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Child being too stubborn, angry. Does not make friends. Need advice to sort out the behavioral problems

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Practicing since : 2000
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My daughter has become too much stubborn , her temperament is too high ...she don't mix with other kids and ultimately to control her I need to raise my voice and immediately she will do same but i am not able to make her understand that whatever she is doing in not right .she does mistake says sorry and will do again .... Before 1 year she use to have her lunch properly she was a very happy child use to talk with kids but from last 6-7 months she don't want to listen. If she will start crying for some thing she will keep doing that for long time . Though still i will not provide her that but I am not able to tolerate her this behavior for long time and finally I had to shout on her . But I feel this is not helping me and day by day her behavior is getting horrible . Some time I feel she is missing her father as he is traveling abroad ..but then I am not able to understand
Posted Sat, 5 May 2012 in Parenting
Answered by Dr. Abhijeet Deshmukh 26 hours later

Thank you for describing your query in details. I hope my response is helpful to you.

From the description you have provided, it seems that your daughter's situation has been increasingly becoming unmanageable. However, there is certainly a lot you can do to improve the situation. With a few modifications, you can begin to manage the situation better and teach your daughter how to control her emotional reactions (anger, frustration, etc.) in a better way.

Before I write further, I would like to mention here that it is always the best strategy to consult a Child Mental Health Professional (Child Psychologist/ Child Psychiatrist/ Psychotherapist) where the professional can interview the child personally for assessment of the problem and for providing management recommendations. However, until you find a suitable expert in your area, you can follow the tips I have written towards the end of this reply.

It has been established by psychologists, who have studied children's behavior that “children are born with a natural (innate) capacity to think and behave irrationally”, in ways that do not seem logical. However, this irrational thinking/behavior does not persist for a long time. It is partially replaced/reduced by the development of "rational thinking and logical reasoning". What this means is - children gradually learn to think more and more logically and rationally. As a result, their behaviors are also seen to improve. This change to rational thinking is seen to happen around the age of 6-7 years of age. Until then, the child may continue to think/behave irrationally.

Your daughter is 4 years old. And she seems to be in this stage of life where she is yet to develop the ability to think logically and rationally for herself and about others. This seems to be the main problem why her behavior is becoming unmanageable.

A well known psychologist has studied parent-child relationships extensively and he has mentioned that the age of 3yrs to 5 yrs is crucial for a child's development as far as relationships with parents is concerned. A child will develop healthy psychological attitudes if both the parents are present during this age. In your daughter's case, her father is not present with her, probably for a major part of her life these days. This factor might be adding to the problem.

Let us categorize this situation into parts as -

1) Problem assessment
2) Managing anger of the daughter
3) Managing own emotional reactions

1) Problem assessment

The reason I have included this section is - Your child may not be in a position to understand that she has committed a mistake. The word "mistake" has different meaning for a child and for a grown up. So, even if you think she has done something wrong or made a mistake .... your child may not really understand that what she did was a mistake. In fact, at her age, she has not yet formed a clear picture of "mistake" in her mind. As a result, even if she may accept verbally that she has made a mistake and says sorry; she is not able to understand the real meaning of mistake and future implications.

Hence, for you, it may appear as a mistake or a wrong doing, but for her, it may not appear in the same way. In short, the problem is only very clear in your mind, but not in your daughter's mind.

Problem assessment is something you need to do on your level. The actual problem is her "behavior", and not whether she understands and accepts her mistakes. That's why it will not be much helpful to try to explain to her that she has done a mistake ... especially when she is angry and throwing a tantrum. Logical reasoning may not help much at this stage.

Summary = The problem is not about her understanding, but it is about her behavior (shouting/anger/stubbornness, etc.)

2) Managing anger of the daughter

Children at this age (or even older age) tend to use irrational thinking which leads to the unwanted behaviors. They tend to over-react and blow things out of proportion. But they DO NOT understand that their "thinking" is leading them to "unwanted behavior". In other words, your daughter does not know that her behavior is a problem behavior and that her thinking is the reason behind her behavior. Here are a few tips you can use to help your daughter control her anger.

>> Teach her the meaning of "emotions and feelings". Since she is not an adult, she will not understand sentences. You will have to invent new own techniques for this purpose. You can use some common games and articles to demonstrate to her that certain feelings are emotions are called by certain names. For example, you can draw a picture of an angry child with an angry expression on face, and tell her that this expression means "anger". Similarly, you can educate her about some other common feelings such as frustration, XXXXXXX happiness, etc.

>> Once she starts to know what anger means, you will have to educate her about the association of thoughts and emotions.
( Thoughts --> Emotions --> Behavior)
Once again, you can use games for this purpose. If your daughter can understand this relationship between her own thinking and anger, she will be able to identify that her anger is coming from within herself, and not from outside. Currently, she gets angry and blames it on external things such as "my mom does not buy me certain things". But it is important that she understands that her anger is coming from her own thinking. Once she understands this, she will be able to calm herself down and reduce her anger to a much low level.

>> You have to educate her about CHOICE. That she has a choice or Getting angry Vs Not getting angry. And probably a good way of doing this is - telling her that if she gets angry, people will not listen to her, and she will not get what she wants. But if she stays calm, people will listen to her and she will get what she wants.

>> Play a game with her where you will "create" an imaginary anger creating situation. And in this game, you have to play the role of a child and she has to play the role of your mother. And she has to explain to you about - Emotions, Thought, and how they are related. This way, she will learn to self-manage the anger. This is a very powerful technique, which if you can do regularly for a few weeks, will give you amazing results. This technique can be called "role reversal".

>> Tell your daughter that you will listen to her only when she is calm and not shouting.

>> Do not try to explain to her that she is wrong or she has made a mistake "when she is angry and shouting". This will only increase her anger even more. And she will probably start thinking that you are trying to blame her.

>> Give her rewards / incentives for good behavior. Promise her to take her to garden, or spend time with her doing things such as drawing, craft, etc. "if she reduces her anger". You can make a simple chart on which you will put a star every time she manages to cool down quickly. And you can decide and tell her that she will get her reward once a particular number of stars are there on the chart for that date.

>> Use "time-out" instead of raising your voice. When your daughter is not cooperating, tell her that you will not speak with her for the next 15 minutes. And follow that rule. In those 15 minutes, she may start crying or get more angry, but do not change your rule. Gradually, she will start to notice the difference in your reaction. She will think "mom is not shouting back, she is being calm ... so I should also be calm.". And this is a way by which she will learn that people listen to her when she is not shouting.

3) Managing own emotional reactions

This is probably the most important aspect. Children learn from the reactions of adults. As you have mentioned that after a particular level, you have to shout back at her, your daughter is probably learning this as a normal way of reacting. Parents need to be careful about their own reactions. Although, I understand that the situation of your daughter may be very difficult to handle. But as much as you can try, you should try.

>> Choose a milder response. You have a choice of not shouting back at her. Your reactions are also coming from thinking going on in your mind. You may need to explore your thoughts about your daughter’s behavior. If you find out that you have certain anxieties about "how my daughter will grow up to be", "will she be like this always", "will her behavior affect her growth, school, friendships, etc.", then you must deal with these thoughts in your mind first. A good way to deal with them is to see if you are allowing these future possibilities to appear unnecessarily bigger.

>> Goal oriented responses. Your responses to your daughter should be such that they achieve a particular goal. For example, if your goal is that your daughter should understand how her demand for a particular toy is unreasonable, then shouting may not be the most appropriate or goal oriented response. What would be more appropriate is if you tell her in a calm voice that "I will talk with you about that toy only if you calm down, sit on that chair and talk with me in a normal voice". Reasoning or arguments will not help.

These are some of the tips that I can provide you at this moment. Certainly, these are not the full and final solutions. You will have to seek more help from people around you. And most of all, you will have to modify some techniques to suit your daughter. And as I mentioned earlier, these tips can help you until you can seek professional help for your child. ( for a more accurate assessment of the situation and recommendations.)

I hope this reply helps you. And I hope you can start using some or all of these tips from this moment. I am sure you must have tried some of these tips I have mentioned. But even if they failed to show result, please do not stop making efforts.

Please write to me again here if you have more things to discuss. I will be happy to help you as much as I can.

Wish you good luck and take care.

Dr Abhijeet Deshmukh

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Child being too stubborn, angry. Does not make friends. Need advice to sort out the behavioral problems 9 hours later
Thanks a lot for this .But again whenever I tried playing any game with her she doesn't focus on these stuff rather she will try to have her own version and from faces she will start creating flowers and then story telling with all her imagination etc.
Also one thing which I have observed is ,she doesn't want to Listen "NO", .So how should i ask her to concentrate or try to focus on what we are playing or painting .
Answered by Dr. Abhijeet Deshmukh 38 minutes later
Hello again.

I understand that it's a difficult task. But here are a few more things you can try.

1) If she draws by her own imagination, that's a good thing. Let her draw her own paintings. You can use those drawings as tools. Instead of a face, you can ask her to draw an angry flower. She will like it better than just a simple face.

2) Ask her to draw a story where a flower is angry and is shouting. And the flowers mother is trying to talk to the little flower. She might draw this story and then you might be able to use it.

3) If the drawing thing does not seem to help, you can do one more thing. You can draw it yourself first, in her absence. And then show it to her. That way, she won’t be able to make immediate changes into the drawing. And then you can give her a blank paper to draw her own story.

4) If she doesn't want to listen to NO, you might have to modify the words. For example, instead of saying "no, you will NOT do this", you can try saying "would you like to do this or that .... because doing this instead of that will be good." Using such language can help with children of her age.

5) Try to engage her in the educative games only when she has a calm mind. When she is angry and shouting, you will have to use other techniques such as "time-out", as we discussed earlier.

Also, it is important that you do not react in a way that makes her angrier.

Please let me know how it goes. And do write more if you want to discuss more points.

Wish you good luck.

Dr Abhijeet Deshmukh
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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