Behavior Issues in 6 Year Old Girl, Disrespect, Drama, Yelling

Updated on August 23, 2013
J.M. asks from Seattle, WA
21 answers

I am a little afraid to ask this question, having just read a ton of judgemental comments responding to a mom who blogged about a chaotic trip to a restaurant, but here goes.

My daughter's attitude is getting increasingly disrespectful toward me. She's 6 and has a brother who's 21 months. She's starting to say things like, "I hate you" "I don't care" and she's yelling at the slightest provocation, when she doesn't get what she wants. She's sticking her tongue out and saying things like "you hate me". She'll say "get me some water now". I don't get her water. I make her make her request again respectfully. I do get her water b/c our sink is ridiculously large and she can't actually get her own water. I would have a stool, but the toddler has been falling off stools lately.

Anyway, what I tend to use is threat of a privledge being taken away. I don't do time outs b/c my daughter is very emotional and gets way way more upset if I create a time out/power struggle situation. The threat of the privledge being taken away has always worked until now. At this point, what I'm planning to do is create a chart with the behaviors "uses respectful language (including body language)" and I don't know "express emotions safely" (?) -not sure what to call the 2nd goal -it's OK that she's upset, but saying "I hate you" and even "you hate me" is not productive/ healthy. We did a behavior chart last summer and it helped with getting ready for bed without complaining the whole time.

A friend swears by the book 1,2,3 Magic. And there's Love and Logic, which I have not read but I think I get the gist of.

So, helpful feedback -is there a parenting book that addresses these behaviors that you recommend?
If you were doing a chart what would you call the 2nd behavior -or would you just have the first goal?
Any other method you recommend aside from time outs? (Please don't lecture me that my child must be spoiled if I don't use time-outs, I just don't think it works well with my daughter's personality, I've tried it and other techniques have been more helpful)

Thanks for the suggestions!

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Charts never worked for us, but if they work for you, go for it.
What worked with my daughter when she got too loud, started yelling for no good reason was for me toleave the room and ignore her. No audience, no point in performing. When she stopped yelling and asked me why I didn't answer, I told her that I would answer when she spoke like a civilized person, and that I would not answer if yelled at.
I didn't care if she said she hated me - didn't punish for that. Just told her that if I were in her shoes, I would probably hate me too, but that didnt change the fact that she had to do whatever it was that she hated me for making her do.
Ordering me about like a servant also got no response. If she said, "Get me a drink" or "I want cookies" I ignored her. If she asked why, I told her that I was not accustomed to taking orders from people I gave birth to, and that I would happily fill requests made in a polite manner.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I would highly recommend Love and Logic. I have an 11 yr old who exhibits much of the same disrespectful behavior. I truly think she gets a charge out of seeing me get upset. When I'm following Love and Logic consistently and keeping my reactions nonchalant, she tends to knock it off. My biggest problem is consistency.

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answers from Seattle on

I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that you look at the underpinnings of her behavior:
- it's fairly age appropriate testing of boundaries, my DD is 6 and certainly tries the same tactics, as well as most other girls her age that I know. It is always so refreshing getting together with moms of her friends and seeing I am not the only one going through this...
- she has a young sibling who is probably getting a lot of attention... so her normal, age appropriate boundary testing is likely exacerbated by this. Even negative attention is better than no attention - this is fairy common as well.

I really like S.H. response about building a relationship with her rather that just treating it as a behavior issue.
Also employ pre-emptive strategies. For example if getting a drink is a common problem and she can't get her own because of the way your kitchen is set up, put a bottle of water in the fridge for her so she can get it herself when she is thirsty. This has nothing to do with catering to her wants, but rather giving her an opportunity to be independent, especially when you have a toddler to care for as well.

As for consequences... I like to use appropriate consequences that match the behavior. If my child is playing rough or inappropriate with a toy, I take it away. If she screams and yells I tell her to go do it in her room and come out when she has herself under control again, because no one in my family likes being around an out-of-control kid.
It's not really a time-out but rather a chance for her to cool off and get a handle on her emotions. And frankly... if she gets dramatic when you send her to her room you know that you are doing something right.A consequence should be unpleasant.

I actually think that all you need is to put some bite in your "threats". "Threatening" to take a priviledge away is not a consequence, you need to actually follow through or she knows that you don't mean it. As Yoda said:"Do or do not. There is no try". In parenting you are either consequent or you are not. There should not be threats. Certain things are simply expected and will incur a consequence without further warning. Pick those rules carefully, make them concise and few! (no more than 3-5 to start). No 6 year old understands "use respectful language" - it is too abstract. The rules need to be more concise like: Use "please" and "thank you" when asking for something.

And remind yourself, as long as you don't ignore it: this too shall pass.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I would really work on, developing a relationship with her.
Not it being based on behavior.
Meaning, she seems to need more bonding with you.
Any child needs that, especially more when they have a sibling.
Even when, they are in a bad mood.
With both my kids, I have found, that when they are in a foul mood for whatever reason... they just need me, more.
To feel close, to know that I am present with them, to know that I accept them no matter what the difficulty is. To be, Mommy and daughter. To feel special. And feeling special does not mean giving them things or rewards. It is, feeling special, emotionally. Just the 2 of you.
When I do that with my daughter, her moods get more even keeled and she is more tolerant of things, too. And more, cooperative. Young kids cannot say "Mommy I need you..." so you need to know, their cues. Their personality. Their, needs. Yes, even if you are busy with another child.
Bonding, with your daughter.
When I just sit with my daughter, letting HER chat WITH me about ANYTHING, and without my telling her what to think/or how, and without "lecturing," she feels "close" to me. Because, I am getting to know, HER. And we bond that way. I am not looking at her.... or talking at her... or viewing her per behavior.... I am looking at her and LISTENING to her... as a person. Letting her tell me all that she feels... good or bad. And a kid, knows that. They can "feel" it. And then they trust, you too.

Kids are not just a bundle of behaviors with punishments or rewards. We need to know them, too. And form a relationship with them. Bonding. So that, as they get much older... you have a foundation with them, a positive relationship.
That is what my late Dad did with his daughters. And even as Teens and older, we could always go to him for ANYTHING, good or bad, and we in turn, had a good relationship together... and thus our "behaviors" with him, as a parent, was solid. Not full of drama.

A person can "control" a kid, via methods and punishments and discipline. But the other half of the equation, is about forming a relationship with your child too. Through good or icky, moments. Teaching them how to communicate, with you. And teaching them that they can. Instead of spewing out ugly phrases at you.

Many times, a young kid just wants to be understood.
And know that they can talk to Mommy, about anything. Even if they do wrong. And you have to TELL her she is behaving, wrongly. AND then, teach her HOW to do it in better more appropriate ways. TELL her.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Reading 1-2-3 Magic could be helpful.
It isn't that the method itself is so amazingly new or whatever, but what it brings to your attention that you are probably doing when you are counting. Namely, talking too much.

If you read it (borrow your friend's copy, it is a quick easy read), you will understand what I am talking about, and most parents make this mistake. I still catch myself doing it with my 15 year old son... when I start talking beyond what I need to, his eyes glaze over.
But, there is more to it than that. When you talk too much, you end up sounding like you are justifying to your child why you said something or why you feel justified in the consequences you are doling out. Why? Do you need your child's "approval" to be ok with what you are doing? NO!
But we prattle on and on trying to COAX them into obeying us, instead of expecting them to.

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answers from San Francisco on

Another thing you should include is IGNORING certain behaviors, if they aren't TOO rude.

For example, I would definitely ignore sticking her tongue out or saying "you hate me." Ignoring extinguishes many behaviors. She may be getting too much negative attention for things.

Remember to choose your battles. Yelling at you is a battle you should choose. Others will have suggestions for consequences.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

If I were to suggest one book on communication, it would be Faber and Mazlish's classic " How To Talk So Kids Will Listen... And How To Listen So Kids Will Talk". You are wanting your daughter to express herself in healthy ways, however, I think you need to be *very* concrete with her as to what those ways could be.

I'd encourage you to sit down with her when she isn't mad and have her come up with a list of "I'm frustrated" statements. "Mom, I'm needing help with...." "I'm having a hard time with...." "I feel made because". I would talk with her about *asking for help* when she needs it instead of yelling. Explain to her that you do want to help her solve her problems, and that when she yells at you, it makes it difficult to want to listen. You will also have to model this way of speaking for her:

"I feel frustrated when I am trying to do something for you and you are yelling at me. I feel like you need to take a break in your room until you are ready to talk to me in a peaceful way."

I would also encourage you to ask her to 'take a break' in her room if she cannot use a friendly voice. I think this is perfectly reasonable. If she says it's a time out, let her know that it's not-- she is in control of her choice of where to be and she can show you with her *actions* where she wants to be. Rude, bossy behavior means she needs to take a break. If she's very rude and hungry, consider giving her a minimal mess item for her to eat and also be clear that she may come out when she's ready to use a calm voice.

The other thing I would do is that if you do the chart, put something SHE wrote into that 'speaking respectfully' category, just as I had suggested near the beginning of this post. She'll be able to relate to it and she will have some examples on the wall to help her if she's stuck.

Good luck!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I haven't read the book that you and the other poster mention, though I've seen it recommended a lot on this site. Sounds like a really good read.

I agree with not talking alot about it, and doing a lot of ignoring of bad behaviors - WHEN it costs her something. Demanding and that kind of thing should never be rewarded. A stern and quiet reminder "That is NOT how you ask" and then walking away and ignoring until she changes her tune is what you need to do. I also think that if she does this over and over, that you need to also assess privileges so that she thinks twice about mouthing off.

Instead of thinking in terms of time outs, you might consider saying to her "You must be very tired because you are acting SO cranky. I think you need to go rest. You can come out of your room when you have rested" and then have her go to her bedroom and you shut the door. Then it's not a power struggle. She has some private time to herself to get past that "mood" and she can't be with you, mouthing off more.

That's for if the first doesn't curb the bad behavior...

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

This sounds a lot like my child, who is now 8. I could have written this post.

Time outs have never worked for us, for the same reasons you mentioned. Taking away privileges actually didn't work well either because my daughter really digs in and will let us take away every single thing.

She does respond better to us giving her incentive to do well. Behavior charts (similar to what you described) have worked, especially this past summer for whatever reason. She likes it when we "catch her being good." We also give her a goal to aim for - i.e., if she earns 5 stars, she gets a small prize. Small, frequent rewards keep her motivated.

I vote for working on one behavior at a time. "Uses respectful language" is a great one to start with.

I'm sure you do this already, but just in case -- also give her an alternative thing to say besides "I hate you". ("I don't like that," "I'm frustrated" etc). And of course discuss this during a time when she isn't upset.

Alternatives to time outs -- my daughter likes to read so when she's really upset, we give her a book and let her be alone until she cools down. Sensory things sometimes help re-direct her attention (chewing ice, for example) or giving her a fidget toy to focus on.

Haven't read "1,2,3 Magic" but I did find Ross Greene's "The Explosive Child" to be helpful. The book could probably be condensed to 30 pages, but it has some good tips.

Hope some of this helps!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Where is she learning about how to act like this? Tv? Some friends?
If she's imitating it, try to eliminate the source as much as possible.
We watch very little live tv - most of the shows we like are on dvd - so we have a lot of control over what we watch and when (and there are no commercials!).
If it's some friends, then get her into activities where she meets other people and has less time to spend with those friends.
Her high emotions and outbursts are starting to make you walk on eggs shells - she's successfully intimidating you to a degree.
Don't fear the meltdown.
Get some ear plugs and ride it out.
My sister use to have some horrible tantrums when she was just a bit younger than your daughter (kicking, screaming, bang her own head on the floor type tantrums).
Our Mom tried everything she could think of to stop them.
What finally worked was my Mom walked out of the room.
With the target audience gone - the performance stopped fairly quickly.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

You sound like a caring an patient momma. I never used time-outs because to me they are "pretend" consequences that are too lenient. Some kids hate time outs, but difficult kids have as long as they want to get tired of them with no real consequence and they enable tantrums. You know your own child. You call it "she gets more upset" in the time-out. I would consider it her having a tantrum because you are disciplining her, which is a NO WAY in my house and the tantrum would be disciplined on it's own. That goes for any form of discipline If the child throws a fit about it or pouts and uses disrespect, NEW CONSEQUENCE! And I also never ignored or let tantrums play out in a room. If you stay engaged and discipline bad behavior immediately after a clear warning, then the child will start heeding warnings much faster.

At six your daughter is mature and developed enough to understand right behavior and act out of mutual respect for you if you are EFFECTIVE in disciplining this very bad behavior. She is also old enough to start acting out badly if you aren't effective enough. In my opinion books like How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Love and Logic are excellent books, but not for nipping very bad behavior. They're great for the long haul if you can hang in there or for after you nip the bad behavior as a guide for every day niceness to avoid conflict. But I would be tougher up front so she stops the behavior and then you can revert back to those nicer options, which are really just basic nice respectful ways to handle your child, which most good parents use...until the kids is off the rails...and in that case, the advice doesn't help much.

I've heard friends of mine say it's normal for kids to say "I hate you" and they just say "Well I love you" and ignore the behavior or tell the child it's not nice...this blows my mind. I can't fathom what my parents would have done if I was ever that disrespectful. Now maybe as a teenager in a shouting match, but not anywhere in the league of 10 and under. My kids would NEVER say that to me. And I would never say it to them. Absolutely not allowed in our house. They have said it on occasion jokingly, and then I say in a very serious tone, "Actually that's not funny, we don't even joke like that." And that's all it took for them to never try it in a serious way. As a tiny child, absolutely nipping is best. As they get older, you can relax more into a groove and joke around and let them express more loosely, but 6? NOPE. These are formative years and you can't let that develop or you will have a terribly disrespectful tween, teen and beyond, which is great that you are reaching out.

My oldest daughter is 7 1/2 and very respectful, does not throw fits, does not speak meanly to me or anyone else. But that's because I handled her very first attempts firmly as young as 3 years old. One calm warning and one FIRM consequence the second time. Now that she's old enough for logic and empathy, it never comes to that, we can talk things through and she wants to be nice because it's what we have modeled and it' all that is allowed. If she starts to snark, just one, "Hey, is that how we talk to people?" and she tones it down. I also be sure not to be rude and snarky to her.

The book I used is "Back to Basics Discipline" by Janet Campbell Matson and it worked beautifully on my three very different children-even my extremely difficult third. I have a tougher book too that I used if you PM me. You can remain positive and kind and calm and non-angry if you have an efficient system, and the book helps with that. I never discipline in anger, and because of that, my kids heed quiet warnings very well.

Some of my daughter's peers are acting the way you describe, and I've heard their moms comparing notes on how their daughters are getting's a normal phase at this age, and it's totally up to you how bad this gets. I would tolerate NONE of the disrespect long enough to put it on a chart without a serious consequence. If my daughter pulls a huge pout because I sweetly tell her to take out the trash and clean her room before she turns on the TV, I say "And smile about it!" as a joking way of saying, "watch it, sister." My dad used to do that too so it's a family tradition :)

It's much easier to nip things when they're small then to let things like "I hate you" slide and then try to deal with the bigger outbursts to follow. It's been easier with my younger two because they all know no one is allowed to be mean to momma and they are uncomfortable when they see friends smarting off to their parents. It's all in the foundation years, it's too late once they get a little older-good work addressing!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Sounds like a cry for attention to get you away from the baby. Make sure to set time aside when the baby is sleeping or when dad is home just for her. Consistency is key at this age, so if it can be every Tuesday when daddy gets home you and her go to the playground and she gets a slushy from Dunkin Donuts afterwards, etc. Or just time alone to play with her, when baby sleeps leave the laundry or dishes and play a game with her, or ask her to do your hair or toe nails, and do hers, some activity that is just for her and does not include little brother. She used to have you all to herself and now she had to share all the time, give her some alone time.

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answers from New London on

I am a certified parent educator. I teach 1-2-3 Magic based on the book. It can not be over used though.

Read the other bk suggested.

Being in the field for 20 yrs, I can say that some kids are spirited. I would read the book, "The Spirited Child."

If she says she hates you, say, "I can see you are angry...but, it's not ok to..." The Mom wrote it out nicely just 1 post ago.

I have this many times...Change your voice to a firm voice when you mean business !

Time-out is only as good as the parent who walks their child back to spot and resets the timer for 6 minutes....Like Super Nanny. Otherwise, the child will see the parent as a doormat.

I would not rule it out !

Beware of tv shows, too. I have seen some I-Carly shows and MANY more shows that are disrespectful, full of drama and no parents are on the set. (Not sure if she watches tv much).

When my kids were 6, I used 1-2-3 Magic, one-on -one time to reduce the negativity...I loved the bk "The Spirited Child."

Give her a few chores at 6, too. Believe it or not, a child feels a better sense of family when they have tasks.

Having a baby in the house means he probably gets more attention just because he has to be looked after for safety !!! This is probably part of this, too.

Charts never worked in my house...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Smith on

sorry you are having a hard time. My daughter is 6 and she seems to be picking up on some bad attitudes of some of the older girls that we are around.

One book you could look at is KEEP YOUR SANITY: TEACH THEM TO CLEAN by MARY HEART. It is about how to teach kids to clean, but the techniques in the book are ones that can be used to teach better behavior.

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answers from Chicago on

I also second the 1,2,3 magic book. But here is the thing when you start doing it she is going to get emotional. There is only a power struggle if you give in and give her the power. Don't get emotional (its hard not to) don't get angry. clearly state the rules. And don't give an option of whether she likes them. Just say these are the house rules.

no screaming in the house at other people
no hitting
you may not say you hate people

those are the basic rules. and while I know you say time outs don't work at this point it seems that you don't really follow through on them. each time she starts screaming about the time outs the time outs should start over. so if she is 6 it should be a 6 minute time out. 2 minutes in she starts wildly screaming then the timer starts over. (and definitly put her in a place she can see the timer and set it each time the stove timer worked well for us as it had a count down going on he could see) it may take an hour the first time. but if you consistently follow through then it will work.

This is coming from a mom who has an off the charts adhd kid who was exactly as your daughter is described above. And yes it is ok if she screams and is upset. no its not ok that she is dictating to you how things will go. part of her problem right now is your little one is probably a lot more mobile and free in the house taking your time and attention, she is in school there is a lot going on in a 6 year olds life. But if you don't reestablish control you will have a 13 year old stealing the car and saying kiss a**

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answers from Kansas City on

I like a lot of what some mama's suggested. Do not respond to her antics. Just ignore them. Or when she says "i hate you" responding back with "well i am sorry you hate me, but i love you" and when it becomes to much maybe you could sit her down and tell her that "it hurts mommy's feelings when you say you hate me because i love you so much". Maybe you could even work up some fake tears to show her that those words really hurt you. You know she doesnt really hate you, she is just acting like a normal 6 year old. Don't worry about where she is learning it from, lord knows where kids pick up stuff like that. Just try and correct the problem now before it gets out of hand. She could be hearing it at school while on the playground, what are you going to do? Keep her from school? And yes I would walk out of the room when she starts screaming and yelling and just nicely say to her that you will not talk to her until she can talk in a nice inside voice. The more you react to her behavior the more she will do it. And she probably is jealous of the little baby. I was jealous of my baby brother when i was 6 and he was just born so yes VERY IMPORTANT to make special time for her too! Good luck mama! You are doing a fab job!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Wow, I could have WRITTEN this question, straight down to the "I'm afraid of the judgmental responses." My son is almost 6, and the attitude we've been seeing develop over the summer is astounding. Stuff I didn't expect until the teenage years.

I've read 1-2-3 magic as many suggest, and it works for some behaviors.
We also do not use timeouts, as my son has irrational fear of being left alone and it's too much time away from my younger son to spend the 45 minutes needed to get him to take a 5 minute timeout. We also use taking away privileges (aka "Screen time").

I will note that just 2 days ago, my son got so outraged at his brother he threw a toy at his head. I told him to go sit on the couch downstairs until he could control his temper enough to not hurt us. I didn't call it a time out. Just time to control his temper. AND HE DID IT WITHOUT ARGUING. So either he recognized that his behavior is getting out of control, or just not calling it a timeout, worked for us.

Reward charts haven't worked so well for us. As soon as the novelty of the sought after behavior wore off, my son lost interest. I know they've worked for some of his friends, so maybe I'm doing something wrong with the reward chart.

I've gotten a fair amount of mileage out of the "You need to teach your little brother how to act, he's learning from you" angle.

I'm anxious to read the other books suggested here. Because if this is how he acts at 5, I'm not going to be able to deal with 13.
Hang in there.


answers from St. Louis on

Read "The Five Love languages of Children" by G. Chapman and R. Campbell. You'll like it.


answers from Dover on

Have you read the book "Have a New Kid by Friday" or something like that. It's good and some of the techniques are good.

I can't practice them all because the biggest problem I have is with my daughter getting up on time (or rather not getting up on time) and/or wasting time so that we are always rushing. Ideally, I would just let her be late to school...if do, then I am definately late for work. That may work once but not on a regular basis but I may need to try it (honestly for it to work I would have then waste time before leaving or she would still be "on time" but I would not). However, some of them have been helpful.

When my daughter has ever said "I hate you", our response is "I'm sorry to hear that. It makes me sad and hurts my feelings. I still love you very much" and we've also said "We know you are upset or mad right now. We are too but we still love you and you really hurt our feelings". It lets her know that it's ok to be mad but we don't have to be hurtful.

I personally have found that charts don't do much for my daughter but I know they work for others. Whatever you do, consistency is crucial to your success.

I sounds like your daughter needs some one on one time with you and/or maybe her daddy too.t She's demanding your attention and if she has to be bad to get it, that's ok because any attention is better than none. So lavish her with good attention and give the bad behavior very little attention (address it calmly and move ignoring her if she demands or saying "I'm sorry, I can't understand you when you don't use your manners" or "that's not nice, go take a minute to yourself and think about how that makes me feel").



answers from Rochester on

My 5 yo is starting to get this way. Fwiw, i do limit her tv to shows we agreed on in netflix. But..her father has a new gf with twins who are going thru this behavior right now , so i think mine is emulating them.

Anyway, i loved the book "Simplicity Parenting" which may give you ideas about schedules, amount of toys,msplitting time between kids, giving her some responsibilities, etc.

Hang in there!



answers from Chicago on

I just wanted to say that Dr Ames (famous doctor from the 70s that wrote the "your two year old, your three year old") calls the 6 year old DEFIANT. It is their very nature. So, this is perfectly normal.

I love Love and Logic and "how to talk." I also ignore and send her off to her room if she can't talk nicely.

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