Question:

Thank you! Our home is slowly changing from a battle zone to a loving home.

We still struggle, basically, since our 9-year-old acts like a 3 to 5-year-old, then I think she should have 3 to 5-year-old freedoms and choices. These will be earned back as she learns self-control and respect. I’m really needing some help with my focus. Today, she was balking at me picking her clothes for her. I found myself yelling a lot and I had a "talk" with her and was saying stuff like "Why can't you just listen and obey! When I tell you to do something, you need to try to do it!"

My convictions are beginning to waver. I think I need some encouragement.

Answer:

It appears that you are allowing your personal disappointment in the speed of her progress to get to you. It is not that progress isn't being made, it is just that you were hoping for an instant fix to a problem that takes time to solve.

There is no need to yell when a child doesn't pick up her clothes. Yelling isn't going to directly improve the situation and it is going to ruin the rest of your day. Tell her that her clothes need to be picked up by, let's say dinner time. That is it. Do not allow it to be opened for debate. If she tries, ask her what she did she not understand and then calmly restate the rule and leave. When you return at the designated time and the room isn't picked up (and it won't be the first few times), calmly inform her what the punishment is (no supper until it is done and a one hour earlier bedtime, or whatever you decide is appropriate), and then follow through as you stated, no matter how she behaves. Remember, you are the parent, she is the child. You're not asking for anything unreasonable and you don't need her approval of your rules.

Soon she'll catch on and try to delay until the last moment. The answer remains the same. The room wasn't picked up by the designated time. It doesn't matter that she started, what matters is that she didn't finish as requested. Inform her of the punishment and follow through on it.

If a child finds she can get you to light the punishment or excuse her misbehavior by complaining, whining, or throwing a tantrum, then she'll do it. If she learns it doesn't "buy" her any change, or that it makes her punishment worse, she'll stop -- but not before she tries every permutation to see if there isn't some loophole somewhere.

Think about what you are saying when you lose your cool: "Why can't you just listen and obey?" How is a child supposed to answer that one? If she truthfully told you that she doesn't want to, she'll get into trouble. It is a question that you already know the answer. "When I tell you to do something, you need to try to do it!" Ah, so feeble, half-hearted attempts count, do they? Obedience should be an expected given. Tell her what needs to be done and when she doesn't, follow through on an appropriate punishment.

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