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THE MAIN EVENT
Fighting with my daughter seems to be becoming an integral part of our lives. :( We just butt heads constantly. I know that I have control issues, but I also find the stubbornness and tenacity of my daughter completely over-the-top. She finds it necessary to fight EVERY request, every order, everything. I'm so tired of it I could scream. Last night was horrible and this morning wasn't much better. After doing a LOT of thinking about it, trying to figure out what to do to change my attitude and my reactions, which, let me tell ya, ain't easy, I had a sudden flash of insight.

Karin wasn't allowed a bedtime story last night because she gave us such a fight going through the bedtime routine, and then she wouldn't stay put and she wouldn't lie down and she wouldn't go to sleep, so Anders and I were taking turns sitting with her, and at one point, she flipped over and glared at me and said "Du bestämmer inte över mig, mamma.*" Which means, roughly, you ain't the boss of me, mama.

"Yes," I shot back, "I am. Now lie down and go to sleep." But you know what? I'm NOT the boss of her. She's the boss of her. She's the one who decides whether or not she's going to accept or reject the things her parents require and expect of her. Regardless of the fact that she's causing grey hairs to literally SPROUT LIKE GRASS on my head.

People tell me all the time that it's great to have a child that knows what she wants and is so independent and sure of herself, and it's true, and I AM glad of it. But sometimes I just wish she'd just wear what I put out, and do what's she's asked and go to bed without an argument, and not take everything I say as a chance to do the opposite just for the joy of perversity. And make no mistake, there is JOY in her perversity. She gets something out of being contrary or she wouldn't do it.

So, now it's a matter of walking the line between allowing your children to do whatever the hell they want to and having social services called down on your ass for neglect. Muttering that mantra choose your battles is helpful but what about when all the battles are over my authority as a parent? I would also be doing my child a dis-service if I allow her to believe that all of her behavior is appropriate or allowable.

I firmly believe that my children need to be fed, bathed (reasonably often) and given a good night's sleep so that they can function on a daily basis. These aren't points I'm willing to budge much on. I can allow Karin to be her own boss in that she can decide whether or not she's going to come along willingly, but she needs to learn that her actions have consequences. It's one thing to allow kids to get away with things once in awhile, it's another to completely lose all track of what my JOB as a parent is: namely to teach my child how to navigate the world within a realistic framework. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, where are you when I need you?!

Really Good Writing Out There Right Now: This is Your Boyfriend from One Good Thing

*literally: You don't decide over me
 busy
mood: busy
music: Barbra Streisand—Lullaby For Myself


Comments

Interesting post. I feel for you :) It must be bloody hard to change your reactions to something like that - it's hard enough with a partner! Did you have a good relationship with your mum when you were little? I didn't, and it was just her. I didn't go against her all the time I think, we just fought OFTEN.

I know I commented before on the slight joy she takes in going against you too. Maybe you hit on something when you say she needs to understand the consequences of her actions if she does go against your recommendations. Can you let her stay up to when she wants and then come in and wake her really early? ;) Then you'd probably pay for it the next day too :)

I guess you not only want her to sometimes just do what you say but also to WANT to do what you say. As hard as it must be for you I find all of this so interesting, the psychology of it really fascinates me - look at me taking a perverse interest in your pain ;) No, I'm not really :)

You've probably tried everything but I'll mention something that worked a bit on me anyway, which was a wall chart where I got a gold star every time I didn't wet the bed :) Of course that's different because it's about learning not to do it rather than agreeing with mama but still there was something in seeing those gold stars and knowing that if I got ten in a row I got to go to the toy store and pick something out. I'll never forget the day I went in to get my first toy :)

I did have a good relationship with my mom actually. I had a an up-and-down one with my dad, and unfortunately, I feel like I'm MY DAD when it comes to parenting :( Or maybe it's just because I'm a Leo and Karin is a Cancer (bad combo). :D

The wall chart is a good idea. I'll talk to Anders about seeing what we can do with that.

And I know you ARE taking a perverse interest in my pain! :P

Ahhh .... a Leo ... that explains a lot ;)

Just kidding!! I'm a capricorn ... stubborn as all hell :)

And you're YOU when it comes to parenting, no-one else.... :)

pickyourbattlespickyourbattles

I HEAR you!

It's on endless loop repeat in my head!

Having raised an incredibly independent, headstrong, stubborn, knows-what-she-wants child, I am THERE when you talk about the battles. I, too, had a wonderful relationship with my mother. I, too, found living with my father nigh onto impossible. I've often thought that because I missed those mother-daughter tensions growing up, I was less prepared for them when they came along.

I forget Karin's age, please remind me, okay? I think it probably does matter.

We (JF and I and my two children) had star charts, we had chores charts, we had a cool bean system where the kids got beans in a bowl when they did something, anything, right, and then beans subtracted when they didn't obey or comply or when they neglected what they were supposed to do. Beans could be redeemed for television or video game time or treats at the toy store or grocery store. This system can work very well, though I suggest coupling it with two other ideas.

One comes from Stephen Covey, the Seven Habits man. "Seek first to understand, before you seek to be understood."

This little piece of advice worked miracles for my relationship with Natasha. Whenever I sensed we were heading into one of those pitched power struggles, I would just stop, and listen very actively and intensely to what she was saying about her feelings, her perceptions, her opinions. I didn't necessarily change the rule or the obligation, but I did manage to convey the idea that she was HEARD, SEEN, taken into account.

The other approach was to recognize that Natasha's obstinance had something to do with her own self-image. She felt threatened, on some level, and reacted by drawing lines in the sand and refusing to budge. So, from that insight, I embarked on a campaign of praise and approbation. I looked for things to find right with her. I applauded every good decision, every smart move, every impulse to kindly action, to introspection, to helpfulness. I applauded her problem solving, her sense of humor, her clothes and hair. I didn't fake any admiration--her acute little bullshit dectector was fully functional and my efforts would have badly backfired if I hadn't been utterly sincere in my praise. I hugged more often. I told her how much I loved her.

I won't say that these two approaches eliminated the battles. But they did, I am sure, pave the way for an adult relationship that is candid and real and alive and caring. What really matters, in the end, is not whether she undermines your authority today or you succeed in imposing rules that seem sensible to you. What matters, finally, is the love relationship you're building now for the future.

From the perpective of the kid, I can say that your method sounds remarkably what my mother did when I was a kid. The sincere praise, love and hugs always reinforced the fact that she cared, and I'm fairly certain that made a big difference in my behaviour.

I recall a time when I was probably being the worst little troll of all...:

I was supposed to go stay with my Dad for a week. (I was about 6 or 7, I guess.) And Mom had said if I got five marks of really bad behaviour on the calendar, I couldn't go. Now somewhere deep down inside, I think I was dreading the whole idea, and as soon as I had my five marks, and realized I didn't have to go, I was totally well-behaved again. Though this was all semi-subconscious.

Is it possible that Karin has something that she's _hoping_ you won't let her do by getting you to get mad at her and say she can't do it?

If not, please ignore me. :)

What a story about your five marks! Thanks for sharing that with me. I'm not sure what it is about bedtime, except that it mostly seems like she 1) doesn't want to miss anything and 2) doesn't want to STOP and take the necessary break that sleep means.

Thank you so much for all your great advice and excellent ideas. I really appreciate it. Karin is nearly 5, but it seems like we've been struggling together since she was born. :( The bean idea sounds like a workable one for us, for sure. We aren't quite at the chores list time yet, but it's also coming up quickly. I have to learn how to hug more when I'm mad instead of withdrawing. I feel like I have found a wonderful counselor :)

Hmmm... what is it about that time of day that brings this on? Does she just not want to go to bed? Is she having nightmares? Is she just afraid she'll miss something? (That was always my thing.) Does she just not want to be alone? Or is it simply that she just wants to defy you? I doubt it would be the last thing solely. Unless of course, she just wants more of your attention (Any attention=good attention?)

You guys sit with her while she goes to sleep. Maybe if she acts up, you should just let her get to sleep on her own? (ie that attention thing again) That way your presence is a type of reward for doing as you've requested (going to bed).

Feel free to ignore any of this if it seems simplistic. I did have quite a hand in rearing my brother and sister (they are MUCH MUCH younger than me). :) So it's not all from inexperience. :)

Have you explained the 'why' behind your demands that she goes to bed and gets baths etc? For example, 'you won't have enough energy to play hockey tomorrow if you don't get plenty of sleep tonight' and 'if you don't get baths you'll stink and the kids at school will pinch their noses when you come to play with them' etc.

I kind of wondered about the attention thing, too. Sometimes negative attention is more exciting than the positive?

Hmm..I'm not sure, just trying to think of something.

Hang in there!

I'm beginning to think so. And thanks!

She won't go to sleep on her own, or at least it's REALLY rare. Once in a blue moon. You wouldn't believe the stubborn capacity of this kid, honestly. If you leave the room, she jumps out of bed and stands in the hallway, or bangs her feet on the wall until you come back in. Or screams her head off. We have done the explaining bit until we're blue in the face and know that we just have to continue with it until it actually sinks in.

She doesn't want to go to bed because it would mean holding still, and not playing, and she might miss something. Plus, "it's boring in my room, mama." sigh

Oh Liz, I really feel for you. I have also raised a fiercely independent child, though mine was a male and somehow that seemed more acceptable to people. As though boys were allowed to be like that. I know how really difficult it can be to maintain your equilibrium (not to mention your sanity). Then there are those moments when they can turn on the charm and make it all worth while.

I wish I had some pearls of wisdom for you, but alas I don't.

Just knowing I'm not/wasn't alone helps, honestly. Thanks :)


I wish I had more time to comment about this(having raised 5 strong willed children to adulthood).. but I am rushed to ready for a train trip...
Perhaps I will comment upon return, as this issue will not go away quickly.

It sounds like your daughter is feeling powerless.. whether or not it directly relates to the places where she attempts to exert power...

More on this next week when I return.
Trish is definitely on the right track...

I hope you will, please don't forget, I can use all the advice I can get! Have a good trip. I'm trying to figure out how to give her some "power" and still get her to go through the bedtime routine without such melodrama. Trish gave me some excellent ideas to try :)

Wow, Liz, I don't know how you do it. Karin makes Lydia seem positively tame by comparison, and she has me wanting to pull my hair out at least a dozen times every day.

When I was pregnant with her and even when she was a tiny baby, I used to say that I didn't want one of those prissy, sugar-and-spice little girls -- I wanted a rowdy girl! How my mom delights in reminding me of that every time I complain about what a handful she is.

Hang in there . . .

My sister and I joke that our daughters were switched at birth. SHE was a tomboy and REALLY wanted one. Her daughter is like Martin! :D

I can commiserate about strong-willed daughters. My youngest was a tad like Karin. I was a single working parent who went to school nights. I expected compliance on my time-table. With her, it seemed as though she acted up because she had so little control over her own environment. What helped me help her a bit was when I realized that I wouldn't like to be told when to sleep and when to bathe and when to stop things that held my interest to do what someone else wanted because it met their time-constraints. I started by saying things like when you're ready and have your bath, I'll have dinner waiting for you. I gave up the need to control if she ate with the rest of us or struggles over taking a bath "right then". I laid in bed with her every night so that it became "our" time to discuss concerns of the day before she drifted off to sleep. I hate to say it, but I fell asleep a lot of nights there too. Some kids are wired differently and just need more of a parents' time. My older daughter played alone all of the time. The younger one had a need to interact with me. When I didn't have the time, she became stressed. I don't know if my experiences are helpful or not, but in the end, your love and presence will be the deciding factor in your relationship with her, constant battles or not. No way are you alone in having kids like Karin. She will be the bane of your existence and your joy.

The bane and the joy of my existence: so true!! You are so right that she is fighting against doing things on our time-table (even though it's not an unreasonable one, AND we do allow for special nights where we "blow off" the usual stuff and let the kids get out of a bath or stay up late). I DO need to give her more of myself and I do need to make sure that she feels she has control in at least some areas of her life. Thanks :)

I suppose this will be my first comment in your journal. It has to be tough to raise children, and to tell them to go to bed, or to clean up or whatnot. I can only imagine it will be hard for me if and when Helena and I have children, and I'll be asking the same questions. Maybe something as far as an incentive system would work, but I have it hard to feel it would be ideal just for bedtime.

Out of curiosity, how old is your daughter?

She's nearly 5 going on 16. :) It IS tough to raise children, but it's also very fulfilling and a lot of fun. Karin is just a tough one to deal with. If all kids were like Martin, there wouldn't be a problem! :P

Karin sounds a lot like my DD, who is fiercely independednt also. In a way that I like that she is so strong and really wants- and likes to do it herself. But it can be challenging. Mine is only 3.75 but since age 2 I can see the battles we'll have when she is a teen!

Anders keeps telling me not to think like that, but I DREAD the pre-teen and teenage years. We've been having trouble since Karin was born, she's really strained our parental resources to the limit. Good thing she's worth it!

(Anonymous)

How about letting Karin rearrange her room so it is not boring anymore? It might sound crazy, but I had trouble sleeping at night and then rearranged the position of the bed, and Voila. No problems anymore. (Don´t bother with the whole Feng Shui concept as it is really too much to do with.)

Make it a game. (of course then Martin might want to rearrange his.)

Give her a hug each night from Uncle Johnnie and Aunt Simone.

It's boring because she's the only one in it at night when she wakes up. However, she doesn't like her room decor (it's "too girly") so at some point in the next couple of years we'll redo it to her liking. She's stuck with it for awhile. As for rearranging, that's an excellent idea, and I'll see what she thinks. Martin's room has already been rearranged drastically once so I think we can dissuade him if necessary :)

I think you should call every night just to tell her good night sleep tight yourself.

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