The Difficult Child

What Is a “Difficult Child”?

Difficult behavior is common. It may be a temporary response to a stressful situation or part of a developmental phase. It is often seen in children with psychiatric problems. However, the term “difficult child” specifically refers to a young normal child whose innate temperament (inborn nature) makes the child hard to raise in his or her particular family.

Difficult Children Are Not All Alike

There are different categories of temperament — for example, activity level, self-control, reaction to change or to new situations, and sensitivity to the taste of food or the feel of clothes. In some areas, your child may be difficult, but in other areas, he or she may be more or less easy. It all depends on what the combination of difficult traits is. Therefore, your difficult child may:

  • Get very upset if there is a sudden change in routine or if something unexpected happens
  • Shrink back or hide in new situations, or be very rude when introduced to a stranger
  • Be loud, hyperactive and impulsive. When extreme, the behavior of these children begins to overlap with that seen in ADHD. On the positive side, they are usually up-beat and friendly
  • Be a very picky eater or wear the same clothes because they feel right
  • Some combination of all the above.

Most difficult children are strong-willed and stubborn, but they are often very creative.

The Parents of a Difficult Child

The behavior of difficult children is, above all, hard to understand. You are probably angry, tired, confused and guilty. Normal ways of dealing with problem behavior just do not work. You are punishing too much; but the more you punish, the more the child defies you. And she seems to be doing it on purpose. This little person is running the household! A vicious cycle develops; and if it continues, the self-image of the difficult child is affected and emotional problems develop, your marriage suffers and your other children are affected by all the arguing and fighting.

Consulting with Dr. Turecki

If you are worried about your child and your home situation, and you contact Dr. Turecki, he will first speak with you by phone to learn more about your concerns. Both parents and the child will then come in for a Comprehensive Evaluation. Dr. Turecki will make sure that there is no true psychiatric disorder. At the end of the visit, Dr. Turecki will share his professional opinion with you, answer your questions and then collaborate with you to develop a personalized treatment plan. The plan definitely will include parental education and guidance and possibly other ways of helping the family. If there is no real improvement, child therapy may be needed and alternative approaches, especially dietary changes, can be helpful. Dr. Turecki will also advise you to read The Difficult Child.