Have you ever had days when you swear your child has access to a list of everything you find to be an annoyance or aggravation and then they proceed to do everything on that list? Or a day when a teacher or therapist tells you that your kid is smart but (there is always a but isn’t there?) he or she just happens to be the worst behaved child they had ever seen? Or have you had a day when your home looks more like a demolition site and your child is beginning to bear a close resemblance to the Tasmanian Devil?
Been there. Done that.
If any of you can relate to the character of Lynette Scavo in parenting her twin boys on the show Desperate Housewives then you know what I am talking about.
Some of the more crazy making behaviors and things my son has done include playing “humpty dumpty” by tossing eggs off of our balcony, dropping them to the once white carpet below. He has taken a “bubble bath” by dumping every soft soap container, all the shampoo, all my hair products, and a big bottle of Listerine into the tub. He drew a giant palm tree on the bathroom wall. He cut jack-o-lantern faces with scissors into all the fruits and vegetables in the fridge, even the cherry tomatoes and that is hard to do
Telling these stories to others might elicit laughter or even “awww that is so creative of him” but it sure isn’t cute or funny when you are a parent having to deal with all of these behaviors. And add to these more mischievous behaviors such things as temper tantrums, non-compliance and/or even aggression and you may feel like your child and your life is spinning out of control.
So how do you stay sane when you are trying to parent a child who has been deemed by most others as extremely “challenging”?
Here are some of my tips to staying sane:
Don’t judge your child as “bad.” Likewise, don’t judge yourself as a bad parent. Leave that baggage at the door and don’t bring it in. It is not going to help you to think of your child as someone who is deliberately trying to make your life hard.
Remember that to discipline is to teach. Don’t be overly focused on how to reprimand or punish your child. Instead, think about ways to teach the behaviors you do want to see.
If your child has done something outrageous that you know will make you angry take several moments to collect yourself before you react. Go into a room, close the door, and count to ten. Breathe. Responding with a short fuse only will make the situation worse. Take the time you need to think out your response.
Pick and choose your battles. I know you have heard this before. It seems like a clichÃ© but it is very true. You don’t have the time or energy to get into it with your child about every little thing. You have to let some things go as hard as that may be to do.
Put things into perspective. Okay so he poured all your Listerine into your tub or painted his white tennis shoes blue. Is this really the end of the world? Nobody has died. It is going to be okay. You will both survive this.
Stop trying to be a perfect parent. Don’t compare yourself to the prissy mom you see in the supermarket with the daughters who meekly hold onto their mother’s arm and are scared to get their dresses dirty. Accept that you and your child are not out to win some prize for best parent and child award. Accept your child and yourself for who you both are.
Focus on what needs to be done. If you are confronted with a behavior you feel is out of control, don’t dwell on the “I can’t believe he/she did this” and try to figure out a solution which is going to help right now. Let go of the shock and anger and get to work.
Enlist help. You don’t need to deal with everything on your own. You can seek guidance from your family, teachers, therapists, and other parents. It may seem that your child’s behaviors are your sole responsibility but you are not alone. You can always reach out for help.
Get support. There are others who are dealing with the same issues that you are having with your child. Join a local support group or join an on-line group if you feel you don’t have time to meet other parents in person. This is the primary way I have kept my sanity over the years is to talk with other parents who have been there and done that.
Last but not least, love your child unconditionally. They need to know that no matter how wild or even upsetting their behavior may be, that you will always love them. Don’t lose that connection and special bond you have with your child because of a rotten day, week, month, or year.
I hope that what I have said here will help someone out there who is wondering if they can survive what their child may dish out. I know it is hard. It is hard for your child too. But you always have to find some way of keeping yourself in the ring. Parenting is a job that lasts the rest of your life. Do what it takes to keep up your energy, stamina, and spirit.
Now we want to hear from you. How do you personally deal with parenting a child who has been known to be able to push your buttons? What strategies, tips, or suggestions do you have to offer other parents who want to know how to cope on an everyday basis with helping a child who has some difficult behaviors? Please share your story and experience. It could help someone else going through the same thing.
I am a mother, a writer, and now an MS patient