Even the best intentioned parents, when they use ineffective parenting techniques, raise disrespectful children. I get an amazing number of calls from parents who have lost control of their children. The key is for parents to not forget “parenting” is a full time job and requires being able to say “no” and model appropriate parenting behaviors. Too many loving parents must learn true love for our children is to teach them to be good human beings who effectively live and contribute in our society. I believe the following response to a question to me may be helpful
I’m having major disrespect problems from my ten year old daughter. She tells me to shut up and will not do what I want unless she wants to. But then she will be wonderful when I get mad and threaten her with punishment. But I hate getting mad at her. Her therapist is concerned because I’m not consistent in taking her for appointments. But some days when she’s supposed to go to therapy, things come up that will be good for her and I cancel. Now I’m getting calls from school about her making inappropriate comments to teachers and students. My ex-husband says he does not want to, but is threatening to seek primary physical custody if I don’t gain her respect and take control. I think he’s unfair. I’m lost, but don’t want to hurt her self-image by always being mad at her. What should I do?
You need to immediately respect yourself and see her treatment of you as something you have allowed due to low self-esteem. Say to yourself, “I will no longer tolerate these behaviors for her sake and my sake.”
You need to change your outlook and discipline strategies to take on an effective parenting role. To begin with, have no tolerance for your daughter telling you to “shut up” and not do what you want when it is a reasonable request. These are learned behaviors and good parenting requires you to set reasonable standards for her behavior with clearly known and logical consequence punishments when she does not do what is expected. For example, let her know for each “shut up” she says to you she will not watch television, play games, do what she likes, etc. for 24 hours. You cannot waver on whatever reasonable consequence you determine.
Meet with her and clearly discuss what will be unacceptable and what the consequences will be for inappropriate behaviors. To get her involved will enhance the process due to her investment in it.
That she is “wonderful” when you get mad and threaten her with punishment has a positive side because it shows she can behave if she wants to. The problem is that she and not the parent is in charge of her behavior.
She needs limits to become an effective person. Limits on her inappropriate behavior is a form of love. It helps allow her to develop a sense of right and wrong and be a good human being.
If you and her therapist have an agreed upon treatment plan for her, you need to make sure she goes to her sessions for her sake and also to show you will carry though with what needs to be done to make her a more effective human being. The therapist cannot help her if you do not consistently take her to planned sessions. The message is that the sessions are not important and this will diminish their effectiveness. You also need to work with the therapist so you both are going in the same direction to help her.
That her “inappropriate statements” have transferred to school is a bad sign that they will only get worse until your daughter learns to behave. Changes must begin immediately at home.
The best way to not have to deal with changes in custody is to positively take control of your daughter as an effective and loving mother. If you do not do this and problems continue, then if your ex-husband can demonstrate he can be a more effective parent, you do run the risk of custody change. To eliminate making unnecessary custody changes, make every effort to be an effective parent. You, your daughter, and her father deserve it. As hard as it may be to even think about, if you cannot control her at home and she continues to behave poorly at school, then a change in custody may be what is best for your daughter.
You may find ongoing therapy may also help you to develop better self-esteem and be more effective and less defensive as a parent.
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