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Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Concerned mother of 4 year old with over active emotions


Hi. I'm so concerned about my almost 4 year old daughter. She doesn't listen or follow instructions for us and is less apt compared to peers to follow direction of her teachers. She has never shown empathy. She does not show any sign of distress when those she cares for are upset. If she does not get what she wants, however, it is the end of the world and a battle to get anywhere. I've tried everything, not backing down... Then i feel like I've ruined her life and made her feel unloved. If I try to validate feelings and reason, she tells me to stop... Like she knows what I'm trying to do and that it's still not perfectly in line with what she wants. She is desperate for my attention but I can never give her enough and she uses wanting my attention as a means to manipulate getting what she wants.. I've, carrying her to the car when she is perfectly capable of walking herself. She has a two year old brother who normally has to come in second to her needs because we literally can't get anywhere if things aren't done exactly as she prescribes. We do our best not to put him second to her needs, but sometimes she's just so demanding we can't help but concede to save our ears from the piercing screams that result from her not getting her way. She's incredibly intelligent and imaginative but I worry about her emotional and behavioral state. My husband is in the field of psychiatry but not with children. Neither of us have a basis of comparison but this does not feel normal in the least, mothers instinct. Am I crazy?

It would be hard for me to say exactly if there is a problem as I haven't seen the behaviour first hand or met your daughter.  
I guess if she is interacting with others in the class and with her brother then it sounds like the other behaviour is within the normal range for her age.  I think if she is intelligent and imaginative and able to verbally voice her opinion and tell you to stop validating or reasoning with her then she also sounds normal.  I don't know if it is necessary for a three year old to display or show empathy and it may just be her personality and again age that she doesn't display caring for others in her behaviour.  This can be encouraged by gently saying to her 'can you check on  (the  child's name) to see if he is okay?' This may give her a sense of responsibility, which may also tie in with her need to have things done in a specific way and as she 'commands'/demands.

You may want to try setting up a list of behaviours that you do not like to see her display.  Then pick one at a time to focus on and work on.  This helps to put things into perspective and helps that you and her don't get frustrated because if you see too many issues it may be disheartening and if you have some success with one behaviour you will know that she can be 'trained' and that it may not be anything too serious.

Don't feel guilty when you have disciplined her and it is only with consistency that these behaviours will stop or improve.
So for example if she is throwing a tantrum inside the house and you don't have to go out then sit the tantrum out, this will involve just ignoring her, you can say to her firmly, 'when you stop screaming or crying and calm down I will be waiting for you' Just keep repeating this, 'when you calm down I will pay attention to you and then find a place you can sit and wait. She may follow you but then walk away or turn your back to her and repeat, when you are calm we can talk about this.'  You will find the time for the tantrum does come down after a few days and then you can say to her 'well done for calming down, I know you were upset, what can we do now'.

If you don't see an improvement within 6 months and still have concerns and think this is mothers instinct then you may want to consult a specialist in your local area who could see her in person.

There are more tips at my blog and if you would like to request The Preschooler Personality I have a version that can be emailed to you, this would give specific strategies according to her personality style.

Please don't hesitate to follow up if you need to. Kind regards, Eleanor  


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Eleanor Formaggio


I can answer questions where practical advice is sought in relation to behaviour issues of 2-10 year olds. I specifically look at the influence of personality in a child's behaviour and tailor advice to suit the individual child and parent. This is useful since not all children are the same. I can suggest techniques for tantrums, child aggression and sibling rivalry and adapting to change.


I am a counsellor and child behaviour consultant based in Sydney, Australia and mum to three boys ages 12,10 and 6. I have been involved in setting up and facilitating community support groups for new mothers and run parenting workshops so parents can better understand their children's behaviour. I have spent alot of time observing personality differences in children and understanding how these differences can be used to make parenting easier. I developed the Early Childhood Personality Rating Scale for identifying child personality types in children as young as two. I am the founder of Parent with Potential and developed the Prechooler Personality Kit and READ personality system for primary aged children. More info can be found at

Book: In this Present Moment: Quality Time Ideas for busy parents.

I have a Bachelors Degree in Applied Social Science (Counselling).

Past/Present Clients
Parents of 2-8 year olds. Mothers with Postnatal Depression or anxiety attending a support group or seeking individual counselling or advice in relation to their child's behaviour.

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