More rope, please…

by Jennifer on May 19, 2008

I need your help.

See the rope in my hands and how I’m just barely hanging on to the end of it? See the end of it strain and fray as I grab on tighter? See it slip just an inch? The last inch?

Here’s the thing…when it comes to knowing how to deal with my ferocious sweet little girl these days, I feel like I’m at the end of my rope.

My bag of tricks is empty, and I feel like the ones I’ve used up until now must have been the wrong ones. She’s been talking back so much, and I’m hoping someone will tell me this stage is normal…the crossed arms, the pout, the “I will not” or “I don’t want to“. It wasn’t always like this. She’s almost 7, so if it’s not normal, then please guide me toward some books or child behavior experts, because I’m at a loss here.

I’m exhausted. She’s exhausted. But I know I can’t let her go on being so disrespectful. Supernanny is circling the block in her proper black car, her lips pursed, watching the videos of my parental incompetence. I can feel it.

Girl and I are so alike in our frustration or anger. It flares bright and hot, and dies down just as quickly. We don’t sulk for ages. When a thing is done, it’s done. The I’m sorrys get said, and we talk it out, hug, and let it go. The day moves on.

But lately, she’s digging in her heels, and deep. I’ve tried a calm response. I’ve tried no response. I’ve yelled, which does nothing but make us both feel worse. I’ve demanded that the behavior stop (genius, right?). I’ve taken away privileges and put favorite things in time out. I doubt that I’ve been consistent enough.

Mostly, I feel like I’m failing her somehow, for not instilling in her by now more respect for her parents. (It’s not fair to compare, and I don’t, but Boy’s nature is calm and sweet for the most part. I was completely unprepared for Girl.)

She’s a sweet girl, she really is. She’s funny and creative and gives great, long, enthusiastic hugs. Her green eyes light up when she’s happy. She loves to dance and sing.

But, man, she’s kicking my ass these days, and I need some help.

I wonder if things will improve when we go to Indiana in a few weeks, and when we get settled either there or in Ohio by the end of the summer. (Did I mention that’s what we’re planning?) It’s possible she’s feeling the imbalance of our situation as much as I am. I have a lot of compassion for her in that area, since I know how crazy it’s making me. I wonder if she aches for permanence as much as I do right now.

So, please, I’m asking for tips and strategies you’ve used with any amount of success, up to and including the use of duct tape. (Kidding. Really. I swear.) Or, if you think my situation just requires more drinking on my part, feel free to say that, too.

For now, I’ll dedicate this song to my girl. Tomorrow, if we’re lucky, we’ll wake up and (oh, the magic of life when it’s good) I’ll find my hands full of rope, with plenty to spare.


Edited to say: Woman With a Hatchet just posted over at her place about this same issue. Please take a moment to go read there, if you don’t already, and throw her some rope, too. Or some vodka. Either way.


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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda May 19, 2008 at 8:33 pm

You described my 4-year-old. God help me if we don’t get it a little under control by the time she’s 7.

You know I’m not the average parent when it comes to these things, but I’ll say that the best thing has to be consistency. The question is, “Consistent at what?” A tough thing to figure out.

But maybe you’re onto something with trying to figure out the root of the problem. Maybe it has nothing to do with a phase (or maybe it does), but is something deeper, like the move or something else. If you can figure it out, at least a little, maybe you can figure out how to be consistent.

The only other thing I’ve learned is that sometimes ignoring behavior is the best punishment. They often want a reaction, and if they get nothing, it will eventually stop. You can try to rationally explain why this or that isn’t inappropriate, but sometimes nothing is better than something.

And the very bottom line is that you’re there with her. You know her better than anyone, so you have to trust your gut and instincts and definitely common sense. What works for me may not work for you. Trial and error is tough because it leads to inconsistency, but your instincts will tell you something.

And if today they don’t, then more drinking may be the soluttion for the day!

flutter May 19, 2008 at 9:06 pm

send her to my house. I’ll train her up good fer ya,

flutters last blog post..toward the light

slouching mom May 19, 2008 at 9:10 pm

ben’s gone through phases like this. when it starts feeling too fraught, i try to step back and detach as much as possible. they know, you know, when they’ve triggered a reaction in you that’s beyond what they expected — or even wanted.

so to the extent it’s possible, try to ignore. pick the battles carefully.

other than that, i got nothing.

thinking about you.

slouching moms last blog post..The Lost Weekend

Just Jamie May 19, 2008 at 9:18 pm

I’ve been feeling like a failure lately with my three year olds (mostly my daughter). While she was away for 4 days with family, the absence really made us appreciate each other more (so far). A quick break from the comfort of arguing with your Mom leads you back home, it seems.

Good luck. I know I’m in for it with mine.

Just Jamies last blog post..Bragging Brings Bad Karma

McSwain May 19, 2008 at 9:24 pm

My Boy (8) goes through these phases, and I see them with my 8-9-10 -yr olds at school, too. I find that when my son is at his worse, I’m not being consistent. And it’s hard to be consistent with all that stomping around and glaring going on.

I give one warning that if he speaks to me in a disrespectful tone, etc., one more time, I’ll take away whatever the favorite thing of the moment is. But I only take it away for that day (or the next, if it’s late), because then I’ve got the leverage again the next day. Usually there’s more stomping, etc. after the thing is taken, but I ignore that and stick to the consequence. Works like a charm. He usually apologizes for being disrespectful, then is good for quite some time. He’s a pretty strong-willed child, too.

Hopefully that helps. Not that anything is near perfect at my house!

McSwains last blog post..

Tina May 19, 2008 at 9:28 pm

Hi…delurking. With a move in your near future, I would guess your daughter is stressed and is also feeling your stress. We went through the same thing when our daughter had just turned seven. Try talking with her about the move and how you’re feeling about it and ask her how she’s feeling about it too. You might be able to put her mind at ease if she’s worried. Also, our daughter had some sleep problems after the move (including a bit of sleepwalking) but it all eased off as we settled in.

Have you had a mother/daughter fun day recently? Just a relaxing day doing things you both enjoy to help you remember why you like each other? Those days were a big help when things became strained between my daughter and me when she was younger.

Good luck! I feel for you…

Tinas last blog post..Monday Sparkle

Grandy May 19, 2008 at 10:28 pm

It’s entirely possible she’s feeling as on edge as you are about soon to be changes. Or, just being onery (not sure I can spell this late at night).

I wish I could be there to help you…even if it’s just pouring you a martini and kicking our feet up together. You deserve it!! 🙂

Grandys last blog post..Did you know there was a Science?

Carolyn May 20, 2008 at 12:07 am

Sorry Jennifer. My kid is only three. I have no tips. But I can send you more rope. We have that kind of thing in Canada. It comes pre-packaged with bottles of vodka. Say the word in it’s in the mail. xo c

Carolyns last blog and rope.

Carolyn May 20, 2008 at 12:12 am

Oh wait. I do have a tip. Something my mom always said: “Don’t go major on the minor and don’t go minor on the major.” This is similar to what slouching mom said – pick your battles wisely.

Let the small stuff slide and only scuffle if it’s really important.

Hope things even out soon and take care gorgeous!

Carolyns last blog and rope.

D / Momma May 20, 2008 at 3:24 am

Both of my kids went through this at roughly that age. According to the “experts,” the age of 7 is a magical thing. The child realizes that she is an individual, capable of her own needs, desires, decisions, and intelligence apart from her family unit. It’s a tough age for kids and even tougher for parents. BUT you have to be consistent with your expectations of her, because she is pushing the envelope and trying to find out where the new boundaries are, now that she’s “all grown up.”

Also, yes. When a major family upheaval is on you, the kids feel it and respond in ways that don’t seem readily apparent. After all, they aren’t yet sophisticated enough to say, “Hey Mom, I’m really worried about all the changes we’re about to go through.” If she’s digging her heels in, maybe that’s her way of saying, “Let’s don’t change anything, please?” She’s controlling what she can. Maybe the best thing to do is to address the issue directly with her. Instead of fighting the behavior, which is just a symptom, address the root cause. Maybe that will help you both get through this.

But by all means, stand firm in your expectations for her behavior. She has to know NOW, at age 7, that she cannot walk all over you. Or else 14 and up? She’ll be a tyrant.

Peace – D

D / Mommas last blog post..Another Year Over…and a New One Just Begun

Mary Alice May 20, 2008 at 4:29 am

Go pick up every John Rosemond book you can find. Or go to his website and see if he is doing any parenting conferences in your area. I went to one of his conferences when mine were maybe 8, 6, and 5. That was one of the single best investments I ever made. You will feel back in control when you use his methods.

Probably a lot of her issues are steming from the unknowns of the move. Moving is something I am very familiar with, being military. Give her as much information, pictures, videos etc of the place you will be going to. Do you know people out in Ohio? Could you make your own Flat Stanley and have them take it around to places in your new town and take pictures with her flat Stanley so that she can see what it would be like there?

Give her little jobs to do to help get ready for the move. The more she is able to do, the more in control she will feel. Keep all your talk postitive about the new place and aknowlege that it hard to leave people behind, but dwell on it.

Mary Alices last blog post..You Said What? Oy Vey.

Mrs. Chili May 20, 2008 at 5:06 am

Punkin’s 11, and we’re experiencing the same sort of thing. The only useful thing I have to say to you (and it’s not much, really) is that you need to recognize that she tries this behavior out on you because you’re SAFE. She knows you love her, she knows you won’t stop loving her, so she has the freedom to be a royal bitch with, really, long-term impunity.

Advice? I’ve got none, really – I’m feeling my way around this, too. My ONLY strength is in my consistency – it wasn’t okay yesterday; it’s not okay to day, and guess what? It won’t be okay tomorrow, either! If she’s a snoot at the table, she gets dismissed and goes hungry. If she fires off attitude at us, everything stops and we refuse to allow ourselves to be treated that way; apologies must be respectfully delivered (even if she doesn’t really mean a word of it). She doesn’t get the things she asks for – even if they’re reasonable – if she’s been a bitch to everyone.

This sort of thing comes in phases. I wish I had more for you, I really do. Really, the best anyone can say is to just keep breathing, keep holding YOUR ground and demonstrating for her what responsible, respectful grown-ups do in these situations. Try to NOT engage her. A little wine probably wouldn’t hurt, either…

Mrs. Chilis last blog post..Ten Things Tuesday

Mrs. Schmitty May 20, 2008 at 5:20 am

She is definitely testing her boundaries. 7 is about the age my W. started his attitude. Just stick to your guns and be firm. She’ll get the point.

Mrs. Schmittys last blog post..I Did Giggle, Just A Little

suburbancorrespondent May 20, 2008 at 5:33 am

Do what Mary Alice says – I love Rosemond. And keep in mind that while it is nice that you are empathetic to how she is feeling, it is almost irrelevant. No matter how she feels, she still has to follow some basic standards of behavior. Just like we have to.

suburbancorrespondents last blog post..We’re All Patient, So Shut Up Already…

Daryl May 20, 2008 at 6:01 am

I wish I had some good advice. I dont. I was a horrible child. I drove my mother crazy I am sure. I sulked. I replied ‘leave me alone’ whenever she tried to get me to be anything but a sulker. She took me to the doctor who had cared for me since I was born .. he sent her out of the room and asked me what was wrong, what was bothering me. I said nothing is bothering me except being asked to do something I dont want to do. He said okay. He called mom back in and said: leave her alone.

I cant say that I stopped sulking immediately but eventually I did. I still dont know what was making me be that way but it passed and I think that Girl will get over this too. Does she like to write? Perhaps if you ask her to express herself in writing or drawing it might help. I think you are probably right, she senses that things are changing and change is scary.

BUT I know you are a good mother and a loving one who will find a way to cope .. that extra glass of wine isnt a bad idea … I think you feel the change too ..


Daryls last blog post..husbandisms

Ducky May 20, 2008 at 6:21 am

What?! My sweet little girl?!

Emily R May 20, 2008 at 6:51 am

Will you hate me if I tell you I suspect that girls get more and more of these phases as they get older?

Emily Rs last blog post..Blue Satin Sashes

Lisa May 20, 2008 at 7:40 am

Oh this is when girls start to get FUN (eyes roll). I blame Hanna Montana and Disney with all their sassiness and laugh tracks (so it is banned).
I find rewards for good behavior like trips to Limited Too or songs from Itunes help (yes it is bribery). My daughter is almost ten and there is some serious moodiness. I find a sense of humor and wine help A LOT

So are you going to Ohio?! That’s where I grew up–what part?

Lisas last blog post..Summer Activities!

Madge May 20, 2008 at 7:54 am

i have scissors (for the rope).

i’ll stick them in the mail right away.

Madges last blog post..FREE!! Blog Giveaway!!!

Ree May 20, 2008 at 8:10 am

I have no advice, sweetie, but I do feel for you. It’s been sooooo long since I’ve had a little one…

So {{hugs}}. And Vodka is good from time to time. 😉

Rees last blog post..Cos I told you once before goodbye, but I came back again.

Jenn @ Juggling Life May 20, 2008 at 8:18 am

Mary Alice has some great advice–I like Rosemond even though I disagree with him about spanking. You seem to have a sense that consistency is an issue so I’d work on that.

I have one daughter who is wonderful, but also a trial–you have to learn not to take it personally. I also try to remember that some of the characteristics that drive me nuts have a very positive side in a different arena. Nobody makes Social Butterfly do something she doesn’t want to do. Frustrating for me, but excellent for peer pressure situations!

Jenn @ Juggling Lifes last blog post..The Beach: Toddlers versus Teenagers

melissa May 20, 2008 at 8:24 am

I can only feel your pain. It’s so tough when they’re not rational and logical and I know what it’s like to lose patience at the last straw. Good luck.

melissas last blog post..Odds and Ends

Suzanne May 20, 2008 at 8:36 am

Hey, there. It seems that all the good advice has already been given out….so I’ll just second it. It truly sounds like two things:

1) an age appropriate show of budding independence…acted out in all sorts of colorful ways that say, ‘I’m growing up and sprouting new wings’

2) at the same time, with this move coming up (is this a permanent move?) she may be picking up and reacting to the anxiety of leaving the comfort of her old home and moving to a new, unknown, one….and reacting to the feelings of uncertainty that brings her.

You are a great Mom. I’d say try to hold the line on good behavior while, giving her a little room to be a ‘big girl’ and soothing any anxiety she may be feeling.

All of which is to say, I’ve never had kids so I really don’t what the h*** I’m talking about! In which case, I suggest you make sure you keep doing those Thursday drives when you need some space…even if it’s not Thursday.


Suzannes last blog post..With friends like these…

Jan May 20, 2008 at 9:05 am

The rope!! You could play cowgirls and lasso her.

Whenever my kids go through these stages, they are just wanting some time. Its amazing what a 10 minute get away can do. Or a babysitter.

They get sick of us just like we get sick of them. I forget that sometimes.

Jans last blog post..Signs of the times..

Dharmamama May 20, 2008 at 9:09 am

I parent very, very differently from apparently every commenter on your blog! I don’t expect respect or obedience; I cannot *stand* John Rosemond or SuperNanny! and I think consistency is for automatons. I’m parenting two free kids – which I know sounds like they run roughshod – they don’t! We live consensually, practicing non-coercive parenting. I have two kids – one calm & sweet, the other — all boy & very, very anti-authoritarian. I have a respectful, fun, loving relationship with each of them – because we just don’t get into power struggles. I love our life, and our relationships.

E-mail me if you’re interested in hearing more – I’m all about peaceful parenting! And will go on and on, which I know isn’t helpful if you just don’t want to hear it.

Dharmamamas last blog post..I Had a Crush on Murray

Hatchet May 20, 2008 at 9:26 am

First I will comment, then I will slog through reading your commentors and see if anyone can help ME, too!

For I am in the same boat as you.

The disrespectful behavior is getting out of hand and driving me up a wall. If I was a drinker, I’d be drinking heavily at this point.

I’ve talked quietly, I’ve yelled, I’ve given the single swat (Not the same as a spanking, I assure you.) on the bum, I’ve threatened to swat, I’ve ceded control over to her father, I’ve taken stuff away: playdates, movies, computer time, toys, you name it.

I am out of punishments. I am out of patience. I have no empathy left (You are better than I am for having empathy left!) All I have left are lectures. Constant, constant lectures.

This morning she turned her back on me and wiggled her ass at me because I asked her to BRUSH HER TEETH. Yesterday, I asked her to go find her father and she asked me if she was my slave or something, so I took away computer access for two days. Then she walked back into the room repeating “I hate Mommy!” over and over again. So I sent her to her room before the smackin’ hand could come out and play.

If this is “normal” I’m HATING IT and I want it to STOP.

Gods help me if the twins go through the same thing at 7. I’ll run away from home.

I guess what I’m saying is that it may be developmental, since my kid has it too. And I’m feelin’ for ya sister!

Hatchets last blog post..Sittin’ Pretty

Hatchet May 20, 2008 at 10:07 am

Took topic and ran with it, screaming, on my blog.

Ack. Pass the Mojitos.

Hatchets last blog post..Sittin’ Pretty

we_be_toys May 20, 2008 at 10:18 am

While there are certainly phases of development that include this kind of behavior, I can’t help but want to ask a few questions:

When did this start?
Was there any type of upheaval or crisis she was going through at the time it began?

What’s her social life like? Are there new stresses at school?

Is there dissension at home that she’s been exposed to?

Do you have Girl time together? Does she feel taken for granted?

It might be nothing – it might be a phase. It might be the symptom of her having stresses in her life she can’t articulate.

I’m having a similar problem with my 10 year old son (the oldest) and when I sit down to talk about it with him (and we have said, “This is unacceptable behavior.”) it comes out that he’s having socially-related problems at school. Problems that are normal, but he doesn’t know that. After we had that little chat, his behavior was much improved. It won’t last forever, I know – there’s always a new hurdle with kids, but an open dialogue never hurt and it can teach a kid that talking about our problems is how we figure out how to resolve them.

Good luck honey!
Hey, did you say you’re moving to Ohiya? See, now you’re getting close enough to road trip to!!!

we_be_toyss last blog post..Crazy-assed, Cyclical Whirlings of My Brain

Akelamalu May 20, 2008 at 10:44 am

I remember your situation well, though my boys are 37 & 32 now. You have to be consistent and tough. It’s tough to be consistent but that’s what kids need. If you say no to something mean it, keep saying no, because if you give in once she’ll see a weakness and play on it. All kids do what your daughter is doing, it’s normal, they push the boundaries. You’re the parent, you are in control, you make the decisions, your daughter just has to learn that. She’ll get the message as long as it’s delivered with love, which I’m sure it is. Good Luck and don’t worry. 🙂

Akelamalus last blog post..The Monday Meme….. The Last Time……..

Mary Alice May 20, 2008 at 12:35 pm

uhhhh…I just came back to see what others were saying and reread my own comment. You probably already guessed it, but I was trying to say in my last sentence was: “acknowledge that it is hard to leave people behind, but DON’T dwell on it.”

Mary Alices last blog post..You Said What? Oy Vey.

Milena May 20, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Hold your horses! Stop the presses! I’ve got it. I’ve got it! I have a solution for you and you are going to thank your lucky stars for the day I ever mentioned this book to you. I’d send it to you myself but somehow, I am utterly convinced that you will get it quicker by ordering it from Amazon than I ever could manage to put it into your hands. P.E.T. Parent Effectiveness Training. Sounds like it’ll be a bit didactic just by the title I know but it is full of concrete and useful examples. I can’t remember who the author is but if you have trouble finding it (don’t know why but it does not pop up at first try) you can see and click on a link to it on the left hand column of my blog under my book roll. The latest edition (revised) was published about 3 years ago. Seriously Jennifer, you won’t regret it. For the moment, hang in there. I suspect that the reasons are everything you suspect – said Watson to Holmes….

ByJane May 20, 2008 at 1:27 pm

I’ll echo all the commenters who are linking her behavior not so much to a development stage as to what she’s going through at the moment. How much is she in some way mirroring your feelings about the move? Or your husband’s? Don’t try to control what you consider to be her inappropriate behavior; you’re entering a losing battle, since she has already proved herself adept at pushing your buttons. If you can back off from the content of what she’s doing and focus on the process, you’ll better be able to deal with it.

ByJanes last blog post..If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Monday…

liv May 20, 2008 at 1:32 pm

ahh….kids….sweet little things who love us. or something. is it cocktail hour yet? are you jealous that mine go to their dad’s tonight?

livs last blog post..

Manic Mommy May 20, 2008 at 5:19 pm

If it makes you feel any better, we had a pop quiz in motherhood today and I flunked. I need just a little more rope to hang myself.

Nothing works and I think that parents witnessing this total disregard for my authority, wants, needs, and preferences (not to mention their own well-being) must be looking at me and thinking “why can’t she control her children?”

Tomorrow is another day, Scarlett.

Manic Mommys last blog post..Dirty Little Secrets, Dirty Little Lies

Angie @ Keep Believing May 20, 2008 at 5:31 pm

I’d give you more rope, but I’m afraid you’d make a noose with it for one of you. I’m afraid of that because I feel like that several times a week with my 5 year old. Some kids are just prone to it, I think, but it is not okay. And I have heard so many people (at my mom’s groups and stuff) say, those behaviors that seem kind of funny or just slightly naughty when they are kids – what would it look like if it were a teenager? Keep that in mind when you are disciplining and ready to throw in the towel – that is WHY it is worth the exhaustion and frustration.


Angie @ Keep Believings last blog post..Spring Cleaning Discovery #3 – Summer Plans

Lisa Milton May 20, 2008 at 6:46 pm

My girl is saintly at school, but boy is she moody. I bet this impending move is stressing everyone out (we are going through that too).

We have found that with the high hormone count we all need good sleep, drinking water (make mine booze, please) and not being too busy helps. (Slumber parties just leave her weepy all damn day.)

I wish I had better advice. I’ll let you know if we have any late breaking news.

TEOM May 20, 2008 at 8:54 pm
Sandy (Momisodes) May 20, 2008 at 9:25 pm

Ugh, I’m going through this too and my daughter is only 2.5 🙁 I wish I had some words of wisdom. Right now, Supernanny’s time out spot isn’t working out so well for us. I’m thinking Grey goose….

Sandy (Momisodes)s last blog post..Just Feet

Nicole P May 21, 2008 at 4:22 am

Oh my goodness Jennifer, it must be the age, because my daughter is 8 and it sounded like you were describing her. I have been having a horrible time with her lately…the pouting, the drama, and lying, OMG, she lies to me so bad.
I don’t really have time to read all of the comments that were left, but I plan to come back later today…maybe get some advice for my own situation.
Hugs to you, being a mommy is hard.

Nicole Ps last blog post..Taking Care of Business

Candy May 21, 2008 at 9:28 am

My daughter is 17, my son 15. You’ve just described their exact personalities.

I think it’s normal. I like to think of it as nature’s way of being sure the girl-children move out of the house and procreate. Because if she doesn’t go willingly, and soon, I’m throwing her stuff on the curb.

I couldn’t love a being more…but she drives me nuts.

Candys last blog post..What happens when you fool her

Tricia May 21, 2008 at 8:57 pm

If she’s creative, would she willingly draw you a picture to describe what’s bother ing her. If she’s upset, troubled with something, maybe she’d be more comfortable drawing it than trying to articulate it, adn then you’d have a launching pad for a discussion about what’s creating the change in her behavior.

Tricias last blog post..No Justice in Tattle Tale

JCK May 21, 2008 at 10:57 pm

Drinking is always a good solution. Well..until the next morning. Then. Not good.

I’m sorry. I feel for you. I have trouble with my girl and she is 3 1/2. You’ve got some good advice from others, so I’ll just quietly STEP AWAY FROM THIS VEHICLE.

JCKs last blog post..Why was it even tempting in the first place?

Melanie at beanpaste May 22, 2008 at 10:59 am

Oh, you have my deepest sympathies. I have a very sweet but extremely dramatic 3 1/2 y.o. girl on my hands, and she is wearing me down to the nubs these days.

Oy. I have no good advice, though I wish we could have a drink together.

Melanie at beanpastes last blog post.."So I Think This Is The Best Costume For Today…"

HRH May 23, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Hi been to my house lately? So the same. 7 is hard. Ryan and I have been battling as well. I know a lot of the time he is just trying to be independent and show he can do things on his own but it comes out snotty, disrespectful and bratty. I am going to lend sympathy and look above for suggestions…

HRHs last blog post..For the love of tile…

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