I don't think this is a phase.

mama22October 24, 2011

There have been many posts lately that I relate to in regards to disrespectful SD�s. I really do not think it is just an age or phase thing for so many of us dealing with SD�s who are 11 and 12 years old. If it is, then this is the longest phase ever, starting when she was just 2-4 years old. I guess this is more of a vent than anything, but just wanted to share that I am experiencing such similar things as others during this "stage".

I posted earlier this year, and at that point I still had some shreds of empathy or patience or connection with SD, but at this point, it is very nearly nonexistent. I just recently started counseling for myself because the situation was getting to me and I was getting anxiety attacks, and was unable to sleep on days when SD was coming back (DH is custodial parent). I struggle to not take personally the daily disrespect, arguing, complaining, talking back, whining, sneaking and lying. The counselor has been great at validating what I am feeling that much of SDs behavior is attention-seeking and manipulative, and she has given some methods to try to curb that behavior or not let it affect me so much, but it only works to an extent. For instance, she suggested a rewards/consequence system with SD, but that would only work if SD cared about losing out on rewards and privileges. It is more like a game to her.

She is constantly doing sneaky things and lying about them. Another post reminded me that I just recently caught SD spending extra money from her lunch account. She buys a ton of junk, then still acts like she is starving after school and sneaks snacks whenever she can. There are constantly wrappers stuffed in her drawers and underneath her bed. When I confronted her about her lunch account, she said well I knew that if I had asked you would have said no. I told her, yea, and if you ask me if you can smoke, drink or have sex I would say no too, so make sure you don�t ask� I guess that is kind of a leap, but it just showed me that she knows that she shouldn�t have been doing that, but chose to do it anyway. When we are struggling financially, it feels like she is stealing by doing that. And one of the things we keep trying to instill is the fact that she needs to do the right thing even if no one is watching and regardless if she is at her mom�s or not. The whole sneaking food thing is also aggravating because she is overweight, and is constantly jiggling her stomach at me, or telling me to look at how much skinnier and how much more stomach muscles she is getting because she has learned to suck in her abdomen.

This afternoon DH went on a quick run to the store, and things turned sour immediately. SD was in a weird mood all day, where if I say anything that needs to get done, she gets this strange pout, and whines "No, I don�t wanna." For every.thing. You can tell she is amused by herself, and maybe thinks she is being clever or cute, but she means it because it escalates quickly when I reiterate the request. Anyway, my husband left and SDs cousin came and complained that SD was talking/farting/making noises while cousin is trying to watch a movie (mind you cousin is 6 years old). This is after the day of trying to get her to stop all these behaviors. I had her sit in a chair and just be quiet, like time out. She wouldn�t stop talking. I said, ok, you have to write sentences � I will not talk when I am asked not to talk. She continued talking, acting like she did not know what I wanted her to write, sliding out of the chair, ripping pages from her notebook because she was confused about what the sentence was, and then saying she was wasting all her paper. I told her that would not happen if she would just write the correct sentence, and she says "actually, no this is more your fault because you are not telling me what I need to write." Miraculously, she figured out what it was after I told her she had more sentences to write about accepting responsibility for her own actions. The counselor told me, I just need to run down the list of consequences when this happens because she continues to escalate and not cooperate, and just be plain rude, so by the end she had lost her mp3, friend privileges and has to go to bed early. My sister was there in another room, so when DH came home she came and told me she heard SD yelling at me and talking back, so it was nice because usually SD does this when she thinks no one else is around or will hear her. There was a witness, so I think DH believed me more. When DH came home and supported me, SD�s smirky smug attitude disappeared and she was all tears and remorse.

This was not the worst day or worst incident, just the most recent. But, we do not get many reprieves. SD acts normal a couple days out of the week. It seems she has better weeks when she has just returned from her mom�s, but then the next week when she is going back to her mom�s, she is a jerk again. At a recent birthday party, there were some people who even questioned if she was "all there" because she was acting strange and hyper, and just flat-out not behaving like a 12 year old. After the party, SD was calm and cool as a cucumber again saying it is probably because she is bipolar and needs medicine because she just cannot control herself.

I think one of the main problems and the reason that these situations escalate and she does not care how many consequences she gets is because she has two other people in her corner siding against her dad and I, telling her that she does not deserve this treatment and she is all wonderful and sparkly just the way she is (in a nutshell). So, when she gets consequences, she knows she can just add them to her list and play victim with everyone.

She wants all these privileges like cell phones, makeup party, to go hang out at the park with no supervision, but she acts worse than a 5 year old. She has consistently broken trust by having a secret boyfriend, using facebook, and who knows what else � I think more lies come out of her mouth than truth.

I am just so worn out by trying to parent her � I feel more like a detective trying to figure out what the truth is or what is really going on, and I just feel like at this point I need to let go, and let her do what she is going to do � not worry about her grades or her character or anything else, just make sure that the basic things get done. I am not used to having someone in my life who argues for the sake of arguing or who pushes buttons for sport. It makes me feel uneasy and like I can�t relax or find peace in my own home or head since I spend so much time worrying about it.

I like the countdown idea, but it is still too far off for me to feel any comfort. Some days I wish she could just go live at her mom�s, but then I know that if she did that now, she would just be back in a couple of years, except way worse. It just seems that is the person she wants to emulate most, even though she has plenty of other examples to choose from.

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I'll preface this by saying I'm new at parenting, but that I had parents who were as tough as nails but loved me just as much.

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that you have to be tougher and more patient than the child. My parents would use just about every resource at hand to get through to me. They weren't verbally or physically abusive, but they did master the mind game. The phrase "no problem" actually became quite alarming. It gives you that feeling you get when you're in your car and there's a wasp, but you don't know where it went. It's gonna sting you when you least expect it. And your sting has to be bad enough to cause alarm.

My parents tried a lot of things. Grounding, time outs, loss of privileges. They worked, for a time. Finally, they just started saying "no problem" and walking away. The first few times I just scratched my head and went about doing whatever it was I was doing. The next time I wanted something from them, BAM! The hammer came down. I wanted permission for a field trip, I wanted to go hang out with my friends, go to a concert, whatever. I'd get grounded. Or I'd have my allowance taken away. Or whatever else it might be that I wanted. Snacks, maybe, in your situation. When I left my house without permission, on a few occasions at least, my parents called the local PD and had me detained. We were in a smallish town, so jails weren't that scary. Some people may think that sounds crazy. But it worked and I still love my parents, and they love me. Maybe not an option for you, but an idea nonetheless. My parents got through to me that if I wanted something, I had to give them what they wanted.

As far as the school account, I would think that if you're the one paying it, you would be able to place some restriction on its use. If the school can't work with you, I'd tell them that she will have to pay for her lunch in cash. Either way, her access to those funds has to be limited. If she blows the limited amount on snacks at school, and wants to snack at home because she's hungry, you need to find a way to limit her access at home as well. I've started portioning my stepsons's snacks by keeping them in a separate container in the cupboard, as he had similar issues. It seems that, if she has bad eating habits, and she is not reacting to the loss of other privileges, your ticket to controlling her behavior will be through her stomach. Dad should be on board with both these issues. Your happiness and his daughter's health (and ultimately, her happiness as well) are at stake.

Finally, a trick I learned from my brother-in-law: when his son is misbehaving (lying is his biggest problem), dad makes him hold the encyclopedia (or any other heavy book) at arms length for a set amount of time. While this may not work for you, since SD is rebellious and may flat out refuse, it has improved his son's behavior.

I hope things get better for you. While your relationship with DH is the most important, I hope your relationship with DH will at least be tolerable for you. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 7:23PM
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That should be SD, in the last sentence. Oops.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 7:27PM
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So Dad talks to the school and only thing allowed on kid's lunch card is exactly what the main entree is for the day. No, he clearly let's school know he is NOT paying for additional items...if they allow her to continue to purchase, the cost is going to be on them. Yeah, sure, you want to to learn not to do the extra buying in the first place. But bottomline is she is not giving a twit what you/Dad think, so cut her off at the chase. End of game.

Secondly, take the kid to a the drs and have a complete phyiscal. If it turns out she needs additional attention aka treatments for something like bio-polar, the dr will refer you in right direction.

Go to park alone? Unsupervised? No way. 1) kid is 12 female, not a safe thing to hang in parks alone. 2) kid can forget about any type of usual freedoms some preteens/young teens expect until she proves herself trustworthy and responsible. Seriously, who would let a kid go hang in a park by herself when kid spent afternoon farting and giggling (not to mention slipping out of chairs)?

Last, tell Dad no more trips to store (or anywhere else) without taking his daughter. He does not believe she misbehaves, let him take her along. You are not the parent, he is and again, bottomline is this is his responsibility. Enjoy your few minutes break from the BS.

I think Dad has really got to have her reviewed by drs/professionals before he can really know what he is dealing with. The party behavior, you're right, not t typical 12 yr old, but just becasue she became instantly behaved and clam right afterward does not necessarily mean she can totally control. KWIM? Unless absolutely all the behavior only happens when Dad is not present, you can't rule out this girl is, well, like whoever said 'not quite right'. The other thought, if she really dislikes you and feels reenforcement from others of treating just you poorly and giving just you a hard time, it would perhaps show her behavior is truly selective and she just does not want to behave. How is she with Dad 80% of the time? And what does he do if and/or when she begins her crap?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 8:21PM
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Thank you to Aequitas and justmetoo for your helpful suggestions. I think the "no problem" solution might work out because at this point, she just seems to think at the time she is misbehaving that the consequences are just a joke. Waiting until she expresses genuine interest in something and then implementing the consequence seems like it might get through to her a little more than the rote loss of ipod, sentences, no hanging out with friends.

As far as the lunch account, DH did call the school and told them she is not to buy anything but the actual meal. The sneaking food at home usually occurs when I am taking a shower. The last time she did it (that I am aware of), she came to me afterward asking for a snack, and I said no since I am pretty sure she already had something. So, she told me well, I didn't have anything, but ok... see, I am saying ok rather than arguing with you about it. Then later, I saw there was an empty package of cookies in the cupboard, and she fessed up at that point.

DH has actually become very supportive of me over time, but still manages to undercut me sometimes, but for the most part, we have to present a united front because she was getting in the habit of trying to start arguments between us by "tattling" on the other. He knows she misbehaves, it is just that sometimes our strategies for dealing with it differ. His thing is to ignore most of it, or he just doesn't see how it is a problem. Like the party behavior, if I had tried correcting her as often as she needed, he probably would have given me "the look" like I need to just let her have fun and be a kid. He chalks it up to kid behavior, but so much of her behavior is still age inappropriate, and she gets called on it by peers, but sees it as their problem, not hers. Other kids of similar age at the party were calm and were not creating the chaos that she was.

DH and I are now seriously discussing an evaluation because in the past we were both in agreement that it was behavioral and we wanted to hold off on medication unless it was absolutely necessary. There is much past history that I did not get into in the previous post, but SD used to live with GM, who got her put on Abilify at age 9 with no impact, then she came to live with us, without medication and was fine for about the first year or so. And, the truth is, things have not been easy for her growing up with BM being a mess and DH acquiescing control to his mom for a lot of the time when she was little. But, it seems that now she just doesn't care about the lying or crazy behavior. It seems like she would rather get to do what she wants for that little bit and live with the consequences. It seems like now she is older, she knows that she does not need to listen to us and really feels like our rules are a joke because she gets to do whatever she wants at her mom's house, like have boyfriends that she keeps secret from us, facebook accounts, time to hang out with no adult supervision, watch movies and t.v. that she is not supposed to, etc. For the last several months, I have noticed also that when she comes back from her mom's, the first week is somewhat more bearable than the second week when she knows she is going to her mom's that weekend. She can be perfectly pleasant if no one is asking anything of her, but the second she is told what to do, an argument ensues.

With DH, she can be calm, have conversations, act normal, whereas with me, she either chooses not to talk or to argue. However, there are still plenty of times when she will argue with every last ounce of her energy with him as well.

To me, I think that the behavior problems could stem from a disorder, especially because BM also has bipolar disorder, and I know the likelihood of her having it is greatly increased. But I have worried that SD wants so much to be like her mom and to have an excuse for the behavior that takes it out of her control - her mom is also a master manipulator and liar.
I discussed it with my own counselor the last time, and she said she is very cautious about diagnosing children with bipolar, but that a good idea might be to take her to a therapist, explain the background, and ask that she be seen for a period of six months or so to determine whether her bad behavior is just that, or if there is an underlying cause like bipolar.

Also, like JMT said, the behavior doesn't happen in a bubble. She does not control her chattering at school and was in trouble several times last year (not severe trouble, as in sent to office, but enough to be constantly distracting to teacher and classmates, and it was mentioned again at Parent/Teacher conferences this year. The only other person who is ok with the behavior besides BM and consistently defends it is her GM (MIL). SD goes to her telling her how we took away this or that privilege and makes it appear that we are just out to get her. For instance, SD wanted to participate in an activity that requires practice, so we said that she could participate if she put in the practice beforehand. She did not practice the entire time, but when she spoke with MIL about it, she tells it as though we simply have unreasonable expectations that she cannot meet so we will just take away the activity anyway. All we wanted her to do was practice, put in some effort. So MIL calls DH and tells him that she is just too discouraged and we do not care, and will we care when she commits suicide. That is quite offensive to me, since I feel that is all we have tried to do is encourage and give opportunities to do activities or even earn them back if she has lost them.

At this point, I feel emotionally wiped out from all the drama that is constantly stirred up. Just yesterday, she was playing with something that is not a toy, I talked to her dad about it, and he gave me the go ahead to ask her not to play with it, or take it if she was not listening (he was leaving for work, SD was not awake). I talked to her about it and she said, well I need to talk to Daddy about that, and she said that once more later on in the day. I said, that is good - we have already discussed this matter, but do talk to him about it - in fact from now on any time you need anything, even something as small as a snack, go talk to your dad about it, and if he is at work and you can't get a hold of him then too bad. I guess that is how it will be from now on. She doesn't think I have a say, and I will be perfectly fine letting DH handle it.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 5:31PM
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