We recently talked about rigid, inflexible and difficult Marissa, age 7 (bit.ly/a7ZFoQ).  For the next few blogs, I thought we’d stay on this theme and explore the topic of difficult children a bit more.   Over the years so many parents have come to talk to me about children like Marissa who are holding their family hostage as a result of their behavior.

There are some who believe that these kids need a “heavy handed” approach.  My secretary, nostalgic for the good old days used to say, “Don’t you think they just need a good smacking?”

Well, many a parent has tried smacking a child like Marissa when she goes into one of her wild, melt-down states. What did it accompish?  Most parents do not resort to smacking anymore.  They’ve evolved from the sins of previous generations.  Replacing smacking, yelling and screaming are now the favored modes of parenting.

When was the last time you felt that yelling really made the situation with your difficult child better?  No child that I know has ever turned to her parents saying something like, “Thanks mom and dad for all that screaming – I get it now!”

A first big step toward change (increasing the child’s flexibility and reducing the number of meltdowns) is to embrace a few notions about these rigid, inflexible and difficult  children,  the ones who go “against the grain” at all times.                

1)    These children are temperamentally wired for poor coping.  It was not parenting.  You did not create this situation.  If it was parenting, then Marissa’s siblings would also be melting down. These siblings do not show this behavior.  They are flexible and easy-going.
2)    The inflexible kids have a fundamental skill deficit in terms of their characteristic style of problem-solving.  It is this lack of skill that results in their rigid style of responding 
3)    No amount of yelling, screaming (or smacking) will help.  In fact, these will make matters worse. 

Once you embrace these notions, then things can change!  Guess where the change point is going to be focused?  One hint.  It’s not on the child, at least not initially.

Even though I firmly believe in point #1, that you did not create the situation, it’s the adults that can reflect on how they are managing these challenging issues and make changes by responding differently. 

So, parents, you are off the hook (sort of).  Stop blaming yourselves and start looking to how you can change your way of dealing with the child (see next blog post)!!!!!

Tags:  Challenging children, Oppositional behavior,  Learning disabilities, Parenting