Perplexed....Bad Social Behavior

Updated on March 22, 2012
J.L. asks from Hoffman Estates, IL
9 answers

Hi Moms,

Completely at a loss here...I have a six year old daughter and tonight we had parent teacher conferences. We knew before tonight that our daughter has struggled a bit getting along with her friends. The school has a reward system green, yellow, red. We had some struggles with her getting the yellow warning for being disprespectful to her teacher or saying mean things to her friends at the beginning of the year...

We've been doing well until Monday when she she got mouthy with her music teacher because her teacher wouldn't discuss an issue... thus a yellow warning. My husband and I met with her teacher tonight and she is excelling at her academics but socially is struggling to get along with other kids and be respectful. We tried talking to our daughter tonight about it and she didn't care if we took toys away or said she couldn't ride her bike. She says she doesn't care if she has any friends...Completely detached...! This prompted sending her to bed early for tonight .

We are taking the teacher's advice about her working with the school psycologist who does "play groups" therapy during lunch to focus on social development and target some of the reasons. We said definitely they have our permission for our daughter to participate
Aside from that we are completely at a loss as to what do with her?????? Yes we both work fulltime but we sit down to dinner as a family, help her with homework, don't want much TV and interact with reading, praying and doing fun activities on the weekend. She is in dance and marital arts....What are we doing wrong??? What's going on with her??? Help!

She is excelling academically...Reading at a third grade level, extrovert, and wants to be the center of attention and the boss!

What can I do next?

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answers from Miami on

I don't know I've had such a bad experience with schools. You need to ask the teacher to be allowed to watch a lunch recess. Get a view through a window which she doesn't know about. Invite a girl from school and see how she interacts with them.

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answers from Dallas on

You may not be doing anything wrong. Don't know what's going on, but just wanted to give you some moral support. Good for you for not being defensive, and for looking for help for your daughter. Behavior issues can take some time to unravel and resolve, so hang in there. You're taking a good first step with having her meet with the school psychologist. See how that goes and if further steps are recommended.

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answers from Seattle on

Not everyone is an extrovert, and some people have enough self esteem not to care that they're "supposed" to be chummy with everyone so they don't bother pretending or forcing themselves to do something they dislike just because everyone else is.

A loner doesn't have to be a shy extrovert who wants friends and can't make them/ socially ostracized/ plagued with all sorts of self doubt-resentment/ unhappy. They can also just be healthy, happy, well adjusted independent folk who prefer to be by themselves rather than in a group.

I honestly have no idea which category your daughter is in (doesn't know how to make/treat/keep friends, or doesn't particularly want friends and is happier on her own)... but it's a thing to keep in mind:

Not all who are alone are lonely.

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answers from New York on

The playgroup sounds fantastic! Really, it sounds like she's in a good school and she has a great family. She could just be a bright kid who's a bit socially immature (reminds me of a little girl in my son's class who is *brilliant* but has many of the social issues you describe).

You might try supplementing the playgroup by role-playing some social challenges at home. Have you, your husband, and your daughter "act out" different kids' parts. Make sure you give her the chance to "correct" you during this game. In other words, before you punish her for doing things wrong, make sure she has the skills to do things right.

Best wishes,


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answers from San Francisco on

It sounds like you are doing everything right. The only thing I don't see mentioned is the possibility of diet. Many kids with food allergies act out either with aggression or attitude. I would look into gluten intolerance (even if you just learn the foods & try a reduced gluten diet you may see a difference), also consider milk/ lactose sensitivity (my brothers both turned into wild things when milk was included in their diets).
It sounds like she isn't affected by punishments & threats. She may respond more to explanation of WHY what she says is hurtful and disrespectful. I would also encourage you to give her a safe-out, meaning, when she feels angry, frustrated, sad, hurt, or whatever she feel that triggers the outburst, give her an appropriate way to deal with those feelings.
You may also want to consider natural therapies such a Bach-Flowers. These have been proven effective (and PERFECTLY safe) for children. My son is proof of this. Best wishes and stay strong!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I think the play group is a great resource!

Definitely get her into that & follow up with the psychologist.

Can you role play with her at home a bit?

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answers from Portland on

It's great that you are open to her joining a playgroup. After the school psychologist gets to know her better, ask what can be done to support this work at home. Sometimes, it is precisely the social, peer setting (and corrections that come organically from that environment) that helps make those positive changes.

I'd also recommend the book "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen...And How to Listen so Kids will Talk" by Faber and Mazlish. This may give you some good tools for helping your daughter share her deeper fears or concerns without worrying about censure.

Your comment that 'she doesn't care if she has any friends" sounds more like she's saving face than it does a genuine sentiment. Most children do want to have friends; the "I don't care" response is usually very defensive and protective. Chances are, she may know she's struggling socially but doesn't know what to do about it. Struggles like this--so big and with such profound impact -- can be overwhelming for kids.

Remind her of rules, being respectful (when a teacher is done with a topic, we need to drop it) and find good examples of politeness. Laurie Kelly's "Do Unto Otters" is a fun book which lays it out nicely. Give her plenty of positive feedback when you can, when she is being considerate and respectful at home with you, and remind her that her teachers would LOVE for her to use those same tones and kind words as well.

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answers from New York on

I think the social skills playgroup is a great idea as a place to start. I suspect she was being defensive and hostile about this issue because she doesn't know what else to do and is trying her best and still not succeeding. Some kids catch on to the social skills more easily than others and it may be as much about how her brain is wired as your parenting. But she can probably learn a lot with the group. With kids especially identifying the specific skill or behavior and practicing it can help a lot.

It can be frustrating I know--I worked in the mental health field and my kid was the terror of his preschool class.

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answers from Williamsport on

Getting mouthy with teachers and struggling socially to me are two totally different things.

I have six year old daughter who is extremely polite and respectful and would NEVER do this, BUT, and this is a big BUT, we disciplined it VERY firmly a few times in the past when she attempted normal disrespectful speech to a parent or a teacher or talking in a "bratty way" to other kids. It happened a couple of times when she was new in daycare (3-ish)-natural of course to be around lots of other kids smarting off and snapping at each other. We explained what it meant to speak disrespectfully, spelled out our expectation and enforced discipline. Then it happened in normal scenarios at home or in gymnastics class and a couple of "short" remarks to her piano teacher. Each time I reminded her what was expected and enforced discipline. The last time was when she was four and was getting rewards taken away in K4 for pushing boundaries and talking back.

I came down like a ton of bricks because at four she was well old enough to be disciplined at home after the fact, so I told her I would speak to the teacher EVERY DAY and if I EVER heard she was being disrespectful to the teacher she would be spanked immediately when she got home and lose her favorite item for a whole week (she has a blanket she literally cannot live without at night). She knew from past consistency it was true and it never happened again. That was almost two years ago. She also never talks back to us. I also always speak to her respectfully, we have an extremely close and affectionate relationship, I never yell at her, and she gets genuine praise all the time for her achievements and for just being her because I love her, but if she is ever rude or disrespectful-her world stops. It's THAT black and white. And that's why she doesn't do it.

Now believe me, she's allowed to have her emotions, to be upset, to disagree, and to stand her ground on things-we just draw the line at disrespect to teachers and others in the specific scenarios where that is what it is.

I'm skeptical of the psychologist angle only because SO MANY kids I see in all my kid's classes act exactly like you daughter is acting. My kid's Tae Kwon Do Teacher has like five kids in his class of 10 who talk back to the teachers and snap at each other. My daughter and son would be doing it too if we had not been VERY TOUGH on it. My 2 1/2 year old is now learning with discipline not to say "no" and talk back to parents the same way.
We do all the same things you do, family time, healthy activities, family meals, etc but ALL kids push the rude and disrespectful boundaries. Some more than others. It takes discipline to enforce right behavior unless the child is born naturally angelic. If you both work full time, she may be crying out for more attention, and you should provide that at times aside from discipline scenarios, but don't let it blur the line of enforcing good behavior firmly enough.
So definitely make sure nothing is more wrong with the psychologist, but don't let them treat your daughter like she has a medical "problem" and make it worse by giving too much attention and not recommending enough discipline. Use your gut. As for struggling socially, I wouldn't worry too much if she is able to play with other kids etc. You'll know if she's showing signs of something "wrong". Just being mouthy and disrespectful is pretty normal at this age. Again, lots of my daughters classmates act this way. They're like little kindergarten mean girls. Good luck, and good work acknowledging this and working on it! This book is great for nurturing a grateful attitude, good spirit and respect in kids this age, Back to Basics Discipline by Janet Campbell Matson.

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