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What You Don’t Know About Parenting a Challenging Child

My first son has been hard since the minute he arrived. He refused to nap, refused to be put down and cluster fed all day. Just a few days old and I already knew he had a temper- his is scream earned him the nickname of little pterodactyl.

As he’s gotten older the challenges have continued- he went through a BAD biting phase, he’s always been super physical; the one to push on the playground or take toys from other children. He’s loud and likes to have things his way. He doesn’t like to share but expects people to share with him. And then there’s sleep. With the exception of a few nights, the last 5 years have been filled with low quality and restless sleep. And yet, he bounds out of bed EVERY. EFFING. MORNING with the energy of a Laborador puppy, ready to go on a walk.

He regularly pushes me to my limits by testing the waters- doing exactly what I told him not to only seconds earlier, or completely blocking me out when I’m talking.

He’s a hard kid.

There’s no other way to say it.

And yet, my love for him comes from the very depths of my soul. He’s incredibly sensitive and when listening, takes everything to heart. He’s wicked smart and impossibly funny; constantly trying to make other people to laugh. When he’s not trying to piss me off, he’s desperately trying to please me. And the minute I (inevitably) snap, I am flooded with guilt because it’s almost as if he can’t help it and well…

I should know better.

It took me a long time to go out in public with him regularly- I worried often about introducing him to other kids for fear of an incident or meltdown, where I *knew* I would be instantly judged. I worried about my capability and capacity as a mother- WHAT ON EARTH WAS I DOING WRONG?

When I got pregnant with my second, I fell into a fairly deep state of depression and anxiety- constantly run ragged from the challenging child I already had, and living with a constant fear that I would produce another just like him.

I’ve felt a great deal of isolation since I’ve had him. He’s been treated differently, talked about as if he’s a monster, ignored, and made fun of. I’ve been asked why I don’t punish him harder, watched people close to him glare at, or talk about him, thinking I couldn’t see or hear. I’ve had many people suggest ways to calm him down or suggest I take him to have him “checked out”. I’ve watched other parents get visibly frustrated with him (rightfully so) despite my jumping in to intercept a bite, push, or kick. Mostly, I’ve felt scarred by other people in their dislike or distaste of my child- I’ve often felt personally attacked and disliked.

They have no clue.

And if you have a child that has never acted like this, you have no clue, either.

No clue about the tears I’ve produced, the anxiety I’ve felt, and the worry I have for him. Because, I HAVE spanked him, I HAVE given him time outs, I HAVE even taken him to see a behavioral therapist. I have read parenting book after parenting book. Tried compassion, tried being sterner, tried everything I could think of, and he, is still himself.

And what you really don’t know is that this has been harder on me than I’ve ever wanted to admit. I have panic attacks when I know family will be around who doesn’t mesh well with him. Every time we head to a new play place or friend’s house I walk in with a pit in my stomach, wondering if he’s going to cause a scene and just how long we’ll be able to stay before we leave. I have laid awake at night worried that I have spawned a sociopath.

And while I completely understand the frustration in seeing their own little people hurt or “bullied” I wish that other parents could understand that this is not always due to lack of discipline or trying.

It’s often those who are close to me that treat him the worst as if, they have free range to criticize my child behind his back because we’re in the same family or have known each other for decades. It’s like they think I don’t take what they say to heart and that I can laugh off their slighted comments about him. But no, when I tell you he’s being an asshole, this is not your opportunity to tell me you think he’s an asshole, too. When I tell you about the challenges he gives me, this is NOT your opportunity to jump in and offer all of the ways you think he’s challenging, too.

I am hard enough on him as it is, I don’t you to be hard on him as well.

I just need you to love him.

And I need you to love ME because I am doing the best I can. This is not lack of spanking, yelling, time outs or any other discipline that causes this.

It’s just HIS nature.

As another parent, this is your opportunity to have compassion for another parent trying to get by. This is an opportunity to simply love another child unconditionally and to be open and willing to listen to the struggles that child may be causing.

So please, be kind to your friends who have children that challenge them, I guarantee you, they are doing the best they can and often worry that their best just isn’t enough.


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