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Counseling/broken relation ship with my daughter


I would like to ask help on my problem with my 8 years old daughter.
I have 2 daughters one is 5 years and the other one is 8, I on only face this problem with the elder one.  since she was a toddler, if I give her attention and love, she acts disobedient, she cries for silly things or without reason just wanting me to carry her, and feel like she is spoiled just wanting us to hug her and spoil her, BUT, when I ignore her, then she acts normal and I get relieved from her bad manners. Every now and then I try to change my behavior with her, I really want to be a loving tenderhearted mother, but, when I give her warm feeling, give her attention, I really get annoyed with her behavior, coz again, she acts like a spoiled girl, cries, actually she does not really cry, but she tries and force her self to cry.  This force me back to be strict and ignore her and even sometimes to be stern with her. Now she is 8 years old, and nothing changed. My relationship with her is broken, before 6 months, I read some books about parenting and child's emotional needs to try to amend my relationship with her, and tried hard to understand her and to put myself in her position, for more than one month I tried to be patient, hoping that she will stop acting badly when I give her attention, hoping that this is temporary thing that will stop after a while, but nothing changed, since when I give her love and attention, she becomes too spoiled and cries easily just to attract out attention, becomes too goofy and silly and acts bad to me and to her sister, might shout at me and hurt hear sister.  The only way I can control her is to be strict with her, which deprives her of love. I always do call her honey, sweetheart, love, but I really don't give her attention and love like the way I do with her sister. On the contrary, most of the time I am nervous with her, shout at her if I want her to do something (example go to sleep, take shower, eat her food), coz if I don't do that, she will not be obedient, the only way to force her to be obedient and discipline is to shout at her!!! I tried many time to tell her something to do, for example do her homework, and then wait hoping that she will do it, but no way, I wait and wait but nothing changes except if I talk harsh to her. Now, I feel that our relationship is broken, I want her to be close to me but I get discouraged because of her manner, I noticed she does not tell me her secrets and problems at school except if I give her attention, and I noticed that she speaks frankly to her father when I am away, and when I come she stops talking coz she is afraid of me.  Her father is so cold, he, sometimes let her act in a bad manner even outside home, for example, she might kick his feet continuously when we are visiting some relatives but he does not say a word to her, she is acting bad only with him coz he does not say no most of the time.  He let her speak too many silly things without loosing his patience because actually most of the time he does not really focus on what she says.  I want to love her the same way I love her sister, but, her reaction discourages me.  Please, help me, I feel I dislike her our relationship is broken. How can I love her and be close to her without letting her act in a negative manner? I'll be thankful for any advice

Hello Sophenaz - I can understand your frustration with your older daughter. I suspect her difficult behavior is a symptom of some mix of deeper problems in your family like these:

1] She is testing both you parents to see how much power she has;

2] She enjoys feeling powerful by making you shout;

3] She's unconsciously trying to deflect attention from some scary family problem like significant marital stress;

4] She resents that you [seem to] favor her sister [or simply that you give her sister attention], and doesn't know how to say so;

5] Paradoxically, she gets angry if you express love and affection because for some reason [like her father ignoring her?] she feels unlovable [shamed] and doesn't deserve your gestures;

Here are some general suggestions and options to consider:

In general, I suggest you use "I-message" assertion with everyone in your family instead of shouting:

Do you feel your daughter respects you as a person and as a wife and a mother? If "no," what would it take, in your opinion, to gain her respect?

What it would take for you and your husband to act as co-parenting partners with your daughters? Can you ask him for help with your older daughter? I don't know enough about your  culture to know whether this is possible.

Overall, Sophenaz, I suggest you get family therapy, if it's available to you.

If you have questions about any of these ideas, please ask!

Respectfully, Pete


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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.


I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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