Have you ever asked yourself what you might be doing wrong as a parent? Some parents ask this if they are dealing with a difficult child and need some tips.
Once in a while, children might go through a period of negativity and difficult behaviour which makes parenting a real challenge. This can happen when there has been a major change in the child’s life or just part of the growing pains. Many parents would do anything during this time to wave a magic wand.
Perhaps it’s a hyper-sensitive child who whines and cries over the smallest triggers or it is a strong-willed child who fights you tooth and nail whenever you tell him to do something. Perhaps it’s your tween who has suddenly become moody, disrespectful, and ultra-critical. Or perhaps it’s a child whose health issues makes her irritable and crabby.
Whatever the situation, although you know deep down that you love this child, there are times when it can be a real challenge to be patient and loving. So what can you do?
How to Love a Difficult Child
Don’t take it personally
Do not take our children’s behaviour personally. Often it will seem like a child’s angry or scornful behaviour is directed right at you. But the reality is that since you’re the mum, your child knows you love him unconditionally. Therefore he has no inhibitions when it comes to expressing his feelings around you.
We need to be consistent about commanding and demanding respect from our children. Otherwise, they will treat us like disrespectfully. However, it is good to remember that, in most cases, it is the mums who bear the brunt of their children’s bad behaviour. It’s not just you. It’s a part of motherhood.
Try to understand
Try to be understanding. When a child continually acts up or fails to meet our expectations, it’s easy to think, “Oh, you’re just lazy, stubborn, selfish, etc.” It’s easy to attribute the poor behaviour to a vice which needs to be corrected. Sometimes this is the case. However, it is often better to try to understand the matter from the child’s point of view and to let your child see that you are trying to understand their perspective. I think it’s always a good idea to do this before making any corrections or taking disciplinary action:
Sometimes this is the case. However, it is often better to try to understand the matter from the child’s point of view and to let your child see that you are trying to understand their perspective. I think it’s always a good idea to do this before making any corrections or taking disciplinary action: I know you’re angry. I would be mad, too, if Smarty-Pants called me a dum-dum. But that’s no excuse for dumping your spaghetti on his head….
A child who senses that you are always judging her often becomes withdrawn, resentful, or defensive. A child who sees that you are at least trying to understand her point of view, even if you don’t agree with her, will be more receptive to a peaceful resolution. Give your child an opportunity to express his point of view, encouraging him to speak as calmly as possible.
Behind bad behaviour, unhappiness
When a child’s poor behaviour extends for a long time, be aware that your child is not happy with himself. Often, such behaviour agitates siblings who, provoked or frustrated, retaliate with little understanding and patience. This can aggravate the situation.
When a child’s problematic behavior extends for a long time, he’s not happy about it and he doesn’t know how he will overcome it. Even worse, it may feel as if you are always correcting him, always disciplining with negative feedback. To avoid discouragement, we need to give our children lots of encouragement, hope, and support.
Whatever you do, you need to express confidence that your child will overcome this present period of difficulty, and you need to reassure him that he is not alone; you are there to help. You can spend the time communicating with him to understand how he really feels and to share what is going on all around. Here you will be able to pick up what the triggers are.
They still need boundaries
While we try to be understanding and encouraging, we also need to maintain firm boundaries. Health issues, hormonal mood swings, difficult temperaments, often make it hard for a child to stay within the boundaries of acceptable behavior. But that doesn’t mean we get rid of them altogether.
So when a child crosses the line, let’s be consistent about correcting his behavior. Unfortunately, simple warnings or verbal corrections will often not suffice. We will need to back up our words with gentle but firm actions and consequences.
Spend some quality time with him
A prolonged period of behavioral problems can put a lot of strain on your relationship with your child. So it’s helpful to spend quality one-on-one time with the child just having fun together. Go on a special outing, find something your child really likes to do and do it with him. This is a time of relationship building and letting your child shine. It’s not a time to give a lecture or discuss behavior problems. It’s a chance to affirm your child and let him know how much you love him and enjoy his company. It is a chance to give your child a break from what is aggravating him. Children need to feel their parent’s love.
Give yourself a break
Difficult children are emotionally exhausting. So, give yourself a break, especially if you’re with the child all day long.
When a child is constantly giving you a hard time, it’s normal to feel angry, resentful, or frustrated. You need to have breathing space: a chance to clear your mind, pull yourself together, and rejuvenate. So have a date with your husband, or spend time alone in a fresh environment. Household chores and other responsibilities can wait (don’t worry, they won’t go anywhere). You will fee rejuvenated after some me-time.
It won’t last forever
Remember that this won’t last forever. As I stated earlier, we all go through peaks and valleys. Sometimes a child’s behavior improves, other times it regresses. Hoping and knowing that such difficult phases will pass, we may need to adjust our expectations for a time, but only for a time.
With a lot of love, understanding, communication and setting boundaries these difficult periods can and do get better. Always have other aunties, uncles or trusted people available to talk to your child who can get through to them in ways you might not be able to. Parenting is a journey!