Wednesday 28 January 2015

'I love my little girl but find it hard to like her'

Picture posed

David Coleman answers your parenting questions

Question: I have a gorgeous six-and-half-year-old girl and within the past month or so she has changed so much. She has to be in control of everything all of the time. It starts in the morning with the uniform – she has to get dressed herself and it takes her ages.

If I try to help, she'll remove the clothing I have attempted to put on her so that she can put it on again herself.

This results in her being late for school and me in bad humour! It's the same with everything. We have tried every approach: from being nicey, nicey to punishment – and nothing works. I'm ashamed to say that we do shout at her because we just can't help it; she's pushing all our buttons.

It's so upsetting and I'm quite worried that this might be the start of something more serious but praying it's just a phase.

It's such a huge strain on all the family.

I do love her to bits but I'm finding it so difficult to like her at times and have found myself saying things to her that I've regretted. Please help.

David says: I would be willing to guess that almost every parent has said something to their child, at some stage, that they later regretted. You are not alone in feeling guilty at getting things wrong with your children.

That said, it is always good to be learning from our mistakes, or things that we perceive to be mistakes. So, if you are not happy with how you talk to, or respond to, your daughter then you are right to be making efforts to change that.

It is quite likely that your daughter is just going through a phase where she wants to be a little bit more independent and autonomous.

You say that this only started about a month ago and so it may be just something she is experimenting with.

Alternatively, it may be that she is feeling the need to be a bit more in control of her life. This can sometimes be a reaction children have to being out of control in some other area of her life.

For example, could something have changed in her school, or at an after-school activity, or at home, that may have unsettled her? Either way, the key to helping her (and yourself) is to change your response to her.

Getting cross is definitely not helping.

So, get her up 10 minutes earlier to allow her time to dress herself. This will take pressure off her. It will also mean you don't have to stand over her, but can leave her to it and just come back and check on her. While you hover near her, you will probably be tempted to intervene.

When, or if, you do have to intervene, you need to be ready to do so calmly. So, where possible, try to have yourself and any other children you have, ready, so that you can afford to focus on your six year old.

Approach her, and the issue, with warmth and understanding. If she is intent on being independent, she will probably feel frustrated if help is offered. If she needs to be in control, then she will feel frustrated if she believes you are controlling her.

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