About a year and a half ago I met a woman who was going to school full-time and raising a 5 year old little girl. I really just fell in love with both of them and we all bonded relatively quickly. We spent a lot of time together going on outings and enjoying life together. After about 6 months we began to consider moving in together. We both recognized that things were moving fast, but it felt right and circumstances aligned such that it seemed to make sense. We found a new place and moved in together.
We have been living together for about 8 months. I have committed myself to being a good Parent and partner, and they are both a huge priority in my life. I really want our new family to be happy and to thrive.
The fist month of co-habitation was a little rocky, but we got through it relatively easily. The next couple of months were actually pretty great (in hindsight). However, over the past few months, while my girlfriend and I have grown closer and more connected to one another, my relationship with her daughter has become somewhat un-stable.
She has frequent meltdowns that culminate in her breaking things, stomping around the apartment (wood floors), banging on doors so loudly that the neighbors have complained, screaming at the top of her lungs, throwing things at us and our dog and trying to hit and kick us.
These episodes can last for 30 minutes sometimes and usually happen as a result of either her mom or I asking her to help out with something such as cleaning her room or saying that she can't do or have something that she wants.
Early on, I tended to not get too involved in these situations. I would let her mom handle it, simply because I wanted to focus on building trust and a stronger bond before becoming an authority figure. Her mom does tend to get a little wrapped up in the drama and she is working towards handling these situations with more patience and thoughtfulness. That said, I always support what her mom says and back her up 100%. We are working together on this.
More recently, I have stepped in and have begun to handle more of these situations. Sometimes I'm able to get in front of a meltdown to divert it and other times she seems entirely bent on causing havoc. I never raise my voice or treat her un-fairly. I stick to the original point and focus only on the fact that I am simply asking her to do something or I'll explain why she isn't allowed to do something. That has been my approach thus far.
If she get physical with me, starts pushing furniture around, knocking things over or throwing objects I will tell her to stop and go to her bed to relax. This typically only enrages her further or causes her to out and out mock me. We just can't have a child breaking a bunch stuff in the house, so if she doesn't listen I will pick her up and move her to the bed and tell her that she needs to stay there until she is calm. It is then that she will kick, scratch and hit. Once on her bed, she will jump off it and run around screaming in a piercing tone. It is unbelievably loud! I know my neighbors can here it and one of them has complained about the noise.
I will admit, I am getting frustrated by this. I want to have a calm, loving house and this little girl seems to want the exact opposite (though I know that she really wants love and attention). I spend a lot of time with her doing art projects, playing in the park and building things (she wants to be an engineer, which I'm really excited about). We can have stretches of days that are really enjoyable for all of us.
Lastly, she has never met her bio-dad. The only male role models she has had in her life have been her grandfather who only recently moved to the U.S., a previous boyfriend of her mom's and an uncle or two that she sees periodically.
We did try some family counseling but the emphasis was on play, which didn't seem to address the behavioral aspects. I am completely open to other types of counseling though.
My questions are: What can I do to get this child to treat me with the same respect that I show her, to listen well and to help out? Where should I focus my efforts in terms of bonding, direction and discipline? What kinds of counseling would be most effective in this case?