January 02, 2008,
K.B. asks from Dover, PA on December 28, 2007
First, let me tell you about my daughter. She is 5 and was born with heart problems. She has been babied most of her life by everyone because of it, especially me. She is constantly "up my butt" and really on my nerves. My boyfriend (not her dad) tries very hard to help me with her. My boyfriend and I started dating almost a year ago. He is very good with kids as he is a coach for kids sports teams and a father himself. Our problem is that he teases a lot and my daughter is not used to that because I have spoiled her. That has caused this child to not like any rough housing or teasing at all. She cries all the time when he is around because he teases and picks....never in a hurtful way, just playful. He likes to tickle and play "airplane" etc. He is a big man and has a very stern voice and sometimes can sound "harsh". He teases all children, and every other child I have seen him around has enjoyed it. I think she needs this too to toughen her up a bit since I have spoiled her. However, the crying from her all the time is ruining our relationship. She only wants me and will not stop until I "save" her. She is very stubborn and when she doesn't want to do something, she will cry and cry. For example, she doesn't like to drink milk for me (but will for her dad and daycare) and will sit at the table and cry for an hour just to drink 4 oz. I don't know what to do because I don't want to have the continuing crying. It amazes me that she does well with him when she may be with him for hours and I am no where in sight. But if she knows I am around or will be soon (like when he picks her up after work), she is unbelievable. This is the only area we have issues with. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
So What Happened?™
Thanks for all the advice. You all have been very helpful. We will see what the new year brings!
S.P. answers from Philadelphia on December 28, 2007
Just because your boyfriend think's it is fun teasing doesn't mean your daughter has to feel the same way. If she is frightened or made to feel badly, even by accident then it is not fun. Period. Her feelings should not be minimized. Some kids are more sensitive than others, and we are all individuals. Maybe it's time to take a step back and look at it from her perspective and tell your boyfriend to back off. If you are afriad that your boyfriend will react badly to that, then maybe you should reexamine the relationship. It should be healthy for all of you, not just one of you.
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L.S. answers from Lancaster on December 28, 2007
No matter how good this man is to you, no matter how much you love him, your number one top priority must first be your daughter. Regardless of if she 'needs' to toughen up or it is 'your fault' she is so sensitive...doesn't matter. That is how she IS. Mommy's boyfriend teasing her to the point of tears -because he won't stop, that's just how he is (??!!) is out of line. That poor child must feel that HE is more important to you than HER feelings. Motherhood is not always fun or convenient, and your romantic feelings may just temporarily be clouding your judgement toward your daughter. I hope the responses you get give some perspective that perhaps you are overlooking.
One thing that stood out in your post and sort of signifies that you may have priorities sort of mixed up temporarily was that you were not seeking help for your daughter...but stated that you did not want YOUR relationship with this man ruined. Wow.
Put yourself in your daughter's shoes. Imagine your friend was asking this advice. Take your emotions out of it and talk to a counselor to get some perspective and see if your daughter's behavior is the real issue or not.
Best wishes to you all.
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A.P. answers from Pittsburgh on December 28, 2007
I agree with Sharon. I have a son (who also happens to have medical problems) who is extremely sensitive to teasing. It makes me crazy when people want to change his personality to suit their need to tease and joke around. He is who he is and people (especially adults) need to respect that. If your boyfriend cannot respect your daughter's individuality now, it's never going to change and she was there first!
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S.R. answers from Scranton on December 29, 2007
Being in a mixed family group, I understand some of your needs. Sounds like you got your hands full. If the 5 yr. old is crying due to past overprotectiveness, then ignore what you can. Placing her in a quiet place to calm down and redirecting the crying may help. As for the teasing, maybe your boyfriend could keep it to a minimine for now, until she overcomes what may be fears or jealousy of someone else in her mommy's life. He should not stop intirely as she needs to know it is okay and safe. As for the situations like the milk. If she doesn't like milk, don't force it,as long as she is getting enough liquids. Pick the battles that count. Pray :-)
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E.J. answers from York on December 28, 2007
To take a line from Dr. Phil, "Is it working for ya?"
Obviously it's not. So you and your boyfriend need to rethink how you deal with your child. What you may consider playful, can be very different to a 5-year-old. This constant teasing can be a blow to her self-esteem. Can't your boyfriend do other things with her than just tease and aggravate? To be teased by your peers is one thing; to be teased by an adult, an authority figure is another.
The fact that you say he won't stop teasing is a red flag. He's a grown man essentially picking on a 5-year-old. I'm against the 'wussification' of our children today, but it sounds like he needs to back off and, oh, I don't know, maybe be nice to her for a little? If he stops the teasing, she may warm up to him more. Then he can try to 'play around' with causing her to melt down.
If he is really interested in salvaging a relationship with her and you, he'll change his ways.
And what's with the milk? Try chocolate or something. It's not imperative that she drink it.
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T.Y. answers from Philadelphia on December 29, 2007
Okay, first, I'm not sure what kind of teasing you are referring to here but if it bothers her that much he should really back off a bit. Children of that age don't understand sarcasm yet and when someone says something to them they take it to heart. They are very literal. My son is eight years old and when I answer him with sarcasm he always checks to see if I really mean it. They don't get it yet. Also, children take every negative thing you say about them seriously, it can severely crush their ego and the self esteem. I agree with you that she probably needs to toughen up a bit b/c other children may not be so kind but you can teach her to "use her words" instead of crying about it. It won't make it hurt any less, it will just help her to deal better.
Second, negativity (even when joking) can be taken the wrong way even by adults. Children cannot reason that the person didn't really mean it at that early age. Negativity is not going to help her deal with life. You need to build up her self esteem to help her become more independent. Show her that she can do things, and praise her when she does things on her own. This will help her boost her self esteem and become more independent of you. Boost her up, don't knock her down or let anyone else do it. By building up her confidence in herself you will help her to know that the negative things people say to her are not true and help her to become a stronger person. I'm sure you mean well. And, again, I'm not sure what type of teasing you are referring to but if it's anything negative or scary to a five year old, he should probably ease up a bit.
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J.R. answers from Allentown on December 29, 2007
I think that you need to strike some sort of a middle ground between babying your daughter, and your boyfriend's "teasing." Obviously you have recognized that your daughter needs to change. But your boyfriend does too! He is an adult, and should be able to modify his *BEHAVIOR* without changing his personality. Boys tend have a lot of teasing in their relationships, but girls not so much so--girls tend to affirm each other to show closeness. I have to wonder if your boyfriend's children are both boys, so he is used to the rough/teasing type interactions with them?
I think that you need to sit down with your boyfriend and discuss this issue with him. Acknowledge to him that you can see that your daughter has been overly "babied." However, point out to him that what he may not realize is that his size/voice/teasing can seem very harsh and scary to a little girl--even a non-babied little girl! Ask him to try and develop a relationship with her sans-teasing. Once they are closer, the teasing can gradually become a part of the relationship--to a level that she is comfortable with.
On the crying issue, one thing that works well with my 4th child (the first real "temper tantrum thrower") is to calmly tell him "I don't want my afternoon (meal, time with friends...insert appropriate description) with all this crying, so I'm going to take you to your bedroom for you to have some privacy to cry." Then I would carry him up--facing away from me--and gently deposit him on his bed. I reflect his feelings to him ("I know you are frustrated that your brother will not let you play with that toy. I know that makes you feel angry"), then I explain that he may come back downstairs when he is done crying. Sometimes at that point I will choose to snuggle with him--if I know he's had a hard day or just isn't going to be able to calm himself down.
I would also caution you to "pick your battles" on the babying issue. Drinking milk? I don't really think that is worth an hour of crying! I've chosen to simply not do "food battles" with my kids. I offer healthy meals, healthy snacks (or healthy drinks--your daughter can get calcium from sources other than milk such as cheese, yogurt, or Nutragrain bars if milk is an issue--offer her water to drink instead). It is up to them to choose to eat them or not. If they don't eat enough healthy food, they don't get "junk snacks." I don't do this in a manipulative way ("eat your carrots and you can have this candy bar") but rather in a pretty matter of fact way ("No, you can't have a soda. You didn't eat your dinner." or "No, you can't have a cookie, you've had enough sweets today. If you are hungry, go look on the healthy snack list and pick something else." (the "Healthy Snack list" is posted on the kitchen wall--my kids can pick unlimited snacks from it like fruit, boiled eggs, veggies & dip, whole grain crackers))
Hugs & good luck!
P.S. I just read Theresa's advice about setting a time limit for eating, then imposing a punishment if the meal is not completed. I can't begin to say how opposed I am to this. Our culture has enough built in issues related to eating that lead to eating disorders, we don't need to add others. I can only say from personal experience that this kind of approach to our kids eating leads to them learning not to listen to their body signals on hunger and fullness (so they may tend to over eat just to "clean the plate"), or on what foods are good for them and not good for them. I recognized in my mid-20's that I had issues with eating when I wasn't even hungry because finishing everything on my plate had been so drilled into me through the use of punishments like Theresa suggests. But it wasn't until I was 34 years old when I finally started thinging "you know, if I often get really bad stomach aches that double me over in pain after eating very wheat-laden meals, maybe I have a sensitivity to wheat" and guess what? I have Celiac Disease, meaning that wheat actually damages my small intestine to the point that I don't absorb nutrients from other foods well! I've had these stomach aches from when I was a child, and just dealt with them as "part of life!"
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N. answers from Lancaster on January 02, 2008
If your child is uncomfortable with teasing because she has been "spoiled" take a look at what you are putting on your child because you suddenly want her to change. It sounds like there needs to be a lot of changes. First of all your attitude. Children are not "up our butts," and if this is how you speak with her, no wonder she has the security issues it sounds like she has. Second, the "area" you are having issues with is your child, not an area. Take the time to speak with her about how she feels about it and spend time with both of them together so that she may be more comfortable. Think about the size and intimidation from someone so much larger, especially to a 5 year old. What if a 10 foot man was constantly picking and teasing at you when you weren't used to that kind of behavior, much less from someone that much bigger. And finally, we reap what we sow. You babied her, you can't expect her to all of a sudden be an adult. And she's five. Be her mother. Discipline whining and misbehavior, but not just because you have a boy friend.
T.M. answers from State College on December 29, 2007
K., my oldest son is an extremely shy and quiet child who also hates being teased. I've also seen him hide his face when seeing someone on TV do something *he* thinks is embarassing. He is very sensitive. Yet his dad teased him mercilessly when he was little and upset my son a great deal. I continually asked my ex to stop it and he eventually did. Sometimes pushing them into an uncomfortable place is NOT what's best for them.
That being said, it sounds like your daughter is using all the early "babying" she got due to her heart issues and such to manipulate. I suspect she is *SO* upset over the teasing and waiting for you to "save" her as a control mechanism. Each time you give in and rescue her, you reinforce that she has the power to manipulate you. Same with the milk - by dragging it out for an hour and making a show of it, she has everyone on edge and crazy wanting her to JUST DRINK IT ALREADY! (right?)
Try ignoring it. Maintain control of yourself and refuse to engage in power struggles with her. When she gets an emotional response from you ("Please just drink the milk already!" pleading to "I said drink it!" angry), she is large & in charge. You might want to give her a cup of milk along with her meal and tell her, "I'm setting a timer for 30 minutes. If you are not done eating and drinking by then, you will..." whatever consequence - then FOLLOW THROUGH! In our house, they would probably be sent to their rooms (where there are no toys, so it's not "Disneyland") OR they'd be sent outside to clean up dog poop, clean the cat's litter box, vacuum all the downstairs rooms, etc. Any kind of chore which they're capable of doing (not perfectly, of course) and which they hate. Then leave it there. When the timer goes off, if she hasn't finished, just take it away, put on a sad face and say, "Oh, I'm really sorry you didn't get it done in time. Because you chose to take so long, you're going to have to ______."
As for the teasing, I'd ask him to lay off a bit just to avoid the issues for now until you start establishing parental control in other areas with her. You may want to do some role playing with her when he's not around, explaining that he teases it's because he likes her. Practice teasing each other and hugging or laughing together as you do it. You could even do this with her Barbies or whatever. You could also help her prepare some pre-set responses to his teasing like, "I know you're teasing me and I just don't think it's funny." or "You're teasing and it hurts my feelings." Teach her how to put words to her feelings; this may eliminate the crying fit aspect of it. When she starts crying b/c of his teasing, remind her to "use her words" with him.
Hope some of that helps : )
P.H. answers from Philadelphia on December 29, 2007
Hi K.. I'm a single mom with a 2-year-old daughter and we live with my parents. My dad is kind of an "old-school" stern guy. When he first tried to tease his grandaughter, she cried. This upset my dad, who wasn't trying to upset her, and of course it upset my daughter.
Turned out it was a short stage she went through. I asked my dad not to playfully tease her or use his "gruff voice" around her for awhile. That worked.
R.C. answers from Philadelphia on December 29, 2007
Lisa S said exactly what I was thinking. But I also wanted to say that I grew up in a household that teases alot and I hated it, and still do. I still have issues with critisism. Some of my siblings are fine with it, but me and one of my younger sisters (twins 12 years apart) are not. Now that I'm older and have seen why I am the way I am, I try to defend my younger sister, but they all joke and say "we're only teasing".
While you think a little teasing may be good for your daughter, you may be hurting her in the long run. Yes, I agree that kids should not be spoiled and prepared for the outside world, but home should be their safe place and their parents should protect them - especially when they are clearly asking for it.
If you want to try to 'toughen her up' and stop spoiling her so much, you may want to look for other ways to do it. But that would be your decision. My youngest sister (11) has been spoiled cause she's the baby... and she still whines and cries whenever she is told to do something she doesn't want to do. She acts like a five year old. I want her to grow up and have a happy normal life and not have people think she's a b****.
I hope you the best, and no matter how hard we try, we can't make our kids perfect or even be how we want them to be.
L.T. answers from Pittsburgh on December 28, 2007
I can understand why you feel a certain amount of teasing may be good for your daughter. You need to be an advocate for her but you also need to teach her how to deal with different types of people and different situations. My son is 3 1/2 and is timid. I tease him to get him to loosen up and learn how to deal with others. I am careful to watch for signs that I am pushing the limits because while I want him to develop healthy social skills I don't want to harm his development or his trust in me. Others tease him and I step in when I feel it is getting out of hand, especially during times when he needs a little extra TLC (he takes steroids five days a month for a medical condition and he can't control his emotions during those times). It sounds like your boyfriend may not understand or respect the boundaries your daughter needs. Have you tried talking to him about how this is affecting your daughter as well as your relationship with him? Have you talked about what is acceptable teasing and what is crossing the line? It sounds like you might need to use a little tough love with both of them. Good luck!
B.P. answers from Reading on December 29, 2007
I agree wholeheartedly with Lisa S. "No matter how good this man is to you, no matter how much you love him, your number one top priority must first be your daughter"
Anyway, until those children you helped bring into this world are able to take care of themselves, they are your first responsibility. Period.
Every child is different and reacts to teasing in their own way.
And you write in the A little about me that you are "trying to work through all the challenges of a combined family". Honey, until you're married, you're not a combined family. You are dating. He could be gone next week, but your daughter will be your little girl forever.
R.S. answers from Harrisburg on December 29, 2007
From experience, I would definitely let go of the guy. Right now it seems like he is so important, but later on your child will suffer (and dealing with this when she is a teen is even worse!!), most of all, I speak from my own experience, I have felt sooo very very guilty for the past several years. I have spent the past 3 to 4 years trying to mend my broken relationship with my now 15 year old. I thought that this guy was so important, I wanted to get remarried, etc. Instead, my daughter should so have come first. Especially if he is "teasing". If she doesn't like it, why should she suffer in her own home, where she should feel safe. This guy sounds like a bad choice already. Please put your daughter first. There will be plenty of men around later, like after she is through this needy period. Please listen to her and "save her".
M.Z. answers from Philadelphia on December 30, 2007
ok first of all do you hear yourself? you should reread your question.teasing of any kind is wrong and to do it to a 5 year old with special needs is disgusting to say the least.You also cannot compare your child to any other all children are different with different feelings and emotions you and your boyfriend(who you need to get rid of)are doing damage to your daughter and it should stop now.maybe she is clingy because she expects you to protect her!
L.P. answers from Harrisburg on December 28, 2007
I feel for you even though I have not really been in the exact same situation.
I hope this doesn't sound harsh but...some picking is ok if the receiver knows that it is done out of love for them, otherwise it could be considered bullying. The way you describe it, it sounds like your daughter is feeling bullied. That is probably why she feels she needs your protection from him.
Why does she need to drink milk if she doesn't like it? There are many other ways for her to get those nutrients.