6 Tips for Parenting a Difficult Child

Before we dive into this topic, it’s important to note the common use of the term “difficult child.” Yes, some children will challenge you in unexpected ways. But calling them “difficult” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy — for both of you. You might find the situation being resolved sooner if you redefined “difficult” as “strong-willed” or “spirited.” In doing so, you’re not gaslighting yourself but rather reframing the possibilities.

All that said, there will inevitably be times when you feel at a loss. If so, you can take solace that you’re not alone and in the fact that many proven strategies already exist.

What is Difficult About Your Child?

They might have a need to get the last word and feel like they won. This child may boss you or others around. They get impatient, lose their temper, and dig in their heels in a major way. You might even view them as entitled at times.

Following up on the intro above, it can be very helpful to write a list of how this “difficult” nature serves to bring out powerful, positive traits like:

  • Their desire to question makes them the type of person who finds better ways to act
  • They are curious and often initiate learning on their own
  • Your child lives fully and does not sleepwalk through life
  • Their commitment and enthusiasm are the attributes of a natural-born leader

Such perspectives may motivate you to put in the work to understand the root causes of your child’s difficult behavior. After all, they don’t want to be difficult. They’re children and may feel anything from hunger to fear to frustration and beyond — but they don’t yet have the awareness or vocabulary to explain it.

6 Tips for Parenting a Difficult Child

1. Respect their opinion even when you vehemently disagree.

As is the case when speaking to adults, you can validate your child’s point of view even as you differ. Let your kids know they have been heard. In doing so, you don’t discourage them from having independent thoughts, and you serve as a role model of conflict resolution.

2. Understand the importance of trade-offs.

You don’t have to be a difficult child to not like getting ordered around. A strong-willed kid, specifically, values some semblance of control. As a parent, you can walk that fine line without surrendering your primary need. Give them a choice. Frame that choice in a way that you’ll be cool with either option. Your child will love feeling like the decision is theirs, you avoid a fight, and you set an important precedent for future interactions.

3. There’s a difference between opinions and rules.

Sometimes, the best resolution is one in which your child obeys a rule you set but is free to disagree with it. This is how you raise a child capable of loving people while holding different opinions.

4. Maintain household routines from the start.

A spirited child will not remain silent if they feel they are being unfairly singled out. But if they were born into a home in which routines are already established and everyone has to adhere, they are more likely to go along. This means, of course, that you must lead by example.

5. Stay calm.

Never forget: Your child will feel and respond to your energy.

6. Let them learn some tough lessons.

Sometimes, the best way for a strong-willed child to agree with your rules is to let them disobey and learn for themselves. Of course, there are limits to this concept, but in a safe setting, this is an ideal compromise.

If you need more input on this topic, we invite you to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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