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Child Caring

UK mom: get professional help with your step-daughter


Hi,
My step daughter is 4 and very immature, she basically acts like a 2 year old though she turns 5 in a less then a few months. Her father has no bond with her as he missed nearly all of her life until we got custody...almost a year ago now.
She throws tantrums kicking, hitting, screaming, banging, self- hitting and recently refusing to go to bed! I mean, to the point of us putting up a baby gate to keep her in her rooms as she kicks and screams...We've tried to get advice from every where....What's the best way to deal with these tantrums?! Are we alone in this! We know it's just for attention, that she wants to be the baby of the family since our daughter was born.
We've tried to explain, she's got to grow up, yet she doesn't.

Advice please.
From: C.bing, United Kingdom
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Dear C.bing,

Just to make sure I've got this right: About a year ago, when your step-daughter was not quite 4, she began to live with her dad and you. Prior to that, she barely had contact with her father (or, I presume, you). Since then, in addition to being in a new physical environment with people she hardly knew, there's a new baby in the mix.

You're absolutely right: She's trying to get attention. But, honestly? I don't think this is immaturity. When a baby comes along, any young child tends to regress. When a baby comes along and the sib has an under-developed comfort level with the environment and an undeveloped sense of trust in her caregivers, she's working with a double whammy. Professionals might call it "insecure attachment," which can carry long-term behavioral difficulties.

Go out of your way to provide consistency in her life: have regular schedules, routines, limit-setting and care-givers. Find a way for you and your husband to each routinely spend undivided time alone with her each day, even if it's just five minutes, so she sees that she can have your attention without having to throw a tantrum to get it. Lower your expectations so that you can find reasons to praise her, and offer reinforcement for positive behavior rather than punishing behaviors you don't like. Stop offering her explanations; you might as well be speaking a different language.

Most of all, you and her dad need more help than any advice columnist can offer. Please, seek professional guidance, including parenting workshops.