What Makes Your Child Difficult

Nov 25


Anthony Kane, MD

Anthony Kane, MD

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Why are you having difficulty with your child's behavior? In this article we explore the factors that contribute to defiance in children and teens.


One of the things that parents of Oppositional Defiant Disorder children frequently ask is "What went wrong? Why does my child behave like this?"

Parents,What Makes Your Child Difficult Articles particularly mothers, feel overwhelmed by their child's behavior and often feel quite guilty. Usually this question is asked out of frustration and desperation. However, it is really a good question. If you understand why your child behaves the way he does, you will be far better able to correct the behavior or at least deal with it more effectively.

It may seem impossible for you to understand your child, but really there are only four factors that govern your child's behavior, or anyone's behavior for that matter. Once you understand how these four factors interplay in shaping your child's behavior you will have a much deeper understanding why your child does what he or she does.

Basically it comes down to your child's natural makeup and his environment, but we are going to break it down a bit further so that you will have a better idea of how specific components interplay with each other.

1-Your child's temperament:

Certain children are hard wired to be difficult. Some children are naturally hot tempered. Some children are placid. Some are very flexible and others are resistant to change. These are basic personality characteristics that are part of your child's internal makeup. These traits don't come about as a result of what goes on in your child's life. Your child is born with them.

Included in this category are natural abilities and disabilities that your child may possess. Your child may have ADHD or a natural affinity for music. Your child may be very smart or he may have eye-hand coordination difficulties that are causing him problems.

All of the natural abilities and weaknesses, as well as your child's psychological makeup, combine to create your child's natural temperament. This is your child's starting point, his approach to the world. Everything he sees and all his reactions will be shaped by his temperament.

Still, your child's temperament is not static. It can be changed. Your child can change many aspects of his basic temperament. But it will take an active effort. He will need to choose to do so.

2-Your child's interactions with you:

You are the most important person in your child's life. This is going to change eventually, but all through his childhood years you are the person who matters the most.

You have a lifetime of interactions with your child. What happened during these interactions will go along way in influencing what you can expect to come in the future.

How far can your child push you before you react? How much can your child get away with before you come down on him? How many times do you ask your child to do something before you do something that shows you mean it? How do you react to your child's misbehavior? How do you respond when he fights with his siblings? How much crying and complaining does it take before you decide that it is better to let your child have what he wants?

If you look into the answers to these and similar questions you are going to find many of the reasons why your child behaves the way he does.

The bottom line is that we all do what works for us. Very often children misbehave, act out, and are defiant etc. because it works. They do it because it is worth their while. Understanding this is one of the keys to getting your child under control.

3-Your temperament:

As we have discussed, you are the most important person in your child's life. So how you react to your child is of paramount importance. And just as your child's temperament affects how he behaves, your temperament affects how you behave.

Are you hot tempered or quick to anger? Are you highly emotional or more logical and calculating? This is going to affect how you interact with your child. And how you interact with your child is going to have a big impact on your child's behavior.

4- The family environment:

The life of an only child is very different from the life of a child with older and younger siblings. Family relationships, whether you are a single parent or married, whether your child has natural or step siblings etc. will effect dramatically your child's environment.

If your child has a sibling who is disabled or one who is outstandingly successful, if you are happily married or if there is marital stress or divorce- all these things will determine how much stress your child has and how much he can endure on a daily basis.

When you step back and look carefully at the major factors that determine how your child reacts, you will have a much better understanding of why your child does what he does. You will not be able to change a lot of these factors, but if you understand exactly what is going on, you should be able to predict and sidestep many of the negative reactions and behaviors that your child has.