teachermom's picture
teachermom

My 8-year-old daughter is suffocating me!

OK, I'm new to message boards, but I'm desperate. (Well, not yet, but summer break starts Thursday, so I will be soon.) My 8-year-old daughter is a wonderful, creative, energetic, beautiful little girl. I love her to death and do spend time with her (I work fulltime as a teacher, so I have summers off too), but I also need my own space. My issue with her is that she wants my attention 24/7 and then some. She is extremely competitive with her 10-year-old brother (in all things, including my attention). When I do give her my attention, she is loving life. If I'm not, she's spending all her energy trying to get it back. Unfortunately, when I feel like she is suffocating me, I do give her warnings, but she doesn't back off, and often I find myself yelling at her to leave me alone and give me room. This is certainly not the adult/mature way to handle this, but I am pushed to my limit several times a week. In the past, I have tried giving her scheduled "Mommy/Suzie time" and that worked for a short time, but even that got to be frustrating as she demanded more and more things out of that. I need some strategies from the wonderful parents out there as to what to say, or what to do, or how to handle things so I don't get to the frustrated point so quickly. I'd also love to modify her behavior, because I see some of these same behaviors with friends. She tries to monopolize an activity and is seen as a bully sometimes. Thanks in advance for your help!!



Brindy's picture
Brindy

If you have already explained to Susie thet sometmes you need some time alone and she hasn't responded appropriately. If you are giving her 30 min. of Mommy/ Susie time tell her now it's time for your alone time. Suggest a couple things she can do while you take your break explain to her that she is not to intterupt. Choose a quite place to sit and relax read a book or whatever and if she interrupts your time alone tell her the next time she interrupts you she will have to spend the remainder of your alone time in time out. I  have found it helpful also to allow the children to help me with chores not just sending them to clean thier room. Get her to help out when your cooking and cleaning she can open cans set the table help wash dishes but make sure she is helping you not you sitting in a chair giving orders it will make her feel important and included.

Trying2BLive's picture
Trying2BLive

I'm a teacher mom too!  And my daughter is the same way--and she's only just turned five.  This is our first summer without daycare (I don't have to work or take classes this summer--and I'm kind of missing it!)  I've tried the time outs, tried "parallel" activities (she paints, I read) but she always wants me to do anything WITH her.  She is not shy or anything, she just can't seem to do anything by herself (except watch TV which I won't let her...)  I'm so jealous of my friends whose daughters will play dolls or whatever in their room for half an hour all by themselves!

verbrook90's picture
verbrook90

Hi Teachermom,

I have an eight year old son.  All I can say is consistancy, consistancy, consistancy!  It is so important that you stick with your limit setting.  Continue with your Mommy/Susie time, that is great.  When the situation gets frustrating, stop, deep breathe, remind yourself that you are the adult, the parent,  and you can do this!  I know how frustrating this can be.  Once I had to leave the room and scream my  head off in my pillow.  Remind yourself frequently that her behavior is going to be challenging.  Remind yourself of your plan of action.  Eventually your daughter will respect the limits.  There is a great website called parentingsos.com written by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel who has wonderful parenting tips.  Good Luck!

angelslodge's picture
angelslodge

Hi, I'm now a grandma, but I remember when my kids were little, how glad I was to have more than one child!  When my youngest was finally the last one in the house with me, he too drove me crazy demanding all my time until his siblings got home from school.  I solved the problem by taking in another child of the same age to play with him.  I'd suggest that you invite your daughter's friends to your home after school and weekends.  Let them entertain one another.  (I was an only child, and was always being told to go to my room to play with my dolls.  No TV or computers in those days.  My own solution was to invite friends or go visiting.)

hownaive's picture
hownaive

It does take tremendous patience to have young kids, especially if you get burned out by kids at work (I'm a teacher, too). I remember that age. Luckily, I had boys who adored their dad and wanted to follow him around. He loved it. (He is not a teacher.) 



This may seem obvious, but can't you arrange for playtime with other kids on a regular basis. I have other teacher friends who have kids the same age as mine. When they were young we would schedule play time (knowing full well it was as much for us as for them). Even if just the two moms take the two girls to the local pool (or in our case the beach at the lake), then you would get to sit in your chairs and chat while the girls were busy. Even if the other girl comes over to your house, a couple hours will go by before they even think of you, they'll be having so much fun.

Then, of course, they become teenagers and are gone so much you beg for them to do something with you. 

Also, during the school year, back when I taught at an inner city middle school, I made it very clear to my family that when I got home from work I was going into the decompression chamber for 45 minutes (my room). I just had to explain it once and they didn't bother me during that time. I did it almost everyday. Of course, it was my husband making sure the two boys understood. But, I had to, or I would have been miserable to be around if I hadn't.
Cristi555's picture
Cristi555

The suggestions are great but it does not seem that anyone is getting to the root of the daughter's problem. I notice during your message that you say "She is extremely competitive with her 10-year-old brother (in all things, including my attention)". This sounds like you give priority to him or that SHE THINKS that you are giving priority to him. It sounds like she feels that she HAS to compete with him for your attention. I am curious because although some kids come out needing so much more than others, I wonder why the rivalry is SO prevalent? I have 3 kids, 10, 8 and 5. Right from the beginning, I knew I had to deal with sibling rivalry (being the middle of 3 probably gave me a better heads up of what to expect anyway). I constantly told them (all of them) that I loved them all just the same. If one steps out to get more than the others or feels that the others are getting more than he/she is, I ask them for their insight. I listen to why they feel the way they do. I validate their point of view (notice I am not necessarily saying agree) - all kids need validation, and I explain again that I love each of them the same amount. I am worried that she thinks that you are pushing her away and is trying harder to get your love because of it. Give her a hug, tell her you love her. Say "I am going to read by myself for half an hour in my room" (or whatever) and then say, "it's time for you to find something to do in your room". Don't say "why don't you . . . ." It sounds like the opening to a discussion. At first, she may whine or argue. Gently touch her arm and calmly say, "It's not OK to whine, please use a normal voice" Then say, "right now I am going to (fill in blanks again)" This way, you reassure her that you do love her as much as her brother, you reassure her that doing something by herself will not cost her your love, and you reassure her that you know what you are doing.

mommio's picture
mommio

Hi Teachermom...I also have an 8 year old daughter as well as a 2 year old son and 4 stepkids (ages 6,8,10,11) and I understand exactly what you are going through.  It was only my daughter and myself for a long time until I met my husband and his kids.  I thought my daughter would have no issues adjusting to our new family because she had built-in best friends (my step-daughters are 6 and 10...same age & interests).  What I didn't see coming was that after having 6 years of one-on-one attention from me she now had to share me with 5 other people.  She would stick to me like glue, literally wrapped around my legs to the point that I couldn't walk.  She was demanding, complaining, constantly begging for my attention every minute she was awake.  Once I realized it was not just her acting spoiled, but really needing more of me I gave it to her, but on set terms.  We started working on this about 6-8 months ago.  Keep in mind, too, that around age 8 kids often seem to lose their self-esteem and question their worth.  She may need reassurance of not only your love for her, but also what a terrific, smart, creative and special child she is.  Waht we do is sit alone, uninterrupted, for 30 minutes every morning/afternoon and no TV is allowed.  We either talk or play games or go for a walk when there is someone to watch the other kids.  Then we have time every evening, at least 20 minutes, and this is "choice-time" when my daughter chooses the activity.  Sometimes we play checkers, sometimes we watch Hannah Montana, sometimes we play her zoo-vet computer game.  She gets one-on-one time consistantly which reassures her of her place in my heart.  But the trick is strictly enforcing the set times.  It took alot of whining on her part and patience on mine, as well as patience from the other members of our family.  And it took a lot of time...it DID NOT happen in a matter of a few days or weeks.  We both had to work on it.  But I also sat her down and talked about it.  She really understood how mommy needed time to be healthy, to relax and do what mommy likes to do.  I also told her how when mommy is relaxed and healthy she's happier and then there is less yelling and fighting.  She wants a happy house too, so she and I came up with our alone time routines together.  I think having her help outline things really helped the situation. She is responsible for the choices she outlined.  The most important thing is to constantly remind her, even when it isn't set time to be together, is that you are in her heart and you love her no matter where she is or what either one of you is doing.  If you are reading a book, tell her the title and encourage her to draw a picture of what she thinks the book is about, judging by the title.  Have her make a list (make her do it) of things she can do alone or while you are busy so when she starts to whine or complain you can grab the list off the fridge and say "lets pick one together for you to do".  She may need guidance for a while, but be firm with your limits.  For your alone time the first few days have the two of you make a small scrapbook of Mommy & Suzie pictures.  When she is feeling she needs you and you are busy at the time, she can grab the book and focus on happy times the two of you shared.  This will change her focus from "I need you" to "I had fun with you" and redirect her to a happier mood.  It will work out in the end, be patient.  Let me know how it is going!

teachermom's picture
teachermom

I want to thank ALL the moms who responded so far!!  You have some wonderful ideas, but more importantly, I feel as if there are moms out there who really understand where I'm coming from.  And sometimes that's more important!  It's so hard to balance self and the demands of parenting.  Some days I just want to be left alone, but that's not possible with children! And sometimes a "Bad Mommy Moment" can end up hurting a child's self-esteem (I had one of those last week, where I acted like the child). I like the one suggestion that said I should EXPECT my daughter to behave a certain way and that way I could minimize my reaction to her. I do realize that I am part of the problem here as well. Also, I loved some of the ways you moms suggested I say things...sometimes it's just the phrasing that can make all the difference.  I really don't feel that I favor my son over my daughter, but I guess it's her perception that's important and I need to recognize it, even if I don't agree with it.  I also loved the idea of getting her input for suggestions of what to do...have her write it herself (take ownership of it), so she can choose her own activity when I am busy with my own things. I already include her in the cooking, cleaning, laundry activities (and she loves these), but it is still never enough and sometimes I just want to hang out on the computer for a while and that can't involve her. Another great suggestion: timing our special time so that it's set in stone and has a definite beginning and ending.  She is a schedule girl, for sure, and this will fit in well with her. In fact, you guys might laugh: I made a "daily schedule" for her on a spreadsheet that tells exactly what we do each day and when... she hung it up on the closet door, made and attached a pencil holder (out of paper), and crosses out each activity as we do it.  If we miss something, she brings it to my attention immediately!  And she won't cross it off unless we actually do it!  So if I tell her we're baking banana bread, we're BAKING BANANA BREAD!  (This really happened!...although we made the bread a day later.) So I guess I need to remember what makes her tick and work with it.  When we went for an overnight trip, instead of just looking through her suitcase after the fact, I made her a list of everything she needed to pack.  She quickly and quietly packed up everything and proudly showed me her list -- with everything checked off!  One more thing that made me feel like I'm not alone....the other teacher moms who know what it's like to come home and need to "decompress" after a long day with other people's children!  It's strange how you can love a job that involves kids, but need a break from the one's you gave birth to!! Moms, thanks for much for the suggestions -- keep them coming!  And I'll let you know things are going.  Thanks again.

npaton's picture
npaton

Dear teachermom,

I have 2 children, a nine year old daughter and a 14 year old son. My daughter was much the same as yours and although I'm not a teacher I do work with children also. I found that using a reward board worked with my children really well. I made a special chart for the children and also added one line for both the children for cooperating with each other. So they both had their individual lines but also one they had to work on together. They had to acheive 10 stars of different colors the last being a gold sticker, once acheived they then got to pick a reward from the choices I picked for them. Examples: Going to the park, going for a swim or maybe a special treat of some kind.
This mixed with a good routine, sporting activities, and lots of reminding that I love them both equally has seemed to work.
She still becomes clingy at times but she is much easy to handle now. And she has even found some intrests of her own that she likes to do. Which is great.

npaton