Are You Raising A "Difficult" Child?Feb 12, 2022
Are you raising a “difficult” or an “easy” child? As parents, we tend to put our kids into one bucket or another based on how easy or difficult they are for us to parent. If they listen well, are flexible, and go with the flow, then we label them as “easy”. But if they are more opinionated about what they want and don’t bend easily to how others think they should be acting, then we label them as “difficult”.
“Difficult” children can cause so much stress for parents, marriages, families, and siblings. I know because I grew up in a family with a “difficult” child. I remember being mad at how family outings would be ruined and plans changed because of my sibling’s moods. I remember being angry with my parents, thinking they just catered to my sibling, walking on eggshells so as not to rock the boat.
As a parent and coach today, I can see a lifetime of ramifications this situation can have for both the child and the family, so it’s an area that I really want to shed light on to help parents understand what is going on with their “difficult” kids.
You may think that you need to get your “difficult” child to change their behavior for you to feel calmer, but it doesn’t work that way — and in trying you will become a control fanatic which actually makes things worse. Kids don’t react well to someone trying to control them and let’s face it, you will never be able to control everything your child does. So the alternative is learning how to feel calmer on your own, without your child having to behave differently.
It helps to understand that children are born with a fully developed primal brain, but their prefrontal cortex is under construction when they are young. This is the part of their brain in charge of making decisions, planning ahead, and taking consequences into consideration. It is also responsible for controlling their emotions and body, their self-understanding, consideration of others, and their empathy skills.
What this means is that most times — when children aren’t behaving as we would expect them to — it’s not by choice. It’s just that their brains literally have not fully developed that skill yet, different kids can develop at different rates.
Given this information, I invite you to consider that your child’s ability to tolerate and appropriately communicate their frustration is a skill. Their ability to self-soothe when they are anxious or upset is a skill. Their ability to be flexible when they don’t get their way or there is a change in plans is a skill. Their ability to focus and manage time is a skill. Their ability to consider how their behavior will affect others and the consequences of their actions is a skill.
So when they throw their spoon because you didn’t make what they wanted for breakfast, consider that they haven’t learned how to communicate frustration yet.
When they meltdown at drop-off for a new daycare or classroom, they haven’t learned to self-soothe when they are anxious yet. When they get angry that you aren’t taking them to the park because you have an emergency work call that you need to take, they might not have learned how to be flexible or tolerate frustration yet. When they are consistently late getting ready for school in the morning they may not have learned how to focus or manage time yet.
When our children haven’t developed these skills, they struggle, they get frustrated, and they act out. And as parents, we can then also struggle and we can also get frustrated. The problem is that when we are frustrated, we can’t parent calmly and effectively. As a parent, you can’t help your child manage their own emotions if you don’t know how to manage your own.
Most kids inherently want to behave and do well — they want to earn our approval and praise. Imagine how frustrating it must be to want to behave a certain way, and not be able to. Looking back, I now know that it wasn’t that my sibling was choosing to be “difficult”. My sibling was struggling and it was a struggle that had ramifications that went on for a number of years.
So now when I first start working with parents that have a “difficult” child, I start by helping them understand how a child’s brain develops. Just understanding that your child isn’t choosing their behavior — but that they may not have developed those skills yet can help to lower your frustration.
And when you learn to manage your own frustration and keep your cool, you are in a much better position to be able to parent calmly and effectively so you can help your child learn to manage their emotions and frustration.
Learning to keep your cool no matter what is going on with your kids is one of the cornerstones of my coaching program to parent calmly and effectively. I can and do give you all sorts of tips, tools, and strategies that you can use in challenging parenting situations, but they will not be effective unless you learn to keep your cool so YOU can be effective.
Speaking of tips, I just released a 20 Tips in 20 Days Series with 20 simple, quick, and practical tips that are easy to try. In less than 3 minutes a day, you can make parenting so much easier in 2022! You can sign up here to get the Twenty Quick Tips!
And if you have a difficult child and are at the end of your rope and don’t know where else to turn, please know that I understand and I’m here to support you if you want help. I’m only a phone call away. You can get on my schedule here.
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