Empowering Girls: Attitude Problem


So, you can tell from my Hannah Ban that my 6-year-old daughter’s been having an attitude problem lately.

I dealt with one of the causes, but I’m not crazy enough to think the banning of Hannah will be enough to cure her attitude and the constant crossing of my boundaries.

Here’s what’s really upsetting me about Ainsley’s attitude.

It’s directed at me. And only me.

Her entire bratty dialogue, talking back, rudeness, fit throwing, defiance is directed to a single person on the entire planet and that person is ME.

Her dad says “go clean your room” and she obediently goes to clean her room.

Her dad says “stop doing that” and she immediately stops.

At church and school and over at friends and neighbors and grandparents the child is a “perfect angel.”

I say “go clean your room” and it’s 30 minutes of arguing, whining, fit throwing and negotiating her way out of it.

I say “stop doing that, please,” and she ignores me.

“Please, don’t do that,” she keeps doing it and make up an excuse for continuing her behavior.

“I said top doing that,” and there is angry fit throwing outburst, negotiating and whining and crying.


Jeez. You don’t have to scream at me, she says all hurt.

Oh really? It appears to be the only way you listen to me, I think.

What I say is, I’m sorry I yelled.

Here’s what I want to know – what is different about my “go clean your room” and her fathers? What is different about my “stop doing that” and the neighbors or the teachers or the church lady’s?

I have 3 theories.

The first is that my own mother put a traditional daughter curse on me, “I hope you get a daughter exactly like you.”

One theory is that this is growing/mother/daughter pains that comes with puberty – only it’s lightyears early.

Another theory is that I’m projecting all my daughter issues from my own relationship with my mother on my relationship with my daughter. Put another way, that my feelings about how my own mother disciplined me is preventing me from being an effective disciplinarian for my daughter. In other words, when I say, “Go clean your room,” I hear myself as a rebellious teenager say, No. I don’t want to! Try to make me! It’s MY room. And my daughter is picking up on this inner-conflict via osmosis or emotional consciousness.

Do any other mothers notice their children treating them in a distinctly different way than they they treat the other parent or other adults? How do you explain it?

Come back tomorrow to find out about Attitude Boot Camp.

19 replies
  1. that girl says:

    My oldest son does this to me and my mom. I feel very ineffective most of the time. He’s not tearing the walls down or doing anything out and out “bad”, but everything is such a struggle that ends with me yelling. He doesn’t argue like that with his dad or anyone else but us. He constanly tests us. He’s closest to us and I wonder if it’s just a natural side effect of that.

    Once, the Judds were on Oprah and Naomi Judd said children resent their mothers (especially single mothers – which doesn’t apply to us) because they sense that they need them so much. That really stuck with me. I know that my mother and I take care of all the ‘needs’ of my son – his dad and grandparents are present and playful and loving, but they don’t cook supper and tuck him in at night. Anyway, that’s my theory..

    Also, maybe since you’re there to bond more with your daughter she’s more likely to test you than anyone else.? Maybe?

    I have a huge fear of raising a girl. My husband and I mention trying for a girl sometimes, but deep down I’m scared to death. And I can’t really put my finger on why?

  2. Tracee says:

    That’s a good theory That Girl.

    You may be right. But, why would children resent the one that actually takes care of them and spends most time with them?

    If that is the case, would my relationship improve if I went back to work and wasn’t around to smother them with so much unwelcome attention?

  3. 1001 Petals says:

    Please forgive me if this is out of line. My daughter is only 6 mos old so I lack any actual experience of this sort of thing. I’ve been reading a lot of parenting books though, and this sounds *exactly* like what is described in, “Hold onto your kids.” In it, they describe parents losing their power to parent. Parenting is not a set of techniques that we learn, but rather a relationship. When peers become more important to a child than their parent, they look toward those peers for direction and guidance. So the idea behind the book is to make sure that as a parent you remain their primary compass point, their main direction. You don’t need to yell, if she wants to listen to you, she will. The key seems to be to nurture a strong relationship with her (it seems like you already have this though!) so she’ll care about what you say and respond.

    My little response here doesn’t do the book justice of course, but that’s the general idea.

  4. Tracee says:

    Thanks for your comments Petals. You’re not out of line.

    “If she wants to listen to you, she will.”

    The problem is – she doesn’t. WANT to listen to me.

    But, she does listen to everyone else.

    That’s unacceptable and something must be done about it.

    I would say that I have THE Primary relationship with her. And I think it’s a pretty close one. When she wants a snuggle or to share a secret – it’s me she comes to.

  5. Violet says:

    Maybe it is as simple as the fact that you are the primary caretaker. As a SAHM, you are with her a lot more than your husband. If you worked all day and he stayed home with the kids, I am sure their relationship would get a lot more complicated.

    I have a friend who is a stay-at-home dad, and I see him struggle with the same thing. How frustrating though.

  6. Tracee says:

    You are right about that Violet. Even when I left for 3 days I came back and my husband said, “I started to see what you mean about her pushing your boundaries. She started to act like that with me while I was home with her.”

    Still, it’s not behavior I can accept and just allow – regardless of how “normal” it is.

    It’s hurting my feelings for one and making me feel defensive around her. Thats never a powerful parenting position.

    For another, I’m terrified of letting this type of behavior escalate into a teenage nightmare.

  7. Carol Saha says:

    Watch a couple of episodes of The Dog Whisperer or read one of his books. I know it sounds crazy but the “calm assertive” technique he uses works for me.

  8. that girl says:

    It’s just hard to be both authority and friend and when you are the primary relationship, you MUST be friendly and maybe that’s what she’s pushing? Trying to see where the roles meet?

  9. Tracee says:

    I think maybe she senses my own discomfort with the role of authority. Both being in authority over her and rebelling against authority over myself.

    I think that dog whisperer thing might work because then I would just accept my authority – and then she would too. I’ll have to read/watch more about that concept. Maybe it will help me resolve my authority issues.

  10. Lynnie says:

    You know, I hear this a lot from other parents we know right now, and I heard it a lot when I taught K/1. My theory is: kids present their most difficult behavior to the adult in their life they trust the most. Your daughter probably knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will love her even if she were to act really bad for a long time (and that’s true, right?). Other adults get treated better simply because she might not trust that they’ll love her unconditionally as much as she trusts that about you. So, even though it’s difficult to handle and you still have to stand firm, take it as a compliment that you’re doing something right!

  11. Tracee says:

    Lynne, I’ve heard that theory too.

    It seems like a back-handed compliment (from my kid) if there ever was one.

    Of course, I will love her unconditionally.

    But, I dislike being treated like crap – by anyone. Generally, I stop hanging out with people who treat me in disrespectful ways.

    In your teaching/parenting experience is there an effective method to get her to stop treating me like crap?

    Right now, I’m trying Boot Camp (see today’s story).

  12. candeelady My Tween Parenting Blog says:

    I agree with Lynnie and violet. Kids are rudest to the parent they trust the most. they are testing limits with someone they know won’t kill them.

    The boot Camp is perfect – she needs to know you will not allow this attitude and it has serious consequences.

    You have to know when she pushes you until you scream at her and then you apologise – she is victorious! She has won the power struggle. Because all these squabbles are about power not the specific issue of cleaning a room or whatever.

    You are right to nip this before the teen years – you are on the right track. It’s very tough but you are moving into the years when you are less a playmate and becoming more of a mentor disciplinarian. It sucks but has to happen to prepare the kid to function in the real world successfully.

  13. Anonymous says:

    A friend of mine’s son tests her all the time because he wants attention. He’s most like her out of all her children but he’s not the first child and he’s not the baby of the family. I think he kind of gets lost in how to see himself and that’s compacted by the fact that he’s the most empathic and volatile out of all her three boys.
    She says the only way she can handle him when he’s like that is to keep him on her hip for a week. She gets him to help her, sit next to her, read with her and basically runs him ragged. Then he figures out she’s not going anywhere, he doesn’t need to test her resolve and that he’d really like to be left alone for a while and the best way to get that is to do what he’s told.

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