Transforming the Difficult Child

Transforming the Difficult Child

 Are you feeling drained from raising a hyperactive child?

 Recently, I came across a book called “Transforming the Difficult Child” by Howard Glasser, which offers one of the best drug-free parenting solutions I have ever seen.  What I found most refreshing was that the book also emphasizes the principles of Relationship Theory that I outline in my book “At Risk-Never Beyond Reach

 Anyone who has raised a “difficult” child knows how much time and energy goes into managing negative and self-destructive patterns of behavior.  Parents in this situation often feel that most of the positive energy they once had for their other children is drained away by an overly zealous and demanding child who constantly derives negative attention for their behavior.

 One of the ways of looking at the difficult child is that he/she is indeed an “energy” sapper – like an inefficient oversized car – that seeks to eat up energy (of her/his parents) at an overwhelming pace.  Owners of SUV’s witness this all the time when dealing with skyrocketing fuel costs that inflate their monthly bills to unacceptable levels.  So, too, parents of kids who take up too much of their energy feel like they are paying an unacceptable price for raising their children.

 In truth, all children demand their parent’s energy – some more and some less.  Some children are more energy efficient and go a long way with a little input from their parents.  With energy-efficient children, parents don’t feel drained; just a little pat on the back or a kiss and a hug is enough to get them going for the entire today.  And if they get into trouble, you can sit down with them calmly, talk things out, and in a few minutes they just move on.

 Not so with difficult children.  No matter how much you put in – and independent of all the treats, fun experiences, bribes and pleas – they continue to feel that their proverbial cup is forever half empty.  The difficult child is also a thrill seeker.  He or she prefers explosive fireworks to a simple game of catch in the park.  The need for energy compels difficult children to fight with their brothers and sisters, get in trouble in school, and demand that their parents pay primary attention to their negative and destructive behaviors.
 So what is motivating hyperactive children?  The answer may lie in viewing how their parents – and teachers – respond to their need for energy.  And here’s where Relationship Theory comes into play.  In response to the demand for attention, a parent has two choices:  (1) yell back and go on the offensive, (2) neutralize the negative behavior through deemphasizing its exciting value and accent the positive.

 I suggest trying number two.  Since it’s going to take parents considerable energy to respond to the difficult child, why not spend energy in a positive way?

 Here’s how it works.  Simply stop responding to the child’s negative energy.  Instead, look for opportunities to compliment and highlight positive actions and attributes.  The goal is to make the positive more exciting and gently encourage the child to gain attention from positive behaviors.  A good example of this would be when the difficult child avoids fighting his/her sibling(s) for a few minutes in a situation where he/she has traditionally gone to war.  A parent could say, “Great job.  I noticed you avoided fighting and I know how hard it is to sit still.”  Or, when a child comes home with a D on a test, instead of saying “Oh no, not again!” say “Wow, it looks like you tried your best and answered at least 50% of the questions to the best of your ability.”

 This system is not about waiting for the good to happen, but about going out and seeking it proactively.  And while nurturing the child’s need for energy in a positive way, parents themselves can be transformed into becoming agents of optimism.

 Imagine the power of becoming a positive catalyst in the home, and of becoming an individual who is always searching for the good and noting the smallest improvements achieved by your children.  This kind of positivism is contagious.  It has the power of disarming negative patterns and setting a new standard for the emotional well-being of the family.

 Being a positive parent is not a simple task.  There is no question that this approach takes considerable work.  But in a situation where behavior modification is demanded, the effort put into overcoming initial resistance can pay off for an extended period of time.

 The same approach is prescribed for parents dealing with the-at-risk crisis in their homes.  Statistically, many teenagers at risk were themselves hyperactive children and still need to focus on the positive.

 Parents who are able to change the energy levels in their homes have the best shot at communicating to their children and their teens that although they may be at risk, they are never beyond reach.

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