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Parenting And The Challenge Of Dealing With Difficult Children

The first problem when it comes to considering how to deal with difficult children is to define what we mean by difficult. Do we mean a child who is simply a bit too keen to express his independence or a child who is totally indifferent to the effect his behavior has on others, irresponsible, and possibly violent?

Before tackling the problem parents need to assess just why the child is behaving badly. Is this behavior the result of a genetic or hormonal condition such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's Syndrome, or autism? Does the cause perhaps lie in the child's environment, perhaps being caused by something as simple as a food allergy? Is it simply a case of the child deciding for reasons of his own to behave badly?

It is important, but not always easy, to get to the root of the problem quickly.

In the absence of any obvious reason for the child's behavior the first port of call should be your doctor, who will be able to arrange for tests to be conducted to see if there is a medical reason for the problem. Getting a diagnosis can provide you with a good starting point. However, there are a lot of different theories today when it comes to child development and also a great deal of disagreement among professional child care specialists. So, if you're at all unsure, it is always a good idea to seek a second opinion.

If the doctor comes up with a cause for the problem then all well and good but, if a visit to the doctor doesn't turn up anything, then what do you do next?

The first thing you need to understand is that you will almost certainly feel both angry and frustrated at your child's behavior and that these feelings can very easily make an already difficult situation worse if you let them. Your best friend therefore, and one that you need to keep very close at hand, is going to be patience.

The next thing you need to realize is that solving the problem will be a matter of trial and error and that this could well take time and will involve both success and failure. It is likely to be a difficult journey and you'll find yourself taking one step backwards for every two steps forward.

The process itself is simply a case of trying various approaches to teach the child how behave and to show him that his behavior is wrong and is adversely affecting the lives of others.

You will need to set clear boundaries, teach by example and, when necessary, punish bad behavior. But, the question of punishment is often a tricky issue when it comes to a difficult child and it is all too tempting to resort to physical punishment. For a young child something like a slap on the hand might be appropriate but be careful about resorting to anything more than this.

The rights and wrongs of physical punishment are too complex an issue to cover here but, suffice it to say that physical punishment very seldom proves effective in the case of difficult children and more often than not makes matters worse.

Dealing with difficult children is not easy. Nevertheless, providing you are patient and that progress may be slow, and at times painfully gradual, then perseverance will normally reap rewards for both parent and child.

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