Why is she mean to her mom?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  June 29, 2011 06:00 AM

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I am concerned about my granddaughter and the way she treats her Mom. Lyla just turned 2 in May and is a good little girl around everyone except her Mom. Lyla has always been shuffled between her 2 grandmas and the Nanny. Seems like every morning now, she throws a tantrum and her Mom tries to put her in time out, she also spanks her but nothing seems to work for her.

I am just wanting to understand so I can help my daughter with this problem.

From: Debbie, Alburquerque, NM

Dear Debbie,

I agree, this is a dynamic that worries me, too. It sounds like Lyla is angry with her mom, an emotion some adults have a hard time ascribing to a child so young.

Here are a couple suggestions for your daughter:

1. Forget time-out, it's not appropriate for children this young. In fact, in my opinion, time-out is widely misused.

2. Forget spanking. Yes, it can sometimes stop a behavior for the moment. Long-term studies, however, show no benefits from spanking and, in fact, show lots of negatives. Among them: that all it a child is to be afraid of the parent.

3. So how do you control tantrums at this age? One way is to head it off at the pass. When you see her winding up, kneel downS to be at her eye level and tell her, "I'm not sure what's upsetting you, but I want to help." Then offer her choices: "Do you want to wear your red shirt instead of your blue one?"

4. Analyze the morning routine. Since these tantrums seem to happen in the morning, it could be that Lyla feels too rushed. That's very common, especially if mom gets anxious about getting out the door and getting to work on time. A small tweaking of the routine -- waking up 10 or 15 mins earlier so she can linger at the breakfast table, let's say -- is sometimes all it takes.

5. Are the mornings inconsistent? Children do best when the routine is familiar. If she's at one grandma's on MW and another on TTh and with the sitter on Fri, that's may just be too hard for a child this age to grasp. Just when she's getting used to being at one place, it changes again. Another simple tweaking might help: being at the same place two days in a row, then two days at the next, etc.

6. Lastly, I'd encourage your daughter to find some time each day when she is relaxed enough to sit still and be fully in the moment with Lyla for a 10 or 15 or more minutes at a time. It may be that Lyla misses her mom. Call this "Mom & Lyla Time." Here are the rules: It needs to happen at about the same time every day, say, as soon as they get home together, or after dinner; there are no interruptions. If the cell rings, Mom says, "This is our Mom & Lyla Time. They'll have to call back." Once a child gets the message that she's guaranteed to have mom's undivided attention for a chunk of time (and 10 minutes is a long time for a 2-yo), her need to get mom's attention through tantrums will typically diminish.

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1 comments so far...
  1. If the child is being shuffled between grandmas and a nanny, I think that the child is upset that she isn't getting "Mommy time" as much as she should be. If Mom is married, and has the support she needs, try changing up work schedules and get rid of the nanny. No one could ever take care of the child like a mom can. She needs to be the MOM!

    Posted by Margo July 13, 11 12:53 PM
 
1 comments so far...
  1. If the child is being shuffled between grandmas and a nanny, I think that the child is upset that she isn't getting "Mommy time" as much as she should be. If Mom is married, and has the support she needs, try changing up work schedules and get rid of the nanny. No one could ever take care of the child like a mom can. She needs to be the MOM!

    Posted by Margo July 13, 11 12:53 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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