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Children Who are Difficult: What to do

If your child tends to be "difficult," here are a number of ways you can make things easier for both of you:

  • Spend time watching your child and try to figure out what upsets her.

  • Help your child learn to manage upsetting situations - by staying close to him until he is better able to cope on his own.

  • Break new situations into smaller, more manageable parts, if possible, and tell your child what to expect ahead of time.

  • Make routines as predictable and protective of your child as you can.

  • Let your child know you have confidence in her to manage the situation on her own, but that you're close by if needed.

  • Think of and describe your child's behaviour in positive instead of negative ways - for example, your child isn't "wild," he's "energetic" and "exciting." Also try to ask your child to do things in a positive way, such as "Please hang up your coat," instead of "Stop throwing your coat on the floor." Research shows that children are actually more likely to follow along when parents ask them to do things this way.

  • Accept your child for who she is.

It is very important for you, as a parent, to figure out if your child's behaviour seems difficult for you, not so much because of the way he is, but because of the way you are - or in other words, your own personality or preferred way of relating to others.

If your child is one year old, and you are finding her to be very difficult, it would be worthwhile to get some help. Parent-child interaction is easier to change at a young age than it is if it is ignored until your child is older. Consult your child's physician for an appropriate referral. If you are in Canada, and you wish to speak to a counsellor about this, contact Parent Help Line, 1-888-603-9100.

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