I’d like to determine whether my daughter has become a determinist or is just determined.

We often hear statements like the following:

“I keep getting distracted.”
“I’ll / I can never stay in my bed.”
“I’m too tired / full / hungry / sad / grumpy.”
“I can’t ________.”
“I’m going to do the same thing again tomorrow night.”
“Nothing will help.”

We remind her that when she realizes she’s distracted, she can bring her focus back to her task. We remind her that she can, even when she doesn’t want to. That she doesn’t have to want to. We tell her that prayer is a good strategy, and that God would love to help her. We tell her she can decide to obey instead of worrying that she’s going to disobey. When it seems she’s threatening instead of fearing, we remind her that disobedience earns punishment or consequences. Warnings — “you’re running out of time for bedtime story,” for example — don’t change anything. She doesn’t move any faster, doesn’t focus any better, but she still gets upset that she’s run out of time.

It seems right out of that Strong-Willed Child or Dreamer book — she wants to please, wants things to go well, but it doesn’t motivate or enable her to change her behavior.

I’d like to peek in her mind and heart at these moments. What is it she really wants? What is she really trying to say? What does she believe? What does she fear?

And I’d like to know what would really help.

At this point, I suspect more hand-holding would help. If it’s connection she’s desiring, then having someone with her every step of the routine or task would be a connection. If there’s really a problem with focus, having someone with her can keep redirecting (boy does that get old, though!) If it’s an issue with feeling insufficiently skilled to do the routine or task, having someone with her can provide scaffolding.

It’s hard to be motivated to do the hand-holding. Especially by the end of the day I just want to sit and be done.

I hope she’s not really feeling as helpless as her whiny, defensive, angry statements suggest. If she is, I hope we can help her increase her skills, provide more opportunities for success, and especially help her manage her thoughts and feelings so they don’t derail her efforts so effortlessly.


3 thoughts on “Determinism

  1. Do you think that maybe her ability to focus and self-manage is compromised a bit by fatigue at the end of the day, just as you said yours is?
    Maybe you can review the entire evening routine and streamline it as much as possible so there are less tasks and responsibilities for her and it is more of an easing-towards-bedtime period and less of cleaning-everything-up-before-bed. I don’t mean to infer that there is too much being expected of her. But she may have less reserves remaining to rally and get things done as she tires.
    I know, for example, that for me, a clean kitchen is really important after dinner. I want every pot washed, counters clean, etc. It gives me satisfaction to know it is all done. My husband, OTOH, is tired by day’s end. When it is his turn to clean the kitchen, he prefers to leave the pots for morning when he is fresher and attack them then. I don’t like it, but I have learned to respect his approach as being equally legitimate and more appropriate for him. (I still don’t like it, though.)
    So I don’t know if moving more tasks to when she is fresher might help.
    Just a suggestion. I know this is frustrating.

  2. Good point, Amy; I am usually pretty aware of the fact that her tiredness will affect her flexibility, motivation, frustration tolerance, etc. Didn’t quite make the connection with bedtime routine.

    Her evening routine is pretty simple — most days we try to get things cleaned up before dinner, so there’s just pajamas, floss and brush, and story. I think trying to have one of us be there with her through it all will help. (Mark does the flossing and brushing; but we need to be there for the pajamas part, too.)

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