In many households there are children causing great distress who are temperamentally, rigid and inflexible. These kids have poor coping skills and become quite volatile if something does not go their way.

John and Mary Ellen are the bleary-eyed parents of three children. The oldest two, ages 11 and 9 are pretty easy-going. For example, when their parents ask them to get ready for bed, the children put up the usual fuss, but before long, they are in bed being read stories. Essentially, the oldest two go along with the program.

Not young Marissa.

Marissa, age 7, almost always goes against the grain. If the family is going in one direction, she wants to go the opposite way. If the family chooses to go to McDonalds, she wants Burger King. If the family wants to play a board game, she wants to watch TV. When she is not given her way or when she encounters even the slightest frustration, Marissa wreaks havoc in the family. Intense melt-downs are almost a daily occurrence.

Two recent stories illustrate why her parents are so bleary-eyed and how challenging Marissa can be:

The other night while John was helping Marissa with her homework, she insisted on writing a capital "L" in the middle of a word even if a capita letter was inappropriate, such as in the word "fiLm." Of course, her father tried to correct her. Refusing the correction, Marissa became extremely agitated, screaming and crying when her father insisted that she change the letter. It was a completely out of control scene that lasted about 45 minutes.

In the second scenario, Marissa, was used to the routine of being picked up after school and taken home. Once home, she counted on having a hot chocolate and watching "Sponge Bob." One afternoon upon being picked up at school, Marissa’s mother informed her that they couldn’t go home right away because they had to go pick their dog up at the groomers. Marissa screamed in a fit of rage, "BUT I’LL MISS SPONGE BOB!"" When Marissa was told by her mother that they had no choice and had to get the dog, Marissa became like a caged animal. Wildly ripping through the grocery bags in the back seat and throwing all the items around in a fit of uncontrollable rage, it took 15 minutes before Marissa even started to calm down.

I know it begs the question of how do we fix the problem? I don’t know if these children can be "fixed," but there is much to consider in terms of the management of their behavior.

There will be more to come on this topic in future blogs.




Tags: Difficult Children, Difficult Temperaments, Parenting