My seven-year old is a joy. Sometimes. The rest of the time she is indifferent to horrid, and sometimes we get into terrible fights. She has a knack of being able to press all the right buttons to get me and her Dad completely wound up. I have always hoped this was a phase she was going through, yet she seems to have been in it since she was about three-years old. I'm not sure if it is an age thing either, as her younger sister (who is now four) doesn't seem to provide us with half as many challenges. Some days I wonder if I should get her tested for some sort of syndrome. There must be a name for her attitude problem and her challenging behaviour. Then I remember what it is - it is genetics. She has the mix of a questioning mind and academic ability, crossed with rebelliousness and a low boredom threshold. As a result, I find her the hardest work out of all my offspring. Our daily battles are varied and many.
First of all there is the way in which she always seems to understand why she is being told off, only to go and do the exact same thing moments later - like dragging one of the twins over, and claiming the baby 'likes it' when she clearly doesn't. We tell her not to do it and send her to the very well-worn naughty-step (again). We go through the usual 'why were you on the naughty step *sigh*? routine, and talk about why her behaviour was out of order. She apologises to whichever baby she scared the bejeezus out of, and then goes and does it all again in less than two minutes. It drives me potty.
Then there is the morning routine thing. We have been getting up and going to school in a morning now for three years, at least. Why do I myself shouting at her every single morning to eat her breakfast / put her school clothes on / brush her teeth? I don't have to do this for the 4-year old, who I ask once at the most, and it's done. I hate comparing them, but my second-child is way more capable in most senses. I wouldn't mind so much, but my seven-year old's academic ability is significantly above average, so she's clearly not stupid. I know I have to be understanding of her space-cadet credentials, but it's the attitude I get back when trying to gee things up a bit that makes me want to scream!!!!!
She also seems to have a lack of talent for sitting still. Anywhere. At the dining table, in school assembly, in front of the TV. She also does this wriggling thing in tandem with sucking her thumb (the Dad's biggest pet peeve), and no matter what we do, she won't stop. Part of this is attention-seeking, and most of the rest is showing off. She likes to entertain and thinks that being silly is a way of doing this, whereas most of the time it just results in people thinking she is indeed, silly.
We fight over her love of video games. I can't criticise too much as we've always been into gaming, me especially, and we buy the girls games regularly, but it's the way the eldest goes on and on and on about them all the time. We get constant requests for her to play Zelda, or Mario Kart, or to go on-line and play flaming Moshi Monsters. Nothing else. We've bought her other stuff too, like books, outdoor toys, and craft sets, yet she craves gaming and has little mini tantrums over wanting to play them. Nothing too serious mind as I wouldn't stand for it, but she clearly, genuinely gets upset if we refuse. And God forbid we should interrupt a gaming session with an offering of a meal. How inconvenient for her! We have turned the game off at the wall many times when she seems to be taking way too long to 'save it then I'll come', but even the threat of banning video gaming for a period of time doesn't improve her behaviour elsewhere. The prospect of having her games taken away does not seem to even faze her, and though she knows we are indeed serious about hiding her DS and banning the Wii, she always seems to end up getting her ban extended. She never learns.
The one that has been ongoing pretty much since she was born is the bedtime battle. She has had a solid bedtime routine since she came home from the hospital. We were firm about it from an early age, yet when she goes to bed we get every excuse in the book why she can't possibly sleep right now. She is usually hungry, or thirsty, or just knows she's going to have a bad dream, or she's too hot, or too cold, or the duvet isn't right. We often hear her pottering around the girls' room above the living room, two hours after she went up to bed. She was the same as a baby, unsettled in her cot and crying to come out for ages after we put her down. Now, she shouts down to us regularly trying to buy more time downstairs, with her younger sister snoring obliviously in the bunk bed below.
My seven-year old is a sweet and sensitive child. She gets upset with real tears when our rows escalate and I tell her that if she really hates us that much she should pack her bags and go and live somewhere else, with a family that will let her have her own way all the time. (No, I'm not proud of this, but she makes it too easy for me to say it). She clearly loves her sisters and can play nicely with them when she wants to. She has lots of friends at school, even if she can be a bit bossy with them from time-to-time.
My long-term goal now is to try and show her the consequences of her behaviour without letting her permanently harm anyone around her, and try and get her to adulthood having learned from her sometimes destructive and challenging behaviour. I need to find a more productive outlet for her obvious intelligence and passion for entertaining. My daily battle is finding enough time to make her the focus of my attention for even a short period of time each day. I just wish that she didn't sometimes make it difficult for me to want to make the effort to spend some time with her.