Posted by: Tracy Barsamian | September 23, 2012

Your Six Year Old: Loving and Defiant by Louise Bates Ames

My dear friend Sarah has been telling me to read the Your <Insert Age Here> Year-Old series by Louise Bates Ames for some time now…  But I had read Your Two Year Old and Your Three Year Old and didn’t feel like they were really “hitting it” with Keira’s development/behavior.  What I did like about the books, however, was the discussion of “equilibrium” and “disequilibrium”.   Ames explains that “child behavior, for all reasonably normal children, does develop in a patterned way.  Stages of equilibrium are followed by stages of disequilibrium which must occur before the child can read some succeeding stage of equilibrium” (Your Six Year Old, page 13).  This really helps to explain why children are delightful and pleasant for some time and then they just become little monsters for a while…just until you cannot take the terrible behavior for one more minute, when they return to their lovely selves once again (Lazzara-Ceruti, mother of four).

But this past week, I got just desperate enough with my parenting of my six-year-old in particular, that I finally took Sarah’s advise and looked up the Your Six Year Old book on Amazon.  Do you know what the rest of the title is?  Your Six Year Old:  Loving and Defiant.  Loving AND defiant!  That explains Keira in a nutshell.  I was scared that she had a split-personality disorder or something!  She is the most unbelievably loving little person.  Some nights she will hop right into bed with her crying little sister, rub her back, and sing her to sleep!!  And the same day, she’ll splash Lauren in the face with water so hard that the two-year-old has water up her nose, in her eyes.  And then, when I tell Keira to get out of the tub, she’ll scream, REFUSE to get out, and then splash half the bath water onto me!!  SO defiant.  This is new behavior.  And it is NO FUN fun to parent.  In fact, her defiance really triggers me.  And I’ve been digging my heals in, so as to show her that I am the parent (a.k.a boss) and she is the child.

I haven’t quite finished the book, yet.  But it is soooo good!  I feel so happy to know that Keira is going through a normal phase!!  The author writes, “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 to make my daughter feel 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.  Then she accuses me of not loving her.  She can do anything she wants, but my behavior towards her has to be perfection, or she complains” (page 6).  Who is this mother and can we please have coffee tomorrow morning?!  Although, she is probably a grandmother by now as the series, while timeless in many ways, does show some signs of being outdated (such as the way that it talks about the role of fathers).

In addition to making mother feel in good company, the book even offers some ideas on how to deal with these sometimes lovely/sometimes ugly little six-year-old beings.  Chapter four is entitled “techniques”.  For the most part, the techniques are all ways to avoid getting into a p*ssing contest with your six-year-old!  Reading this chapter really helped me to rethink my strategy with the defiance.  My new favorite technique, which I have successfully used a few times this weekend, is #2 chances.  “Many a six-year-old may meet any direct command with ‘No.  I won’t.’  Ignoring this obvious refusal, and refusing to meet the resistance head on, try saying, ‘I guess you’re going to need three chances on that one'” (p. 34).  Refusing to meet the resistance head on…hmm…how very mature that would be of me, the mother, wouldn’t it?  As it takes two energies to tango, the chances seem to be working well to defuse my six-year-old.

So, if you have a six-year-old, go buy the book!  If you have a less than six-year-old, go buy the book so you have it on the bookshelf when your little prince or princess turns six, should they decide to try on a six-year-old defiance crown!!


  1. Tracy,

    I’m still rally enjoying reading your posts! Over the summer, I ordered a bunch of the books in this series for the Adult Lending Library at school. If you want to red ahead on seven, check it to. See you soon, Kristin

    • Thanks, Kristin! What a good idea to see what the future may hold with a seven-year-old!! I’ll check it out. Thanks so much for posting and following my blog! Love, Tracy

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