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When Your Child Gives You a Hard Time

When Your Child Gives You a Hard Time

When Your Child Gives You a Hard Time

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It’s Tuesday morning, you’re running late, and your child is having another loud meltdown…this time it’s triggered by your request that he simply turn off the TV and quickly put on his shoes for school. You’re angry, bitter, overwhelmed, and feeling hopeless about the day ahead already…and it’s only 7:30 in the morning!

You begin to wonder:

“What has gotten into this child?” 


Why is he giving me such a hard time?”

What if this child is truly not trying to give you a hard time? What if this child is actually having a hard time?

A major shift in our parenting occurs when we recognize the impact of these two phrases: a child “having a hard time” vs. “giving me a hard time.” 

Having a hard time = lacking the skills necessary to meet certain expectations 

Giving me a hard time = willful defiance, choosing to disobey

When our minds are set on the thought that these kids are “giving me a hard time,” we view every interaction with them as willful defiance and disobedience…and we respond to their behaviors and requests out of anger and frustration and a desire to win a power struggle. 

In his book, The Explosive Child, Dr. Ross Greene explains the majority of the time, kids choose to do well if they can. In other words, children (and teens) naturally want to make good choices when they are able, however, sometimes they lack the skills necessary to “do well.” 

When we begin to see our child through the lens of “lagging skills” instead of continual “willful defiance,” we see that most often our child is not planning and plotting to give us a hard time, instead this child is “having a hard time” gaining and utilizing the skills necessary to “do well.” 

With this fresh set of eyes, we see lagging skills (such as emotional control, impulse control, ability to handle transitions, etc) that need strengthening in order for the child to do what is expected of him. We are able to make a game plan to address each skill. We are then able to respond to their behaviors and requests with compassion, empathy, and curiosity and we are able to not take their words and behaviors so personally.

To learn more about this and other trauma-informed relationally-based strategies for parenting children and teens, contact me today to set up a free 15-minute consultation.

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