My daughter, who is approaching nine, has become a nightmare child. When she’s good’ she’s lovely, but her behaviour is getting worse. She torments her 11 year old brother, kicking him, hitting and thumping him, telling him he,s stupid (he has some difficulties at school). She then starts on her 4 year old sister, tormenting, shouting and calling her some not very nice things! (fat cow being one). She shouts and screams at me, says no one loves her, that she hates us all, she’s going to leave home or kill herself. I have tried all kinds of punishment to no avail, she ignores anything I ask or tell her to do, she smirks at me and shrugs her shoulders if I tell her off and flounces off totally disregarding anything I say. Its at a point now, where I dread the mornings and the time when she comes home from school, as you never know what to expect, she is like a Jeckyl and Hide.
I have five children, two whom are grown up and she is the only one who has ever made me feel completely out of my depth and not able to cope. Do you have any ideas as to why she could be like this? If so, what steps can I make to have more of the lovely girl and not the devil incarnate? Any advice would be most appreciated as I can’t take much more of it.
A: When a 9 year old talks about killing herself, we’re in different territory than temper tantrums. Something is really, really wrong. She’s hurting inside and she’s hurting everyone around her. Punishment probably only confirms her worst suspicion that she is unlovable so makes things worse. My guess is that you are writing to me because you’ve done everything you know how to do. The most hopeful part of your letter is that you haven’t given up on her. My best suggestion is to get some local help. I can’t begin to figure this one out on the basis of a letter. Please consider getting a consultation from a qualified family therapist or child psychiatrist who can meet you and your daughter and ask questions to help get to the bottom of this. Your whole family deserves to have a safe and peaceful home.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 May 2007
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). I can’t handle my 8 year old’s moods.. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/05/04/i-cant-handle-my-8-year-olds-moods/