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Question
Posted by: CB | 2010-02-10

9 year old out of control

Please, please, please help me. My 9 year old otherwise lovely, caring daugther is totally out of control. She has had these aggressive episodes since she was 2 and it seems to be a cycle as it occurs during the beginning of every year and lasts for about 3 months. She gets upset about nothing and immediately starts acting out. Her dad and I got divorced 7 years ago and she did go to a therapist who told me (at that time) she had seperation anxiety, as she would always lash out at me whenever she had to visit or come back. But now it seems like a much bigger problem. I remarried 2 years ago and she absolutely adores her stepdad. We have an 8-month old boy whom she also loves dearly. Her dad has a 3 year old girl and 1 month old boy. All this actually seems irrelevant as she started with this behaviour long before any of these drastic changes in our lives. It is as though she can not contain herself. The problem is that she has become moderately violent and she only lashes out at me. When she visits her dad and stepmom she is the model child. It feels like she is angry at something or someone and I am the only one who is willing to let her take it out on me. I love her with all my heart and yet don' t know how to help her anymore. Her dad is also a very aggressive and short-tempered man and apparently her sister is the same. My ex-mother-in-law actually said that they both inherited their dad' s temper!! Could this be inherited? Should I let her see a professional? I do lose my temper after about an hour of staying calm but any form of discipline is simply shaken off by her as " I WILL NOT"  " I' M NOT LISTENING TO YOU"  " IF YOU SPANK ME I' M GOING TO HIT YOU BACK" , even when I ASK her to please just give me a few minutes to calm down she will stand next to me and nag or ask me if I' m afraid of her. When I ignore her behaviour it' s as if she loses her mind and starts screaming horrible things at me. She is totally disrespectful when she has these fits. She is an extremely intelligent child, socially well developed, everybody adores her and always tells me what a good mannered, lovely daughter I have. And as soon as this cycle has passed she is the most loving, caring, well behaved child imaginable. I just don' t know anymore. Please help me to help her.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

You're describing a rather curious pattern. If I understand your message - she has these episodes lasting some 3 months, at the same time each year, and for over 7 years. SO much of various sorts must have changed in her life over this time. What, one wonders, might recur in a similar pattern in her life, over this period ? Internal chemical rhythms don't tend to follow this sort of pattern.
It may have originatged in a reaction to the divorce, separation, etc, and have become more of a habit, even though the precuse originating situation has altered - but the timing still sounds odd.
Is there a pattern in the timing and duration of her visits to her father and step-mother ? Are them, deliberately or accidentally playing any role in this pattern ? When it gets to the point of her asking whether you are afraid of her, one wonders what she is thinking about.
This does indeed sound like a situation that has been allowed to go on for far too long, and she should be seen and assessed by a child shrink.

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Our users say:
Posted by: cookie | 2010-02-10

I took my daughter to a child shrink as she was getting increasingly diffucult(she is 8 years old).Also a divorce,a very caring stepdad etc.She would scream at me-explode over the smallest thing and be (apparently) well behaved when she was at her dad' s.Through play therapy is has become clear that she is depressed and cannot put her feelings into words and this may be a way of expressing herself.Maybe it will do some good to take her to a child shrink.I think it helps that I understand her better

Reply to cookie
Posted by: CB | 2010-02-10

Thank you for the reply. Come to think of it, she always spends most of her December holiday with her dad and step-mom and then again the next holiday in March, that might be one explanation, the build up of anger between December and March holiday. She does however also visit during the other holidays but for a short period only. She would normally want to come home after the first 3 days of her visit. I know (as she told me) she just does not feel comfortable when visiting them as she cannot be herself or express herself openly as she does at home. Speaking to her dad about this is of no use as he is extremely self-absorbed and never thinks he is wrong. I have spoken to him about things that bothers her when she visits but he always just says she' s just a child, etc. I suspect she might be extremely angry at me for letting her go to her dad as she does not see him as a vital part of her life. She has voiced numerous times that she wishes her stepdad is her real dad as he plays a very active role in her life and is always interested in her interests and activities. She feels that only myself, stepdad and her brother is her real family. I will certainly let her by assessed by a shrink as this might help her voice her issues and let us resolve any anger issues she might have, and if need be, speak to her dad so that he knows that just because she is a child she is still entitled to her own opinions and feelings.

Reply to CB
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010-02-10

You're describing a rather curious pattern. If I understand your message - she has these episodes lasting some 3 months, at the same time each year, and for over 7 years. SO much of various sorts must have changed in her life over this time. What, one wonders, might recur in a similar pattern in her life, over this period ? Internal chemical rhythms don't tend to follow this sort of pattern.
It may have originatged in a reaction to the divorce, separation, etc, and have become more of a habit, even though the precuse originating situation has altered - but the timing still sounds odd.
Is there a pattern in the timing and duration of her visits to her father and step-mother ? Are them, deliberately or accidentally playing any role in this pattern ? When it gets to the point of her asking whether you are afraid of her, one wonders what she is thinking about.
This does indeed sound like a situation that has been allowed to go on for far too long, and she should be seen and assessed by a child shrink.

Reply to cybershrink

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