Do you have a “difficult” child? We were blessed with two kids that I would say fit in that category.
By difficult child, I mean the one that causes you frustration. He is different from your other children. What worked for them, doesn’t work with him. He takes more time, energy, and discipline than all your other kids put together.
Some words that may describe him are: high maintenance, angry, disagreeable, prickly, demanding, or exasperating.
I think most of us with a child like that tend to think that NO ONE else has a child quite like this one! But the truth is, many parents struggle with a child that is a bit more “challenging” than most.
The good news is that God gave you that child, and knows exactly what you are dealing with! He wants you to depend on Him. In fact, He INVITES you to come to Him! (If any man lack wisdom, let Him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally) How wonderful that the God who created the universe, invites us to come to Him and seek His help. There’s nothing like a difficult child to KEEP us begging God for wisdom!
So what do you do with this child that is so different? What does the difficult child need?
1. LOTS of character training
Did you notice that most of the words that I used to describe the difficult child relate to character qualities? I think the reason many of our “difficult” children are so exhausting to deal with, is because they have more glaring and ANNOYING character flaws than our more compliant children. So the first thing to focus on is their character! Of course, you know I ALWAYS stress that character training should be one of our top priorities (and definitely come before academics), but with the difficult child it is extra important! If you don’t work on those character issues when they are young, it will be even harder as they get older.
2. Structure and Routine
I think that all kids function better with a routine to govern their days, but I have found that it is extremely important with the difficult ones.
For one thing, they know what each day holds, and what to expect. Therefore, there isn’t conflict every day over what the next thing to do is. If your children get used to being able to choose what they are doing and when, then they are going to resent it when you “interrupt” their plans to start your school day, chores, etc. Bad attitudes and complaining usually follow. Since those are already issues with my difficult ones, I don’t want to open the door to that by not giving them daily structure. (By the way, following a daily routine helps build their character!)
Once my difficult kids get used to the routine, they get upset when it is unexpectedly changed. They feel more secure, and the conflicts are fewer, when we are consistent with our daily routine.
3. Calm and Consistent Discipline
Since the difficult child tends to get in trouble often, and has that personality that can frustrate you, it’s easy to get into “angry mode” with them. It’s also easy to get resentful because of the extra time and energy they require, not to mention frequent discipline. Since they are often angry, it definitely is important to remember that an angry parent won’t solve anything! “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” I think that means your anger as well as the child’s.
I have had to purposefully choose to lower my voice and use a kind tone, when inside I just wanted to yell and let them have it! Forcing myself to be quiet in my response, helped calm me AND the child. Having a written list of rules and consequences helps with this. When the difficult child breaks a rule, you calmly remind them of the rule, and say here is the consequence. It is the same each time, and for each child. This keeps the difficult child from feeling picked on, as they usually get in trouble WAY more often than their siblings. They know the rules and consequences are the same for each child in the home, and that they don’t vary based on your mood that day.
4. Lots of Encouragement
We can’t expect our kids to please us if they don’t know what makes us happy. We need to encourage behavior that we like, so they will repeat that behavior. Many times we get upset at wrong actions or responses, but we have never trained them as to what we expect from them in different situations. Difficult children needs lots of training and practice. Show them how you want them to do something, or how you want them to act, practice it with them, and train them. Then when you see the right behavior, make a BIG deal out of it. Let them know how pleased you are with them. Kids long for their parents’ approval, so praise what you want to see repeated.
If you have a difficult child, remember this truth: children who demand a lot of time are ones that can ultimately “give back” much. The sowing and reaping process works here: to those we give much, we someday receive much from! God promises results to those who “do not get weary in well doing.”
For a more more tips, check out my ebook: Dealing With A Difficult Child