It’s a truth we don’t talk about; some children are more difficult than others. And even easy children can have difficult behaviour at times. It’s hard to understand what goes on in your child when they exhibit challenging behaviour. It can often lead you to wonder if you’ve done something wrong and feel like your child is out to get you.
Parents often feel embarrassed to talk about it or seek help. As a parent, you might want to protect your child from negative judgement or let others doubt your parenting abilities. It is natural to worry that others might misjudge your parenting. And most of all, if you have a child who is more challenging than usual, parenting may not be as much fun. So how do you survive these challenging times without self-doubt or feeling miserable?
It’s not easy to always know what to do, but there are a few things that can help.
This one will take patience and perseverance but it is important to be consistent in setting boundaries and limits for your child. Giving up halfway through after saying “no” to a child only can worsen the behaviour. Being inconsistent in how you react to the behaviour can leave the child confused. It will also help if you can get your partner and other grown-ups close to the child on board.
Sometimes difficult behaviour can be more than just a phase and can disrupt daily activities or interfere with your day to day routine. It can also be causing you plenty of anxiety and frustration, often leaving you feeling overwhelmed. In such a situation, do not hesitate to reach out for professional help. Waiting constantly for the behaviour to go away or get better after you’ve tried multiple strategies can only make it worse. Asking for professional help doesn’t mean you have failed as a parent but acknowledging that getting help can make things better for you and your child.
It is difficult to stay calm when your child is having a meltdown or throwing a tantrum, but it is exactly what they need. Of course, safety comes first, so make sure they don’t hurt themselves or others around them. Do not take your child’s behaviour personally, it mostly isn’t about you or your child, it could just be their temperament. Parenting involves so much of controlling our own emotions so that we can be there to guide our children who are having a hard time controlling their own. Staying calm when your child is annoying you and driving you crazy takes a lot of practice but it will help tremendously. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration and worse, take it out on your child, but this can give the behaviour more attention than it needs. So remind yourself that this isn’t an emergency, it will pass and that your good kid is having a bad time.
You are a good parent. You are doing the best you can for your child. If you have more than one child, you might feel guilt over the time and attention your difficult child demands vs what their siblings get. But children adapt, they do understand over time that their siblings might need more of their parents. Get help so you can take some time off for yourself and find support in understanding friends and family. We might regret having overreacted or negatively reacted to our child’s behaviour but children are resilient. Every morning is another chance to make a fresh start. You got this.
And sometimes that means you do things differently than what most families do. You’ll need to pick your battles. Come up with strategies that minimise the disruption for your family. Sometimes that might be avoiding a crowded supermarket or cutting short a day of fun because your child needs a nap or letting your child wear clothes of his choice vs having a meltdown and feeling upset yourself. Make observations to figure out what routines and rules work for your family.
Yes, your child can be difficult but there are so many wonderful things too about them. When they exhibit difficult behaviour it is easy to forget all the good things about them or overlook their good behaviour. Make sure to notice and appreciate the all good things about them. You can reward their good behaviour with a hug, smile, a word of praise and attention. Think of it as watering the flowers (good behaviour) instead of watering the weeds (paying attention to negative behaviour) and you are sure to sow what you reap.
Having a difficult child doesn’t mean they will be difficult for life. Parents, teachers and other significant people in their life can teach them to manage their behaviour while also developing better coping skills. Your thoughtful and empathetic approach can have a big impact on how your child views themself. Sometimes your child’s behaviour might make you feel like a bad parent or that you are alone, with nobody else in your situation. But that is not true. There are plenty of families who go through what you are going through. Do not feel like you have to deal with this alone. Instead, speak to a counsellor or a behaviour therapist and learn how to best navigate this challenge. And something we’ve been hearing often these days is to remember that “your child is not giving you a hard time” but that “your child is having a hard time”
Help is within reach. Call us at Tactopus if you need someone to talk to about your child.