Let’s tackle this really difficult topic about how to enjoy your difficult child. I want to make this really applicable, and I want to make this full of action steps and real practical strategies of things that you can do. I’m really hoping that by sharing some of this vulnerability and sharing some of my personal stories will help you to feel not so alone and understand that it is possible to enjoy your difficult child. So let’s get right in!
If you are reading this right now and feeling embarrassed or frustrated, or just at the end of your rope, I want you to know that you’re not alone and that this feeling is natural. Several mamas have reached out to me lately and just sort of spill their hearts and share with me the difficulty that they’re having with their children. The emotions that they feel really hard to admit sometimes.
To be more specific and clarify, this episode is for mamas whose children are not just difficult once in a while. I’m more specifically speaking to the mamas who have extremely difficult children: children who struggle with defiance, emotional regulation and behavioral struggles. I want you to know that I see you and that you are not the only mama that is dealing with a difficult child. To give you a little bit of a backstory, I have two children. My son Jaden is seven and my daughter Scarlett is 10. I’m mostly going to be focusing today’s episode talking about my son and his unique struggles and how we have dealt with them.
So Jaden has always been an extremely brilliant, busy, and mischievous young man. From the get-go, this kiddo of ours was busy and always into things. By age three, he was in preschool, and he was having lots of struggles. I remember an incident at pre-school where he had hit his head underneath the bathroom stall. He he seemed to be okay, but had trouble moving his neck and we ended up taking him to the ER. I felt like from then on things just weren’t connecting in his brain and it just seemed like ever since that incident, more things were coming to light. We really started to notice a huge shift in his cognitive development. He was extremely smart, and was doing really well in school, but it was more so behavioral impulsivity, controlling his emotions and following directions.
He’s been seeing the chiropractor biweekly since he was born and so I really think that has helped. We then visited a chiropractic neurologist and did therapy with them for six weeks, which was absolutely incredible, and it worked really well. The moment we stopped going, things got worse again. With brain development and this brain therapy, you have to do exercises to keep up with the neuroplasticity in the brain and we just didn’t do that. We researched and found another place called Brain Balance, an additional type of brain therapy, that he continues to do now. Having heard my story, I want to give you guys five really practical, actionable steps that you can take to enjoy your difficult child.
#1: Recognize their Struggles and View Them as an Opportunity for Growth
So often as parents, we view misbehavior as a child problem. I think a lot of parents don’t give children the credit that they deserve for their developing brain. Remember, our children’s brains are not fully developed until they’re 25 years old and so for us to expect our children to be adults at all times is not fair. Start to view their struggles and think of them as an opportunity for growth and not only for them to grow, but for you to grow.
There’s a point where you as the parent, start to recognize that there really is a problem. So it’s important to educate yourself and find support when you realize that that there’s a struggle and then do something about it. This was one of my reasons why I decided to homeschool my children. I wanted to be front and center, I wanted to see the struggle that the teachers were seeing with my son. I wanted to be able to recognize the area for growth and do something about it.
#2: Release Control to Minimize Power Struggles
This is a hard one for me, especially. A perfect example of this is my son has exercises that he is required to do every day with his brain therapy. I was being really obsessive about it and watching him because I felt that he would skip out on doing his exercises. I felt like I couldn’t trust him. Some of my closest friends advised me to just let go and trust him more. I took their advice and I started letting him have more freedom. I made a checklist of the different exercises that he had to do, and I told him he’s in charge of his brain development and I’m going to trust that he can do his exercises on his own. I feel the power struggle is gone now because I’m no longer hounding.
We’ve only been doing it for three days now, but he’s already doing so much better. Yes he may skip some of the exercises, but I know that he’ll work his way up. I know that he’ll start to get more confident in himself and once he sees that I’m releasing that control and that I’m trusting him again, then he can earn back that trust. I am a firm believer in second chances and that every day is a new opportunity to make new decisions and be someone different. We need to release that control and let them have more freedom even if they mess up.
#3: Empathize with Their Feelings
This is really important because if we want to raise children who are emotionally intelligent, then we need to show them that it’s okay to feel their feelings. It’s okay to be angry or mad and not want to do something. We don’t want to diminish their feelings when they are being defiant. Of course there are times when we need them to listen to us, but see past the power struggle and give them some opportunity to have a say. We want to raise children who stand up for themselves, who have a voice and who are not easily influenced by others. We can’t expect our children to build that resiliency if we don’t allow them the freedom to use that voice. So it is important to empathize with your children’s feelings and come up with suitable compromises.
#4: Evaluate your Triggers and Use your Calm Voice
I feel like this is where a lot of us struggle, because we have silent trauma. We all have silent trauma from our own childhoods, and we all have these triggers that we are unaware of until they are triggered. It’s so important that we are aware of this. I recommend you start to start to keep a note on your phone that you can update the moment you’re feeling triggered. Because if you know what triggers you, you can know the next step and what you need to do, whether it’s to walk away, take a deep breath or tighten your fists.
Once you recognize your triggers, its important that you are able to work through them and not take everything that your child says so seriously or personally. Remember, it wasn’t a personal attack, it was them fighting back out fear or out of anger. Their fear or anger or sadness are secondary emotions, and there usually is a primary emotion that comes before that. You need to evaluate those triggers and be able to speak in a calm voice.
#5: Focus on Highlighting Their Strengths
This one is huge. I want you to figure out what are your children good at, lean into that and leverage their strengths. My son is an extremely helpful human being and when I recognize that he is being defiant or that he is struggling, I leverage that strength of him being an amazing helper. I redirect the situation and this helps me enjoy him so much better. You can think of so many strengths that your own child has, once you just stop and take a minute, not to focus on all the negative things and focus on what they do well, and continue to highlight that.
I hope that you have some strategies and some tips to try. I have a list of complimentary episodes that I will leave in the show notes. I would love to invite each and every one of you to join our Facebook community, it’s totally free to join and you can sign up over at thepurposegathering.com/mamas. This is a safe place for you to not only talk about motherhood and these deep dark struggles that we go through, but also to talk about business and how to balance the two.
If you enjoyed today’s episode, I would love for you to take a screenshot of it, share it out on Instagram and tag me @thepurposegathering and share with the other mamas that are following you, your biggest takeaway. Hopefully we can reach more mamas who are struggling so that they can feel encouraged, inspired, and empowered.
Until next time mama, I am always here rooting for you, and you are not alone on this journey.
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