The Grass Really Isn’t Greener on the Other Side


My 10-year-old daughter seems always to think the grass is greener somewhere else. For example, we homeschool, which she enjoys, but often expresses her wish to return to regular school, and when talking with other people, she claims to hate homeschooling. When planning a vacation, she doesn't want to go because she'll miss out on gymnastics. After the vacation, she admits it was a great time. If we pick a movie to watch, she throws a small tantrum and sulks because we're "forcing" her to watch it. As expected, she enjoys the movie and seems to forget the fit ever happened.

When she gets to do what she wants to do she's perfectly pleasant, but any time she has to do what others want it's a bad attitude. I get most of the bad attitudes, but so do other members of the family. How do I help my daughter be more easygoing so we don't have to constantly interrupt the flow to address the sulking or a fit?


It sounds as though your ten year-old daughter is practicing and crafting her art of manipulation, as she has discovered that her happiness is at the top of the family's agenda. Fortunately, you're realizing this and can most certainly steer this situational ship back on course. My first piece of parenting advice would be to quit soliciting her opinion regarding matters of the family. Family decisions, including things like vacations, movie choices, and even schooling platforms should be made exclusively by the parenting adults in the home, not the children. I would discontinue seeking her opinions on such matters prior and verbally make it clear to her that her opinions are not welcome before, during, or after such decisions are made. Be clear that the only feedback she may provide is gratitude. Give her examples of what that looks and sounds like, so she has a clear understanding of it. Furthermore, I would give her regular doses of "Vitamin N" -- meaning, tell her "no" multiple times more than you tell her "yes" to things. She's been allowed to become very comfortable voicing her input and probably has had successful outcomes in doing so in the past. I would sit her down for a long chat and let her know that your household is going to be a parent-centered household going forward and that you will no longer be orbiting around her. Additionally, it's okay to relay that you know this will be a considerable change and will be an adjustment for her, but you are willing to work through that adjustment as a family.

Most importantly, as your daughter seems to be focused on herself, I would put a great deal of energy into teaching her how to be focused on others going forward. Placing others before yourself teaches valuable lessons such as empathy, patience, integrity, and resilience. Working with her to find opportunities to serve others in a community service capacity would be helpful. Additionally, I would ensure that she is meaningfully contributing to the family with multiple household chores (without any compensation). For example, does she do her own laundry, set or clear the dinner table, rotate in when cleaning the bathrooms or floors? These are learning opportunities that will help her feel like a valued member of the family and also help humble kids that are rarely satisfied. In addition, I would recommend reviewing moments of daily gratitude before bedtime and allow her to verbalize and reflect on all of the things she has to be grateful for in her life. The more you can focus on her finding meaningful purpose in helping others, the more happy she will ultimately be going forward.

In John Rosemond's Book, The New Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children, he has an afterword titled "Rosemond's Bill of Rights for Children." Article Eight states "Children have the right to learn to be grateful for what they receive. Therefore, they have the right to receive all of what they truly need and very little of what they truly want."

Taking these considerable steps with your daughter now will pay off immensely in the future. In no time, you should find your daughter focusing less on her own happiness and more on others. With this, daily gripes tend to diminish significantly. If she struggles to learn these lessons quickly, it is okay to not include her in fun family events and extracurriculars for the time being. I would advise you to be disciplined with your own parenting approach by being loving, yet firm. Think about your ultimate goal as a parent and remind yourself often that having a child who is never satisfied will only become more challenging in their teenage years. Be proactive and anticipate these occurrences so you aren’t frustrated afterward. Use Alpha-Speech and be very direct about what type of feedback will and will not be accepted. Seize this precedent-setting time to set yourself up for years of happy parenting later.

All the best,

Lisa Stilwell
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach

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