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Dealing with Difficult Children

Uttara Manohar
Dealing with difficult children is not easy. Being too strict with the child may do more harm than good. Sometimes, what difficult children need is understanding and patience.
The child who acts unlovable is the child who most needs to be loved.
~ Cathy Rindner Tempelsman
Childhood is a period of wide ranging experiences and emotions. Childhood is about gamboling around parks, riding bicycles, playing with friends, and having a great time. Childhood is about leading a carefree life and discovering the simple everyday joys it has to offer.
Childhood is a time when children observe the world around them and involuntarily shape their opinions and ideas based on these observations. Childhood is a malleable age, and hence, every child needs to be handled with utmost care and love - be it from parents, family members, teachers or any other people around the child.

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However, not everyone has a picture-perfect childhood. Traumatic experiences like the loss of a parent or a loved one (even a pet), domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, disastrous addictions, or a severe medical condition can scar the innocence of childhood.
Even exposure to abusive language and behavior, sibling rivalry or peer pressure, which might seem like trivial issue for some, can have an adverse effect on a child.
A child may also have self-esteem issues (for e.g., the fear of failing in a test and not living up to your expectations), may seek attention from a parent, or may actually be disturbed by certain events at school that you are not aware of.
It is at times like these when dealing with children becomes extremely difficult for the parents. Dealing with children during difficult times might not be easy, but it is a process that requires a lot of patience and support, from your child as well as the people around him.
Some of the measures provided below may seem idealistic to you, but your approach is what matters. You have to keep trying if you want to break through that barrier and get through to your child. It may take time, but by following a combination of the measures given below, you may be able to get through to your child and make a change.

How to Deal with Difficult Children

The most important rule of parenting is 'to be involved' in your child's life. Although you need not be the annoying parent who keeps on snooping on your kids, you just cannot afford to lose track of their lives.
Always maintain a healthy relationship with your kid and create a comfort level that will enable him to find you easily approachable and helpful, instead of creating a cold wall of stringent disciplinary rules and regulations.
Treat your children with respect. Allow them to go out and explore the world on their own, but love them enough so that they would want to come back to you at the end of the day.
Of course, it is not so easy to be involved, especially if they have voluntarily shut you out of their lives. However, you may be able to find a certain factor at which you can connect with them.
For example, if your son is fond of soccer, you can bond with him by getting him a new soccer ball, or a jersey of his favorite soccer player, or simply by discussing his interests.
If your daughter is fond of art, you could start by getting her something like a drawing book, color pencils or paints, or again, simply trying to learn something about art from her yourself. What this activity will do is tell your child that you are not going to only reprimand him for being difficult to deal with.
It will instead tell him that you are willing to take a step to figure what the problem is, and work it out by involving yourself in his interests, likes and dislikes. One step from your side may lead to one from his side.
This means making your child responsible for his actions. There should always be a consequence of every action, whether good or bad. This will make him responsible for everything he does, and will require a good amount of thinking before any action is taken.
Remember that the kind of consequence you have planned depends on what you think is right. No one suggests that physical punishment is suitable for a child. There are other methods of punishment, that include grounding, or taking away a particular thing he likes for some days.
For example, if your child is unresponsive to your requests, give him three attempts to respond. After that, mete out your punishment, which may be sending him to his room, making him do the dishes with you, or not being permitted to watch TV. The consequence should be something that is likely to affect him to a suitable extent.
This will reduce such instances and you will find that he becomes more responsive. On the other hand, don't fail to point out areas where he is good, where he is showing improvement.
Don't just reprimand, pay attention to the good or fun aspects of your child's personality to be able to strike a balance and reduce the level of difficulty you experience in dealing with your child.
As a parent, always try to explain your child the difference between freedom of speech and profanity. Inculcating a sense of freedom along with responsibility in a child is perhaps the biggest achievement of a parent.
It is very easy for people to teach their child to differentiate between black and white - which means it is easy to yell and scold a child when he/she goes wrong and very easy to appreciate and encourage the child for a job well done, but the art of parenting also lies in introducing your child to the gray areas of life.
This gray area teaches your child that every action has a consequence, and that will teach him to respect his decisions and choices.
Children learn by example. If they see you fuming at something they didn't do for you, they are likely to fume at something you didn't do for them.
This is a small example, but it helps explain how children learn. If you go around throwing fits of uncontrolled anger and yell in the house, you cannot blame your child for being extremely aggressive or disturbed. Children emulate the behavioral characteristics that are reflected by people around them. Always set a good example for your children.
Teach your children how to handle emotions by handling them well yourself. Emotions are not only means of expression, but also important tools that can make or break relationships with the people around us. Imbibe the importance of emotions and healthy communication.
Instill a sense of positive thinking in your children, and teach them the worth of a calm, composed mind. Good habits and virtues can never be taught by lecturing your children. The best way to promote good habits is by practicing them yourself. Your children are a reflection of yourself.
Yes, appreciating good behavior is extremely important, but over-indulging your child or rewarding him for something that is his responsibility is incorrect. For instance, you cannot give your child a chocolate every time he cleans up his room. Instead, you can tell him that he's been really helpful lately and reward him with a hug, a smile, and perhaps a movie or an extra half hour of video gaming.
Sometimes, only you talking to your child is not enough. It may elicit a feeble response or not elicit a response at all. But there is likely to be someone your child talks to. This person could be his sibling, your partner, a friend, his nanny, or his teacher.
You have to analyze who this person is and try and connect with him to find out what exactly is bothering your child. Seek their support to help get through to your child and break free of the 'difficulty' that you think is binding both of you.
Some parents may assume that more than the children, it is the current situations and emotions that are difficult to deal with. There are times when the best of us break down under difficult situations and need help.
It is only natural that children will require some help from adults while dealing with complicated issues and difficult situations, which can be a cause of great confusion and distress for the mind of an innocent child. If you think that this is something you cannot handle alone, seek the help of a counselor or a child psychologist for some support.
You are likely to face a lot of resistance from your child in this aspect, but face it if you think it is necessary. It may help get through to him and will provide you guidance about appropriately dealing with the situation.
Allow your children to experience new things and face the world, but assure them that you will always be there to support them through all the difficulties. A child should always be nurtured with the right amount of patience, freedom, understanding, discipline, and love.

There is Always Hope

No one says that dealing with children or teenagers is going to be easy. In fact, the older they grow, the more rebellious they are likely to become. However, you have to teach them to respect you - command it, don't demand it. And this can be done only by setting a good example yourself.
This doesn't mean you force your child to behave the way you do; give him the freedom to develop his personality, but ensure that he is guided at all times.
Inculcating a positive change is going to take time. You have to maintain your resolve at all times and make sure your child doesn't try to break it by resorting to newer methods of making things difficult. Meting out a consequence of every action shows your child that you are the one in charge, and that you are not going to bend to meet his demands.
Finally, don't focus all your energies on making things work out as early as possible. It should be a part of your daily routine - trying to break through the barriers that your child has built around himself, trying to spend even a mere 15 minutes together, not reprimanding, but trying to bond.
These small efforts on your part will eventually definitely make a difference, and will help reduce the amount of difficulty you face in dealing with your child.
Parenting can be synonymous with sending your child to an art class - the various values and virtues are the colors required to create the perfect painting on the canvas of life. As parents, it is up to you to choose which brand of colors, brushes and canvas you want to provide your child.
The teacher might provide some help by introducing the child to the nuances of painting. But as far as the painting is concerned - it is the child who is in complete control of every stroke and every splash of color.