Dealing with a 6 YO who thinks she is in control - ever had it?

(122 Posts)
StillSquiffy Thu 15-Nov-12 10:07:30

Sorry this is long, don't want to drip feed (also I don't really do concise very well).

Looking for some empathy here more than anything, not sure there are any solutions.

I simply cannot get my DD to do as I want her to. Treats don't work, punishments don't work, ignoring doesn't work. I've tried everything suggested in the books (variously titled around: the Exploding child, the manipulative child, the strong willed child). Everything

She will first decide what is going to happen (eg: it will be warm outside even if temp is actually -2), therefore she will wear a sundress. She will explain this logically then refuse to listen to logical reasons as to why this is not good. She will refuse to change, refuse to listen to you, and eventually if you carry on trying to discuss it, she will go into a full meltdown. If you simply tell her to change she will go into a meltdown. If you suggest that she takes a jumper just in case, she will go into a meltdown. If you go with the flow she would, in this particular situation, stand outside in the cold, smiling and telling you "see! it's warm!" for a few minutes before screaming her head off that she's cold and it's all your fault for letting her wear the sundress (and heaven help you if you have secretly brought along a jumper, because that will precipitate another meltdown for not believing her in the first place).

In a nutshell, any suggestion that her interpretation of the world might not be correct leads to a meltdown, as does any experience that goes against expectations.

This morning's example: "Mummy, you were wrong about the sun's heat coming from a nuclear fusion, Mrs Teacher said yesterday that it's a ball of fire" "Yes, DD, it is the nuclear fusion that creates the heat and the fire" "No, Mummy. It's fire. That's what it is. It's not nuclear. Nuclear doesn't exist. Nuclear's silly. You're wrong mummy. It's not fair. Why do you get it so wrong?" followed by meltdown and 10 minutes of tears around how horrible I make her feel by telling her things that she now knows are clearly wrong.

<in case you are wondering, the whole original convo about fusion was with my science-mad son, which she had overheard>

Obviously the normal strategies that worked with my DS don't work with her: as for other strategies - Empathy then discussion doesn't work, Part-way giving-in doesn't work, letting her tantrum it out doesn't work (but does at least while away the time), giving her elements of control over certain bits of her life doesn't work. She won't listen, compromise, discuss or engage in any way with exploring her decisions. She herself acts like one of those draconian mums who yell "Do it because I said so!" at their kids, except she's the child, yelling it at me.

When things are going as expected or she is given control, she is a darling; confident, sweet, cheerful, witty, cuddly (and still acting like the grown-up - telling everyone what to do, where to sit, what food to eat, etc). She will even, at the end of such days, cuddle up at bedtime saying things like "See, no tears today! Isn't it lovely when you do all the right things, mummy?"

Obv. her behaviour has not gone unnoticed by others, and I do worry for her ability to make/keep friends. I have asked those that are close to us and know the situation for their advice and they are as stumped as I am. I am strong myself and consistent in boundaries, etc, so I don't think I am making the situation any worse by my own reactions, would love to know if I can do anything to make the situation better, Because sometimes it is really shit (though I did laugh when one of my friends asked me if I'd ever watched the Exorcist, after witnessing a particularly spectacular meltdown). We average maybe three episodes a day (the subject matter is random and can be stuff like who sits on which side of the back seat on the way home from school) - sometimes just stamping and shouting, sometimes worse. No triggers that I have noticed (and I have looked) although tiredness of course makes things so much worse.

She is way, way out there on the bell curve of intelligence so I am very well aware that this is simply the other side of the coin, but am keen to see if anyone else has been there with their own kids? What's been the outcome? Does it die down naturally as they mature? If I have half an idea what to expect then I am sure I will be able to deal with it better.

thwhite Sun 18-Nov-12 09:23:44

I can't believe the number of insensitive replies you have had to this posting. The first thing is to realise that highly gifted children are as different from 'gifted' children, as gifted children are from normal children. Their whole experience of the world is different. I recommend the articles by Stepanie Tolan on this. Also the NAGC site, look at 'Asynchronous development' and the general info on social/emotional issues for gifted children. It might be worth joining to get some telephone advice. I haven't yet, but think I will within the year. There's also stuff on the About.com gifted site on children who think they are adults and think they should be treated as such.

Two books which are my bibles:

Mary Kurcinka: 'Raising your spirited child' Sometimes when I am having trouble with my child, I read a chapter every day, not only for advice, and to keep my cool, but in order to know that I am not ALONE in dealing with a child like this. Buy it!

Faber & Mazlish: 'How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk'. The Kurcinka book doesn't actually give that much advice on interacting with your child, but everything in this book chimes with her book. If only I would remember to act like this all the time, I would many less problems!

Good luck, it sounds like you have an extraordinary child. Try not to take advice from people who have no idea of your situation.

Yours with empathy,
Jen

StillSquiffy Sun 18-Nov-12 09:07:04

Sorry, just to explain - Ed Psychs have not dismissed SN at all - they both suggested it was a possibility, but she saw one chap at 5 and one at 4 (she has only just turned 6). Both mentioned a range of stuff that could be causing it, but I decided to wait for a while before going down this route - mostly because DS was dx when he was quite young, and his dx turned out to be inaccurate in a couple of areas, so we had to get him re-dx later. Also I've adopted a fair number of suggested strategies anyway (suggested by both the Ed Psychs and from reading around the possible dx). A couple of things suggested on this thread are new ideas (well, I recall reading about a couple of them - eg lists/photos - but didn't introduce them at the time as we were trying 3 or 4 other things at the time), so I will look at these too and look to get a dx in a few months (she is getting hyper-motivated at the moment by academic side of things so there's a lot of stuff in flux at the moment - I want to watch that play out for a couple of months first)

I like the look of that Autism book so will buy that, so thanks for the recommendation (thanks also to whoever suggested The Explosive Child - I have that one already).

BooksandaCuppa Sat 17-Nov-12 22:51:40

OP, yes, you have been very graceful and reflective on the comments you've received.

I nearly posted yesterday to say I was amazed no-one else had suggested SN on the ASD spectrum/PDA etc etc but decided it is not really right to suggest this unsolicited.

However, now that others already have - and you have mentioned your ds has a diagnosis - I have to say I'm amazed that you've seen two EPs who seem to have dismissed such a possibility. As for the comments some have made about PDA being very rare, I am surprised. When ds was dx with AS at age 3 I went on a NAS/portage course with a small group of other parents. Half of the dcs there were disgnosed with PDA and half with AS - and I must say their dcs (actually all girls)' behaviours were less severe than your dd's.

I really think you should ask to be referred to someone else: developmental paed etc etc. From the reasonably detailed description you've given, it sounds like dd really cannot control her behaviours at the moment and I wouldn't imagine she is a particularly happy little girl inside. Please push to see someone different and in the meatime, I believe that (in the absence of a dx) looking at/treating her behaviours as if she does have a dx could only be helpful at this point.

Good luck.

bialystockandbloom Sat 17-Nov-12 19:16:39

Agree with cinnebar.

Might be worth (if funds allow) looking at this book - don't be scared off by the reference to autism. It's about a form of behavioural therapy (Verbal Behaviour, strand of Applied Behavioural ANalysis). It has an incredibly useful section on the controlling child, and (again, if funds allow) worth getting just for this chapter alone.

For more strategies & practical advice I really would recommend going to the SN board.

Bink Sat 17-Nov-12 14:22:33

I agree it's not a G&T thing in isolation, but the ability is definitely part of the tangle when you're looking at a child like this - ie, whether the ability might be (a) the root of the problem (b) a total coincidence or (c) a sort of co-morbidity that at one & the same time masks and exacerbates the issues.

As you can probably tell, I think it's (c), and usually because the nature of the ability has a particular quality - ie, it's not (usually) the compliant get-on-with-it easy-focus ability, it's more the slightly compulsive (even obsessive) own-agenda self-direction with a tendency to be a bit prickly, question authority, etc. With a bit of pedantry & literalness too. So what you try to do as management has to take all that into account.

Squiffy, how is your ds getting on?

CinnabarRed Sat 17-Nov-12 14:10:00

From everything posted on this thread, it doesn't sound like a G&T thing, does it?

Instead, I think I would say that it's her absolute need to be in charge that is the issue and which needs to be addressed. Her high IQ merely gives her more, and more effective, tools to facilitate this.

CinnabarRed Sat 17-Nov-12 14:09:10

From everything posted on this thread, it doesn't sound like a G&T thing, does it?

Instead, I think I would say that it's her absolute need to be in charge that is the issue and which needs to be addressed. Her high IQ merely gives her more, and more effective, tools to facilitate this.

Tressy Sat 17-Nov-12 13:56:58

I've never heard of PDA until I read this thread but think this is what DD's teacher was hinting at when she was about 6. I wish I had followed it through instead of dismissing it and struggling on.

I recognise a lot of the traits that Sashh had mentioned, sensory issues, fear of change etc.

Mine is now at university (she was classed as G&T at senior school) and is coping very well. I don't know what state her room is in though as she cannot zone out from herself telling her to move things what feels like 1,000 times which is still an issue at home grin.

StillSquiffy Sat 17-Nov-12 13:30:16

My son is on the ASD spectrum, so it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest is DD is also somewhere on the spectrum. My plan now is to put in place some of your suggestions (eg: removing choice, drawing up lists), monitor things for a while and will book up at the Elizabeth Newson Centre if things don't start to improve. As she matures some things have improved (hard to believe but she was worse as a toddler) so it may be something she grows out of. But I do hear all your comments re ASD, PDA and am not for a minute dismissing them.

I was asked a few posts back why I didn't post this in SN. Mostly because both Ed Psychs mentioned (among other things, including ASD) that her IQ might have an awful lot to do with her behaviour, so I imagined that people on the G&T board might see some of this behaviour in their own G&T children and could comment on that.

sassh - your post made me really laugh. My DD is a doppelganger for your aunt. That is exactly how DD would behave in those circs.

Bink - yes I do remember being on that thread though that was years ago. I did think about name-changing for this and am in two minds over whether I should have, but what's done is done. And people have been very generous in taking time to respond to this thread, which is very much appreciated. Thank you.

sashh Sat 17-Nov-12 09:13:17

Wow OP.

I think a few people on here need to get together and write a book about stroppy children.

OP, there is a streak of this in my family, me, an aunt and a cousin, all the same. I've possibly got Aspergers and one of my 'things' is the feel of clothes, so I would put a sun dress on because I liked cotton, but that would be a silly thing to say so I would insist I wasn't cold.

I do agree though about putting summer clothes away.

You need to occupy her mind more, so maybe lay out a couple of outfits and let her choose one or the other. Give her no other option and if she ends up in school in PJs then so be it.

If her brain is like mine was she will be constantly thinking and rethinking and will have probably come up with some splendid scenario about there bing a pig cat that will run out in front of the car and if you are not in the right seat you will get hurt. But she won't tell you this, just tell you where to sit and get angry if you don't.

Our car had a boy's side and a girl's side, so I always sat behind mum, my brother always behind dad.

Do not argue with her, you will lose or be so frustrated you will lose the will to live. My mum's reaction to this was a nice bright red hand print on my bum and me being sent to my room.

This is where the stubbon streak comes in. My mum would eventually tell me I could come downstairs, and without fail I would say, "No thank you, I don't want to". I'm sure it made my mum feel terrible and I'm sure I knew that. Had she told me to come down I would have done. So clear instructions, not choices about anything she doesn't need to have choices.

As for competitive punishments. My aunt, her of the family stubborn streak, when she was 6 she refused to have a bath and a clean nightie on Christmas eve. She was told that if she didn't she would get just a piece of coal and a dirty potato.

In the morning her two sisters had a sack each of presents. She had coal and a potato. She played with them.

Even when she was shown that santa had actually left her presents behind the sofa, she continued to play with the coal and potato. She didn't even look at her toys.

We have all grown up into quite nice adults though.

bialystockandbloom Fri 16-Nov-12 19:50:26

Agree that there are (to me) many flags for PDA here. Sounds more than just a smart girl outwitting her mother. Why would she want to? Why is she is such need of control?

PDA is often a co-morbid of ASD, and is considered by some to be a condition on the ASD spectrum. (It is clear that in years to come the conditions currently put under an umbrella ASD term will be become much more discretely distinguished.) My ds has high functioning autism and the controlling issues sound similar.

Forget about any possible 'label' and attached stigma - your dd is the person she is with or without a label or diagnosis, and imvho needs some expert help with this, as you have obvioulsy tried everything that would be done under normal parenting circumstances, to no avail. Seeking further explanation through looking at conditions such as AS or PDA might be useful for pointers about what to do, regardless of whether you pursue any professional assessment.

I absolutely agree the teachers should not be encouraging this kind of controlling behaviour and am amazed they are doing so.

FamiliesShareGerms Fri 16-Nov-12 19:21:16

OP, just to say thanks for coming back to thread and engaging with the responses. If only all posters were as reflexive!

Lavenderhoney Fri 16-Nov-12 15:30:53

Thanks for updating with your post opsmile you have put a lot in, it must be frustrating not to see results and so tiring always being one step ahead.

I think it was a good suggestion re clothes. Can you then allow her independance to choose an outfit as its going to be suitable anyway? Or will you have to go back to the age 2-3 where you say it's either this or this or I choose?

Re the car, the only thing I would do is ask ds if he always wants the same seat or take turns in choosing when you are in the car. Then go with that and she has to do it. Any shouting and temper then time in room when you get home.

Do you have time alone with your ds everyday, to chat or just be together drawing or reading so he can talk to you? It doesn't have to be about his sister- it can be anything in his life. It shows him and her that they are equal and both deserving of your time.

I gave my ds more independance with little things as i felt he needed to feel grown up a bit and stepped up the cuddles at home. But he is not allowed to boss or interfere with adult decisions. I involve them in what they might like to do etc but my dh and I- final say.

Do you know what sets her off? That millisecond before the tantrum starts? Can you deflect it somehow? Ask her if she knows when she is going to lose it and ask her start to recognise it and take some time out in her room? Not as a punishment but knowing she needs some time to think.

You say you are bossy(!) were you jesting?smile is she copying you in some way - and I mean that really nicely, I'm sure you don't go ballistic btw. I can be a bit bossy and realised my ds was doing it right back at me! So I had to change.

Finally, and I am just curious, not trying to derail but why did you post in G&t and not behaviour/ parenting? Do you think it's a characteristic of being G&t? Wanting to be boss and attempting to manipulate in this way isn't leadership qualities - does she try to get others to do what she wants at school like this? That might help you with managing her, if you know how she behaves at school and playground. Could you get an observer in the class for the day ( not you) maybe a behaviour and parenting expert? And then they have a day at home with you?

Bink Fri 16-Nov-12 14:40:00

Squiffy, I can see that you have someone far out of the ordinary here, and I've followed your postings enough over the years (I think I remember you from a stellar debunking of the Don't Know How She Does It trend, a really long time ago ... I hope that was you and I am not being bonkers) to be sure that you will have done all possible diligence (books, strategies, specialists) on what you have here.

The PDA link does look helpful. (Is it the same thing as ODD? - as in oppositional-defiant? If ODD is different, maybe that is worth looking at too.)

From my own perspective of a very high intellectual-functioning but in some ways low social-functioning child (my 13yo ds), what drives a lot of his issues is simply a peculiar lack of ability to learn from experience - a deficiency in instinct, I think it might be. So while he can grasp any sort of concept, no matter how abstruse, he cannot from day to day register (in a retaining way) that being late for a lesson IS A PROBLEM and will be MORE OF A PROBLEM each time he does it ... in order to help him see this we have to go right back to basics and manage him in the direct opposite of the way we can talk to him about ideas - ie, as if he has a learning disability. (Which he does, in a way.)

So what I am suggesting for you is to take the very very long (and tiring, I so know) view that you are going to have to help your dd bridge with reality again and again and again, and that the only thing that works for us when we have to do this is recognising that each time we have to explain something social/human-dynamic to ds it's as if he's hearing it for the first time (and do it ideally with the patience that takes). And gradually things start to lodge, but it is like stalagmites.

People who don't have children like this cannot know what the repetitiveness of the problems is really like.

MarshaBrady Fri 16-Nov-12 14:12:46

Ok just read your update. I see that it's not as your op is, but more complex.

MarshaBrady Fri 16-Nov-12 14:11:11

Yes I'd say it is frightening for a young child to have too much power over the parents.

It's not good for their happiness or development.

pumpking Fri 16-Nov-12 14:09:26

When you threaten something, the child is then expecting it to happen. Because you've told them that x will be the consequence of their behaviour, when you fail to follow through, it just confuses them.

Children want you to discipline them. Really, they do.

They're testing boundaries. It's very important to teach them that when they misbehave, there are ramifications that they will not enjoy.

Do you want your daughter to be a hardworking, disciplined and successful young lady when she grows up? Or someone who is very bright, but undisciplined and not enjoyable to be around? Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh.

Really, it doesn't matter where we all start from in terms of intelligence- the key to being a successful and happy adult is a capacity for hard work, diligence, kindness and respect for others.

'But I have an IQ in the highest percentile' is not going to get her a job, or allow her to form successful relationships with others.

You have to be a bit cruel to be kind.

Be strong. YOU are in control.

Try a parenting course! Work on your own assertiveness too.

insanityscratching Fri 16-Nov-12 13:44:33

Elizabeth Newson Centre is the recognised centre of excellence for PDA assessment. My ds attends the school that is linked there and although Dr Phil Christie has moved on the methods he used remain.

LaQueen Fri 16-Nov-12 13:42:35

OP I think if anyone could empathise with you, it would be my poor MIL. DH was exceptionally clever from very young age, breezing through O Level maths papers whilst still at junior school etc - so DD2 has inherited his abilities.

My MIL tells horror stories of my DH (aged 3.5) determined to go the local fair, being told no, no, no - but, escaping the house and walking barefoot through snow down the street...before being dragged back, screaming and holding onto gate-posts...only to try the exact same stunt, 30 minutes later, and then 30 minutes after that confused

Determined doesn't even begin to describe him.

I think by the time he was 4 my MIL had totally given up trying to exert any control, whatsoever (my FIL was rarely around). She let DH do and say exactly what he pleased - bed at 1.30am, she let him...eating 4 Mars bars for lunch, she let him...

What saved DH was going to a very strict, very traditional boys grammar. The masters there stood for none of his attitude, and it also shocked him (slightly) that there were other boys there just as clever as him. He soon learned to fit in.

I think deep down he was hugely grateful, that at last, he had rules to follow and the adults were adults, and in charge. I think he'd found ruling the roost at home exhausting and stressful and often quite frightening.

LaQueen Fri 16-Nov-12 13:33:20

OP I have worked as a TA with very clever children, who are also on the ASD spectrum.

I recognise the refusal to acknowledge patently obvious facts (such as it's cold outside) and then going into a total meltdown, when the truth because self evident. This is a classic reaction, the utter hysteria/loss of control when the world refuses to be as they want it to be.

I'm also thinking possible PDA? But, I would think maybe your Ed Psych, would have thought of this, already?

Tressy Fri 16-Nov-12 13:18:05

I don't think it's easy for other people to empathise just how hard it is to bring up certain children when theirs are compliant. I think the telling thing is if you have more than one and the others do as you ask, more or less, but one is totally different. Much harder when you have an only and people are critising your parenting skills.

I can emphathise with the OP and hope you find some strategies for getting through this stage and it might be just a stage. Mine is grown up and in our case it got much easier as she matured. You might find that the teen years won't be so exhausting as long as you treat your DD as an (almost) equal. I took some small comfort when everyone else was having a hard time when their previously model children turned into horrible teens.

High intelligence is no excuse for bad behaviour but having the benefit of knowing that your DD is intelligent, and may need a different approach to raising her, is a bonus.

I know pathological demand avoidance disorder is very rare but it really fits in with what you're describing. Even if it's NOT that then you could try the following strategies, they are quite different and definitely worth trying.

strategies to try

I've only known of one child with this syndrome which is why I think it's quite rare so I can't actually contribute anything more helpful - I will try to find out who's the most experienced in this field and come back to the thread though.

Good luck.

slhilly Fri 16-Nov-12 13:03:27

I agree with rhetorician that you've taken stern comments with great grace. I'm also slightly amazed at the number of people who have assumed that (a) you haven't tried the solutions they're suggesting already and (b) your daughter is a "madam" (a really perniciously sexist term, in my view) and that her behaviour can be morally judged, without any thought that what may be going on may have deeper roots.

WitchesTit Fri 16-Nov-12 12:47:28

Just sounding something out which works with people who rate as high functioning and high achievers on the autistic spectrum (I am not saying your daughter is) but I know people who are and can exhibit similar traits and behaviours as your highly intelligent little girl.

A strictly adhered to 'timeline' with photos and detailed descriptions of what is expected at every moment of the day, with directions to suitable clothing for the weather. So that everything is right there, to be followed like the bible. No deviating. No 'rewards' for following the timeline or being 'nice' as this is expected behaviour.

Even down to the way the soap might be squirted once then hands rinsed, left then right and which order to put clothes on etc.

It's bloody hard work as most people don't realise how much they rely on flexibility during their day but by taking away the responsibility of the thousands of minor decisions they have to make during the day can help the person feel secure and therefore free to function without an overdose of everything causing meltdown.

I'm not putting it as well as I could here. I have worked with people on the spectrum who are cleverer than quantum physicists but unable to judge whether they need a jumper on or not. People like this can speak and argue very articulately but sometimes their understanding is lower than their eloquence.

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