I Need Help With My Daughter’s Behaviour

Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

Get your parenting advice questions answered at Annie´s Advice Column
Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

Hello Annie. I need help with my daughter’s behaviour. I find myself at times screaming and yelling, which is the exact opposite of what I want to do. My girls are very busy and are always into things; they climb on things, and one has now started ripping up her books. I have found that my oldest daughter is becoming aggressive with other children, including running up to them and pushing them hard, and she is also now hitting my husband and me. The other day she bit my 17-month-old very hard on the finger, making it swell up. She is usually very loving, bright, well-mannered, and loves her sister very much, but I find she is just not listening to me.

I have been putting her in the corner and making her apologize for the things she has done, but again, my mother thinks that her apologies are half-hearted and she doesn’t mean them. I am thinking it is part of the “bones.” I was also wondering if you had some sort of daily schedule that a person could follow. I just feel lost sometimes as to what to do with the girls all day and find myself falling into a rut. My husband works long hours so he can keep me home with the girls, and we are lucky to see him for a half hour a day during the week. It is frustrating because when he comes home and when he is home, he does not want to be the “bad guy” because he only sees them for such a short time. Any thoughts as to what I can do and how I can work towards having a clean house or getting any chores done? I enjoy my girls to bits, but some days I find it so crazy that I question my qualifications for this position. PLEASE HELP………. Thank you. Melanie

Hello Melanie,

I need help with my daughter's behaviourI sympathize that your days are crazy, and I know that working long hours while taking care of two small children is never easy, but take heart—there is no one more capable or better at caring for your daughters than you. Trying to correct this behaviour in a letter is difficult because I can only mention the bare minimum of what is required, as fixing complex situations like this usually necessitates behaviour intervention

That said, the first thing that occurred to me on reading your letter was the fact that your husband doesn’t want to be the bad guy during the short period he has with the kids.

Be on the same page.

I understand how your husband feels, but please understand that no matter what changes I suggest, none of them will work if he comes home at the end of the day and inadvertently undermines you. Children are extremely perceptive and find out quickly which parent will give them what they want. That means he has to be on board with the changes that you want to make, understand why you want to make them, and agree to back you up no matter what. I’d also make sure you have that chat away from your daughter.

Who’s leading who?

Ok, let’s move on to what your older daughter is actually up to. You mentioned that she hits you and your husband. We absolutely want to stop that, along with the aggressiveness towards her sister and other people, as well as towards items around the house. So how do we deal with it? Well, let’s look at why she might be doing destructive things in the first place and then what we can do about it.

From what you’ve told me, it seems that you are struggling to cope. It also seems to me from reading your letter that all that’s happening is that your children are simply reacting to what’s happening to you. They need to know who’s in charge.

Being a leader is your most important job.

So make sure you are the leader and in charge of them rather than the other way around. How do you do this? First, mean what you say and follow through consistently. Make them part of what you’re doing but not always the focus of it. That means doing things of which they can be part.

Children are designed to watch, mimic, and follow you. If you don’t know where you’re going, they can’t follow you, and that makes them feel as though you don’t know what you’re doing and are looking to them for resolution. That will make them unhappy, which they’ll then show through their behaviour.

Then make a plan.

Start with trying to implement a routine, as you’ve noticed life is hard if you don’t have a clear path forward. Do some kind of energetic physical activity every day, like walking the dog, gardening, or going to the park. Add activities of which they can be a part, like cleaning up, sorting socks, or emptying the dishwasher. Include naps when needed, snacks, story time(s), and a bedtime routine with clear and consistent guidelines. On top of this, you will need to add grocery shopping and other chores.

Let them help.

With many chores, you can include them, and it’s important to do so. Let them help you. Small children love to help, so take advantage of it while they’re little and willing. Let them help unload the dishwasher, wipe the table, sweep up, wash the car, etc. Teach them things about their world. Go to the grocery store with them, point out the names of the vegetables, and let them help you put them in the cart. If you include them more, you will find that they naturally stop seeking to gain your attention in a negative way.

Whenever they play nicely, praise them for getting along so well. Notice their efforts, and do so often. Initially, you will find this more work, but believe me, it will make life much easier eventually.

Give your attention to the victim, not the perpetrator

Then consistently deprive your daughter of your attention when she behaves badly and instead pay lots of attention to the victim of her attack. After all, if you came to my house and hit me, I wouldn’t want to spend time with you, would I? It’s a natural human response. I know that when you’re really stressed, your blood pressure rises quickly, and it’s easy to yell. But when you put this plan into action, keeping calm is key.

Not only that, but if you get upset, your daughter gets negative attention. When that happens, she knows she’s “got” to you. Is it possible that you could ask your mom or a close friend to help you out during the first few days? Having someone there to help will allow you to focus on finding things that she’s doing well and deal with the discipline aspects in a calm, consistent way.

Please keep in mind that when you change something, it will initially get worse. This is totally normal and to be expected, so just hang in there.

For more help with your parenting, please visit my parenting services page.

Best of luck. I really hope this helps you out.



Remember there’s no such thing as perfection.  Read this article on perfection and have a good laugh about all the things we parents are supposed to be.

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Did you know that Annie the Nanny made appearances on CTV for years.  Here’s one clip where Annie talks about the how limiting choices makes life easier for parents.

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