Thursday, April 23, 2009

Parenting Challenging Kids

It’s may not be fair, but some parents have a much easier job than others. Depending on your child’s temperament, personality, sensitivities, and how well that all meshes with your own temperament, personality, and sensitivities, you may find that parenting is pretty easy. Or, on the other hand....
Some kids are just more challenging than others. With near perfect parenting that is optimized exactly for them, they may do pretty well. But, when the slightest thing goes wrong, these challenging kids can start to fall apart. Kids with autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD are frequently pretty demanding. They need consistency, compassion, and a great deal of patience. Even then, things still go wrong sometimes.  Most parents of special needs kids have horror stories of tantrums in the grocery store, disapproving teachers, or being kicked out of preschool programs.
Other kids are very easy. Even when the parents are inconsistent, overly lenient, or extremely strict, these resilient kids still manage to do pretty well.
I think that most children improve socially, academically, emotionally and behaviorally when their parents exhibit a high degree of parenting skill, and when they tune right in to what their kids need. But that doesn’t mean that the kids who are not doing well aren’t getting good parenting. They just may demand a different style of parenting, or they need near perfect parenting.
It can be difficult to be the parent of these challenging kids, especially when the parents of the easy kids seem to be judging your parenting skills. I’ve worked with some very challenging kids over the years, and I see how hard their parents try, and how difficult it can be. I teach a lot of parenting skills to families. It can be tricky, because teaching someone how to be a more effective parent doesn’t mean that they’re not doing a good job already. It could just mean that they happen to have a child who is especially demanding, or who knows just how to pull the least useful behaviors from the parents, or a child who just doesn’t happen to fit in well with their family’s style.
All parents make mistake and all parents can learn to do a better job. But please, don’t be too hard on yourself as a parent if you happen to have a very demanding child.