Battles of Will
Ariel Carter, 7, hates to be told to help clean up the house. "The last time we got into one of these fights, she drew a picture of her outstretched palm, wrote 'Go away' on it, stomped over to my desk to get some tape, taped it to her door, and shut herself in her room," says her mom, Lylla, of Water Mill, NY.
Don't be a drill sergeant Not wanting to comply with orders is a big reason for a lot of struggles at this age, so make sure you're not bossing your child around all the time. Set clear rules about what needs to get done, but within that framework, give her more control over her own routines, such as doing homework or getting ready for bed. For example, you can let her choose whether she wants to play before she does her schoolwork or after the job is done.
Pick up on her feelings Kids may become frustrated and angry if their parents aren't sensitive about the issues most important to them: a growing awareness of their body and social pressures like bullying or teasing. Your child's social skills are mature enough so that she can learn how to avoid conflict with others. If the boy sitting next to her in school always picks on her, for instance, let her know that she can ask the teacher to have her seat changed.
Practice cooling off To help defuse impending rage, help your child identify the physical feelings that accompany it, like a racing heart or faster breathing. Before she loses control, suggest she do something to calm down, such as take deep breaths, count to ten, or quietly sing a song. (These strategies, in simplified form, can also work with preschoolers.) Next time fury strikes, she may be able to turn to these techniques herself.
Congratulate good behavior Praising your grade-schooler goes a long way toward reinforcing the ways you want her to act. "You expect an eight-year-old to have a certain degree of patience and self-control," says Dr. Shapiro, "but you have to remember to acknowledge it." Focus on the specific behavior and say something like "You were really patient with your brother when he was messing with your toys. I liked the way you were gentle and didn't lose your temper."
Olivia, now 6, stopped hitting me a long time ago (and -- fingers crossed -- no longer even wants to, either). These days, it's Lucy I have to watch out for.
Christina Frank writes about health, psychology, and child rearing for PARENTING, Health,and other magazines.