Mentally Drained Mom Seeking Advice


We have a 9 year old girl, 6 year old boy, and 4.5 year old girl. I've read Parenting by The Book twice and The Well Behaved Child twice in the past month. Our 9 year old is the biggest challenge, currently battling lying, defiance, disobedience, writing on walls, not doing what is asked the first time. We started the chart system with all three kids four weeks ago with a list of three target behaviors: No lying, do what your told the first time, and no means no. An example of the lying is that our oldest will skip items on her chore list and say she has done them. She has also scribbled on the walls three times in the past two weeks. I'm mentally drained and don't know what to do.


Thank you for reaching out to Parent Guru. Your submission indicates that your 9-year-old is your biggest challenge but that you started the chart system with all 3 of your children 4 weeks ago with a list of 3 target behaviors. The fact that all three children are on the chart system, indicates that you have concerns about all three. I can't quite determine from your wording if all of the children have the same 3 behavior targets, though it sounds like that might be the case.

I believe that nothing breeds success like success and children definitely need to feel successful. If after 4 weeks of implementation your 9-year-old had no success with the chart system, a change is needed. (I'm not sure about the success level of other two children as you do not say). I suggest removing "no lying" as a target behavior. As John points out in his book, The Well-Behaved Child, when a child tells a lie and parents get all bent out of shape, the child is much more likely to tell another lie because a certain level of drama has been created, with the child at the center. Being the central figure in the drama can be quite addicting!

Target behaviors such as: 1) No writing on walls 2) Follow directives when given and 3) Complete assigned chores are all targets that are clearly stated and easily verified (Note: Examples of Daily/Weekly chores are: make your bed each morning, fold and put away laundry, unload dishwasher. Taking vitamins and brushing teeth are not 'chores' per se). No system will work unless both the targets and consequences are clearly stated, age appropriate and implemented with fidelity.

Though one might expect a two-year-old to try writing on a wall, a 9-year-old who writes on the walls is clearly seeking attention. You say your daughter always "goes" around adults when you go places, but you do not indicate a reason(s) she does this. I certainly would talk with her about it privately, not in anger but out of concern. She needs to have healthy relationships with other children her age. This is very important - and could be connected to the negative behaviors you are observing at home. Meeting with her teacher at school may also help shed some light on her behaviors.

Your children are all in Season 2, The Season of Leadership and Authority. They need to view you and their father as the leaders of the family who are to be listened to and whose directions are to be followed. They also need to feel unconditional love. Setting time aside each week to do something 'fun' as a family helps family members feel connected in a special way (i.e., play board games, visit the park, go on a hike, take family bicycle rides, enjoy backyard activities, etc.). Feeling connected to family promotes positive behavior and can help relieve stress in both adults and children.

No doubt this is a busy time in the life of your family. Becoming mentally drained is not good for your overall health. It is important that you and your husband work together and support one another, which includes understanding that each of you needs time to recharge by enjoying some 'adult' time, independently and together. It will not only help you in the long run but also your family.

Sharon Lamberth
Certified Leadership Parent Coach

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