskies12

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ainira
Posted (edited)
36 minutes ago, Lou-bags said:

I've also read that it's helpful to word it so that you identify the child as positive as well as the behaviour, like blimkybill says in their post upthread. So they can see themselves as that kind of kid, you know? 

So, for my DSs I try to say stuff like "thanks for getting your brother's jumper, you're a helpful boy". Or "that was a lovely thought to write a letter for your friend, you're a good friend". 

I think I might have read about it in the book "Unselfie" which resonated with me in a big way. I got the audio version so I listened on my commute. It's honestly a great read/listen. 

Interesting. I thought it wasn't a good idea to label the child. The labelled praise came from Gottman's emotion coaching -- I'll need to reread the chapters to see what he says, though I was certain that it was only the behaviour/ process. 

Edited by ainira
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Lou-bags
5 minutes ago, ainira said:

Interesting. I thought it wasn't a good idea to label the child. The labelled praise came from Gottman's emotion coaching -- I'll need to reread the chapters to see what he says, though I was certain that it was only the behaviour/ process. 

Yeh I’d always thought that too, but maybe it’s different for positive praise? I can only remember hearing ‘label the behaviour not the child’ for correcting poor behaviour. Happy to be wrong on this.

Ive observed that the ‘you’re the kind of boy who help/thanks for being a helper’ appears to get a better response from my kids, they seem to take pride it in (e.g. I’ve overheard the little one tell someone ‘I’m a kind boy!’ with a proud puffed up chest before). Anecdote, I know. 

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ainira

Actually it looks like it might not be Gottman but a separate sheet that DD's psychologist sent. 

Info on labelled praise copy/ paste from sheet:

The general rule is that any behaviour that is rewarded will increase. For example, if you tell your 
child, “I love how you’re sharing with your brother,” your child will share more often with his/her 
brother. 
As a parent, your job is to “catch your child being good.” This can be difficult when your child’s 
negative behaviour is taking all of your attention. You may need to take time to sit down and come 
up with the opposite of the negative behaviours that you can praise. For example, if your child is 
always yelling in the house, provide a reward for the opposite ‐ talking in a calm, inside voice. 
Praise is often the best reward. “Labeled praise” is verbally letting the child know exactly what 
they did that you liked, such as “I am so proud of you for staying in your seat at the dinner table” 
or “You did a great job staying calm when your sister got to play the game first.” 
Labeled praise tells the child specifically what you like about what they are doing or saying (rather 
than just saying “good job”. We use labeled praise with children because: 
o It causes good, desirable behaviours to increase. 
o It lets the child know very clearly what you like. 
o It increases the child’s self‐esteem.
o It adds warmth to the parent‐child relationship. o It makes both parent and child feel good. 
For many children, behaviour problems are related to emotional distress (uncertainty, sadness, 
anger, confusion). Praising and attending to positive behaviours has the added benefit of reducing 
their emotional distress, which in turn reduces their acting out behaviours. 
Examples of labeled praise: 
o Terrific counting! 
o I like the way you’re using your indoor voice.
o Thank you for waiting while I talk on the phone.
o I am proud of you for using your manners and saying “Thank you.” 
o I really like how you’re playing so gently with your toys.
o Wow, you’re doing a great job staying by my side in the store.
o I am so happy that you are staying in your seat at the dinner table.

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Jenflea

What does she LIKE to do? 

I mean, at 7, there's no way my DD wanted to go shopping and getting her hair and nails done! She wanted to go to the dinosaur museum or bowling, or other fun kid things. 

Maybe if you do a reward system for better behaviour or less picking on her sister, ask her what she wants to do.  Give her ownership over the rewards, make it something she wants. 

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