I Cannot Handle my 6 Year old Daughter

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker


QI am having an impossible time with my 6 year old daughter. She lies, is defiant, occasionally violent, and occasionally, nearly impossible to be around. From the minute she wakes up in the morning she starts challenging us and I really don’t know what to do. I’m concerned for her safety and well being and don’t know where to get help.

An example – when I picked her up from school today, I asked her how her day was – she FLUNG her lunch box across the room and told me how terrible it was. I held her hand and walked her to the car and told her that I was so sorry she had a bad day. She gets in the car and starts kicking my seat and tells me that she’s going to a friends house when she gets home. I told her that we had plans this afternoon and so she starts screaming at me that she’s going anyway. When we got home, I put her in her room and told her that she simply can’t be around me when she behaves and speaks to me that way… she told me she was going to break something (her bones) so that I’d take her to the hospital. I told her that I would indeed take her to the hospital, but that she’d have to call me when she was done and I’d come get her because I simply won’t be around her when she acts this way.

I am at my wits end. I feel myself filling with rage and have come close to hitting her on 2 separate occasions. I have always managed to close my eyes and walk away. (I teach Lamaze, so I know how to breathe). I know she wants my attention. She has a 9 year old brother and a 3 year old sister, who are delightful and they definitely get more of my attention. I truly don’t want to be around her and that makes me so sad. I am expecting our 4th child in September, so I’m terrified that this will make things worse.

My husband has a hard time with her bald faced lies, but she’s not nearly as nasty to him as she is to me. We never know if she’s telling the truth so we rarely believe anything she says.

If you have any suggestions of where we can get help, I would genuinely appreciate it. Just now she asked if she could please come down – I told her ok, and she proceeded to help her little sister down off of the potty, and then came down and asked if she could please help her sister play a game on the computer. She’s a Jeckyl Hyde if I ever saw one and I’m so stumped.

A: This is so, so hard. You love your daughter and want to help but she is wearing you out. You know that you and your husband do well as parents since your other two are doing fine. But there’s something about this one. . . You are already doing the kinds of things I would normally suggest for managing an out of control child. So we need to go deeper – or at least somewhere else.
I recently read a book called “Raising your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. The author talks about children who are more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and uncomfortable with change than the average child. She has some excellent ideas about how to make these kids more comfortable and how to cope with the tantrums and blowups when they occur. Why don’t you check it out and see if your daughter fits the description.

Another source of help is a child or family therapist. I entered your city into the therapist locator on our homepage and found over 30 profiles of therapists. Make some calls and find a therapist who has experience working with strong-willed little kids. Not everyone has that experience. Someone who does will be able to offer you some practical help as well as some support.

I do think it’s important for you to get hold of what is going on before the next baby arrives. As the mother of 4 myself, I know only too well how hard it is to juggle all that we somehow do. You have 6 or 7 months to focus on making things at least a little better before you have to divide your time and attention even further. I hope you and your husband will commit to focussing on doing what you can to strengthen your family now so you can be more relaxed when the baby comes.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Feb 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). I Cannot Handle my 6 Year old Daughter. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/02/02/i-cannot-handle-my-6-year-old-daughter/