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My 8 Year Old Daughter Wants To Run Away When Disciplined

by Dee
(South Africa)

Hi Annie
I have a very loving kind daughter who is 8 years old. She was battling with school but is very smart so we are homeschooling her now.

Lately when I discipline her she goes ballistic and packs her bags and says she will go live on the street as everybody hates her and we would be better off without her. This is different to a child saying they hate us and will live with Granny.

Once she even said she should make a fire and run into it. Naturally this is very distressing for all of us. I have tried to impress on her how much we love her - we are a very loving cuddling family and are always vocalizing our love.

She mainly acts out when I yell at her when I am at my wits end and very tired. I always apologize for my behavior and explain why I was mad. What can I do to make her understand that running away from her problems will not solve them and that I am also a person and I occasionally yell when I get totally fed up and that does not mean I love her any less?

We also have a 5 year old daughter who idolizes the elder and the elder is very patient and kind to her little sister but she occasionally gets fed up with her and then pushes her or is mean to her. When I tell them both off the elder gets mad and says I love her sister more than her.

Generally they are both very sweet and well behaved and I have been told by many people how good they are by strangers as well as family. This behavior is so out of character for her.

Thank you

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Getting Mom In Sync - Then Build Self Esteem - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Dee,
Your daughter sounds like she is a bit of a drama queen! I suspect she has figured out that the more dramatic she is about not being loved, the more you react and worry - and it is working pretty well! Making a fire and running into it, is a pretty creative attention seeker! But it does sound like she is running some self belief stuff underneath which would be good to clear.

As a parent of course we worry when our kids say stuff like this, we think we have done something really damaging to them, or something is badly wrong, and of course we don't want to hear our kids don't feel loved. But I would actually play down the dramatic running away stuff when it is happening.

When she's angry and threatening to run away, or upset, don't get hooked into having to prove how much you care so she doesn't run away. Just simply reflect how she is feeling.

"Looks like you're really mad with me right now"

"You don't feel loved by me when I yell at you?"

"You're feeling hurt that . . .?"

Give her a chance to let off steam and just sit quietly giving her your calm attention without hyping up the drama. Of course if she actually starts lighting fires, or doing something that will harm her, then you do restrain her, but trying to stay calm. I know it is hard, as more than likely you will already be fired up yourself!

It does sounds like there is a dynamic that is happening between you and your daughter that would be good to unhook. I'll focus on you first, and then some ideas for things you can do with your daughter.

Clearly you are a loving family, but also like all of us there are times when you are overloaded and you loose your temper. So what would be great is for you to learn to get yourself centered and calm and back in touch with your loving heart.

When you start paying attention to how you feel, you will become more aware of the lead up to snapping, because it is likely that a lot earlier, you are starting to get into "struggle mode" or are not in tune with you. Our kids are usually pretty sensitive to our energy, and your daughter is likely to be picking up on you being out of sync WAY earlier than you are.

I don't want you to feel guilty, or give yourself a hard time, just use this as a learning and growing point and next time you yell or get mad, think back to what was happening prior to that. The odds are you were doing that you were resentful about, or starting to struggle with whatever you were doing. Maybe trying to MAKE your daughter complete her work, or trying to get them to cooperate with you and do something you wanted.

Once you have started to notice a pattern in when you get mad, then you can start to pick it up earlier. When you feel yourself starting to struggle, or feeling irritated, call a halt. Tell your kids, "I'm getting frustrated here, and I am going to take some time out to get myself feeling good again."

Part Two Follows . . .

Getting Mom In Sync - Then Build Self Esteem - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Then go and do ANYthing that helps you to get centered and calm and feeling good. Let go the struggle and come back to connecting with your loving.

You will be helping your daughters in several ways. Firstly, you are modeling to them how you notice how you feel and how you take responsibility for getting back to feeling balanced again. When we talk about our feelings and take responsibility for them, our kids not only learn about feelings, but they also learn they are not to blame for you feeling bad.

It is likely you are getting irritated or frustrated, and your daughter is absorbing all this, and thinking it is her fault. Then when you explode, it confirms her belief that she is not good enough, or not lovable. Our kids FEEL our love much more than our words telling them.

When you are not in touch with your loving, then your girls are aware of that, even if you might say something or apologize. Apologies can be useful, but if you are feeling guilty or bad about yourself for loosing it, then you are still not in touch with your loving. You actually have to connect with loving yourself.

As parents, if we can make our process overt, then we teach our kids about how to handle strong feelings. If your kids see you getting wound up, then yell at them, then apologize, then they are seeing the dramatic result of your feelings, but not the internal process of getting back in sync with who you really are. There is nothing wrong with strong feelings, it is how we react when we are not mindful of them that can be unhelpful.

I am not meaning to suggest you are yelling all the time, or a mean Mom! I can tell from your question, you are a very loving Mom, and care very deeply about your gorgeous girls.

But it is often the unacknowledged behavior we are running, that is affecting our kids the most. When we have unconscious stuff running, our kids are still picking up on it. The wonderful thing about having kids, is they offer us endless opportunities to become aware of what is driving us. There is nothing like having children to push our buttons!

Just be gentle with yourself, and start to notice when you are not feeling good. Particularly when it is in relation to the girls. That will be the time you are starting to run your stuff about having to be a perfect Mom (and now teacher!), and wanting your kids to be awesome kids so people can see what a good job you are doing. That kind of thing - there will be heaps of other stuff, maybe around proving your worth, not doing it like your parents, not feeling good enough yourself - I am just putting possible things out here, not suggesting these are your unconscious issues.

My point is, the more we show our kids that we notice our own issues or feelings and deal with it, which is finding ways to feel good, then the more we are helping our kids to learn resources to feel better. Instead of having to dramatically run away!

Part Three Follows . . .

Getting Mom In Sync - Then Build Self Esteem - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Our belief systems develop in all sorts of ways, some stuff gets entrenched because of our personality type, we may have come in karmic stuff to clear, there can be stuff from birth or pre-birth, and then we draw conclusions from all our experiences in life.

Somewhere your daughter has taken on board some stuff about not being loved, or not being lovable. So unconsciously when she is mad about something, or she feels you are out of sync, she collects that as a bit of evidence that she is not lovable. So that adds power to her belief.

You clearly cuddle and show affection, and say you love her, so there is lots of loving happening in the family, so her beliefs are unconscious and not really rational. You'll probably never know if there was one thing that set it up, or a series of things that got reinforced, and it doesn't really matter. It may be her journey in life to unravel it. To a large extent as parents we take on everything as our responsibility with our kids. She is actually a little being in her own right, and will learn to take responsibility for clearing her own stuff.

It can be very hard as a parent to see our kids not feeling good about themselves or life. But don't feel it is up to you to HAVE to clear up all her issues, life will bring lots of challenges for your girls, and the best thing you can do to help them, is show them how you deal with challenges, or turn things around when you are feeling out of sync. We are not perfect, every parent gets frustrated and angry, and we all have plenty of times when we are doing things for the family when we actually need some time out for ourselves.

One thing that would be good to do with your daughter, is have some regular one on one special time with her. (each of them actually) As the eldest, she was used to your undivided attention, then along came a little sister and she may feel a bit sidelined in some way. Even though she clearly loves her sister and is mostly great with her (and all older siblings get sick of little sisters some of the time) - she still needs special time with her Mom. Actually it is great if all family members can have special one on one time with each parent. Go and do something together, make this her time to get your undivided attention.

You can also set up a daily mini one on one time. If each child gets 15 minutes that does not get interrupted - or if it does, then the time gets added to the end - then they get regular time that they KNOW they are priority. The other family members learn to respect that time. Some families take minutes off the interrupter if there is a pattern of interrupting. If they interrupt they only get 10 minutes and their sister gets 20 mins, then kids quickly figure it out!

That alone will go a long way to healing the stuff she is running about you loving her little sister more.

Part Four Follows . . .

Getting Mom In Sync - Then Build Self Esteem - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

The next thing I would do is work with affirmations. (you too!) Simple things like chanting "I'm amazing" or "I'm a cool kid and everyone loves me". You can shout out together all the things you love about your life - helps the kids to focus on what is good, and learning to appreciate and give gratitude. You will be surprised at what they will come up with.

These are also great things you can do yourself - which helps her to see that your feelings are not her fault, and she also learns from you how you shift yourself.

Affirmations work more powerfully when kids are already feeling good. It is a lot harder to get them doing affirmations when they are feeling bad and grumpy! But if they practice when they are going well, it reinforces positive beliefs.

You can integrate them into your homeschooling - get them to write down all the great things about themselves (you too!) then the other family members also add to the list. Then take turns "claiming" the power in them, by chanting them, yelling them, making them bigger and more energetic. The kids will end up laughing and yelling and that energy will work wonders.

You can also read out each others list, reinforcing it by telling them with heaps of energy. Make it into a game of who can add the most power to it, be each other's cheer-leader! (plus they have done a reading and writing and acting exercise without even realizing it!)

You can read more about using affirmations with kids here:
Positive Affirmations For Kids

With homeschooling you have lots of opportunities to be flexible and creative about the topics you focus on. You can still do the lesson, but choose to focus on self esteem based topics. Art can be Amazing Me posters, Math can be 101 ways I'm a cool kid - They can write stories about kids with super powers, or kids overcoming huge challenges. They can research about kids who are doing amazing things in the community to make a difference in the world, they can set up a community project in your own neighborhood.

Part Five Follows . . .

Getting Mom In Sync - Then Build Self Esteem - Part Five
by: Annie Desantis

The other thing that works really well with affirmations is EFT - Emotional Freedom Technique or tapping as it is often known. If you are familiar with it, it would be great to use that with your daughter to tap out the bad feelings or feeling unloved, and then tap in the affirmations.

I wouldn't introduce it when she is mad, get her familiar with it first, then you can remind her to use it when she is getting mad (you too!) - or you can just quietly tap when she is letting off steam.

If you are familiar with EFT, you can actually surrogate tap for your kids. Although I recommend to parents that they tap out their own stuff around the child's behavior, or reactions first. So for you it would be something like "I feel terrible that my daughter doesn't think I love her" "what have I done wrong that my daughter feels unloved?"

Basically any of the thoughts and in particular the feelings you are having when your daughter threatens to run away. If your kids get used to seeing you tapping, and you use it as a tool to help you clear your stuff, then again, they will learn it much quicker, and take it on board easily.

You can read more about using EFT with kids here:
EFT Tapping

And the tapping points I use and a tapping sequence here:
EFT Tapping Points

I actually have an EFT program for parents to teach children (and parents!) how to use EFT, and I also talk a lot about clearing your own stuff first. The EFT 4 Kids program comes with scripts parents can use, and I also will make up a personalized script for parents that have purchased the manual. You can find out some more here if you are interested:
EFT for Kids: A Parent's Manual

If you are familiar with EFT, you can check out our forum, or ask more questions about using EFT here:

EFT for Kids Forum

It sounds like you have a feisty 8 year old there Dee, she will be fine I am sure. The love in your family is very powerful, and she will let it all over time.

Wishing you JOY with your two lovely girls,
Annie D :)

Keep On Going
by: Lindsey

Hi, I just wanted to let you know that earlier this year my son was also saying he wanted to hurt himself..... he was just 9 years old.

It is devastating to hear your child say such terrible things. You fall in to the trap of believing them and jump each time they shout "Boo".

We sought professional help and we discovered that our family dynamics were out of sync.
When he was very small he was quite ill and we almost lost him a couple of times.... these events haunted me and my son.

My son had some worries about his life and he would draw these for the psychologist - skeletons, nightmare stuff

Talking to a 3rd person together and separately with a professional can help both of you. These people can explain feelings in a way your child can comprehend.

My son today is a different child and I've stopped being over protective. As a result of my confidence in him, he is finding his own confidence.

Now when he tries a tantrum, he is left to get on with it alone and knows that he will also have a punishment thrown in for being such a horrible monster..... so the tantrums are now quite rare.

Somethings are best not done alone.... I really advise getting some basic help. Help for kids is not counted in years but months, they are young and adaptable.

You will also learn something about yourself.
Best of Luck

Thanks Lyndsey :)
by: Annie Desantis

Thanks for taking the time to share a little of your journey with your son. Hearing from other parents is so helpful, and it sounds like you have learned a lot from getting professional help.

As you say, learning about yourself gave you a lot of insights into the family dynamic, and when you changed how over protective you were being, it made a bit impact on how your son saw himself.

Well done, and thanks so much for sharing your story,

Annie D :)

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