I am a single mom with a 6-year-old girl. Both sets of grandparents live close by, and she is very close to both of them.
I am trying to teach her that when we visit, she is to say hello, hug, etc. to each one when we arrive. She fights me on this and goes to the one she prefers and then ignores the other. She is very animated, opinionated, and strong-headed, which are attributes I admire at times; but her backtalk to me is getting out of control, it usually is accompanied with the attitude of a tween! I remind, reprimand, punish, take away privileges, and it doesn't seem to be getting better. In front of her grandparents, she tends to get worse with the backtalk/disrespect. Any advice?
Hello, and thank you for writing. You have an abundance of riches with grandparents who are close by and loving! And you're correct to expect certain respectful behaviors from your daughter.
Children are not motivated to solve a problem unless it's significantly and adversely affecting their perceived quality of life. Your job in this situation is to teach her, unequivocally, that respect for her elders is required, or else. You know your girl best and are therefore best equipped to define the "or else" for her in terms that she will understand and with action that she will not like one bit. What you're seeing is disrespect and disobedience that needs to be nipped in the bud before it becomes an even bigger problem.
There are methods we advocate, such as the Ticket System and the Doctor Cure, that might be right for her. You can search this site for more information on both. I highly recommend stripping her room of all entertainment value and starting the Ticket System. Her target misbehavior is disrespect, in her case evidenced by her refusal to properly greet her grandparents and her penchant to talk back to adults. One thing though - I don't recommend forcing her to hug anyone. I think the grandparents would agree that a forced hug is worse than none at all. It's possible she's more mindful of your expectations when you're alone because she knows her grandparents won't discipline her.
If she loses all 3 tickets in a day, she's off to her very boring room for the remainder of the day, only allowed out for meals and bathroom breaks. She'll need 14 consecutive days of not losing all three tickets before her room is restored to its former state, with an emphasis on CONSECUTIVE days. It may take a while, but she's not going anywhere and needs to learn that her disrespect will not be tolerated and will result in a very dull existence.
As you go forward, remember that everything outside of shelter, food, basic clothing, medical care, and education is a privilege to which she is not automatically entitled. Those things are earned by being a responsible, respectful and resourceful child who works hard and is kind. Hold her to those standards - you'll be glad you did.
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