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My Ten Year Old Daughter

Dear Annie,

I have 4 kids 10,8,7,and 4 years old. The three older kids are girls and the youngest is the boy.

I have been having problems with my eldest girl the 10 year old for a long time.
- she does not like to be hugged or kissed.
- she does not tell us what runs in her mind.
- her performance in school is dropping.
- In class she has no friends, her writing varies sometimes neat and sometimes so bad.

She studies but when she goes for the exams she is unable to produce. The Teachers are complaining.

At home she always fighting with her siblings does not want to have or share the things commonly.

She is very stubborn and aggressive and speaks rudely.

I am very worried I don't know how to handle her.

Please please help me.

Comments for My Ten Year Old Daughter

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Unhappy Ten Year Old - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

I'm sorry to hear you are so worried about your eldest daughter, there is nothing that stresses a Mom out more, than a child that seems to be getting a bit out of control.

The first thing that comes to mind, is your daughter may well be moving into puberty - or at least pre-puberty, and her hormones are probably a bit up and down. And then being the eldest she will be feeling the pressure of having to
"lead the way". We tend to put much higher expectations on our eldest children, in a way we are cutting our teeth parenting the first child!

You said she does not like to be hugged or kissed, has she always been like this, or is this a new thing? Teenagers often start getting very body conscious and a bit prickly about being cuddled, but usually they swing back and forth
between wanting to be a little girl, and wanting hand's off, I'm a teenager now. Your daughter sounds a little young to be at that stage, and usually teenagers still want a hug every now and then (just not in front of friends and only on their terms!)

I know it is hard for you, but in one way, it is really good that she is setting her own boundaries around being touched. Having the right to NOT kiss and cuddle relatives should be every child's right. But we often make our children
go and kiss an elderly relative. My Mom when she was young, used to pinch them at the same time as dutifully kiss! So it is great that she is making a stand for what she wants. But very hard for you to feel shut out.

However, we all want and need love, affection and cuddles and if she used to be fine with kisses and cuddles and now isn't, I wonder if something has happened that has contributed to her shutting you out? Did it suddenly start, or has it just come on gradually?

The fact that her performance in school is dropping, and combined with all the other things, does make me wonder if something has happened that has had an impact on her. Has there been any major changes in her life? Did she have friends but now doesn't, did she used to get on with her siblings and you?

Of course if she is not talking it is really hard to find out if something else is going on for her that she is struggling with.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Unhappy Ten Year Old - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

What I would suggest, is really build on the positive aspects of the relationship. She is a child and she needs you. Being the oldest she has probably often been a bit sidelined while you take care of the other children - three times as a little girl she has had to step further back while you look after little sisters and a brother.

I suspect she needs to feel special. I think she needs time with you and also her Dad, on her own, and I think she needs HEAPS of positive reinforcement.

When kids start acting up, we start coming down on them, and then when it continues we start expecting it, and start thinking about them and reacting to them as a problem child. When we do this we are actually adding to it. She starts to feel justified that I'm not important, no-one loves me, I'm a pain in the A.... etc.

Is her behavior acceptable? No, but it is telling you she is unhappy. There may not be any one thing that "happened" - like bullying etc, but it may just be an accumulation of her feelings over the years, a bit of hormone changes and she
has decided she is not lovable, or no point in trying at school, or get the younger kids before they get me.

Start making some special time with her - and it would be good if her father can have one on one time with her too. Don't make it big deal about trying to get her to talk, what you are wanting to do first, is to build her trust in you. To start building the belief that she is special, that she is important, that you want to be there for her.

Kids seldom talk to us when we think they should, it is more often at incidental times, when there is not such a big focus. Like in the car, over the dishes etc. When you create opportunities on a regular basis where you are paying her positive
attention and being available, she will start to trust that you are there for her and start opening up.

You are a busy family, and I know it is hard to find time to just be with one child at at time, but in the long run it will use up far less energy and if family times are more positive and fun, then you will feel less stressed anyway.

See if you can find something you can do on a regular basis together that is fun, a walk, join a class, girls day out, find out what she is interested in and be involved in that. Every day make a point of finding and saying something you appreciate about her. Start putting more focus on looking for good behavior, rather than reacting to the bad.

Part Three Follows . . . .

Unhappy Ten Year Old - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Keeping the communication open is hard when you are getting negative stuff back, but if you build positive things with her, then she is going to feel better about talking to you.

I would back off on confrontational or discipline issues unless they are really important. If she is getting 70% negative interactions (because of her behavior) if you do something different, it will go a long way to change the dynamic. Make a point of noticing things she does that are good. Make sure every day you find something to talk to her about that she is doing well. Let some of the other stuff slide a bit.

Now the conflict with her siblings, it is not just her. The dynamic between brothers and sisters is a tricky one. Learning to "fight" or stand up for yourself, learning to negotiate and problem solve is actually really important skills kids learn from interaction with their siblings.

I suspect being the eldest she gets more than her share of the blame for conflict. You can't have conflict all by yourself, there will be other
dynamics happening with the other kids that play a part. The odds are you are only seeing part of the story, you are probably trying to cook dinner or get kids off to school and you hear the end when she says something nasty, or the younger kids cry or complain to you.

You can encourage all the kids to say how they feel, instead of put downs. Kids tend to resort to name calling, storming off, or throwing a tantrum if they don't learn to handle conflict in more productive ways.

You may want to look at how your own family handled conflict. More than likely you and your partner and repeating how you grew up. Your daughter is showing you she is angry, maybe she doesn't feel she gets a fair say, or is not happy in what is going on.

You may see her as the person at fault but there is more to it than that.

Try to encourage all the kids to say how they feel - making an "I" statement, instead of blaming. Try to turn the focus onto how can we sort this out, rather than punishing the bad behavior.

A talking stick or doll can work well, so whoever has the doll/stick is the person who is talking - everyone else is to listen. Encourage them to say how they feel, and what they think would be a good solution for everyone.

Often kids bicker and fight and as parents we make more of it. I used to hate hearing my kids fight but often if I interfered, they would gang up on me! Kids need to learn to sort things out themselves to a large extent. You can have some basic ground rules like non violence and no put downs, but rather than stepping in to stop the fighting, or to discipline the children, coach them to sort it out in a more positive productive way. Kids that learn to solve problems and negotiate through conflict, are gaining invaluable skills.

Part Four Follows . . . .

Unhappy Ten Year Old - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

Just try to get back in touch with how much you love your daughter. I know you care very deeply for her, but when you are constantly getting bad behavior you will more likely be thinking about how horrible she is being. Try to reconnect to your love for her and interact with her from that place, rather than from your frustration and disappointment.

Build those bridges, make lots of opportunities to be alone with her in positive ways, and keep the doors open for her so she can start to open up and let you know how she feels. Then you can work out together how to help her be a happy ten year old.

Wishing you JOY,
Annie Desantis

My Ten Year Old
by: Yazzy

Dear Annie,

Thank you for your advice, I will do my utmost best to try and change my attitude though very difficult.

Will be in touch.

Hang In There!
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Yazzy,

I know it is not easy to switch how you interact with a child that seems to be so difficult, and is causing so much friction.

So you can probably imagine how hard it is for her too, to interact any differently. As the parent, you have the bigger picture in your heart of a happy confident ten year old, doing well in school and being open and talking to you. If you are struggling as a parent to deal with her, imagine how difficult it is for a child to break a negative pattern. You have the responsibility as the parent to try a different approach, and to try to open up the lines of communication again. We tend to want our kids to earn our approval first by behaving well, but I promise you, she will start interacting more positively if she is getting a lot more positive input into her.

It won't happen overnight, and she will continue to test you, but I am sure she will start responding, or at least starting to share with you how she feels, if she has positive one on one attention and time.

Good luck, let me know how you go.
Annie D:)

10 year old
by: Anonymous

Dear Annie,

I feel so relieved writing to you... I will keep you updated.

Kind Regards

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