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Ten-Year-Old Won't Do as She's Asked
Q: I have a ten-year-old daughter in middle school. All of a sudden, she thinks she's grown up and doesn't have to listen to what anyone tells her. When I ask her to do something, she does other things before eventually getting around to doing what I've asked. She also does this at school with her teachers. I've tried explaining to her that she has to listen to adults, but so far I haven't had any luck. She makes bad grades at school, and I've talked with her teachers several times. They all tell me they know she is capable of doing the work. Any advice would be appreciated.
A: Your daughter is experiencing a very normal adolescent phenomena called independence or "I will do it my way." As you have already discovered, this looking for control means not listening to adults. My advice is "logical consequences."
At home, make sure there is a consequence for her doing things "when she gets around to it." For example: "Because you didn't get the dishes done 'til late, you must need more time at home. So instead of an hour at Jaime's house after school, stay for only half an hour." Or conversely, "When you have finished cleaning your room to my satisfaction, you can go to Jaime's for an hour." You will have much better ideas than these.
At school, the teachers appear to be imposing natural consequences -- lower grades. You might reinforce those consequences by accepting her failure as her responsibility and supporting the consequences of the school. Remind her that lower grades mean she will not be considered for some clubs, awards, or activities. You might set up a consequence wherein she will have to take some summer school classes if she fails.
Most of all talk with your daughter not to her. Listen to her. Accommodate and let her have some independence and control over some things in her life. If she fails, focus on what she can do to change that and don't perceive her as a failure. Finally, enjoy her becoming a young woman. It's a balancing act, but you can do it.
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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.