At My Wits End

I am at a total loss as to what to do with my 6 yo daughter. Ever since she was old enough to do so she has been a temper tantrum thrower. She has also always had major separation anxiety. Now that she is getting older she still throws the down on the floor, kicking and screaming fits. She is now also having anxiety attacks, the kind where she can’t breathe. We have started taking her to a counselor and I know that it is going to take time, but it is so hard to be patient with her. Tonight while trying to get her to go to sleep she threw one of her tantrums because I wouldn’t let her have a second bedtime snack, and she kicked me. I walked off and gave myself a time-out and she eventually calmed down and went to sleep, but all I kept thinking is how can I love someone so much and not like them. It makes me feel like a terrible mom because when she is having her good moments she is a fun, intelligent and hilarious girl with a really cool personality, but those moments are few and far between. She has been a difficult child for such a long time that I feel like the she’ll grow out of it advice that people keep giving me is never going to true. The only saving grace in all of this is that she is really, really good for everyone at school. I suppose if I had to pick from the two I would rather she be good at school, but I am completely worn out dealing with it all the other times.

Well I’m kind of old-fashioned so my first thought involves a nice leather belt, but the PC suggestion would be to simply ignore her when she acts out this way. If she learns that this behavior will not get her the attention she wants or the result she wants (kind of along the lines of the belt idea) she will stop doing it.

Tell her you love her but you don’t like her when she acts this way. Amazing how that can affect the behavior of a child.

Thanks Mason. Already been there done that. Never was a leather belt, but the good old spanking makes her worse, although they do occasionally make us feel better :teehee: and we do ignore the tantrums, and they have never once gotten her what she wanted. We have figured out that with her it is not the attention she is after it all goes back to her anxieties which unfortunately she can’t control, and her impulsiveness.

Thanks for letting my vent. It helps more than anything else just to let things out sometimes.

I wondered, when I first started reading your post, if your daughter has some sort of emotional disorder, and that that was why you decided on counseling for her. However, when I read that she’s fine at school, it’s only at home that she acts that way, it made me think that this is not the case. Instead, I’m inclined to think that there’s something happening at school that is not happening at home…and usually this includes discipline and follow-through.

Many parents are too “afraid” to discipline their children for fear of being too harsh. When children aren’t disciplined, they come to realize there are no consequences for their actions. Also, many parents don’t actually follow through on “threats” (i.e. "If you don’t behave we’re going home) and, once again, children don’t come to realize that their actions have consequences. This then gives children way too much freedom in their relationship with the parents (or really, any trusted adult.)

Children need structure, it makes them feel safe and secure. When they have too much freedom in their relationship with their parents, they begin to act out because they’re not developmentally or emotionally ready to deal with being the one “in charge.” They basically crumble under the pressure.

My suggestion would be to first talk with the teacher. Many parents don’t realize that their child’s teacher can be a valuable resource and in fact, since they’re as much a part of the child’s life as the parent, can have important insight on the child’s behavior. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

At home, make sure your methods in dealing with your daughter are consistent and that you and her father are presenting a united front, a front that lets her know that YOU are in charge. Letting her know you’re in charge does not mean yelling and getting angry, but seeing as how you mentioned walking away to give yourself some time out, I’m sure you know this. And, of course, NEVER discipline in anger.

Seeing as how you mention that she has panic attacks, I’d probably keep with the counseling, but make sure the counselor is informing you every step of the way. Also, if the counselor ever makes any kind of diagnosis, make sure you get a second opinion. This doesn’t indicate mistrust in the counselor, it’s just a way to make sure you’re seeing all sides of an issue.

I hope this helps. Don’t blame yourself or think that you’re a bad mother for not necessarily “liking” her when she acts this way. I would have a hard time believing any mother likes her kids all of the time! Good luck.

She’s controlling you in this manner, it works, she gets attention. It may be negative attention, but that’s apparently OK with her. Actually, a lot of children,who haven’t developed coping skills find that causing friction in the home makes them feel powerful over the adults.I hope the counselor can work something out for you, and that it doesn’t spread to school.

I’ve worked in adolescent psychiatric units where children her age are put when their behavior is out of control. It doesn’t sound that severe, if she can control her emotions part of the time.

Sorry you’re having to go through this; it’s hard to love someone so much but to dislike the way they act around you.

What worked for me (although mine is younger and her outbursts aren’t as bad as yours seems to be) is not to deal with it while it’s happening. If you’re home, put her in her room, close the door and leave her there until she calms down. You won’t be able to talk to or reason with her while she’s having a tantrum, so don’t try. When she’s calmed down, THEN go talk to her and explain.

If you’re out, put her in the car, close the door, and stand right there without looking at her until she stops. I know this goes without saying, but keep the keys in your hands, not in the car, just in case.

If there’s something special she wants, or somewhere special she wants to go, you can use it as a reward. Don’t threaten to take it away during a tantrum, but keep a chart, and every night you can sit with her and decide TOGETHER how she was during the day and mark it in the way you decide. For sure you won’t always agree (especially if it was a bad day) but at least she’ll be involved and maybe feel like she has more power.

I also agree with the suggestion to talk to the teacher. They see so many kids and might have different ideas for you to try.

2 of my kids tried this
the elder only started after the 2nd was born
and I remember standing outside my car for over an hour one day (with a screeming 4yo in the car)
one of my friends walked past and I just rolled my eyes and hooked a thumb to the car that was literally rocking with her throws of rage
my friend walked away and a few min later came over with another friend of mine and a cup of coffee and we leaned against the 3rd friends car and just started talking
not about the kids, but about cooking, housework, and other stuff like that.
I do believe our conversation made that tantrum last a lot longer, and I am eternally grateful that the baby was at home at the time, but I think the duration of my ability to appear to ignore her crap, in addition to other people she loved and respected not taking note of her c-rap made an impression
I also made a point of making her clean up her mess without any conversation other than, 'do this, don’t forget that’
once I peeked into her room and saw her screaming, throwing things then going and picking them up and putting them away.

good luck

Can she earn stickers (or something like that) toward a bigger reward for days without tantrums? I know my sister does that with her kids, with some degree of success, and one of my nieces recently “earned” a Webkinz (whatever they are). The advice above sounds pretty good, too.

Parenting is very difficult. I am still struggling, and my children are in their teens.

First of all, it goes without saying that you love your daughter. It is normal to not like their behavior though. Trust me. I’m going through this exact thing right now with mine. I’ve cried a lot lately, which I’m sure you have done as well. It must be difficult because you might be second-guessing what you’re doing.

Stay consistent. That is the most important thing. Kids need to know that they can depend on us to stay the same each day, and that their actions will result in the same results.

What my kids’ first grade teacher used to do is have different colors of apple cutouts. Misbehaving once made them go to a yellow apple. Misbehaving a second time resulted in another color, which in turn resulted in a more serious repercussion. She’s not too young to learn this.

Good luck, dear. Parenting is not easy, that’s for sure. Just continue to balance the love with authority. You’ll both get through this.


I didn’t read all the responses, so forgive me if I’m repeating. I think it’s entirely possible that she is dealing with an anxiety disorder that manifests itself at home rather than at school. I’m not a child psychologist, but I am an MEd and have worked with young children a lot. I also have 2 of my own. In my non-professional opinion, it’s possible that she has anxiety that is mild enough that she can control it for a portion of the day, but not control it entirely. She controls it at school because she knows that at home, you will love her anyway. I think taking her to counseling is a wonderful idea- get her the tools she needs to deal with this more effectively. Remember that all counselors are NOT alike- if the one you’re using isn’t working, make sure you give it enough time, but don’t be afraid to try someone else.

I think it’s wonderful that you’re not assuming she will ‘grow out of it’ or that she’s just spoiled. It sounds like you’re doing your best at home. If you ignore it now she may reach adulthood still not knowing how to deal effectively with her anxiety, and that is a recipe for a hard life. Getting her some help now is a wonderful thing. Hang in there, mom! :slight_smile:

I think sometimes as the Mommies we get the worst behavior. My son is good at school, for the most part, does well with grades, but with me- egad, constant battles.

I think it is b/c he comes to school where I work, I deal with the day-to-day school stuff and homework, so I am the one he deals with most of the time. When my husband tells him something it’s like EF Hutton (if you remember the old commercials). He listens to him.

I dunno- I get what you mean about how can you love someone and dislike them at times. It is hard to say, and maybe hard for some to hear, but it is the truth so I understand you on this.

It gets frustrating because he takes all his negative energy out on me. In the car on the way home I’ll hear, “why did you do this and nag nag nag.” I have to tell him the good old, if you don’t have anything nice to say. . .

Sometimes I look at my husband and just say it is so overwhelming for me.

Just keep your patience. . . hang in there. . . remember that 6 yr olds are technically still toddlers, so not too unusual for them to still have temper-tantrums. . .and seeking advice is a good idea. If nothing else, at least you can maybe get some more ideas.

Thank God about the school thing, because then you would be even more frustrated.

BTW- I was thinking about the negative attn thing and just wanted to ask if maybe you also had some incentives for if she goes a day without any tantrums and works cooperatively with Mommy? I know you said you have tried everything, but just thought I would ask.

:hug: I’m not a mother so I don’t have any advice. I fully understand how you love someone so much yet don’t like them. Just wanted to say I hope things settle down for you soon. :heart:

Hi Kristaj :heart:

Big hugs and /comfort to what you’re going through. It’s a tough and long road and I know it too. My son has a behavioural and emotional disorder. He’s five now, but I’ve been seeing specialists and therapists since he was 18 months. We have been very fortunate that all of these people have been very supportive, understanding and helpful. You have been given some great advice in this thread already and I hope I can add to it.

I commend you for seeing a counselor. As you have already noted, the problem hasn’t fixed itself so getting outside help will be a great insight to addressing your daughter’s emotional distress. Getting the school involved, which has already been suggested, is also an important step.

My son was better at school as well and I was surprised to hear this. I thought a disorder meant that his behaviour was a constant. That it didn’t matter where he was. I was wrong. At three years old, he understood and displayed major differences at home and at school. When we figured this out, we worked together to set expectations that were the same at home and at school.

A great way to track these expectations is through an Individualized Program Plan (basically a goal sheet that also has criteria set for how these goals will be measured and attained). I will give you a great example later today.

One of the key notes that will help your daughter is to teach her coping skills. Try to identify specific triggers. A good way to do this is to write down what happened (the time, where, etc) when she had a tantrum. Share it with your husband, the school and the counselor.

When you have that list, you and your support crew will have a good idea of how to start helping your daughter develop coping mechanisms. I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of when she’s about to start a tantrum. Knowing what may be the cause and when it is about to happen are great pieces of information that can help you to intervene and diffuse the situation before it starts. This is intervention and it is God Mode for a child with behavioural and emotional difficulties.

When you have that information at hand, it gives you a great opportunity to try and REDIRECT her before the situation gets out of control.

Setting up a reward system and offering incentives for good behaviour is a fantastic method. Notice the times when she was being good (especially if she used a coping strategy during a time when she might have had a tantrum instead) and tell her how proud you are. This is using positive reinforcement. Give her a sticker, a treat, an extra cartoon to watch or whatever rewards you have available to make it worth her while to use more appropriate behaviours.

Ignoring her during a tantrum is negative reinforcement. Ask yourself this question, “Is she learning coping skills while being ignored?” The answer is no. She doesn’t know how to navigate through her emotions yet and it’s not likely that she will learn it by herself at the height of a tantrum.

Sitting with her, holding her and using soothing words of comfort will help her calm down faster and then you can talk her through what just happened. Identify the cause with her and then talk about how she could have handled it differently.

I have to run for now since it’s my little girl’s naptime and then we have an appointment to make. When I come back, I will give you some great examples about the things that I just talked about in this post. Again, big hugs to you and your daughter. Here’s food for thought that I read in a book once: “The better parents are the ones with a ‘difficult’ child because they have to use their parenting skills more often than their counterparts”. :grphug: