Public Versus Private Persona

As humans, we may have a tendency to act one way with the people we are closest to and another when we feel like hundreds of eye balls are watching. Sometimes the public versus private persona fails to match up. When we are healthy, I think we recognize when we are acting out of sorts and friends/ family members are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt if you are having a rough patch or a tough day/ week.

In my case, if I could vote for personality adjustment to the betterment of the family, my youngest daughter would be the first in line for this remedy.

When out in the public eye, you would never imagine that this pre-teen has a propensity for frustration and aggression. She’s kind, considerate, aware of her surroundings and in fact very helpful at times. She’ll engage others in conversation and use her manners. In the privacy of our home, our car, or any situation where it’s just myself, my wife and my oldest daughter, she’s been lashing out in terms of almost borderline verbally abusive behavior- taunting, bullying, demanding and in general expressing intense displeasure for us. You never know from one moment to the next if you say a word the wrong way, laugh the wrong way, or even look at her could be the starting point of a full blown rage.

My solution today was simple- she wouldn’t set foot through the doors until our babysitter arrived at the house. In the evening time she gave my wife a hard time when she came home- and as a result didn’t get what she wanted. We’ve been using a tougher approach in the hopes that she’ll see that she can get more out of life if she’s willing to treat people with care and respect, not bowling her way over to get what she wants.

Today we have another visit from our in house therapist. Based on our last session, we have some serious work ahead of us to figure out a plan of care for my youngest daughter. It will be drastically counter-intuitive to how we parent our oldest daughter. Will she resist? Will she think her life is unfair? Do I really care at this point what her opinion is about these matters?

I want my home to feel like a home- and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way. I’m glad that my oldest daughter had an enjoyable time with me last night when she came to the bowling center for a little while. I want her to know she does have a happy, engaging father who can show her that life isn’t all about chaos, turbulence and anger-filled tirades from her sister. I have to balance the needs of my oldest while making sure that my youngest doesn’t turn our world upside down.

Is it too much to ask to have her public demeanor match her private demeanor? Acceptance will go a long way to rectify this. We aren’t expecting permanent attachment at this point- we want compliance to basic household rules. Asking permission. Listening. Keeping voices at a normal level and tone. No hitting, no punching, no kicking, no biting, and less losing your cool in a full blown tantrum manner.

I will survive. I take life one step at a time. I’m thankful for all of my family, my friends, my teammates, the numerous therapists, clinicians and supports who are helping us get through things. We do not give up.

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