This post could be filed under either "books" or under "Delphine", because as usual, in Your Six-Year-Old: Loving and Defiant, Louise Bates Ames and Frances Ilg have nailed the phase my kid is going through like they were observing her personally. Here are some quotes from the book which describe what's going on around here:
Things often get so bad around the house that, as one mother put it, "Each morning I get up with the solemn promise to myself to try and make my daughter fell loved. And I may succeed for an hour or so. But then she'll do something so impossible that I lose my temper and have to reprimand her." [I usually do better than an hour or so; Delphine's pretty great in the mornings. It's after school that she's almost intolerable.]
Six's way is, in his opinion, right; he cannot bear to lose or to accept criticism. On the other hand, he loves to be flattered and praised. Certainly he is not as secure as he might be. In fact, we believe that much of his stubborn, arrogant, and sometimes bratty behavior is his effort to build himself up and to make himself feel secure.
His capacity for enjoyment is tremendous. Make him a present or surprise, give him praise, propose a treat, and his vigorously expressed joy and enthusiasm will well repay you. [Delphine often tells me I'm "the best mum ever!" for something as simple as ice cream for dessert.]
Six is at his best and also his worst with the primary caregiver.
[On siblings] But on the whole, his competitive, combative nature and his need to always be first and to win out, make certain difficulty in the household. . . . He tends to be very jealous of attention or objects given to to a brother or sister. . . . Six may be very bossy with younger siblings. He may argue, tease, bully, frighten, torment, get angry, hit.
If your daughter is one of the many with a very sensitive scalp, who screams bloody murder as you comb her hair, a short haircut (if she will accept it [hah]) can save much anguish.
Obviously Ames and Ilg have Delphine's number. They also have some insight into why it's so difficult to be six:
One of the Six-year-old's biggest problems is his relationship with his mother. It gives him the greatest pleasure and the greatest pain. Most adore their mother, think the world of her, need to be assured and reassured that she loves them. At the same time, whenever things go wrong, they take things out on her.
We must remember that a Six-year-old isn't violent, loud, demanding, and often naughty just to be bad. There are so many things he wants to do and be that his choices are not always fortunate. He is so extremely anxious to do well, to be the best, to be first, to be loved and praise, that any failure is very hard for him.
They offer a list of helpful techniques: praise, chances (second, third, etc), counting, sidestepping the issue, bargaining, giving in, ignoring misbehaviour. It's not the most rigorous year of parenting, but it seems that Six is a year to be endured, for child and parent alike, at least until Six-and-a-half.