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yadeline
yadeline asks:
Q:

My daughter comes back from her dad's house a different kid.  What can I do?

i have a three year old daughter and im a single mom.. me and her father have joint custody of her. I'm having a problem when she comes from her fathers house... shes very defiant, disrespects me all the time she has a very nasty attitude. Now she has started telling me hateful things ( I hate you, I dont want to be with you etc..) I have put her in timeout and give her consequences for things she does..... shes still dosent seem to change. Im lost i dont know what else to do......
In Topics: Single parent families
> 60 days ago

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Expert

ShirleyCressDudley
Jan 10, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

It's tough for a child to experience divorce.  A child's world has been turned upside down and they no longer know the "rules."

Talk with your daughter. Explain that you love her; and mommy and daddy's divorce has nothing to do with that love- she will always be your daughter.  

Also talk about time at dad's house.  Explain that it's O.K. to have a good time at both houses.  You can encourage her to talk to you about her time with dad.  (The answer where her child colored/drew pictures is a wonderful idea for little ones.)  Another idea is to buy her dolls that represent the different houses and let her play with them, while you sit alongside her.

Talk with your ex-husband too. Remind him that it's best for your child to not hear negative talk from either mom or dad about their ex-spouse. Children shouldn't have to decide between mom and dad.  Also ask if anything negative is happening over at his house. I know it's hard to co-parent when you're divorced, but put any negative thoughts aside and focus on what's best for your child.

Good luck to you as you all learn how to deal with the divorce.
Kindest Regards,
Shirley

Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC
Founder of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center

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Additional Answers (17)

kat_eden
kat_eden , Parent writes:
Hi Yadeline,

This sounds like a really tough situation.  Three year olds in the best of circumstances are no picnic (I have one of my own!) but it sounds like the adjustment to your family situation is making your three year old even trickier than most.  

I don't know what your relationship with your daughter's father is, but if you can do it, I think conversations with him are probably the right place to start.  Kids this age thrive on consistency so if things like rules, expected behavior, even meals and bedtime routines, are really different between the two houses, it could be enough to throw her off like this.  If you two can find ways to co-parent effectively it will really help your daughter.  Try to come to agreement about what's expected of her in BOTH houses, what the rewards will be when she behaves as expected and what the consequences will be if she doesn't.   Make sure things are as close to the same as possible in both houses (bed time is a great example).   If either of you are being lenient to her to try to make her "like you more" you're not doing her any favors in long run.

There are lots of great co-parenting resources on the web.  We have this article about the benefits of taking co-parenting classes (http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Co_Parenting_Divorce/).  If you do a web search on co-parenting you'll find lots more.  

If you and your daughter's father absolutley can't work together to have things be consistent between your houses, then the best you can do is make sure you're really consistent in your own house.   You may have to talk to her about it and say something like "I know that's allowed at Daddy's house but it's not ok to do here.  I know that's hard to understand but that's the way it is."  Do your best to stick to routines and have consistent rewards/consequences for her behavior.  If you're more "strict" then her dad, she'll probably continue to act out like this for a while.  If you stick with it, eventually she'll appreciate that she knows what's expected of her and her behavior will improve.  Kid this age really do want to do what's right and she needs your support in learning how.

Good luck and please let us know how you're both doing.

Kat
Education.com Community Team



> 60 days ago

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MissD
MissD writes:
Your question is very similar to my situation as well.  My son is 4 1/2 now and I have lived apart from his father since he was 2 1/2.  It was actually really easy at first, when he was younger and more dependant.  As he gets older however he is learning what he can and can't get away with at mom's vs dad's house.  
I have always struggled with his father and trying to get him to be more strict and scheduled with our son.  Give him rules and a bed time, not just fun and games non stop.  He has reasured me that he tries but our son's behavior often tells a different story.  To the point of him crying when he realizes that Mommy is picking him up instead of Daddy.  This at first was heartbreaking for me.  I felt I might be doing something wrong and that my son didn't want to be with me.  
Now however I realize that he can't grasp the concepts of responsibilities, work, divorce, etc.  He's just a kid who wants to have fun.  Daddy lets him do whatever he wants at his house so of course he wants to be there!  
After the first night back at mom's things always change for the better however.  Living in two seperate homes has to be terribly hard on a young child.  I've had him cry because he didn't want to leave my house one night as well.  Its hard, and most likely, always will be.  
I agree with the previous poster however that consistency is key in getting a better response from your child.  Let her know your there for her and you always will be.  Eventually your consistency will be appreciated and will make her a more well rounded person over all.  Daddy's house will always be more relaxed and fun but her foundation will always be with you.
> 60 days ago

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Momtimez2
Momtimez2 writes:
I am in the same boat. I have two kids. My 12 year old lives with his dad because he didn't want to change schools. My 3 year old little girl (from 2nd husband) adores her father. His life is a bit of a mess. I have our daughter 90% of the time. He will call me just to tell me she doesn't want to go home to me. But when I see her she doesn't fuss and runs to me. I have told him numerous times that giving our little 'princess' everything she wants and letting her rule him makes it hard on not only me, but her as well. It forces her to adjust to mom's house after long weekends at daddy's. I am at my wit's end with the disrespectul and nasty attitude. I am more strict than daddy. My daughter has a nightly routine in which her dad doesn't. She knows it's bath/shower, brush teeth, story, hugs and kisses, then bedtime. It is very frustrating that she gets mad at me and says she wants her daddy. Now I find out from daycare she is a little bit mean to the kids and insists on having a toy or game NOW! This is not like my sweet girl who is 3 but seems to be a compact 15 year old girl destined to rule the world. I think what the other people are saying is all we can do, stick to the routine and tell our kids what is not ok at Mom's house even if it's ok at Dad's house. I believe it's always in the best interest of the child to have similar routines but if that can't happen, I guess the moms have to deal with the backlash. This is unfortunate. It seems the mom's time will come eventually and our kids will appreciate our consistency. It's hard not to give in but on the other hand it's harder to deal with the kid that always gets their way. Best of luck!
> 60 days ago

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nikkifour
nikkifour writes:
I have had a daughter who has gone back and forth between her father and I since she was 3 years old. At first things were much the same way but I found with a lot of Love and special attention things get a lot better. The first day is always the toughest and some time out worked for me. The hardest part for me was trying to figure what she was seeking. One day after she returned we sat and colored and she drew what went on at her Dads house and through play she repeated a lot of issues I never knew she had. I had to give her my undivided attention for about 30 minutes right when she returned and things slowly got better. Just imagine her life of relocating and try to have patience.  I would also speak to her father and ask how she is when she first gets at his house. Maybe there is a pattern to her behavior. Good Luck
> 60 days ago

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blurvrmom
blurvrmom writes:
have you asked your child why she's so angry with you? ask her if anything happens when she goes to her dad's, if anyone has said anything about keeping secrets, to tell you cuz all mommy's have to know kid's secrets to help keep them safe.
> 60 days ago

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LOVLIFE
LOVLIFE writes:
Ok, MOM's this is kinda hard for me. While I can understand your points and concerns. I am the "Dad" I am very strict with my daughter. I have all these guidelines with her and very very consistent. Bed time, dinner, bathing, cleaning, fun time school etc. My daughter is 4 years old. I have her every other week and every Sunday for church. However I am having this problem. She tells me she wants to stay with me forever and so on. Well I tell her that she has to go to Mommy's house because mommy misses her and loves her. Of course when mommy comes to get her she is excited to see her. Now she does not act up at all with me, assuming due to her knowing the expectations of my house. However her mom calls on a weekly basis telling me to talk to my daughter because she is not listening. Then telling me she always acts up when she comes home from my house. This is confusing as I do not know what is going on at moms house. I know mom has had a couple BF and consistent changes and moved a few times as well. So is this my daughter going through a stage? Or is there something else going on. Is there not some research that shows why kids act out. I mean in my case at least it seems as if the mom in this case is just not doing what is expected. Thanks for the honest and truthful responses.
> 60 days ago

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Eglm12
Eglm12 writes:
I'm going through the same thing with my 7 yr old daughter. Every time she comes from her dad's house which is every second weekend she is nasty, mean, disrespectful, she won't listen etc. I know she is allowed to do pretty much whatever she wants there as she has told me several times. Not to mention that because she's only there every second weekend he has now turned into the "Disneyland dad" taking her somewhere fun and doing fun things all weekend. This is especially frustrating as he was so completely useless when we were all together. He lied, cheated, was extremely emotional and mentally abusive, the list goes on and on. I have a 14 yr old daughter as well who does not see him at all (he was her stepfather) due to the horrible way he treated her. Although my 7 yr old daughter has always been a more aggressive and defiant child from the start her behavior is very different coming from her dads. I've talked to him several times about this to no avail and now he has a new wife that I feel is making matters worse. We have routines, consistency etc at my house since both of my girls have been small toddlers but my ex completely undoes all of that every time she goes there. I'm at my wits end. I love both my daughters very much. I would be devastated if my youngest had to spend more time at her dads. I just don't know what to do. I'm so sick of douchebag ex husbands who consistently complicate our lives and make us feel like we are the ones who are always doing something wrong. Sorry I'm sure my rant didn't help you much.
> 60 days ago

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russellnewton
russellnewton writes:
Not a great deal.
As a single dad I realized early that I did not have control over my children when I didn't have them. All I could do was worry about and do the best you can when you have them. This is not to say that you can't have an opinion on what happens when they are away. How would you like it if your ex keeps ringing you and telling you how to run their lives? Be careful there's a fine line between opinions and lecturing. One of my boys was very similar to your girl, he was holding me for ransom, eg: if I can't have this then I will stop coming over to see you. He was testing me to see what he could get away with and playing parents against each other. When this happened I decided to take a stand and said well I'm not forcing you to come over, if you don't want to don't. But when you're at my house it's my rules and mummy can run her house the way she wants to. All my 4 sons are now adults and constantly visit me, as we have such a strong loving relationship. This is not to say this will work for you, all kids and parents are different, hang in there and just do the best you can.

Russell
> 60 days ago

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russellnewton
russellnewton writes:
Try to be consistent and have routines. Kids, even though they wont admit to it, do like to have boundaries. Another thing that I found was having both parents flexible. On a few occasions my boys found it easy to stay an extra day or be an extra day late to wherever they were going. It's nothing against the parent, it's what's best at the time for the child. Parents get this mixed up a bit. It's all about your child, trying to develop them into a well balanced person not about the grown ups. I had equal custody and in fact had all my children more than their mother, only due to being a shift worker and having the time available.
I so loved having the boys and being involved with their lives. Cherish your time and keep pumping the love into the family home. It doesn't last forever.
> 60 days ago

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dffrntgrl09
dffrntgrl09 writes:
I'm sorry but everyone that has posted talks about a three year old as being like a puppet. A three year old kid will not have a defiant attitude and act this way because their 'horrible father' told them to. As for the stability, how can you expect a father to keep a stable routine if he only sees his kid a few times a month. Of course they are going to do as many fun things with them as they can for the time that you have so graciously allotted them. If roles were reversed I am sure you would do the same. I used to be always for the mom's side and thought why would they ever lie about this or see things the wrong way if it is for the benefit of their kid? But being with my boyfriend and seeing how his ex acts about their kid and does things I am truly starting to see just how much the female mind will construe things and try to pin everything on the father, because heaven forbid if she's the terrible parent in any situation. Start to actually look at things through the other parent's eyes and quit letting your hormones get in the way of things ladies.
> 60 days ago

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SHolcom
SHolcom writes:
I would be very careful of trying to co-parent with your Ex. I personally have found that I put my daughter more in the middle, and she became under attack from her father for sharing anything with me pertaining to him that I would try to talk to him about. It sounds like the first thing you should do is put her in some type of therapy.

My daughter is now completely convinced that her dad is a victim, and needs her protection, and hides everything he says and does. Please proceed with caution.

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Beeniesdad
Beeniesdad writes:
Dear Yadeline,
     I am sorry that you are having this issue. My ex wife says that my daughter has that same attitude. Of course I can not know what her exact issues are, I can say that she is a three year old child having to go between the two people that she loves the most in the world. You can't blame her for being confused and she sees that she get attention from you when she says those mean things to you.
     I can assure you that dad gets the same treatment sometimes. I handled it by having my daughter sit in her bed until she wished to talk to me as my daughter. When she was ready I explained that in my house we don't hate. We can dislike but never hate. Then explain how much you love her and just talk about what is bothering her.
      Don't empower her by letting her see that she can hurt you with bitterness and realize she has feels past around only able to love one at a time. If you explain to her that she will always be loved when she is with you and you love her even if she is with her dad.  I tell my daughter that my love for her is like an ocean that flows between my home and when she is at her mom's. I also tell her that her mom loves her when she is with me and when she is with her. Remember, your love is without end for your angel. She does not always need to love you. You have enough love for you both.
    Make your journeys extraordinary.
> 60 days ago

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Prescott_Jr
Prescott_Jr writes:
Hi Yadeline,
My 13 year old son [content removed by Just Ask moderator],experienced quite the same problem but in my exes house. I wasn't saying anything negative about him, and when my ex tried to talk to him he'd throw something at him or even worse he would go out the door and threaten to run away. My ex couldn't ground him because of the same reasons. His twin [content removed by Just Ask moderator] started getting scared of him, so she finally told me half of what was happening and asked me to talk to [content removed by Just Ask moderator] about the rest, because she didn't know. Apparently he found out they were adopted and he over heard my ex talking to adopting agency about giving the twins another home. He wasn't talking about them but [content removed by Just Ask moderator] was pretty convinced. My advice is tell your ex-husband to talk to her as she may not feel comfortable talking to you.
> 60 days ago

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dani1990
dani1990 writes:
i have a 3 year old daughter as well and I just started experiencing the same problem...i went to pick up my daughter from daycare the other evening and she was crying as i showed up. Turns out her dad told her she was coming to my house that evening and that really upset her. She told him she didnt want to go to my house. I didnt know how to deal with the situation at that time, I was so upset to see her so upset and the fact that she didnt want to come to my house kind of made me angry with her dad's side of the family. So, I got the lady from daycare to text her dad to let him know that he can pick her up from daycare because i didnt know what to do. The past week that she has been at my house her behavior has been changing, saying she doesnt like me..shes only 3. So i got to thinking About how her dad's side of the family talks about me...when i ask her to clean up her toys or to be nice to her 2 year old sister its always "no" or "no, I dont have to" and she is already slamming her bedroom door. I put her for timeouts for these behaviors. It doesnt help at all. She is an only child at her dad's so I figure it could be jealousy between her and my other little one. His mom is always the one spending time with her and giving her what she wants. Maybe this has some play in whats going on..I dont know. All he says is hes not going to force her to come to my house when she says she doesnt want to go. I think this is so unfair to me. Its Christmas next week and im supposed to be picking her up on xmas eve til evening of xmas day..all i can think is what if she says no to coming to my house then...is he going to just keep her at his house all the time when she says no? I dont want to go through the courts again. I cant afford to do that but something needs to be done...i need advice from more experienced parents because right now i am lost.
> 60 days ago

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mrandmrslee
mrandmrslee writes:
Hello all,

I'm so sorry to hear about what's going on. I know it's extremely confusing and heartbreaking. The same thing is going on for my husband and I, except the perspective is a bit different. My husband has been the primary caregiver of his daughter (my step-daughter) since birth...even though her mother lived with the two of them for the first year and a half. We are currently in the middle of custody proceedings. She is 3 1/2.
We dated for almost a year during which her mom would only take her for 36 hours every 2 weeks or so (now she takes her most weekends). We were married this year in April, and have set rules, consistent routines and expectations within our home. She loves both of us, and is wonderfully taken care of. However, when we pick her up from her mom, for the next day or so she is very sad and constantly repeats that she doesn't want to stay with us. Contrasting though, when we drop her off with her mom she frequently says she doesn't want to go. Her mom is dating a guy who does drugs, they have pit bulls who aren't being trained, and apparently she has to put toilet paper down on the toilet seat there so she doesn't sit on bugs...but because she has a puppy there and gets to play with mom's boyfriend's son (whom he does not have primary custody of) she likes it there better. We are honestly pretty hurt by it. Her mom has mentioned to my husband's mother recently that our daughter has been acting out...so maybe she's going through the same thing there. Not sure what to do...but I'm thinking she gets some kind of satisfaction from making us sad because she's sad too. We tell her it's mean and hurts our feelings, but she says it anyway. Her mom buys her things to "shut her up" frequently, but never plays with her...and she's never had much attachment to her mom...so I'm guessing it's the rules and routines she really despises over here. I'm really hoping your situation evens out soon.

-Katy and Ethan Lee
> 60 days ago

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pink_kinny
pink_kinny writes:
I also need help! My almost 4 yr old lovely daughter goes happily to her dad's once a week for midweek contact and then every other weekend. This was great but all of a sudden she won't go to bed at his to the point the bloke who works loads and has a new family to spend time with redecorate the bedroom because she didn't like it. He has resorted to bringing her home when she has a.complete tantrum because she is waking up his new baby and almost hurting herself. We have the past year started working together as parents rather than against each other which has been great. Don't love him but can say I think I like him as her dad.  She's had 2 tantrums this week for me and then last night a very tiered stressed daddy was banging on the door with a very upset and worked up small person. Why is she doing this? She loves him! She loves her little newer sister,I've worked hard to encourage her to be nice to his wife and that she's my little ones friend. But someplace we r going wrong and I love my baby girl but I want her to stay with her daddy when she's supposed to and have a good relationship with him. Is he right to bring her home or should he ride it out like I do if she strops. Where is my living little girl who worshiped her dad gone ?
> 60 days ago

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nicobug
nicobug writes:
yadeline, i empathize with you greatly. i am a single mother of a daughter as well--she's nine now, but she used to do a lot of the same things around three. the first responder to your question, the 'expert' Shirley--hers was a presumptuous and mediocre response. you didn't mention divorcing anywhere in your message. i myself, was never married nor divorced from my child's father, so she never knew the effects of divorcing parents. however, i know that she has grown up only knowing her parents apart, going back and forth between two different homes (which has its challenges for everyone, but certainly its benefits for everyone as well, and the assumption that a nuclear family arrangement is 'best' for a child's well-being or developmental health is antiquated and simply ignorant), and the difference in parenting between two parents who disagreed on many things. this can cause quite a bit of confusion for the kid. i agonized over these issues for years, as my daughter would go through phases of 'acting out' at me, and never her father (so he insisted). people would tell me--it's because she trusts you more, she's closer to you, it's a mother-daughter thing!...it had me in tears frequently. so far, these are the most valuable lessons i've learned to navigate these issues in order to raise my daughter without conflict with her father, keeping her health and well-being priority, as well as taking care of myself (which models for her how to take care of herself): 1. learn about boundaries and self-trust; my daughter tried to cross mine so often because i was not clear on what boundaries were, what mine were, and how to set and maintain them. i was constantly questioning myself and she picked up on that. 2. i couldn't change anything her father did to influence how she saw me, but i could be true to me. i never bad-mouthed her father--or i took responsibility and admitted my mistake if i faltered--and i engaged conversation with her as far as she could go. yes, even at three years old. and 3. i worked on my own sense of self-worth--this allowed me to detach from her efforts to break my boundaries (because this is why they challenge them--they're looking for proof that they can trust and rely on you, that you won't break and cave and become dangerous or a pushover when they make a mistake or need help). when she said 'i don't like you! my daddy lets me!', i could remember that in fact, i am a good mom, i am a loving mom, i take good care of her, and she can think and feel however she wants about a strict bedtime at three, and i don't have to be affected by her drama--cos i know i'm a good mom.

also i did a lot of research about communication w children--Nonviolent Communication was fascinating to me.

i know it's been a while since your post, hope things are going well for you and your daughter~
38 days ago

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