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Child Independence

Anonymous
Posted by Anonymous
  • 10 Replies

Hello everyone, I'm new to being a mom of any sort, so I have a lot of questions.

I'm currently in a relationship with a man I've known for over a decade.
He has been divorced for about a year and has an 11 year old daughter, who is about as nice of a kid as one could ask for.  Never talks back, always smiling, funny, kind, interesting, etc., but I am really struggling with her lack of independence.  She has been babied her whole life, especially in the last 4 years.  She lives with her mother and grandparents when she isn't with her father.  She doesn't act spoiled, but it's like she has no idea what to do with herself when in the presence of adults.  She seems fine with other kids or at school.


8 months ago, she didn't even cut her own food up at meals, she didn't know how to order meals in a restaurant, she had never made her bed, picked up her room, or made a bowl of cereal.  When we go into stores, restaurants, etc. she doesn't open the door.  She waits for someone to open it for her.  Over the last few months, I've been slowly trying to work on establishing some independence in her, and she and her father are always receptive to the changes, but I seem to be hitting a major wall lately.  Some things have definitely improved, but there are still so many hurdles to overcome, and I seem to be becoming less tolerant of it all.

I'm a type A introvert.  I need to have my space.  I'm a terrible communicator in situations that are out of my comfort zone...this one.

The 11 year likes to follow us/me everywhere. When she's with us, she never, ever goes off on her own to do anything.  If I go to the basement, she follows me up and down. If I go to another room, she follows me back and forth.  If we are all in the kitchen cooking, etc. she is standing in the middle of it all.  Just standing there not doing or saying anything. She's not a motor mouth, and is generally pretty quiet, but happy.  I think I could tolerate it better if she was a spazing, motor mouth, because then I would at least know the behavior wasn't because of lack of confidence.  The other day she left her Dad outside and came into the house while I was cleaning the kitchen.  She just stood in the middle of the room and didn't say anything...just sort of stared at me.  I had acknowledged her and said a few things about what was going on outside, but I was busy doing something and was focused on that. I finally nicely said, "You look like you could use something to do.  Why don't you read a book, or go outside and play with the dogs."

There was another incident in the kitchen (my kitchen is tiny).  I said three or four times, "Too many cooks in the kitchen" because while she wasn't doing anything, she insisted on being right in there with us.  I finally just booty bumped her out of the way as I bent over to get something out of the fridge.  She finally got the hint and happily moved out of the way.

It's just painful to be around a child that has absolutely no imagination and no desire to do anything unless she's told to do it.  She's happy as a clam if you put her to a task.  We still do things together all of the time, but I feel like such a jerk for wanting her to go off on her own sometimes.  I feel completely smothered and I'm finding myself avoiding her so I don't have to deal with her being a shadow.  I like to spend time with her and I hate that I've started to feel this way.

She does the same stuff to her Dad, but him being her Dad, he just tells her to quit following him and to go do something.  That is very rare though, as he's so used to her following him around, that he doesn't see/feel it as much as I do.  Or if she's always underfoot, he is fine telling her to get out of the way.  He doesn't have her as much as her mother, so there is also a desire to spend more time with her than would be felt if she lived with him full time.

So my question is this, if a child has way more than most kids ever thought about having, is it concerning that an 11 year has so little desire to do anything on their own?  What are other 11 years olds generally like?  If I had even 1/10 of what she has to play with/do, I would have been in heaven growing up.

I don't think this is the result of his divorce.  I think it's just the way she's been raised to this point.  Her mother is very, very, very (did I mention very) controlling.  Her father thinks that's where it comes from, as she's not really this way with other kids or at school.  I encourage her all of the time and have never raised my voice to her.  I have pointed out if she leaves her clothes wadded up on the floor in the closet, etc., but there have been no tense moments, other than me wanting to run and hide.

How do I encourage independence in a child that isn't mine, but is very much a part of my life?  She's pretty mature outside of this, so is she old enough to understand if I talk to her about my concerns and explain to her that it's okay to go off on her own, do things, break things, etc.  Should this talk be coming from her Dad?

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 8, 2013 at 2:45 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Derdriu
by Gold Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 3:00 PM

She's clueless. Trying to explain your concerns or telling her to go of and do XYZ isn't a cure for that.  If you want to instill some confidence in her to do things for herself, you need to show her how and then back out of the way to let her try it.  She won't achieve new things to your standard or expectation, but the point is encourage the "try".  You said she willingly helps out when given a task, so increase the difficulty of the tasks.  There will come a point when you can divvy things, such that she is able to independently go off and do one thing while you do another.  It won't happen overnight.  As far as entertaining herself goes, she may just feel awkward and not know how to connect with you, so she hovers instead.  You'll have be careful sending her off so it doesn't come across as her feeling she's unwanted/disliked or judged.  It's okay to say, "I need a little space for myself right now." 

Anonymous
by Anonymous on Apr. 8, 2013 at 3:13 PM
I would put her in something that she has to be responsible for herself and has people relying on her to do her part like a team sport- soccer, cheerleading, or baseball. Maybe even send her off to camp for a week. If no one is there to help her but herself she will start doing things.
Birdseed
by Platinum Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 3:43 PM
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She probably doesn't know WHAT to do and on top of that, is afraid of doing something incorrectly.

Have her pick out a dinner menu and then show her how to help make part of it.  Involve her in the prep.  I too have a tiny kitchen now so I'll set up a workspace at the kitchen table for the kids.

With the ordering at restaurants--TOTALLY HEAR YOU!  LOL  What we do is just ask the kids if they've sorted out what they want, then we basically ask them to tell us how they're going to order, then we have them do it.  they're good at it now, but at that age, no.  Not even at McDonalds.  If we were at a restaurant and the waitress came by and asked if she could get them another lemonade, they'd look at us to answer for them.  So we'd say "SD, would you like another lemonade?"  It was a process.  

Also, check lists.  I have index cards with step by step instructions on what to do to say...clean a bathroom.  I couldn't just ask them to clean the bathroom. They had no clue.  So I did the cards, cleaned side by side with them until they got it.  

She sounds a little insecure.  It sounds like she's a nice kiddo and just doesn't know what is expected or how to do things.

newstepmom61811
by on Apr. 8, 2013 at 3:43 PM
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She's 11, look up phases of child development...right at the age where she's coming into abstract free thought...coming out of concrete thought...concrete thinkers have to be told what to do and are happy to do it when given a script...she's just not yet able to abstract and be that creative yet...most kids have it by 12-13. She's in the process...be patient with her...she's also watching and learning from you...rather that push her out of the way...take her under your wing and develop her brain...when my SD was DRIVING ME CRAZY at this age as my shadow in the kitchen I bought good cookbooks with simple recipes and we worked together in the kitchen. I mean I put her little ass to work. I told her if she was going to bug me in the kitchen she would work and not just an ingredient or two, she would learn meals. I got her to understand recipes, learn tricks to cooking, she can now at 13 do a decent meal start to finish. She in the process also learn how to really handle cookware, cleaning it, preping it. She got confidence, it helped develop her brain to go through, read, plan, and implement the recipes. Now about once a week she cooks dinner for all of the family because she wants to, little miss independent, and I love her for it...she's also in a much better place, she grew out of that phase.

OvrMyHead
by Silver Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 9:45 PM
I am ways asking a the kids: mine, skids, any kid near me really if they want to help. And I'm such a cheerleader, I'll praise them for any effort--given they make an effort. Now my kids and skids tend to run away when I ask if they want to help because they are used to me--ha ha.

So I agree with the other posters when they suggest giving her a task. Make it real simple until she gets comfortable. And lots of praise for effort.
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ramita
by Silver Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 10:10 PM
I think this child would be the perfect little child with a little help. When your cleaning and she comes around turn some music on give her a chore nearby and the two of you sing and dance while cleaning. Same thing with cooking put some music on and teach her to cook. Let her pick out some easy dinners and show her how to cook them and clean up. Then after some time with this she'll know better how to just do stuff when she sees you doing something.

Also if your feeling stressed or need some space its ok to say 'sweetie I would really appreciate some time to myself but I would love to do something with you in about an hour.' She'll understand that its nothing personal against her.
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Anonymous
by Anonymous - Original Poster on Apr. 9, 2013 at 9:15 AM

Thank you for all of the great responses.  We do give her things to do all of the time, like cooking, cleaning and working on outdoor projects, and she's great at them.  She knows she has to make her bed every morning and some other chores.  Another topic, but should an 11 year old make their bed somewhat correctly?  Like so it's not a lumpy, uneven, pillows everywhere mess? She is also constantly given tasks to do while we are working outside or in the house.  I think having to come up with something for her to do every minute of every day is what's wearing on me.  I was a super independent kid and I was always doing something on my own...drawing, reading, building forts outside, riding my bike, walking around, etc., so it's really hard for me to wrap my head around why she NEVER wants to go off on her own to do things.  I realize it's a complement to both of us, because she loves being around us.  My personality just needs a little space.


I'm a 40 year old who has pretty much been able to set her own agenda up until now, and this is completely out of my comfort zone and comprehension.  Other kids I know are also not like this.  Because she also won't talk to strangers, I have this fear that when she goes off to college, we will get a call that she's missed all of her classes, and we will find her standing in the middle of her dorm room with a blank look on her face, not moving.  A bit irrational I realize, but I can sort of see it happening, and it pains me to think that she could be that scared to make a decision about something, and I want to try and fix it.

I think I just need to communicate with her a little better and see how that goes.

newstepmom61811
by on Apr. 9, 2013 at 8:10 PM
Your fears are over the top. I too am much like you...very independent, have a lot of initiative. Some personalities just aren't that way...My SKs are the "I'm so bored, what can we do variety?" Often need suggestions. They can wear on me. Especially when you don't have the benefit of a "bio filter" to be more accepting. I just take a deep breath and roll with it. As the adult I haven't changed who I am at all but I have actively worked to be accepting Of who they are. They are themselves as I am me. It sounds like too you feel some pressure to meet her where she is? Change a little who you are? You don't have to. Strive for good roommates, share space well, just love her. When she comes in a room, actively love her. My me time is after hours and I also take the stresses to a therapist when I feel I need to talk. My blended family is very healthy actually but the role stress of even a healthy SM relationship can be challenging, support is never bad. I talk to a therapist to keep things healthy and myself in balance and feeling empowered in my home to be loving, true to myself, and a positive part of the SKs lives, and to maintain healthy boundaries and communication.


Quoting Anonymous:

Thank you for all of the great responses.  We do give her things to do all of the time, like cooking, cleaning and working on outdoor projects, and she's great at them.  She knows she has to make her bed every morning and some other chores.  Another topic, but should an 11 year old make their bed somewhat correctly?  Like so it's not a lumpy, uneven, pillows everywhere mess? She is also constantly given tasks to do while we are working outside or in the house.  I think having to come up with something for her to do every minute of every day is what's wearing on me.  I was a super independent kid and I was always doing something on my own...drawing, reading, building forts outside, riding my bike, walking around, etc., so it's really hard for me to wrap my head around why she NEVER wants to go off on her own to do things.  I realize it's a complement to both of us, because she loves being around us.  My personality just needs a little space.


I'm a 40 year old who has pretty much been able to set her own agenda up until now, and this is completely out of my comfort zone and comprehension.  Other kids I know are also not like this.  Because she also won't talk to strangers, I have this fear that when she goes off to college, we will get a call that she's missed all of her classes, and we will find her standing in the middle of her dorm room with a blank look on her face, not moving.  A bit irrational I realize, but I can sort of see it happening, and it pains me to think that she could be that scared to make a decision about something, and I want to try and fix it.

I think I just need to communicate with her a little better and see how that goes.


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shanlee42
by Silver Member on Apr. 9, 2013 at 9:16 PM
Sounds like this is more about you than the girl since you are an introvert and she is constantly in your space. She sounds like a normal 11 year old. You seem to be doing a great job at trying to get her to think differently and you are leading by great example. Keep working with her, it will get easier!
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Anonymous
by Anonymous - Original Poster on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:46 PM

All great responses.

There is no doubt this is about me on a lot of levels.  I guess I needed confirmation that she is a fairly normal 11 year old despite being 180 degrees different than me or her father growing up, or most other kids I know for that matter.  I can figure out how to work through my issues, because in theory, I am the adult. It's just a lot of change for someone with my personality.  :-)  Thanks again for the advice.

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