PARENTS

Ask Joanne: Terrible Ten Year Old

01/02/2010 14:47 | Updated 22 May 2015

What's your question about any aspect of life as a parent? Our experienced life coach Joanne Mallon is here to help. Send your questions in here and say if you'd like your name to be changed.

Louise writes:

We are the parents of two beautiful, clever willful, daughters, only 13 months apart in age. Since I've had to go full time at work, they appear to be going backwards with their behaviour. Our eldest daughter will be going to secondary school in September this year but behaves very babyish when we tell her off for something she has or hasn't done. By this I mean she makes silly noises at us when told off and she tells us to shut up.

Our youngest has just started being afraid of everything, from dogs and washing her hair to not allowing me to go to sleep if she happens to wake up in the night. I have had a few nights where I have been awake all night with her, previous to this she has always slept through.

My husband had a major operation two years ago (this is why I have had to go full time at work) and he now cannot bend over due to metal rods in his lower back. When on his own with my daughters, the both play up if he tells them off. Now he either doesn't bother to correct their behaviour at all, or he'll shout at them, so that he can have a quiet life and I as a result, get a lot of stress when I come in from a 12-hour shift, which I do not think is fair. I'm being labelled as the baddie then for telling them off and by then I'm exhausted. What can I do? Should I give up my job so that I can get my family back on track as I feel like their behaviour is driving us apart?

Here's our life coach's reply:

Dear Louise

Your daughters are coming to an age where hormones are very likely playing a part, as they move towards puberty. Many parents have told me that their daughters were right horrors in the year or so before their periods started. So some of this is more about the age they are, rather than anything you as parents are doing wrong.

Though one thing which is probably not helping is the mixed messages they're getting from you and their dad – you need to be coming from the same place in terms of expectations of behaviour. I know that this is easier said than done, but for the sake of family sanity you need to do it. Sit down together and work out your family rules and what is and isn't acceptable. For some practical strategies in managing their behaviour, have a look at this site.

It sounds like there is a lot of stress in your family right now, so I would also focus on ways you can all have a bit of fun together. At the weekends, aim to spend at least a little one on one time with each of your daughters. It doesn't have to be a major outing, just make sure you spend a little time chatting together.

It sounds like your daughters are reacting to you working more and their dad's condition by upping their demands for your attention. At heart they are just little girls who are afraid that mummy or daddy might leave them. They need reassurance that you are both still there for them, no matter what. They are testing your boundaries by kicking out against them. In this situation, getting lax with them is not the best long-term option. Consistency from both parents will help to reinforce their sense of security.

As to possibly giving up your job – is this what you really want? Is it a practical option? If it is, then by all means look into it, but it may not solve your problems, and may leave you feeling frustrated at having to stop work.

Good luck, all the best,

Joanne

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