My 8-year-old daughter is growing totally out of hand, the longer this lockdown continues. I work from home and I must admit that I give her the tablet when I’m on Zoom meetings, or work calls, as I’d get no peace otherwise. But then, when I try to take it back from her there is war. She is so stubborn, rude and downright bold. I’ve resorted to sending her to her room, but I can still hear her banging and slamming things. How can I get her behaviour back on track?
Our relationships with our children may be getting quite strained, as a consequence of so many negative aspects of the lockdown. Working from home, keeping children’s education on track, and running the household is a very delicate balancing act for any of us.
Throw in children’s own anxieties, or frustrations with missing school, friends and activities and it is often a recipe for sharp words or even bitter rows. You may find that your own stress has built as the lockdown has continued, as reserves of patience, tolerance and creative parenting might have reduced.
It will always help us to see things from our children’s point-of-view, alongside holding our own perspective. From your perspective, for example, the tablet is a useful digital babysitter when you need to give full attention to your work. For your daughter it may be a wonderland of entertainment, amusement and pleasurable distraction, that brightens up an otherwise boring day, without access to her friends, and she may have little sense of how long she is on the device.
So, I think it will be helpful for you to tap into how she may be feeling, more generally, about having been cooped up for all these weeks without school or friends. I think many children might be carrying upset, frustration, disappointment and resentment about things they are missing. Those strong feelings may be held just under the surface, erupting in intense outbursts, from other, smaller, triggers.
Empathising with, and acknowledging, the possible feelings that your daughter has should serve to help her to process the feelings and to reduce the intensity of them, such that they don’t leak out at other times. Using empathy, too, when you have to remove the tablet from her, alongside having a well-signposted finish time, may also defuse the intensity of her feeling in that moment.
Given how stretched your family life sounds, and with all the conflict you are having, you might also want to see if there is any way to rebalance things in your relationship with her. Could you create some time to just “be” with your daughter, doing fun things, like dancing, singing, reading, cycling, watching movies, or anything you both find enjoyable? Having more opportunity to do anything that gives you both a bit joy and positivity will be an important counterpoint to any tension.
Sometimes we just need the positivity that comes with warm relationships, hope and excited anticipation of better things (like the easing of the lockdown may allow access to more friends) to help us to manage the minor frustrations of the day to day.