My daughter can’t say no to her young children. How can I help?


We have two granddaughters, aged nine and five. The nine-year-old is bright and lovely most of the time. However, if she doesn’t get her own way she can be awful. She recently came to stay, with her mother and younger sister. The first day was fine, but the next day we had planned various attractions and booked tickets, but the nine-year-old didn’t want to go. We went anyway, as her sister did, and my daughter had to work. She then kicked offwas obnoxious, rude and disobedient.

We came home early and tried to stay positive, cheer everyone along and distract her, but nothing worked. As a punishment, I didn’t let her use her tablet. (My daughter backed me up, but doesn’t usually take it away.) I gave it back before bed as my daughter says it settles her. (It keeps her quiet.) At home, she is on the tablet nearly all day and doesn’t want to go anywhere.

I also feel she’s not allowing the five-year-old to grow up. She’s very clingy when her mother is around, but fine when she isn’t. She won’t go to sleep without her mother; my daughter goes to bed with her and hasn’t slept in the same bed as her husband for years.

I worry, seeing my daughter so tired; she also has no time to herself. How can I help?

It would be easy to fixate solely on the nine-year-old and dismiss her as “badly behaved”, but I think she’s the one showing up most clearly what is going on: this is a fairly disordered family with a desperate need for boundaries. And where is the father? All I know from your letter is that he snores. Your daughter, meanwhile, seems to have to manage both work and childcare (with your help) during the holidays. Why?

READ  Man who went viral for doing his blind wife’s makeup has filmed a how-to tutorial

I consulted Dr Alexandra de Rementeria (childpsychotherapy.org.uk). She homed in on the father’s absence and wondered if his leaving the marital bed was a consequence or the cause of the five-year-old sleeping with her mother. I am an advocate of attachment parenting; I have let my children sleep with me when they need extra comfort and I see nothing wrong in answering their needs. However, in doing that, it is also really important, as the fulcrum of the family, to understand and attend to your own needs. De Rementeria explained that although your daughter seems to be available at all times to her children, she actually isn’t. “If we do this, we are not really in charge of ourselves. We lose our ability to distinguish ourselves, we lose our backbone, the very thing that makes us interested and interesting.”

Put simply, your daughter is exhausting and martyring herself; she doesn’t seem to know where she ends and her children begin. This is neither healthy nor desirable in the long term. I wonder where her idea of motherhood comes from? Does she think she should be constantly available to her children? Is she afraid of saying no, and does she equate this with “bad mothering”? I wonder what she feels guilty about and if that makes her unable to be authoritative.

The nine-year-old seems to sense, as De Rementeria says, “a power vacuum” and is trying to fill it. Your daughter needs to do something equally powerful back, to get into the driver’s seat and take control. Her daughter’s overreliance on the screen is telling. De Rementeria explains: “The screen gives the illusion that she can meet her needs herself, that she doesn’t need adult attention. But she can’t and she does, hence the angry terror when it is taken away.”

READ  Why your next Instagram selfie isn't complete without some AI-generated poetry

I feel for your older granddaughter. The unit of her mother and little sister is quite impenetrable – where does she fit in? Does her mother make room for just her? What is her bedtime like: does a screen really put her to bed? De Rementeria thought it was gratifying that she seemed to respond to your authority – a boundary at last.

Although tempting to ignore or distract from her behaviour, as you did on your day out, it’s important to recognise and contain her feelings. Imagine if you were really angry and someone tried to distract you? Wouldn’t it make you even madder? Try saying, “You seem really angry”; this way you are acknowledging her and her feelings, but without relinquishing control or giving in.

If the father can’t step up and help to establish boundaries, ask if you can help your daughter to do that. It won’t happen overnight, because a lot of needs are going unmet in her family

● Send your problem to annalisa.barbieri@mac.com. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure the discussion remains on the topics raised by the article. Please be aware that there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.



READ SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here