Need parenting advice

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This has nothing to do with weight loss or fitness, however it is all about preserving my mental health, so there ya go.

I have 3 kids – my older two kids (ages 14 & 11) are funny, easy going, and very well behaved (most of the time). I get a lot of compliments on how good my kids are.

And there’s Mallory…she’s 6 years old and she’s a diva. First off, let me say that she is like my little shadow. She loves to be with her mama and she is so free with a hug and a kiss and an “I love you”. She’s very very lovable and snuggly. She can be very bright and bubbly and funny – she’s really hilarious sometimes.

My girl in all her toothless glory!

But then there are other times that she absolutely drives me up a freaking wall. She loves to argue and negotiate. She loves to procrastinate. She’s very good at distracting me from my original request so that 10 minutes later we are no where near what I had originally asked her to do. When she doesn’t get her way, she doesn’t throw a screaming hissy fit…I could handle that. No, she pouts and sulks and shuts down in such a dramatic fashion and it IRRITATES THE HECK OUT OF ME. I CANNOT DEAL WITH WHINING!! Temper tantrums never bothered me, but the whining thing? Like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Our biggest issues are food and clothes. She hardly ever wants to eat breakfast and I just recently found out that she hardly touches her lunch at lunch time (I pack her lunch every day because she’s so picky she won’t eat in the school cafeteria), but she’ll eat her lunch on the way home from school on the bus. So she’s going almost the whole day eating very little. At dinner time, she NEVER wants to eat what the rest of us are eating unless it’s pizza, and even then if the cheese isn’t just right, she won’t eat that. When I do MAKE her eat, she always wants to negotiate how many bites she has to take (can I take 5 bites of chicken and 4 bites of potatoes?) and even then it’s a struggle to get her to do it. She’s pretty good about eating fruit, but she hardly ever touches her vegetables and I seriously worry about her nutrition.

She’s very picky about the clothes she wears. If it doesn’t “feel good” then she takes if off while she does this whiney half-cry, shutting-down thing that is probably the most irritating thing on earth to me. Whenever she does this it send my blood pressure skyrocketing. She has a handful of outfits that she wants to wear all the time. What drives me crazy is that she has lots of cute clothes that SHE PICKED OUT, but now she won’t wear them. She won’t even try them on to see how they feel unless I FORCE her to put them on.

She won’t try new things. Even if it looks like something fun, it takes her FOREVER to warm up to the idea. She pouts about it until I decide to take it away or leave…and then she decides she wants to try it. Even if it’s something for her own good, and I tell her she HAS to do it, she still fights me on it.

I think what irritates me the most is that she doesn’t trust me, or she won’t take my word for it that something is going to be good and beneficial to her. It all has to be on HER terms.

Guys, I don’t know how to effectively deal with her. Β I keep thinking that she’ll grow out of this behavior, but I think it’s just getting worse. I don’t think she’s this way at school – her teachers have never said anything but good things about her – how sweet she is. And I will freely admit that some days, I’m just too tired to fight. I get so tired of butting heads with her on EVERYTHING. I’m sure there are things I could be doing differently to help minimize this behavior, but I don’t know what they are.

I need advice from those of you who have been-there-done-that. Β What can I do to save my sanity and prevent my daughter from becoming Queen Diva? Β Is it too early to enroll her in law school? Because she’ll make an excellent attorney some day.

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19 thoughts on “Need parenting advice

  1. I’m not a parent myself so I’m probably not qualified to answer, but I was a bit of a diva myself growing up.. so maybe that will add some perspective? Basically the only thing that worked on me was ignoring me completely. My mother struggled with me a lot, but my dad was like “this is what you are going to do, end of discussion”. Like at the dinner table, I had to sit there until I had eaten my dinner – even if I didn’t want to. I was never forced to eat after I was full, but I had to eat something. I have tons of examples, but basically, when I was in a foul mood.. they would ignore me, and I would eventually snap out of it. πŸ™‚

    • I have noticed that if I just remove myself from the situation and ignore her behavior – it ends a lot sooner.
      Thanks so much for this. I really do appreciate your input! πŸ™‚

  2. jen b

    I have one like this! OMG! Mine especially hated if her SOCKS didn’t feel right. Particularly if the seam ‘bothewed hew.’ (She’s 10 now, so I miss her babyish talk) Do you know how hard it is to find a sock w/ no seam near the toes??? Impossible!

    She’s just like her argumentative father, so I have to tread carefully, in that he ‘gets’ how she is & will, on occasion, defend her.

    We addressed the arguing & negotiating in a respect manner. It’s disprespectful to speak to a parents that way. Period. A rule of our house is that you must be respectful.

    The other thing I did was pull out one of my dad’s lines from when I was a kid. “The more you ask/argue the no-er it gets!” In other words, shut up–it’s not up for discussion. (as I type that, I’m wondering who she’s really more like…..yipes!)

    When you argue those two points, you don’t have to address the content, which is what makes you forget what the original argument was! Good luck!

    ps-I’m a new ‘sass’ and really enjoying your blog!

  3. I have no advice, but I have lots of commiseration! My 6yo daughter is the exact same way, and I am in the same boat as you. I know that my husband thinks I’m too hard on her, but some days I just can’t take it anymore.

    • Some days it just seems harder than others, right? I’m glad I’m not the only one in this boat! Let me know if you find something that works! πŸ™‚

  4. debby

    Wow, you got two good answers from two different perspectives. You know I don’t have kids, but I do have a perspective LOL. Here’s my take on it. Straight from the “Dog Whisperer.” Your energy is weak, do you see it? (have to say that with Cesar’s cute little accent.) That she wears you down, that ir IRRITATES you (unstable, in Cesar’s terms) You with Mallory is me with Sophie. I love her to death, but she gets away with MURDER. I don’t have the patience to deal with her. My energy is weak. Somehow we need to become ‘calm assertive.’

    I hope you get more advice from people with kids, because I know this isn’t very helpful LOL.

    • We must be calm assertive – yes, that’s what I need to learn. Do you think Ceasar would come stay with me for awhile and teach me how to be the alpha dog?

  5. OK, a couple things – could she be tactile defensive? I am, and my son is. I went through a period where I couldn’t wear denim, because it just kinda wigged me out (texture on my fingers, etc. It just “didn’t feel right”) and I still have some of this to this day. It sounds like it may be, from what you have said. Especially having certain clothes she really only wants to wear. If it is something like that, being in the other clothes is like nails on a chalkboard, I’m not kidding.

    Her methods and her irritating you? Let me take a wild stab at this, but she’s pretty smart, isn’t she? She knows exactly how to manipulate you, and when it works, she sticks with it. You’re going to have to be firm, no means no, and NO discussion (with a plain old smile, like you haven’t a care in the world, and all is right.) You can explain why something is, but only if it’s a real question. If it’s whining and distraction in disguise, give her a short answer, and then make sure it moves forward. You are an immoveable wall at that point, and there is no negotiation.

    Your husband defending her, I hope that’s behind closed doors, because that girl is smart enough to pick up and use that to her advantage. It doesn’t matter if she’s good at it, you’re the mom and this is your job, and the kiddo doesn’t get a vote. πŸ™‚ It’s your terms, not hers. She can try to understand why, to a SMALL extent, but she cannot change the choice you have made. She has too much power right now. This will be different when she’s 16, because you have learn to flex and grow and turn into a grown-up, and part of that IS arguing a bit. But NOT at her age.

    The food stuff – she IS eating what you pack for her, but on her own schedule. Honestly? I’d completely ignore that one, pretend you don’t even know. She’ll either equal out, or this is simply when she is hungry. Knowing to eat when you are hungry is something we all forget at some point, right now she seems to know it. It’s worth embracing, I think (because she’s not seeking out someone else’s lunch, she’s just on her own schedule)

    Dinner, and that situation? Two things; 1) Never force a child to eat. It’s a minefield, and it’ll mess up everything. 2) don’t offer alternatives. She isn’t the supreme ruler of the universe, you are as Mom, right now. You made a healthy dinner, this is what’s for dinner. If you’re not hungry, you don’t have to eat, but you cannot go and get something else – and that includes snack later. You get hungry later? Well, we have dinner all wrapped up and ready to be reheated just for you.

    A side note hear, the tactile thing CAN extend to food. If you look up tactile defensiveness, don’t freak about the references to the autistic side – EVERYONE has some level of the spectrum, it just matters how MUCH you are on it which defines whether someone is truly needing a diagnosis. So, unless you are worried about something else, ignore that part.

    I’d say maybe a good talk between mommy & daughter might be helpful. Find out why she likes those clothes over the other. What is it about dinner that doesn’t seem right? Are there certain foods that bug her? What about the cheese has to be just right (keep an ear out for texture/touch references). It might not be this at all, I’m just throwing it out there as a possibility. There are a lot of workarounds, and such, but if it is this you cannot force her out of it. And if it isn’t this, maybe you’ll find out what’s really going on instead. πŸ™‚

    Good luck to you!

    • Hmmm…I’m going to have to look into the tactile defensive thing a little more. I’ve noticed that she likes for her clothes to be snug – she wigs out if something is too loose – which is why I think she still wears a lot of last year’s clothes (things are probably a size too small really). She LOVES to go barefoot, and it’s a struggle for me to get her to wear anything other than flip flops – however, she likes for her socks and shoes (when she wears them) to fit snugly. That seems like a contradiction to me. She hates certain blankets – even if they won’t be touching her skin. Just the idea of a scratchy blanket anywhere near her bed is unacceptable (to her).

      And yes, she is VERY smart and she knows exactly how to push my buttons. I get frustrated when I find that I’ve been drawn into her manipulations (like when she distracts me at bedtime, etc).

      I don’t know how many times I’ve said “You are not the boss. You don’t get to make the rules!” to her – I guess I just need to follow up on that and not let her get the upper hand. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on this – I REALLY appreciate it!! πŸ™‚

  6. As a few others have said, I have a daughter just the same (mine is 7). So maybe it really is a normal stage thing. Struggle to eat breakfast and nothing at school (mine doesn’t even eat hers on the way home – just wants a huge afternoon tea) even though it is what she has chosen. All her clothes too tight and won’t wear stockings with a seam and nearly all shoes feel “wrong”.
    I don’t really have advice, and I am interested in other people’s. Especially about getting her to eat lunch when I am not even there!

  7. Barb

    I”ve raised two kids to adulthood without murdering either (though it would have been justifiable homicide, really). I’ve also had horses and very large dogs. What do these things have in common? You can’t reason with a horse or a dog or, in many cases, a whiny kid. You have to be the dominant one in all situations. That doesn’t necessarily mean beating the crap out of the kid (or dog or horse) but it does mean persisting until they give up. It works. I agree that a kid should not be forced to eat, especially things they truly dislike, but kiddo can bloody well go hungry if she won’t eat the food put in front of her. She’ll learn. I agree with another commenter that kiddo sounds pretty on the ball– been there and done that too. A calm “too bad kid” works. So does offering only two choices at any time– don’t give her too many options.

    It’s not child abuse to refuse to cave to the whims of a child. Someone has to be the adult and you are it. Be firm, be fair, and always let the kid know what the consequences are for misbehaviour. No dinner = hungry later (she’ll live, honest). Whining = not getting what you want. Public displays of bad temper = mom walking away (holding compact mirror at shoulder to see what kiddo is doing).

    I also agree that daddy should discuss his reservations with YOU, and not let the smart little one play one parent off the other.

    Good luck.

  8. Ashley

    I just discovered your blog (through SHAPE’s nomination’s – congrats on the nomination, btw!). I’ve only glanced through a couple, so forgive me if I’m way off base.

    Is there any chance she’s imitating behavior that she’s seeing? Obviously this is a weight loss blog and you’ve struggled with your weight, body image, clothing, food, etc. It looks like you’ve been working on this blog for a few years, and I’m guessing she’s aware of your posts.

    You say that she won’t take your word on things, she negotiates everything, she’s picky, and doesn’t like to try new things. Could you apply any of this to yourself? If she’s around you frequently, chances are she’s going to pick up on your behavior. Girls are becoming self conscious about their bodies and developing negative attitudes about food at a young age. Again, forgive me if I’m way off base, but it’s worth a shot to examine your behavior and see if she’s imitating it in anyway. Good luck! I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  9. Amy

    So NOT an expert. However that doesn’t stop me from commenting. Two things. First, you don’t have to negotiate. “Because I said so” is a perfectly good answer for a six year old. Second, we tried this with temper tantrums and it worked beautifully. Maybe with whining too? (And by the way, all your above friends are dead on. Whining only works if there’s an audience.) We took the child into the half bathroom and told him/her that this was the new tantrum/whining place. It’s the perfect place because the sound will echo so he can really hear it, because if he needs to take a break and use the facilities it’s right there and because no one else is there to ask him to stop. He can whine/tantrum all he wants in there. But the key is that he can do it ONLY in there. So when the whining starts, interrupt and say, “Oh wait Mallory, it looks like you need to go to your special whining place.” And then calmly lead her to the bathroom, shut the door and walk away. Trust me. She won’t be in there long. It sounds ridiculous but it works.

  10. Erin

    Found you through SHAPE’s contest and had to comment. 1) There is a disorder that some kids suffer from. Sensory Processing or Sensory Intergration Disorder. It has a spectrum. Not saying your child has it, but might be worth looking into. Then she can get some therapy to help her live with it.

    2) Get your hands on Raising your Spirited Child. It will help…a lot.

    i’d start with 2) and then consider talking to a doctor who knows something about SPD/SID at some point.

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