Some kids even struggle to fall in line with kids in their own home (i.e. siblings or extended family).
This article will focus on the challenges of difficult children with suggestions on the direction to take to help problematic children grow, learn, and succeed.
There are 5 suggestions I often give parents when they bring their kids to see me for therapy:
- “Tighten up” parenting practices: Parents often believe they can apply rules “loosely” and not follow up or reinforce them. Other parents believe they can “friend” their children into liking and respecting them. These kinds of attitudes are often displayed by permissive parents. The goal for these parents is not necessarily child-rearing, but rather becoming friends and not reinforcing expectations and rules with the child. The consequences of this approach can sink the child and the parent.
- Pursue outpatient therapy and mobile therapy at the same time: “Layer services.” What I mean by this is that parents should consider getting challenging children 2 or more therapeutic services in place at the same time. In the mental health field there are tons of mental health professionals who all deal with different challenges and needs a family may have. They know exactly how to “layer services.” For example, a behavior specialist can help parents learn better parenting techniques, while a case manager may help families pursue disability income, locate other services, and provide needed services such as transportation. Still, other professionals may offer family therapy and coaching. Figure out what you need and search for it.
- Respond to disrespect and opposition immediately: It is tiring repeatedly responding to the oppositional and rebellious behavior of a challenging child. Sadly, the parent’s job is to “confront” negative behaviors (in an appropriate fashion) before behaviors become “ingrained” or reinforced. For example, if you see your son eating out of the garbage or hitting others without reason, you need to address it head-on most times. Although I believe parents should pick their battles wisely, this is a battle you need to be in. The more you allow these behaviors the worse things will get.
- Give up activities you feel you can’t balance with childrearing: It’s a sad reality but if your child is challenging and problematic the chances of you pursuing pleasurable activities or achieving certain goals may be decreased. Going to school, working a very challenging job, or “hanging out” every weekend will have to become a thing of the past if your child is struggling with life. The best gift you could give to a challenging child is your time and energy.
- Consider extensive therapy and/or medication management: Years of therapy may be warranted. If therapy isn’t successful alone, you may have to consider medication management. Some kids may need medication to help with ADHD symptoms, anxiety, or impulsive behaviors. Other kids may struggle with sleep which makes following rules and complying even more difficult. Medication or extensive time in therapy may be needed. Medication can occur short-term as well. Some kids with ADHD need medication to help them stop and focus on the behaviors you want them to change. High energy levels and low concentration/attention span can make learning new behaviors or tools in therapy difficult for the child.
- Don’t let the child abuse you: When your child is struggling with regulation of his or her emotions, you have to learn to co-regulate. What I mean by this is that you will have to control your anger and walk away when you feel your anger rising. Two angry people isn’t going to accomplish anything. You want to remain calm, focused, and firm. You need to remove the child or remove yourself. If your child is physically attacking you, you will need to use your arm to move them away from you or pick them up and remove them from the scene. Keep in mind: you are either removing yourself or removing the child.
- Coach yourself: If you have to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are the adult, your are in control, do it. You have to change your perspective and your mind. You have to overcome that child’s strong temperament. Kids with strong wills have to learn to see you as the adult in charge. Any hint of weakness, any lack of correction, or any behavior from you that allows the child a small window to get away with things is a no-no. Immediately address the child. And immediately talk to yourself in moments of weakness.
Problematic and challenging kids
What do you think about this topic? Do you know someone struggling with a challenging child? I welcome your comments below.