The Difficult Child, Part 3

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Go here to read: Part 1, Part 2

Teaching The Difficult Child, Part 3 from the Workshop by the same name.

For the last two days we have talked about the first two parts of the Acronym:


S-Stop the sarcasm, joking, and belittling of my child

T-Truth- I became convinced that from that day forward, I would try to speak only the absolute truth from God’s word over her.

Now, we get to the O-

O- Overhaul your mind to a new way of thinking and acting.  You may have one or more children that just do not seem to learn the way the others do.  Here are some of the things we did to help:

  • Break down tasks into the smallest possible pieces.

When my child proved to have a hard time with certain instructions, I learned to interact differently.  For some children, you can simply give an instruction and expect them to follow through.  But just because this was the ‘norm’ to which I was accustomed did not mean it was the only correct way for a child to be. I learned to break instruction down into small pieces.  It was not:  “Go complete your math assignment”.  It was:

“Go get your math book and bring it to me.”

“Good, now open up to your lesson.”

“Good.  What do you need?  Do you need a ruler?  Go get it and bring it here,” etc.

I broke it down into the smallest possible pieces.  This gave her the highest chance of success and gave me the highest chance of being able to praise her before any corrections had to occur.  Also, if there was a failure to follow through, I was able to deal with the simple small behavior, and the entire math lesson was not blown.

There were many days that I would look for things to praise because they seemed so few and far between.

  • Remember that the child is not his or her behavior.

This is the key: I had to continually remind myself that even if her behavior were not praiseworthy and excellent, she as a person was excellent and praiseworthy.

Like Psalm 139 says, The Lord created her the way he chose and if it was good enough for him, it should certainly be good enough for me.  I would sometimes just stop her and say:  “I am so thankful for you.”  “I think you will make a wonderful mother some day because you have so much energy.”

  • Another thing I did was to help her learn to cope better with others.
  • Train on behaviors during times of non-conflict in a calm and systematic way.

One example of this is she had no natural sympathy.   Have you ever met a child who could step over a bleeding child to reach a piece of candy and never take notice of the one who was hurt?  I could not believe how apathetic she was to the plight or pain of others.

It was not that she did not seem to care.  She honestly did not seem to SEE that other people had feelings and that she needed to care for them.

When I first noticed this, I was beside myself.  I wrongly characterized her of being very selfish, and at the very least, lazy.  She simply did not seem to care about the feelings of others.

But once I realized that she did not seem to be growing out of these behaviors, I went to work on these during times of non-conflict.

I would tell her scenarios and coach her on proper behaviors.  Often these were based on recent problems I had seen in her, but by dealing with them during a time of non-conflict, it was not threatening to her.  Then, when the situation arose again, I would coach her immediately on what was expected to happen in particular circumstances.

I can remember saying:  “Look- Your sister is hurt.  You must stop what you are doing immediately and go and check and see how she is doing.  You cannot continue playing with her ball while she is lying on the ground crying.  Ask her what you can do to help.  Offer her an icepack.”   Over time, she learned to have sympathy for others, and now if someone is hurt, she is usually the fastest to run to their aid.

Ok, more practical tips will come tomorrow- this is enough to chew on for one day.

If you are in need of additional resources on this topic, I have the following suggestions:

Teaching the Difficult Child MP3-audio recording of the workshop

Teaching the Difficult Child CD-audio recording of the workshop

Loving and Teaching the Difficult Child

Beverly Bradley It’s Not Supposed to Be This Hard!

Beverly Bradley Warrior Mother: Fighting FOR the Kids, not WITH them

To read the next installment go here

You may also want to read the following article on Teaching the Difficult Child – Help My Daughter is Twelve! – Reader Question

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