Do you have a child who’s been a struggle to deal with? Is it challenging to the point that you want to just throw your hands in the air and give up? If so, this post is definitely for you. I’ve been there and I want to encourage you that there is hope for your child and your own mama’s heart!
If you have more than one child, you may already be aware of the fact that every child is wired differently. And some kiddos, lets just say it, are more challenging to handle than others.
I have four children and each of them have different personalities. One of my kids in particular has a personality that has really stretched me to new levels of grace and mercy. She’s curious, she likes to touch everything (and no, she’s not a toddler!), and she has big emotions.
For a long time, I tried to deal with her through rules. I tried to control her outward behavior through punishments and consequences, and it wasn’t getting me anywhere. Because she’s the kind of kid who’s just…well…curious. She would end up getting in trouble a lot because I didn’t understand how she was wired and would get frustrated. Over time, I ended up realizing that a lot of the things that would end up frustrating me were just her being a curious kid and me being impatient.
But until I realized that, I reacted wrongly to her, and her behavior was all the worse for it.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. I was so frustrated that it blinded me from really being able to connect with my daughter, and God knew I didn’t want things to stay like they were. So over time, and with prayer and reading the Bible, I’ve been able to see some issues and change some things that have resulted in changed behavior from my daughter and healing in our relationship.
So here are my top three tips for handling a difficult child, and may they bring you the same breakthroughs I’ve seen!
Pray and declare
The best thing you can do if one of your children is difficult is start by praying and declare life over him or her. Prayer is so amazing because it not only releases the supernatural power of God, but it works to shift your own heart as well!
As I previously mentioned, one of my daughters is very kinesthetic. She’s constantly touching things, constantly moving, constantly doing things that kinesthetic people do. She’s a curious girl and is not afraid to take a risk. Before I understood this, I would allow myself to get so frustrated and constantly complain to my husband about how difficult she was.
All this negativity I was speaking actually turned my heart against her even more. I began to get frustrated by every little thing she was doing. And since I was homeschooling at the time and was with her all day, this made my stay at home life pure misery!
It took me a while to actually go to God about this and get some clarity. When I did pray, I strongly felt that I needed to stop saying negative things about her. I needed to start declaring over her what God created her to be and bless her.
So I started changing the things I said. I started saying that she was a blessing from God and that she was special. I would declare over her that she would fulfill the destiny God sent her to the earth to fulfill and that she would love God with all her heart.
And after a while of doing this, you know what began to happen? My own heart began to be changed. My thoughts and emotions began to line up with the words I was speaking and I noticed a new tenderness toward her. It made me respond to her differently, and because of that, she responded differently as well.
Love is the most transforming power in the universe. There is nothing that has the ability to transform a precious child’s heart like love.
True love can only be defined by Scripture. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 says:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it’s not self-seeking, it’s not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
When I was pregnant with our fourth child, we decided to put our older two girls in elementary school. I had been homeschooling up until that point, but it was getting very challenging being in my third trimester and trying to manage a toddler at home. Not to mention that my older girls were fighting a lot, and if you’ve ever dealt with that for even a day, you know how grating it can be on a mama’s nerves!
After a couple months at school, my hubby and I started noticing some behavior changes in my daughter. She would come home and do things like roll her eyes, scream at us, throw things at us, and just not listen at all. She would also be very mean to her sister.
And of course, it would be very difficult for me to not get angry about all of this. So I would end up getting frustrated and punish her, which of course would make her act out even more.
Let’s just say, it was really bad.
So bad, in fact, that my husband said we would allow two weeks for her behavior to change. We would do what we needed to on our end, but if nothing changed, he wanted to pull her out of school.
So I came up with a plan. I know that when I spend time in the presence of God, I fill fulfilled and satisfied. So I thought, what if we spent the first 5 minutes of every day just hugging our kids, loving on them, and telling them how special they are? It would definitely be a change from constantly being frustrated at them, so I wanted to see how it would go.
Ladies. Within one day, we saw a huge improvement.
Now, I’m not saying that she completely stopped doing naughty things all the time. But I am saying that I saw a drastic difference in her response toward us and vice versa.
I’ve come to learn that kids need their love and affection tank filled, and that they will often act out when they feel rejected for their behavior. You can’t go wrong with giving too much Biblical love-being kind, patient, and not easily angered.
I encourage you to try this out with your child. If you’ve already sown some seeds of impatience in his or her life, it might take a while to see the seeds of love sprout. But just keep sowing. I’m confident that love works and that it will change your relationships!
Have a plan
Now that I’ve laid down some foundational stuff, let me share with you a few more things you can do.
I’ve discovered that when a child is difficult to handle, it’s oftentimes because the needs of their heart are not being met. This could be the desire to be understood, the desire to be cherished, or the desire to be accepted and enjoyed.
I personally believe that one of the biggest reasons our kids act out is because of how we respond to their immaturity and mistakes. Kids do a lot of things wrong. A lot. And it’s our job as parents to train them. That’s the mandate God has given us!
We have to understand our children’s nature so we can plan on how we’re going to deal with them properly. I wrote more about understanding your children’s nature in this post. Our kiddos will mess up, and they’ll need to know they have our consistent love and support in the process.
If you find yourself constantly over-reacting to your child and you see your child’s behavior going south because of it, try some of these things:
Find them an outlet
My very hands-on daughter needed an outlet and I wasn’t giving her one. So she was getting bored and getting herself into trouble. Once I gave her needs an outlet (we hung a makeshift basketball goal above her door and I told her she could do all the cartwheels she wants in her bedroom only), she was free to release herself.
Don’t barge in with rules
If your child keeps messing up at something, maybe they just need to be empowered. Seek to understand what your child is struggling with and how you can help him or her.
God wants us to honor one another, and that includes our kids. If you feel angry and the need to yell/hit, I would recommend locking yourself in the bathroom and calming yourself down. You won’t regret it!
I hope this has provided a little more clarity for handling a difficult child. If you’d like guidance and a clear pathway for how to spend your days as a mom, check out my ebook 7 Principles for Influential Motherhood. It’s packed with wisdom I’ve gleaned on my own motherhood journey, and it’s already made a difference in my personal life. Grab your copy today!
Do you have your own strategies? Share below-I would love to hear!