Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
I was ready to trade my own child in for my friend’s 8 year old. When this other little girl is with us she is charming, courteous, engaging, obedient and just an absolute pleasure to have around. I hear when my daughter is much the same when visiting at my friend’s house. Unfortunately, around us my daughter is argumentative, selfish, whiny, and impatient. Recently our two families spent the weekend together and low and behold I discovered that around her own mother, my friend’s daughter was also a different child and acted exactly like our 8 year old daughter does when she is with us!
Why can our children be angels for other adults and devils to their own parents? It’s frustrating. I want our daughter to treat us like she treats her friend’s parents!
First, and most importantly, if your daughter has the ability to act the angel with others outside your home, you have done an excellent job at parenting. She has the traits and abilities you respect. Why she turns them off for you is another matter, and is actually wrapped up in these very traits and abilities. I have observed that social, intelligent, independent children see themselves as more adult than they are. As a result, they engage with and get treated by outsiders as older than they are. Her charm actually manipulates others to fulfilling her desires. Outsiders aren’t in a role to say no and have to discipline her, so there really is no conflict.
On the other hand, as her parent you have to set limits, boundaries and discipline her. Having raised her as an intelligent and independent child has empowered her to see herself as your equal, not your dependent; hence the tantrums and fights.
It is ok to teach her that she needs to respect you as she does her other elders… but don’t squash her self-esteem in doing so. It is ok to point out you are the parent and it is your job to think for her best interests long term so she might not agree with you in the immediate. That is ok, she can disagree, she can even be mad, but she needs to do it anyway, without a tantrum, as you are her parent and she needs to respect you.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I’m beginning to have a serious problem with this whole matter of self esteem. The phrase itself indicates that the person in question regards themselves with great admiration. What it does not indicate is that they have any admiration or respect for anyone else. I think that a far better goal to strive for in children is self-RESPECT. People with immense amounts of self-esteem often feel entitled to do whatever they have to, in order to get what they want. After all, they deserve it, don’t they? People with self-respect know better.
I have another take on children who can charm the pants off acquaintances and strangers but have no regard for her own parents. I would say that they are full of self-esteem to the point where they are manipulative little brats. They can put on an act when they want to make a good impression, but they don’t bother when familiarity at home breeds contempt. This isn’t a sign that they have been raised well, but rather a sign that their priorities are in the wrong place.
A child who is well-raised shows respect for her parents. She doesn’t kiss up to others and treat her own family as if they were annoying bugs who needn’t be minded.
My advice to Miffed? If you want your daughter to treat you like she treats the other parents, then let someone else adopt her and just visit every once in a while. OR- you could start teaching her the meaning of respect for both herself and others. She’s sure as shootin’ not going to learn it from the neighbors. It sounds like they have the same problem you do.