PLEASE Tell Me It's a Phase! *UPDATED*

Updated on April 30, 2012
M.F. asks from Albany, CA
23 answers

OMG! I am SO frustrated! I am ready to give up!
We are getting ready to move, Mothers Day weekend, into a nother apartment that has a better location, still in the same complex.
We are trying to get things packed so it is a quick and easy move.

In June my daughter is going to Colorado to stay with my parents and visit his parents and sisters.

So we have a lot coming up.

We have been trying all year to teach her to take care of her stuff.
She wants a desk in her room, she wants a radio, she wants this that and the other...
I have told her if she can start keping her room clean, picking up the toys, taking the clothes to the hamper, that we would consider getting her some of those things...
Well, she has not, it goes good for a couple of days and then suddenly her room looks like a tornado went through.

This week we gave her 2 big boxes and asked her to put every toy and book she wants to keep into those boxes...
it's been a week and it looks like she has barely done anything.

Today she walks out of her room and has taken a big chunk out of her hair and created bangs with 4 or 5 levels to them...

I spent a year helping her grow her hair out, making it long and thick and healthy, able to go back into a nice panytail... and TWO MONTHS before she is supposed to see family she hacks it to pieces!!!

This is not the first time, about 10 months ago she cut a chunk out of the back of her head, I thought she would know better after getting in trouble last time. She is 6, but these rules are not new.

I lost it!
I took scissors and "fixed" it as best I could, her hair now has bangs and is not even shoulder length all the way around, so much for pony tails this summer!
And I told her that in one hour we were goign to come into her room and ANYTHING not in the boxes was going in the dumpster.
I have a feeling I am about to throw away a lot of her stuff.

Please can someone tell me this additude or complete lack of obedience or what ever it is will end?

I am at the point where I want to her ot go to Colorado and never come back, I am so frustrated :(

(In reality I know I would miss her too much for that, I am just mad and frustrated and venting.)

What can I do next?

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answers from Redding on

6 is pretty young, it's hard to make decisions, that's why Mom is there to help.
You need to get on the floor with her and help her decide what stays and what goes one toy at a time.
The hair cutting thing is pretty normal, they do crazy stuff out of boredom lots of times, chopping hair is one of them ;) fun times raising daughters.

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answers from Detroit on

she is 6... we do not allow scissors upstairs for my 6 year old.. they are in the craft supplies that I can monitor.. and if my daughter cut her hair one time.. I would put the scissors up on the top top shelf so she would hav to ask for them.. and I would watch her like a hawk when she had them.

my daughter can not clean her room.. it is overwhelming to her.. she can clean if I am in the room.. and assign tasks.. pick up the food toys.. ok.. good ... now pick up the books.. you can not expect a child this young to clean a room.. you are being unrealistic.

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answers from Seattle on

I am an adult (at least we'll assume so in internet land).

There are a number of things I CAN do, because I HAVE done them.

That does not mean I am capable of doing them independently, consistently, nor well.

Novelty & No Recourse creates AMAZING results in children. Spotless rooms (novelty, or mom's a drunk), snipers (some of the best shots in the world are children taking their turns out in the cliffs protecting their homes, they do it, like the child who has drunks for parents and cooks, cleans, and raises the other children... because there is nothing else to be done).

It sounds to me as if the novelty has worn off.

While she HAS done it, she has ALSO shown you that she is not yet consistantly capable of doing it herself. That's the other piece of the equation. She has shown you BOTH. That she can do it, but not independently, consistently, nor well on her own.

To get her room clean, after the novelty is gone, you gave her no recourse (loss of things she loves, like the child in the cliffs afraid for their family's lives).

Just a warning, you'll have to continue giving her no recourse ... or come up with a different method/ timeline.

Been there, and done that.

Not worth it, in my opinion. It's lost time AND fosters a dependence. Instead of learning to be more INdependent... the pattern forms of waiting for carrot or stick.

Nothing works for everyone... but one thing that worked with us was to have 'everyone' (aka both my son and I) clean at the same time. He in his space, me in mine, and both of us together. Just plain old normal. Every day. "What do you think, kiddo? Clean now or after lunch?"

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answers from Charlotte on

Added: Wow, your SWH is sharp. I totally agree with Jessie L - it's almost like nothing she does makes you happy. You truly sound like you are talking about a teenager.

Perhaps you like your house spotless and nothing out of place, and that is driving your perfectionist attitude with your daughter, I don't know. But I hope you will start trying to enjoy your daughter for who she is, rather than who you would rather her be. It will be a long road for you if you don't. :(


M., I'm sorry, but really, you are expecting too much! She's only 6. If you want her to take better care of her stuff, don't give her so much.

Too many clothes, too many toys, too many books, too many things, just overwhelm her.

Instead of expecting her to think like you and have an attitude that fits your perspective, let her be a child. That doesn't mean to let her have a tornado of a room. It means help her learn how to do it a little at a time.

You should throw out all and any toys that are broken. You should give away any toys that she has outgrown. You should put part of her toys in bins out of her reach and revolve them through so that she has different toys out at a time. Go through her clothes, make sure that only the current season is available to her, that all the smaller clothes are no longer there, and any clothes too large are in bins out of the way. Don't have so many clothes for her to deal with.

She is not a teen and she should not be expected to clean her room by herself. What she CAN do is follow your instructions IF you make it so that she can be successful. Get rid of all the STUFF. Then she can handle the room better and you'll have an easier time teaching her in the coming years how to do what you want.


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answers from St. Cloud on

To be honest, I think the bigger problem is your relationship with your daughter. It sounds like every little thing she doesn't do right REALLY grinds your gears. If a break from her doesn't resolve this, and you can afford it, get to a counselor.

You've got a long way to go in raising this child and you want to enjoy it enough to let the bad things be forgotten. I'm sorry if that is offensive especially since I don't know the whole story, but I'm reading between the lines with all these issues you're having with her.

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answers from Dallas on

My DD is 11 and oh goodness! She'd let the mice and roaches in before voluntarily cleaning ANYTHING! It's up to us as parents to help and guide our children. At 6, your daughter has an attention span of about 10 minutes. Give her a break. I know that you're stressed, but please try to be more patient with her. She's only 6.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Wow, just reading this makes me want to go chop my hair off... She's 6 for godsakes.... Don't you think she's feeling the stress that you are, too??

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answers from St. Louis on

It is her hair, perhaps she wants it different than you but you aren't accepting that? My daughter kept cutting her hair because she wanted bangs and I kept telling her you don't want bangs. Well she got them and hates them and now they have grown out and she is almost 11. If girls don't like the style you pick they will do something about it.

Her room is again her room, the condition only reflects her, not you. So far as packing goes she will have no one but herself to blame if she doesn't get it packed.

I think you need to chill. It really sounds like you are stressed from the moving and her going away and needing to stay on your schedule. Problem is you are taking your stress out on her and she is pushing back. Kids have a lot more energy than adults, in the battle of wills they will always win. We have the advantage with wisdom, use that.

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answers from Sarasota on

I think you should keep up with the coaching. My daughter is newly 5 and she has been picking up toys before nap and bed since she could walk (9 months). Of course I used to help and now I sort of coach her through. Things like, get all the stuffed animals, then when she's done that, I tell her okay now all the books and games. She also has cloth bins she keeps her things sorted in, but she can dump them all into one bin which makes it easier. One for pet shop stuff, one for legos, etc. Continue coaching or clean alongside her. I will often clean another room while she works on hers. This is a great motivator for her.

My daughter has had free access to art supplies since about 3, so I'm with you there as well. She knows if she misuses them, they are gone. If she cuts her long her, she will have short hair, which is a deterrent to her because she loves long hair. So that's a natural consequence, but I would take her scissors and make her ask every time she wants them.

I suggest you are feeling overwhelmed with your move and that is causing your frustration to sky rocket. Just try to keep it in perspective that she is six and that really isn't all that old. How did you feel at that age? Try to put yourself in her shoes. It's not about being strict or lenient, its finding what works for your family. Harmony in the home for everyone.

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answers from Dallas on

My 6 year old can't ever find her shoes! What's crazy is that we have a special shelf right by the door especially for shoes! It's a hunt every morning. I totally sympathize with you. I agree she can do the stuff you are asking. I teach 6 & 7 year olds and know what they are capable of. My dd can tell you where her shoes are supposed to be and will even go there to get them. It's the putting them there that's the problem. The kids in my class can not ever find their scissors ( some of them can); however, they all know they are supposed to be in their crayon boxes. It's the putting them there that's the problem. I think it's mostly the age, some personality, and a bit of testing boundaries. If you figure out how to solve it, lease let me know. Hang in there!

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answers from Seattle on

I am not in agreement with the feeling that at six years old she cannot clean her room by herself. It has been proven that of course she can. Children are highly capable of basic tasks such as cleaning up their own rooms. As for the cutting of her hair, sadly as you know kids do crazy things and perhaps she may never learn from her own mistake in this regard. I would recommend keeping her safety scissors away from her and only allow her to use them under your supervision at all times due to what she obviously is capable of doing with them.

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answers from Columbia on

"I am NOT strict and I do not have huge expectations"

Maybe give that a try. Children will meet your expectations, but its up to you where to set them - high or low. And guess what the equivelant of not setting them is?

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answers from Dallas on


Totally agree with Dawn on this one. You have to some point...she will begin to not even try, because she will never live up to your expectations. That's not how you want to set your child up!! This is so much less about your daughter, and more about you. (In my opinion.)

I REALLY hope you never say something again, like you did about her never coming back. It made me sad for you and your daughter. Those are the things parents say, that I feel they always come to regret. Even in anger, words like that can come back to haunt people. This is your child.

ETA: Saying it out loud, in your head, or on the internet...saying you'd want your daughter to go and never come back...even if you are "frustrated" an awful thing to say. Sorry, I just can't ever be OK with that.

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answers from Detroit on

At 6, they don't understand cleaning the way adults do. Just keep working with her. Keeping things neat and organized takes a long time for most kids to grasp. Don't worry, my 6 year old son is the same way. This is normal. He cleans, but he's still learning. It's a good idea to limit the amount of stuff they have and purge stuff every season. As far as the hair goes, kids do that. When my daughter was little, I always had her hair cut page boy style because I'm terrible with styling hair. When my daughter became a tween, I allowed her to let her hair grow out...omg...she refused to let me comb it and she didn't comb it well enough either. It got so bad, that I had to take her to the hair salon and 2 stylists worked for 40 minutes to get the tangles out. She was then told that if she didn't keep it up, it would be cut regularly...she learned fast:)

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answers from Champaign on

I know it's frustrating, but I have to agree with Dawn that your expectations are not age appropriate.

My oldest will be 6 this summer. We have not yet required him to do too much. He shares a room with his 3 year old brother, so asking them to keep their room clean is futile. When we do ask him to clean or pick up toys it is something we do immediately and something we do together.

If you want her to pack up things in her room, it needs to be immediate. "Suzy, here is a box to put your toys in. Let's put your favorite toys in the box." If you give her more than 20 minutes, she's already on to the next thing. She has long forgotten about the boxes later that day, never mind later that week.

I'm glad to hear you put the scissors away. We keep all scissors where the kids cant' get to them, even though they both are safe with scissors. When they want to play with play-doh or cut pater, we sit at the table and get the supplies out. Actually, this is true about markers, crayons, glue, etc. They may know how to use them, but they often choose to misuse them.

I understand your frustrations. I think you'll feel much better if you begin to rethink your expectations.

Are you sure she can't even where 2 ponytails? I bet a french braid would work.

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answers from San Francisco on

Picking what to keep or toss is overwhelming for an adult, I cannot imagine how it appears to a kid. Practice patience. Sounds like you are under a lot of stress with preparing to move. She feels your stress. You need to help her sort her toys and books, that is a really big job for someone so young to do alone. Cutting hair at that age unfortunately is not uncommon, kids love to cut and the hair is there so let's see what happens! One friend's daughter cut an entire piggy tail off her own head, another's shaved her eyebrows (picture it!) These moms were well versed on motherhood so they took it as it was, kids doing what kids will do when left alone. I hope you took a picture so you could look back when she is gone with a family of her own and laugh knowing she too will have her mommy moments!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

My granddaughter started cutting her hair at about age 4. She started with waist length hair that fell into natural curls. The first time she cut it it was whacked off right in front of her right ear. Then another time it was on top of her head, another and another. She cut it 6 times total. When she was finished her hair was just below her ears and she had minuscule bangs that would not even go back in a headband.

I was so sick that last time. I went for a drive and stopped to puke. Her hair looked so horrible. We had formal pictures set up for a week later, that was what made it so heart wrenching.

I decided she was not going to stop so she got a spanking. She got 2 swats on her hiney, 1 for cutting her hair and 1 for playing with scissors. She has not cut her hair since and she is now 8 1/2. She also knows if she really wants her hair cut she can talk to me about it and either I will cut it or we can have my other grand children's new mom cut it. She and her hubby adopted 2 of my grandchildren and she is beautician.

She needs to have some say in her hair but she also needs some punishment for cutting it too.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

I think the move is causing a lot of stress on the family. It sounds like she is a good kid, even doing the dishes and the laundry on her own. It sounds like the haircut created the frustration with the room and the two are not related, as you said "you lost it".

Just a thought...she sees you cut your own hair right?? Maybe she is trying to be like mom. Who cares if that is how it is for the summer when she visits family. They are not going to care and will be delighted to see HER.

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answers from Portland on

Time to hit the "reset" button, mama.

I really appreciate what many posters said and I'd like to share some concrete tips with you which might help you reframe how you are thinking about the situations at hand and how you are presenting them to your daughter.

First, I would try to take as much of an emotionally neutral approach about the haircutting. If you can do this, your manner will hand the problem back to her. While you might be lamenting the loss of 'hair you helped her grow', try not to show her this side of your feelings. This is a time when "Wow, you really cut your hair pretty short. We'll have to go to supercuts and see if they can fix it." and leave it at that. Let *her* ask about ponytails, etc. When it comes up later, just matter-of-factly hand it back to her. "Can I have a ponytail?" the answer is simple "Oh, no, when you chose to cut your hair, you made it too short for a ponytail. It will have to grow out again." Because she got a big reaction from you, it is likely to happen again, so be prepared and have your coolest, most "I could care less" voice ready to go. And I agree, scissors should be taken away and be on an 'asking' basis, where/when you get to supervise, because she's shown you she's not making good choices. (It's my belief that when we enforce some boundaries/rules around this stuff, our kids are happier and relieved, even if they act like they aren't. What we're saying is "I'm *not* going to let you use this to hurt yourself", which is essentially reassuring to a kid who feels out of control.)

In regard to responsibilities: the prospect of moving can cause some behavioral changes and plenty of anxiety for kids. I agree with not asking her to pack for herself. As a kid who moved many, many times when I was young, 'not packing' is synonymous for "I really don't want to move--if I don't pack, then mommy can't make us move." Yes, this is pretty magical thinking on her part, but it really makes sense. Please take this one off her plate. Plus, packing up all of her stuff this soon before the move likely won't leave her much to play with.

In regard to responsibilities, does your daughter have a printed and illustrated chart/list of things she does to help herself and the household/family? This may be a good start. She needs to have daily expectations and regular responsibilities. I've just made one for my son (5) and it includes the following:

Get dressed
Clothes to Laundry
Brush teeth/go potty (school prep)
Hang up coat/tote (after school)
Unpack lunchbox
Put clean clothes away
Quiet playtime
Clean up bedroom/play areas
Set table
Put on Pajamas/Clothes to laundry
Go potty/brush teeth/wash face
Hair wash (as needed)
Bath/body wash (as needed)
Recycling (weekly)
Put away groceries
Watch for crosswalk lights

These are his daily responsibilities. Does he do them unassisted, each and every day? no. Sometimes I give him verbal direction/reminders, sometimes (like picking up his room) I'll go in and ask if he wants company or if he can do it himself. I try to make it as relaxed as I can. If he needs help getting started, I can cue him "Start with all the dinosaurs first. Get them in their box." Sometimes, if he has an attitude, I'll give him that direction and then go tend to another task outside of his room. "Come get me when the dinos are put away and I'll help you figure out what's next." Sometimes, we have a lot of fun just being together.

When he refuses to clean up toys, I do put a timer on and let him know the consequences. "I see that maybe you don't want to take care of your toys. I'm coming back in ten minutes and everything that's out will go away for a while." Then they go into a box which I take away for a while (about seven days). This isn't a permanent 'going away', but long enough for him to miss them if he does like the toy. I also do sort through his toys when he's at preschool every so often and remove what's not being played with or things I think he's outgrown.

When responsibilities are not followed-through on, then we make things *his* problem. Table isn't set? Wow--you don't have any dinner because we can't eat! Better get that done! Daily tasks that aren't taken care of earlier means that we go into 'overtime' -- they still have to be done, and we start reading bedtime stories at 7, (we start the timer at 7pm for 20 minutes...this is what works for us), so if you go into 'overtime' getting tasks done, you don't get so much bedtime story time. We do much of our cleanup before I even start dinner, and I just remind him "If it's not done at bedtime, that's time off your stories".

Lastly, M., no, I don't think you'd like to export your child forever, and I've had those days too. If you are feeling pretty stuck, I'd highly encourage you to check out "Taking Charge: Caring Discipline that works at home and at school" by JoAnne Nordling. Ms. Nordling is the co-founder of the Parent Support Center in Portland and I've sat in on her Taking Charge workshops. I've been using this books in my work with kids and think it provides some very concrete, usable solutions for parents and teachers when it comes to disobedience and attitude. If that doesn't appeal, try the Love and Logic series. Good luck.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Okay....take a deep breath.
I feel your pain.
I think it's a 2-parter......

Some of it is attitude (her age)


some of it is personality type.

Some kids can be told to accomplish a project (put toys in boxes) and are able to carry it out w/o much, if any, prodding

Others cannot.

I know this first hand (not from my Psych studies) but from my own personal experience. Sister & I were and are very different people. In attitudes & personality type.

Some carry out directions easily & some become waylayed easily.

Make directions short & succint. To the point in 3-5 words or less.
Then do follow up shortly thereafter. While that leaves it on your shoulders to follow up, it will help accomplish what needs to be done.

Make sure you go back in in 1 hr & follow up.

Attitude can be dealt with & HELPED!

Personality type has to be "worked with".

Kind of like dealing w/my husb. I know he does not like long drawn out diatribes. Therefore I get my point across is as few words as possible. I speak to him about important things when I have his attention not when he is watching his show or plaing his game, etc.

It's ok to be mad & vent. Then it's time for find a reasonable solution.
Your daughter will be back. Her personality is on hiatus during this time.
Deal with this in 2 parts: obedience (give resonable directions in a reasonable amt of tiime) and attitude (part hormonal/age related and part testing limits as part of growth & gaining independence).

Hope this helps. Hang in there!

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answers from Portland on

I have a six year old and I think they get overwhelmed easily if the room is too messy when they are told to start cleaning. I usually make a game out of it. For example we pass a ball back and forth and if one of us drops it the other one gets to decide what we pick up first. Then we run into the room and quickly pick up all of those items. For example, we might start with books, then stuffed animals, then clothes, etc. We play the game until it's done. Works like a charm and we have fun doing it. Make it fun and it will get done. Expecting my 6 and 8 year old to be able to process cleaning at this point is too much to ask. They CAN do it, but they do get overwhelmed and sometimes aren't in the mood. I can totally understand that and it's our job to teach them to overcome those feelings by making it fun and show them a sense of accomplishment once it's all clean.

Also, I wouldn't worry about putting all the crafts items up high, but I'd sure put ALL the scissors up in a high cabinet and make her ask for them if she wants them. Then she would only be able to use them if she is supervised. I feel for you. Hair cutting is super frustrating!

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answers from Chicago on

First, I missed the age or it was not mentioned but it appears she is looking for some control in her life. There are a few things she can control, how she looks and her room. I would ask that ONE day a week her room be spotless then once she can keep up with that then I would ask that two days a week etc. Work your way up to clean consistantly - compromise. I sounds to me that you are telling her how she and her space will be and she is rebelling against that. You can compromise now or pay heck later - your choice.

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answers from Chicago on

The only thing I can suggest is you have to direct, give a time limit with a timer and follow through with the consequence. The consequence must be immediate.

My daughter is capable of a lot of things but likes to act like she can't do them. Because she doesn't want to do them.

I would walk into her room and get her started. I would say "Go get one toy that you want to keep and put it in this box." Then when she did it, I would say "Thank you. Now get another toy you want to keep and put it in this box." When she did it, I would say "Thank you. Now get another toy you want to keep and put it in this box." When she did it I would say "Thank you. You have now shown me that you understand how to put the toys you want to keep in these boxes. I am setting this timer for 15 minutes. Please put the toys you want to keep in these boxes. I will come back to check. If you are not doing this task, then I will throw away one toy that you have not put away."

Then come back in 3 minutes to make sure she's doing it. If she isn't, select one toy and throw it away. You just need to throw away one and she will get the hint.

Let her work for 15 minutes and then give her a break. She's only 6 and working past that is asking a lot. Once she's had a break, set the timer for 15 more minutes and let her get going.

I always have to do this with my 10 year old, still. She's a very smart, capable young girl.

As for cutting her hair, I think I would have ignored it! My daughter does lots of things for attention. I have found that ignoring them is the best solution. When she was younger she drew all over her face when she didn't want to do something. I ignored it, and later we went out to dinner with some friends. In the car she started crying because she was embarrassed. I said "There isn't anything I can do, you're the one who drew all over your face." She NEVER did anything like that again! (I did let her go to the bathroom and wash her face before we sat down to eat).

I'm working on NATURAL consequences. They seem to work the best. Good luck!

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