Daughter's Behavior - Therapist Needed?

Updated on August 09, 2011
D.L. asks from Kensington, MD
10 answers


I have boy/girl twins, they'll be 6 in October. My daughter has had challenges expressing her frustration well, since she could talk. The minute she becomes frustrated she will do something to physically hurt whoever is frustrating her, 99.99% of the time that would be her brother. Generally she pushes, scratches or even occasionally bites him. What is it that frustrates her? Oh, you know, really horrible things that her brother does to her, like oh, not letting her use his stool when she asked. Yes, that happened this morning. No matter what he does, seems it's going to annoy/irritate her. This morning he was sawing with his play saw and she was playing with dolls (side by side) and she got angry with him for making noise. She also gets frustrated with me, over really big things like me insisting she wear a swim shirt (not swimsuit top) to protect her skin. And has meltdowns over this. Sheesh.

Her mindset seems to be that anyone, but especially her brother, should do whatever she wants (being quiet, sharing something, playing the way she wants to play, etc), whenever she wants it otherwise she gets very upset and starts to yell at him and very frequently will do something physically to hurt him. He will NOT retaliate, even on the couple of occasions when I've told him he could.

I am at a complete loss as to how to get her to stop thinking everything is her way or the highway, that she is the goddess all powerful of the universe, well, you get the idea. With twins, there's no way I have any time to treat either of them as a prince or princess so I am perplexed where she get it in her head that everyone should do what she says, esp. her brother. The only thing I can come to is that she see's me telling her and her brother what to do (of course as the parent, that makes sense). But I don't lose it the way she does with her brother.

Both my children equally ignore me and my rules, when rules are ignored there are consistent consequences. With my daughter, it doesn't matter the consequence: explaining how to use words, even giving words to use, time outs, losing a privilege, spanking (yes, trying that too), you name it, I think I've tried it.

Yet, she's still just not getting it. This morning I was going to paint her toenails, when she hit her brother over the stool, I told her no more toes painted. She cries for a few minutes, then recovers and pretends (or maybe it's true) she doesn't care anymore. And that's how it is anymore. Ask her why she can't simply use her words it's always "I don't know".

I'm at a complete loss as to why she is sooo mean to her brother. I'm concerned this will carry over to other kids in school. I treat both my kids the same but at this point, she is in trouble with me much more often than her brother is so perhaps there is some of that "you love him more" going on with her. I've tried helping her to understand that is not the case at all. I talk to her about her behavior and that it's not "her" that is the issue.

It makes me soooo sad to see her so angry and getting in trouble so much. I fear it's impacting her self esteem. I'm almost ready to call a therapist and see what they would suggest because this has become so disruptive in the house that it's creating almost constant fighting between the kids. I even separated them into their own bedrooms yesterday to try and give them each some space of their own.

Does anyone have any tried and true techniques for helping their kids understand consequences of behavior and to REMEMBER certain behaviors are absolutely not allowed? I'm really at a loss...I want to shower my kids with love, not constant consequences for poor behavior choices. And I am fully aware there is something in my behavior that is encouraging this too...any suggestions for how to change my behavior are appreciated too.

Thanks in advance.

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So What Happened?

Thanks ladies for your replies. Just to answer some questions I read. Both the kids have been in school since they were 2 years old. They are used to being in a full time away from home environment. My son did not hit my daughter with the stool, he just didn't let her use it when she asked (which was not nice of him). They both HAVE recently given up naps...as recently as two months ago and they are both very tired. They started a day camp that has no nap time and they have been VERY active. So, being tired as a result of still adjusting to no naps could be a contributing factor to the short fuse. They both are in bed by 7:30pm every night and are up about 6:20am.

I am guilty of losing my own temper simply out of impatience with it all so do yell more than I'd like. I need to work on my own patience and hopefully that will help show my daughter more as well.

I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions and I hope that with some more consistent and calm reactions from me, more sleep for them and continual reminders about appropriate expressions we'll get past this in one piece!

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answers from Denver on

Boy can I empathize, my youngest is the same way only she is 15 y/o. I am beginning to think that she is bipolar and I don't have a clue how to handle her. In fact, I'm posting about this in just a few minutes. I will read the responses you get to see if there is anything that will help us.

I do know that when my daughters were younger, behavior was always affected by either low blood sugar or being tired. Now days, that doesn't seem to factor in. Best of luck to you...I'm in the same boat.

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answers from Austin on

The way children learn "Why" they did something is by the words their parents teach them..

When she looks like she is about to lose it, I am sure you recognize it.. You can use the words. Pick the appropriate one.

"I can tell you are frustrated because brother was using the stool when you wanted it."

"You need to find your patience, brother is using the stool."

"Use your nice words to tell brother what you need."

"We do not hit brother, use your words to tell him what you need."

"Take a breath and think of the words to ask brother what you want."

"We do not hit people."

"I know you are embarrassed that you fell, but do not hit brother."

"Go to your room and find your nice words."

"Hitting (scratching, biting) hurt. Go to your room and find your words."

Also EVERY time she hurts her brother, she gets a time out.. She should get 6 minutes. If she argues, gets up from time out too early, return her to time out and the time starts over again. YOU have to enforce these rules. Even if it takes dozens of times for 1 incident..

You also need to spend some time with her talking about feelings. Then another time about feelings. Frustrated, angry, mad, sad, embarrassed, tired.. and what each is and how to handle it when it happens..

This is just as important as learning to read or write.

Yes, it takes time, but it is worth it. YOU need to find the strength to stick with this.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Well said Laurie. She is right on the money.
Mine is high maintenance, she's now 16.
I read the book the 5 love Languages and it taught me that I was reaching out to her in the wrong way. So instead of doing things for her, like a chore, she needed me to give her affirmation that she had done the chore correctly. INstead of making cupcakes, brownies, cookies with her I had to let her do it and in the process let her know how well she was doing.
Mine is an affirmation child.
She is also a "spend time with me" child. But she wants me to spend time with her and not the other two hanging around all the time. We go shopping, they stay home. I used to contact friends with kids the age of my younger two and we'd swap some baby sitter time and I'd take my oldest daughter out, even just to Kmart for tape or something.
She is thriving on negative attention right now.

Does she also have a toy saw? Does she have a stool? Mine are all three years apart but when they were younger they all got the same thing for Christmas, hammers, screwdrivers, dolls, paper and crayons. I had two girls and a boy, the oldest was beyond plastic toys by the time my little ones were in the sibling rivalry stage. That did help, different colors of permanent marker with their names on each and voila, lookie there it's not yours!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

When I was struggling when my children were small I chose to get help for myself. I took parenting classes. I read books on parenting and child development. I sought out therapy and support for my own unresolved childhood wounding. I learned to put myself first on my list so that I had the support and care I needed to fully show up for my children.

I think that too often as parents we loose sight of the fact that our children's behaviors are a direct reflection of what they have learned from their environment and how that mixes with their personality type and their developmental stages. We also tend to not realize that our children do not think like we do. They are egocentric and they are concrete. They do not have the capacity to understand things to the depth an adult does. They are children not little adults.

My life shifted tremendously when I shifted the focus from trying to change my children to educating myself and changing my own perceptions and behaviors. I now have three amazing teenagers with whom I am able to openly communicate with and to deal with all the "stuff" that shows up for them trying to navigate the turbulant teenage years. Life isn't perfect, however, there is definetly a foundation of connection underneath whatever shows up for us.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

1) Showering with love is the most important thing, so focus on that.

2) Some kids thrive on negative attention, and it sounds like your daughter is that type.

3) Give her the consequences, (okay, then I guess we're not painting your toenails), but then stop it there. Don't discuss the situation any more or expect her to say anything about it. Less talk is important with these kind of kids.

4) Lots of siblings just fight. As long as they are not being brutal, allow a certain amount of fighting, and pick your battles, only intervening on the really bad ones. But remember, give the consequences with little talking. Because she will thrive on the talking as negative attention.

5) When you choose to give her a consequence, it should most often be wordlessly sending her to her room for a period of time. That way, she is made to be by herself, with minimal interaction, and is not getting rewarded by a lot of talk and interaction (i.e. negative attention).

And other than that, keep up the showering with love.

And if you do these things, no, I don't think you need a therapist.

Laurie and Margie have great advice.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

With twins I am sure you have no spare time but maybe you could set up a special time each week or day whatever you can fit in to give all your attention to her and just focus on her nothing else. Kids to fight over what we think is non important things but to them I guess it is very important. You could say something like every day or week at this time we are going to have our special time (you might need to do this with your son too) and see if that helps her in anyway. You mentioned noise bothers her have you talked to the Dr. about this? Is is possible she has some type of issue maybe slight autism or something along that line? Some people just can't handly noise or constant noise. Since she seems to want all of your attention maybe a time out away from everyone would work for her. I am not a big fan of spanking it seems to reinforce that hitting is OK even though we know that isn't what you are telling her. Maybe you should seek out a therapist if this continues. Have you asked her why she is so angry all the time. Not sure what else you can do. Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

not that this is a cure-all but it helps...

sufficient sleep. for everyone esp your daughter.

i never think it hurt to talk to a professional.
is she is school or has she been? how do they handle her?



answers from Dallas on

Hi. I saw your post when I came here to ask about a similar problem.
I know in our case we gave her tons of love and every advantage we never had. I just don't understand at all. I hope someone sees this question and can share how she got through it.


answers from Chicago on

Wait, are you describing my daughter?!? My 9 yr old daughter sounds exactly the same. While my kids are all 3.5 years apart, there is a ton of sibling rivalry going on between the older two. My daughter only likes her brother when he is obeying her every command and letting her be the boss (which is not very often-thus the conflict). This has not carried over to other kids, she saves it all for her brother. She is also very defiant with me and does not like authority. I learned about Love and Logic from my kids' school. It's really good stuff. It's all about natural consequences for the kids, while keeping your own demeanor calm, cool, and collected. My daughter is one who thrives on negative attention, but when I don't get worked up or angry with her, she doesn't have the platform that she's looking for. You have to make your daughter's behavior her problem, not your problem or your son's problem. Love and Logic uses a lot of one-liners that you repeat in a calm, nonchalant manner such as:

-Only children who are behaving respectfully at the table may stay and eat with the family.

-I will be ready to serve dinner, breakfast...when everyone is sitting quietly at the table.

-Those who can get along (keep their hands to themselves...speak respectfully to each other....play nicely)....may stay with us in the living room

Then if and when she tests you (and she will) give her the consequence in a swift, calm, nonchalant fashion: If she acts up at the dinner table, take her plate away, dump it in the sink and tell her "Oh, this is so sad. Your dinner is over now. You may be excused from the table"

These techniques work pretty well with my daughter. The key is absolute consistency. Once you have found some one-liners and consequences that work, stick with them. Your husband needs to be on board to so that you present a united front. Just think natural consequence. The thing you did with not painting her nails after she hit her brother with the stool was perfect! That was a natural consequence. You just have to do that all the time and try not to go overboard as in "you're grounded for a week!". Harsh punishments backfire with these types of kids, it makes them more angry and more defiant, and makes their behavior worse. If there are occasions where I can't think of a natural consequence for a particular behavior, I send my daughter to her room for a brief time-out.

Best Wishes! I hope things improve!



answers from Washington DC on

My daughter had some similiar if not so severe issues and what helped is a different way of parenting. I keep it deadpan as possible, I allow her to make as many choices as possible but with consequences for those choices intact. I do a lot of mirroring of her emotions and making sure I understand what her feelings are as well making sure that she understands that I am the ultimate arbitor of what's going on i her day to day life. I would recommend going to therapy for yourself and your children so you can figure out the best methods of parenting for your child. Strong willed children need autonomy and significant structure, and they will fight it a lot. Just think about obi wan kenobi,storm trooper:"show me your identification!"OBi wan: you don't need to see our identification... storm trooper: I don't need to see your identification. Bugs bunny is also a good roll model for this as well. Water, though soft, is far more effective at wearing away stone than any other substance.

Good Luck

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