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Ways to cope with a difficult child

Sometimes it feels like everyone else's child is so much easier than ours and the truth is that some actually ARE more challenging than others.

As parents we can definitely influence our children and we pay a vital role in working with the temperament of the child we have (rather than the child we wish we had!) It can be helpful to know that some children do have more challenging temperaments than others.

I got into parenting by going to a class when my first child was being particularly difficult. He was a hitter and I just didn't know how to cope with it. He would hit out at other children in all social situations and I started to isolate myself to avoid the embarrassment.
 

So what kind of behaviours do we mean by 'challenging'? Things like:

  • Totally refusing to do what you ask and shouting 'Noooooo' - for things like getting dressed, coming to eat, going to bed.
  • Shouting 'I hate you, go away!'
  • Calling you 'stupid or idiot'
  • Throwing things
  • Kicking, hitting, punching, biting you or others
  • Spitting at you
  • Screaming
  • Running off and hiding just when you need them
  • Being verbally abusive in front of other people
  • Throwing food or spitting it out.

Do you feel frustrated just reading the list?

You probably know by now that being a parent isn't easy. I can't give answers to all these challenges in post. I solve lots of these problems with parents during private consultations with them but here are some ways to address things.

  • Don't label your child 'mean, nasty, spoilt, bad, naughty or difficult - the label sticks and perpetuates the behaviour.
  • When we have a difficult child we tend to overlook any positive aspects of their behaviour, character and temperament and just react to the negative. What are you taking for granted about this child that you could recognise or praise them for?
  • Praise in detail the very small things they do - I know this is REALLY hard and it feels like there is nothing there but remember no child wants to be difficult. They are having problems rather than trying to be a problem to you.
  • Watch your tone of voice. It is so easy to sigh, talk in an irritable or dictatorial tone with children like this. Try to speak with some humour and kindness in your voice (if that makes sense?)
  • Use humour - we are so used to having our buttons pushed that we tend to react and over-react to things we don't necessarily need to. Somethings can be avoided with humour 'Oh my goodness, I don't think those words came out of your mouth - I think a gremlin jumped inside you and spoke instead. How about you ask for a drink in your nice polite voice and then I can hear you?'
  • When a child hits it is out of a deep feeling of anger and frustration. They don't want to be that way. It can take a long time to change this behaviour but offering something else to hit or bite can help. As can giving them regular sessions hitting something like a punch bag.
  • The less reaction you give to bad language the better. When they do say 'you are stupid' (or worse). Don't get into a battle over it. Say firmly 'I do NOT like being spoken to like that. I can see you are frustrated because I told you you can't have ice cream now. You can say 'I'm upset with you' but I don't want to be told I'm stupid'.
  • Catch times when they might have called you something rude but didn't and mention it 'Just now you nearly said something I don't like but you stopped yourself. That means you are using your self-control'

Each child is so different and parents often need help tailoring their approach to get it working with their child. Take a look at my 'Solution Finding Package'