(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
How can I improve my relationship with my young daughter when my nasty ex won't say no to her?
(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: Right now, I want to welcome Sara. Sara, you're dealing with a 4-year-old, your 4-year-old? What's going on?
Sara: Well, me and my ex-husband separated about a year and a half ago. She's a daddy's girl. I'm having a lot of issues as far as when I say to do something or ask her to do something, "I don't have to. I'll just call my daddy or my grandma." She always has an extra person that says, "You don't have to do it." I'm trying to figure out how I can get through to her and say, "Look, I'm mom. The main person you need to be listening to and if you don't, there's going to be consequences." Every time I try to do the consequences, she has something to say. She tells me she hates me, she doesn't want to live with me anymore, all that good stuff.
Dr. Kenner: Okay. So you're laughing, and I'm sure there's a lot of pain behind that laughter. What I'm hearing is she's learned a method at a very young age that is splitting the two parents. They're better than you are. That's been effective with you. You need a way to be able to answer her, and a way to be able to give her much, much more than just in that moment being able to answer her. Being able to give her a principle that this is not a good game to play, to try to split people. So, one of the things -
Sara: I say, "Look. I'm mom, the main person you need to be listening to and if you don't, there's going to be consequences."
Dr. Kenner: One of them, parents become desperate. They try to be nice. "Just listen to me. This is what I need you to do. I need you to clean your room or we have to get in the car right now." "I don't have to. You can't tell me what to do. I'm telling daddy. Daddy says I don't." Who knows what daddy said. Does daddy feed into this, that you don't have to listen to mom?
Dr. Kenner: If she's doing things like that, you need a way to reach her mind. Parents typically - this is what I started with - parents typically will be sweet and then say, "Now listen. I'm the mother. You listen to me. Get in the car right now. I don't want to hear anything about daddy. In the car right now." She is starting to get in the car and then crosses her arms and says, "I don't have to." Here you are, a grown adult with a little 4-year-old pushing you around!
Dr. Kenner: And you're thinking, "Oh, I love my daughter" in that moment?
Sara: It's amazing how much I can love her and be mad at her all at the same time.
Dr. Kenner: So you can hold the full context. She is not probably feeling very warm and cuddly and fuzzy toward you at that moment.
Sara: Well that, and I'm gone most of the time because I'm currently in nursing school full time. So I'm gone four or five days out of the week and I come home and I'm home for a couple of days and then I go back.
Dr. Kenner: She gets you for how long?
Sara: A couple of hours a night.
Dr. Kenner: What is the laughter? What's behind your laughter?
Sara: It's just that I have no control. I haven't figured out a way to figure it out is the thing.
Dr. Kenner: What's your best, describe one of your best moments with her.
Sara: Watching movies with her, sitting there and talking about the movie and dancing with the movie and listening to words and her telling me all about the movie and about her day. Catching up, when we're watching a movie she'll catch up with me. That's the best part.
Dr. Kenner: That's going to make you an incredibly high value in her life. If you're somebody who gets on her wavelength and enjoys one of her values with her - you need to pick one that you like too. If my kids pick a value I don't like, I'm sitting there bored to tears, so try to find some mutual ground where you both share a similar hobby or interests or watching movies. With me it was reading books to my kids and teaching them. You're sitting there and she's dancing and you're dancing with her and she's having such a good time, that is doing much more to help her connect to you than what? Than telling her, "I'm the mom. You're going to listen to me." Now, moms and dads - especially in a divorce situation - you're in a difficult situation in that you have to tell her to do things she doesn't want to do, such as, "Eat your food. Finish your food before you eat your dessert. Brush your teeth now. Get into bed now. Get up now. It's time to get dressed now." You have to tell her what to do and you have to tell her things she can't do. "No, you can't watch TV now. You can't have dessert now." You become, in one of my favorite parenting books, the enemy. You're a ready-made enemy as a parent already. So how does any parent get around that, especially if you've got the added complication of your ex, possibly saying mean things against you? "You don't have to listen to mommy. Just call me if mommy is giving you any problems." And here you are trying to be a nurse, a helping profession, and you can't deal with your own 4-year-old, right?
Dr. Kenner: So, one of the things you can do is to, as I said, the dancing, playing with her and listening to her day is absolutely phenomenal. What to do to engage her cooperation is to say, and give me an example of something she does that you're having problems with?
Sara: If I tell her that she needs to get ready to go to bed, she says, "I'm not sleeping in the same room as you are, so I'll just go hang out with grandma." "No, we need to get ready to go to bed."
Dr. Kenner: The minute you say no, you become an enemy. You can use a skill called grant her wish in fantasy. "Honey, I can hear how much you want to stay up with grandma. I wish for your sake that I would say, '�Yes, you guys can stay up all through the night.' Tonight is not a good night to do that. Would you like to go to bed in 10 minutes or in 15 minutes? Tell me which is best for you?" I used two skills there. I used granting her wish in fantasy and I gave her a choice. A choice between 10 and 15 minutes. So kids like the experience of choice, and that's very helpful.
The books I want to tell you, one of them is Dinosaurs Divorce. You can go to my website, it will be up there probably within a day or two, but you can just google it. And there's a page where it says, "Don't let one parent to tell you to say things to the other parent." It has, in cartoonish form, the very principle that you need to teach her. But it's in a book, so you guys can talk about it. You can slow down on that frame. The other is the book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk, and that is on my website. That is a phenomenal book. Listen, I wish you wonderful success, Sara, with your 4-year-old.
Female 1: You've had quite a life.
Female 2: I suppose. I bet I know just what you're thinking - this is only the beginning. It's only going to get worse from here. Let me tell you something. I'm 81 now, and every morning, I open my eyes and I see the sun streaming through the window. I hear the birds chirping. I smell the coffee brewing down the hall and I walk into the bathroom and I look into the mirror and do you know what I say to myself?
Female 1: What?
Female 2: Aaaaaaaaah! The point is, it is only going to get worse from where you are, right now. What did you want me to say? Life gets better with every passing year?
Female 1: You're not making me feel any better.
Female 2: It's because I can't. Nobody likes to get older. But it doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself. Look, you're way too young to be concerned about all of this. Don't waste the best years of your life worrying about something you can't control.
Female 1: I know. I know you're right.
Dr. Kenner: And if that voice sounded familiar, it was Roz from Fraiser. And how are you dealing with getting older? Are you embracing it? I have a relative, two relatives, one who windsurfs at the age of in his 80s now. I mean, really windsurfs and rides for about 14 miles. I ride for about three miles. Another relative who travels all over in his mid-80s. So, really, if you have good health and if you can keep your health and that's somewhat out of our control, somewhat in our control, you can really enjoy your life.