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See our guest post at the New America Foundation: Equality and Justice for All Families.


Learning from a Difficult Child

"Mary" (name withheld at author's request)

Did you see me in Wal-Mart? I was sitting on the floor in the shampoo and soap aisle, physically restraining my small son, so he would not deck me or take out (another) row of Calgon (“take me away”). Just another day in the bewildering life of a mom dealing with a difficult child. But this wasn’t supposed to be happening to me, an experienced mom with two older boys known for their pleasant personalities, politeness and cooperation. But my determined little Tom made sure it was happening to me—in Wal-Mart, the doctor’s office and my own kitchen.
My third son’s intensity, energy and impulsivity were unusually high for a toddler, and much to my dismay, did not show clear signs of abating even when he was three and four. His behavior included destructiveness and well-aimed biting, kicking and hitting. My long-awaited baby was a hard-to-deal-with handful. I was overwhelmed, angry, embarrassed and hurt. How could the little one I loved so much be so uncivilized, when his older brothers had responded so well to the guidance lovingly offered by my husband and me? Now at age five, Tom remains more difficult than some children his age, but his steps toward self-control have gradually become apparent and left me with greater wisdom. I can look back over my years of learning from him and see a number of strategies that helped me cope and helped him improve.
Just say no—to situations I learned that there were many circumstances that would precipitate tantrums, impulsivity or other bad behavior. Since these happened many times a day, I was in no danger of removing all opportunities for my child to learn to change his behavior and cope, but I did remove the obvious offenders to reduce our stress. Knowing Tom could not spend an hour in a grocery cart with strangers asking him questions, I became a “dash-in” grocery shopper when I had to shop with him. (As long as I could, I carried him in my backpack, but it was difficult with such a high-energy, and as luck would have it, sturdy little boy). I also did not leave him in the church nursery unless one of us could stay with him. None of the nursery attendants were equipped to deal with him, and I was afraid that he would hurt smaller children and become known as the bully. We turned down invitations for dinners he would have ruined anyway, and opted to host or attend outdoor picnics or events with extremely child-friendly environments. Yes, at times this was a sacrifice, but I knew that setting my child up for failure would only end up badly anyway. And, again, in our Tom-friendly circumstances, he still got experience in dealing with his difficulties, just not in such an overwhelming way.
Become hyper-vigilant. Parents of toddlers know that play dates are usually not calm coffee breaks just chatting with other parents. Most of the time, the interruptions are continuous, as one child and then another needs to be re-directed or attended to so that civilization prevails. With Tom, I found I had to double or triple that, and it lasted through most of his fourth year. I was on my feet, anticipating his next move before he could lob something or push someone. As much as I wanted to enjoy the company of my friends, hyper-vigilance had to take precedence, or we quickly would have become unwelcome.
My husband and I tag-teamed, taking turns at being hyper-vigilant at shopping malls, parties and grandmothers’ houses. It was exhausting, and some people didn’t understand why we weren’t able to relax and socialize. If you’ve never had a child who got into the refrigerator with all the food while you took a 45-second bathroom break, it is probably hard to comprehend.

Footnotes to hyper-vigilance: since it is an exhausting job, primary caregivers who spend long hours on duty may need to take a break. My husband encouraged me to exercise, write or take a walk. Also keep in mind that hyper-vigilance is a hard habit to break: as my little one grew more competent at playing in groups, I had to re-train myself so I would not always expect every incident to have been caused by him. There should be balance between helping your child take responsibility for his actions and creating a negative self-fulfilling prophecy for bad behavior.

Use “holding time.” Time-outs had worked beautifully for our first two boys, as did other common guidance techniques used by many loving parents. I had grown into these techniques with my other young sons as part of a parenting style that emphasized the importance of my boys’ relationships with me. My aim was to avoid both overly harsh and too permissive parenting, and to implement a loving guidance philosophy as espoused by La Leche League International and many involved in attachment parenting. Books by William and Martha Sears, including The Attachment Parenting Book, provide information about this approach to discipline.
Our third child was far too wired for a basic time-out to work. Sent to his room, he would rant and become destructive, getting him into more trouble. I developed a technique we called “holding time,” which I generously modified from information I read in a book called Holding Time: How to Eliminate Conflict, Temper Tantrums, and Sibling Rivalry and Raise Happy, Loving, Successful Children, by Martha G. Welch, M.D. When my child needed to be limited because he was behaving inappropriately, I placed him on my lap and restrained him, using both my arms and even both my legs (to keep him from kicking me), if necessary. I was careful not to use more force than necessary and checked to be sure I was not inflicting pain. The object was gentle but sure restraint, not revenge. If the problem was not a tantrum to begin with, holding him surely led to a tantrum, but I held on through the entire episode. First he’d go through a fighting stage, then through angry acceptance, and finally to calm resolution and a willingness to make amends. The first few days of trying this, holding time seemed to create worse and longer tantrums, but a calm was descending on me. I could be in charge, place limits without allowing destruction, and help my child reach a resolution that ended on a sincere and positive note, even if it took a while.

I began to add a little mantra-like saying to our holding time. “Tom, you can’t control yourself right now, so Mommy will help you. But the bigger you get, the more self-control you will need, and you will be able to do it yourself.” More kicking and screaming and refusal to cooperate, but I kept holding and repeating.
After just a few weeks of holding time, the actual “holding” was cut from 20-30 minutes to 10-15. Eventually, over months, I could say to Tom as he was verging on loss of control and not responding to other techniques, “Do you need me to hold you, or are you going to be able to control yourself?” Often, that was enough for him to be able to get himself together. Other times, he still required holding. As he became able to project the consequences of his actions into the future, we were able to reinforce self-control in more traditional ways that had worked for our other children. For instance, “If you behave in the store, Mommy will feel good enough to go back to the park so we can play some more.” Holding time became a thing of the past, but now is somewhat fondly remembered by our family.
Instinct tells me that parents who find the use of holding time to create more fury in themselves shouldn’t use it. Being calm and matter of fact is key, and it would certainly be a misuse of the technique if it made a parent feel or act violently toward her child.
Help articulate feelings. Throughout all of Tom’s toddlerhood and early years, I also worked hard to help him voice his feelings. Tom was articulate at an early age when calm, but when he became frustrated, he immediately “went into his body” and began acting out physically. Taking a cue from Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish in How To Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, when he was on the verge of a meltdown, I’d say, “You feel frustrated” or “you feel angry” or “you feel left out.” I didn’t allow these feelings to be an excuse for poor behavior, but found that dealing with the feelings as well as limiting the behavior really helped. His “feeling vocabulary” eventually became exquisite, and as a four-year-old, sometimes expressing the feeling precisely headed off inappropriate physical action.
Establish healthy family rhythms. Throughout my struggles with trying to help my child grow civilized, I kept reading, thinking and talking to people. An idea I got from reading about the Waldorf approach to education was the importance of “rhythm” in children’s lives. I found that alternating quiet, intensely focused, inward activities (crafts, stories, cooking together) with boisterous activities that used gross motor skills (outdoor play, biking, dancing) helped create a positive daily rhythm. I also paid attention to the rhythm of our week—an “out” day of errands and taking older kids to activities was best followed by a “home” day where we could recoup. I noticed Tom was better behaved when I did a better job at creating a good rhythm for our family.
Physical exercise for a physical child. I also found ways to emphasize something Tom was really good at: using his body. On the playground, he “pushed the envelope” with his antics, and I found a low-key preschool gymnastics program (which emphasized personal development as well as physical skills) when he showed enough progress to be able to participate with a group. He became a fast and fearless ice skater at the age of four. Huge quantities of exercise and outdoor time seemed to help—and I got in better shape too. “Running Tom” became a daily family task much like “walking the dog.” During our stay in a hotel, the employees watching the security monitor asked what we were doing. It happened that the security cameras were pointed directly outside where we were exercising our four-year-old boy by racing up and down the sidewalk. Wind sprints were never more useful.
Affirm the strength. One day, I hit on a great phrase by accident. “Tom, you are powerful, so remember to tone it down so your power doesn’t run over people.” Soon, before playing with friends or entering a group, one of us would remind the other about his “power” and the necessity to “turn it down.” The results were incredible. At four-and-a-half, Tom would whisper to me, “Mom, I’ve got my power on low” in the middle of a play date. We were getting there.
Try some behavior modification. One more book I should mention is 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children by Thomas Phelan. This book is basic behavior modification, something I had not used much of with my more compliant older kids. Whatever rewards I set up they found they could do without, and any consequences were something they could endure anyway. The reward system also seemed to have a more negative effect on our relationship without providing much in terms of long-term self-discipline or character development. But with some adjustments, the 1-2-3 approach was helpful to Tom and me, especially during the second half of his four-year-old year as we were beginning to phase out holding time.
Recognize the effect of development on behavior. I don’t find much need for behavior modification and some of these other tools on a daily basis any more, since now, as a five-year-old, Tom is blooming. Much of his improvement is due to his hard work and that of his family. In the same way that some children walk earlier or ride a bike later, some children attain developmental milestones related to behavior at different times. Most five-year-olds simply grow into a greater capacity for self-control, assuming they have had both love and limits. But I do think that our attempts to help Tom control himself, and my efforts to find support for the intense job of mothering this spirited child, were of great value. We could have ended up with a resentful mom, a sullen angry child and a miserable marriage.
Instead, I’m a mom with new perspectives, greater empathy for those parenting difficult children, and profound gratitude to friends who recommended books, listened to me cry, and talked me through my ideas and worries. My husband and I tested our commitment to parenting with love and guidance and emerged with a stronger partnership. Older brothers Doug and Mike have learned a lot of nurturing skills and seen firsthand the commitment it can take to work with a young child, and they have expressed relief that the techniques we used helped Tom turn a corner. And Tom himself is a sunny five-year-old who runs up the mountain in our back yard with his brothers and can now go to play at a friend’s house knowing he will be able to get along and be invited back.
Today, rather than saying good morning, Tom woke me with a gentle voice. “Mom, when the snow melts, I will be able to pick wild flowers to give you.”

Copyright 2003

The author adds: "Perhaps the most important thing that helped me get through those years was support, which I found in both books and people."

Read more in "Other Thoughts About Dealing with Difficult Children."




Casey's picture

This could be a direct article about me and my family I have 2 older girls 7 & 5 and they are usually delightful girls, so when our boy strated growing up we thought that oh he is just a boy but no he is really agressive and isnt very good at showing emotions. This article has made me take a step back and really think about whats going on.
Thank you

J Tan's picture

that was a really encouraging article. I needed to read that today after having a difficult day with my spirited child. Thank you!

Amber Henrie's picture

This article made me cry because this is the same thing that I am going through with my oldest son. I thought maybe I was just a bad mother. For 4 years I have been struggling with his behavior and I felt completely lost. I will be trying the methods you have talked about and checking out the books. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It has been very enlightening.

Rose vernaly's picture

I can very well relate myself to the mother in this article.I have son 3 yrs and 3 months.A difficult kid he is.Today in particular i was feeling so down and read this article.It gives me a new hope.holding time is my tried and tested formule and the new one is waterplay(but need to be more careful). Thanks for sharing.This will be of great help to me

Marie DeJesus's picture

Thank you so much for writing this.. As i read the comments and see that all of the other mothers have the same problems that i am having with my son i dont feel as aone anymore. Right now i am fighting my sons school because they dont want to deal or even get the right help for my son because his behaviors is not only at home it is at school also. I am a single parent but i am going to try my best to put everything in this article into play to try to help my son because he deserves that.. thank you soooooooo much

Kerenza Floyd's picture

This was an inspiring and encouraging article to read. I have a very spirited, independent 2 year old son, and it was just like reading about us! I think I'll be trying the holding technique very soon, amongst other things. Thank you for giving me hope.

G.L's picture

We have a daughter who turned 3 November she was a breeze, yeah she can have a good tantrum but on the whole is a little angel. We had our second daughter who is 22 months and she is so demanding and whingey. Going out for a walk a trip to the supermarket is a chore, she doesnt like it if anyone talks to her in the pushchair or trolley she really kicks off and has a paddy. If myself or her dad leave the house or get out of the car she will scream endlessley until we return. I have tried the thinking stair she wont entertain it if i remove myself from her she follows me and this makes her much worse. It is comforting to know other parents are experiencing the same as you think having youur second or third child you know what to expect, that is obviously not the case!

Johan Viljoen's picture

My relationship with my wife is on the way out! We have a boy with his own ideas, and no respect for us or the discipline in our house. Your story gave me hope, i will try out some of these things pray it will work. My wife has much more soft skills than i do, I'm more strict and was not brought up to negotiate discipline.
I go and play squash with him, walk the dogs, go to rugby games, but when it comes to homework it is a nightmare for my wife and me. Lets hope your strategies work for me!!!!

John Mulei's picture

Thank you so much for writing and sharing this with all of us. Its nice to realise that we are not alone in the world when we experiencing some these parenting challenges. Its amazing how you coped and positively handled situations.

Holly Engstrom's picture

I was trying to find out what problem my 4 year old is going through right now, looking up different things that might be attributing to this problem...trying to put a label on it you is good to see that I'm not alone...even though in a group of 50, mine will be the one with the screaming tantrums, hitting and is soooo discouraging as a mother, thinking there could be so many factors, just at my whits end...I'm not even concerned about how I feel about it, I'm more concerned for his future, trying to raise a boy that will be able to function well as an adult...I've tried so many things, but haven't tried a couple of these things in this article, so thank you for giving me some direction, it has really gave me a reassurance that things WILL get better!!! I need to believe that! I HAVE to believe that, I don't want to give up, or give in.

S Thomas's picture

Before my now 14 yr old son was diagnosed with ODD approx 1 year ago things were terrible and as a single parent I was at breaking point. Since my son and I started receiving counselling things have calmed down a lot in our household.
I always knew my son's behaviour was sometimes extreme, he was very demanding, rude, aggressive and displayed a lack of empathy towards others. He over reacted to situations that you or I would think insignificant. When my son started to self harm I knew I had to get help for him. Thankfully I have a supportive family and my sons secondary school were extremely supportive. I would meet up on a weekly basis with the school to discuss his behaviour and progress.
Your article is full of good ideas and helps to reassure parents and anyone effected that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

julie's picture

i am reading with tears in my eyes, for so long i have felt in the wildnerness with my son , his behaviour has stretched me beyond anything and i have been alone for so long even his father is in complete denial...he is 8 and abusive , has major tantrums and gets very physical alot of the time and can whine on about the same thing for hours until i feel like i have been tortured. i feel like i have now i may have a lift and will read the books and continue to look for support from other parents ..thankyou

singlemomwith8yrold's picture

My son is 8. I feeel the same way. he is very sensitive, strong willed, disrespectful to me and has tantrums and also goes on and on. he says we hate him, he says he does not know why he does it...I dont know what to I have great sympathy to all who are going thru this....he is very bright and a very happy child. he just struggles with our kids, emotions, self control in situations and over reacts to small things....will reading help? one feels isolated, judged and alone.

Karissa's picture

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. My first born born is almost 4 and has been very difficult. I am going to try the holding time. Because we have tried everythinng we can think of - but that just might work for him. I am glad I am not the only mom who has shed many tears and had sleepless nights over the behavior of their child. But we love them so much - that we will literally do anything to help them.

T DAVIS's picture

I have a 8 year old son that has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. I feel very overwhelmed not only with him but also the schools. What am I to do about my son and his education when the school doesnt even want him.

CSpears's picture

I also have a son that is ADHD and ADD and PTSD. He is 10 and we have been to every kind of therapy there is in the world, and we have tried all the meds and still we have found almost nothing that helps with his behavior. The school won't take him without meds. He is not the same child with meds so I started home schooling him and that is a challenge!! The only thing that I have found that helps is structure and routine. This is a child that dosen't like to leave the house and screams at you when you tell him no. It is exhausting to do school every day but it gets better every year and every day. Talking calmly is key even when you want to pull your hair out by the roots you can't let your child see that they pushed your buttons because they will push it harder very day if they find out what does it for you. Another trick is charts; sometimes if kids know what is coming in the day they take it better and they react more calmly to the change in the day. Little guys that are strong willed and want to do what they want Right this very second! hate change and freak out when they don't get what they want. Charts are great as long as you follow through they will too. Sometimes I find myself crying in the bathroom because it's so hard to find things to do and to keep up with all the doctors and therapy and the laws that come with difficult children. But I have faith within my self and my child. Just writing to you helps me I hope I have given you some help in return.

Sarah's picture

What an amazing article. I have been a desperate mother for almost a year now, to our 2.5 year little boy, our first. He has more energy, more power and strength than most of his friends and every day is a battle to keep him from beating up another friend or biting me. I have taken to heart what this article has said and am going to start using some of your techniques, as I am desperate and spent and exhausted. Thank you for your frank account. It does make me feel like I am not alone, and alone is how I have felt for the better part of a year.

shireen's picture

I was totaly disappointed..when i read ur story,its like u're telling mine,i've been there ..with the same situations..may be am worse coz i have twin boys,they r still 2 years but they makes me a whole insaine..just imagine it could be,i've tried time outs but it doesnt work with them..i'll try the holding method and i feel it will lead for something and maybe relieve me from my misery..thank u for sharing ur story

khalilian's picture

tank you for writing

Jamie's picture

Oh wow - what an enlightening article. We have 4 boys under 5 1/2 (no twins!!) and this is made all the more challenging by our second son (just turned 4 in April). He exhibits many / most of the behavious described here and, although at our wit's end, we will be trying out some of the techniques mentioned here. Similar to the experiences described here, what has worked with our first and third sons simply does not work with our second. It is so comforting to know that someone out there understands!! Thank you.

Aleena Javed's picture

A wonderful narrative that i think most of the mothers go through esp. if you have boys at hand to deal with. I have two boys, both with completely different set of behaviours and as they are growing up, the problem to deal with them is getting tremendous. I have gathered some good points from the article, and hope that they would help me to deal with behavioural problem of my sons and at least i could put the Math equation back correctly as 2+2=4 not 11.... cheerios have a good day!!!!

michelle's picture

I can so relate to this!! I have a 7 year old son and for the past 4 years his behaviour has got worse and worse but no one seems to accept that he has a problem.
I need to get someone to understand me and see that he is not just a naughty child and that he has a problem but I cant get anyone to do this

Anonymous's picture

I have a 10year old boy he is on probation has to do community service till SeTpt..he just got into trouble again at school for hitting a girl and calling the teacher a bitch throwing fit using the "f" word he has almost been kicked out of shcool a couple times now was kicked out of a daycare...The thing is the kids all know how and what buttons to push to make him act out so they do it and then my son gets the punishment....but that is not an excuse i need to find a way to help him be able to control his anger..but when he is not throwing his fits he is the most loveable kid ever..when I am sick he always takes care of me always tells me he loves me, gives me hugs, it is so nice.. I just wish I could get inside his head and fix everything for him i hate seeing him go through this

Maya's picture

I can relate to this,my brother is 13years of age but he already bunks school and stay out late with friends,he also stills money from us and he doesn't want to study the list is endless.I hope and pray to God that this will work,because my mother is really not taking it well

Marie's picture

Oh what a relief reading your article that someone else out there felt the way i feel and found a solution and their child is now thriving....i mostly feel desperate exhausted and ashamed that somehow i let my 3 year old son become this monster and everyone around me says he needs discipline but my daughter is at her terrible 2s and she is a delight! I just keep asking myself what did i do wrong??? And most of the time with others he seems like a sweet normal boy but i always end up humiliated if i take him out or try to discipline him in any way. He is so full of rage i even felt sometimes that i dont like him very much and im sure he senses that and it doesnt help the situation. Its a relief to see there are other children out there who need extra attention and i will stop treating him like a 'normal' kid or expecting him to act like one i see now that he really does need extra attention and different discipline strategies. Thanks for posting your story!

stacey's picture

i feel this excatly the same as you, my sons two and he calls me nan, isay to him that i anit hes nan, but he still calls me nan. he doesnt listen to me and doesnt like it when i read to him he always is different around other people and when its just me to deal with him it hard work its like i dont know what to do or what to say to him to him learn i play cards with him sing etc.. does you child listen to you and is willing to learn does your child talk ?? really didnt know what to write at frist but reading your comment i felt i could relate to you oh and im stacey x

shanne's picture

I have an older daughter and a son now 21 and 13 ,I can relate so much to what you have writen . I have lived a simialer life we still struggle at times but we are moving forward. Thank you for your honesty and shareing your story.

Thembi's picture

Just visited my son's school to check on his progress and found a shock of my life that my son who will be 12 on 2nd of August is asociating with children who smoke drugs and swear at their parents. My son is gentle by nature, tall for his age (luks 16), we talk openly about drugs and alcohol and the consequences thereof and he asures us that he will guarge against all those. Thank for the article at least I am not alone..........

Jackie's picture

In 30+ years of teaching I've met a Tom or two. Bravo for the homeschooling. Preschool is not the place to challenge this powerful personality type. I wish for all these super heros to have a mom that will accept them as a person and not take the behavior personally. With your permission, this article and references will become part of my toolbox for those occasions when I must recommend that a child be kept from group situations without their parents until he or she grows to "keep (his/her) power on low". The unnecessary shame becomes an obstacle to this extreme parenting that, when done well, produces extraordinary citizens. Those 20 to 30 minute holding times were an investment that only a loving commited parent can provide. Amazing story...wonderful instincts.

Sahana's picture

Having been a kindergarten teacher for the last 15 years ,I have seen quite a few children like this and the reason according to me was due to the lack of time and commitment on the part of the parents with jobs and careers taking precedence which is really really sad.Hats off to you .With patient committed and dedicated moms like you there is hope for the world tomorrow.Reading your article was indeed inspiring .I especially loved the technique of affirming their strength-helping them by turning negative into positive.I read somewhere that every time you say or do something to your child you are making a deposit in her/his memory bank .So true!!!

Anonymous's picture

Were you ever invited into the homes of the kids you refer to? Do you actually know just how committed their parents were or did you just immediately judge them? Seems to me that if you had kids like this in your class then you had kids with diagnosed problems and as a responsible kindergarten teacher, you would show empathy for not only the children but also the parents that have the daily struggle of dealing with the issues.

G's picture

Wonderfully put - that comment struck me to the core. Thank you.

mel321's picture

hi my child is 6 they dont listen to what i say always shouting at me when tell them no hits other children what can i do

shauna's picture

this has made me sob and the other comments made by parents it is an echo of what we are going thro, with my 7 year old son, constantly battling the school and trying to get him the help he needs his behaviour is worse at school and has yet again been excluded xxx thank you for letting me know i am not alone and good luck to you and tom and to all the other parents who will be helped by this x

sabarna's picture

hello.i'm the mother of a 2.5yr old girl.i'm having a very difficult time trying to toilet train my child.she's a very bright and intelligent child with very sharp memory however she just never says whenever she needs to use the toilet or do potty.yet when she was much smaller and couldn't even talk properly she would convey to us through signs that she wanted to use the toilet. in india we start toilet training very early and most of her peers have already learned it. i'm worried about her since she'll b joining school in another months time.also of late she has showing a lot of tantrums. she needs to have attraction for everything in her life.she has to watch cartoon to eat or given chocolates for going to the bathroom.sometimes i feel exhausted and drained. what should i do?

Anonymous's picture

thank you, so much,I thought we were the only ones going through tough time with our little grandson he is only 3, he is a lovely sensitive little boy with a big heart, but very difficult,anger and lashing out at everyone, we and his mum are not getting much help with support, he has AHAD,thank you again, i will now go out and buy those books you named, any help is such a bounus, good luck and best wishes to you and your family, Tina x

Tired Mom's picture

Thank u for being real about your situation. So many can't understand what we go through each and every day with our children with ADHD. It's a lonely place as a parent and wehn you know that people judge you and don't want to be around you becuz your child is unmanagable. And exhausting as a parent. I worry about every day ahead wondering what will come up next. sigh!

milly's picture

Thank you so much for this eye opening article Im faced with similar situation everyday.He is only six and can scream, kick, fight back and swear at older people. I sometimes bit him out of anger and feel guilty afterwards.I lost hope and often find myself crying because I dont know what else to do.The strange thing is that he is very good at school and his teacher adores him I only hear good praise from her and I know he can be a good boy but sometimes but when he stars screaming I forget all that.The big fight is when he supposed to wake up and get ready for school we fight about everything from touching him to dressing he will complain about anything.The drama sometimes last up to a good 20-30 minutes and after that you will swear it was a different person.Last night I tried to hold him trying to comfort him and talking to him politely without being angry and it was before I can read this article. I will definately do it again.

Good luck to all parents I thought I was all alone.

michelle's picture

my middle child is one month shy of her 13th birthday and has just been diagnosed a.d.d. we have been having problems with her since infant school and had ended up being labelled as a naughty girl. she is also a self harmer and leaves sharps laying around in the bedroom that she shares with her 3 year old sister which is a big worry. we now know that this wasn't done on purpose, she genuinely doesn't remember leaving them about! her un-diagnosed condition caused alot of friction in the house and resulted in her putting herself into foster care not only so she could get help but also for the safety of her siblings. luckily for us her foster carers are the most wonderful people and have persevered with her and the local authority which has resulted in her diagnosis. she is so much happier now she knows there is a reason for her behaviour and hopefully now she has medication to help her she will be rehabilitated back home soon. good luck to all parents, carers and most importantly the children who are trying to live with this problem. onwards and upwards!!

mum of 3 boys's picture

I am here and my 3 and a half is bouncing around like there's no tomorrow he has been up in the night and then up at 5am. All day it is just a battleground he follows me everywhere, will not sit still and if he does go quiet and disappear out of sight is into mischief. I have 2 older boys who are 11 and 7 they are not angels but not anything like this one i am at the end of my tether. When they finally come into the room it is them like world war 3...he knows how to push there buttons. I will have to try the books you have given me some hope as I was just sat here crying debating to go to the doctors as I dont know what else to do - thank you you have given me hope :) 37 year old mum who now looks 57!!

karen's picture

WOW every thing you have writen here is my son,i have 4 children and my son is very diffrent with ADHD from my 3 girls. i have struggled with the doctors and health care ppl to tell them something was diffrent with tyler and there response was always the same ...he will grow out of it its just a boy thing arghhhhh i have 4 kids i know my son,after 3 1/2 yrs he has finally got help and it is a big help its eaiser now when he has his temper tantrums,he is coming up 6 this month and with the help of the ppl around us we will get through this

Allene's picture

Thank you for posting your story. I have a 5-year old girl named A,sharia. She is what we call a "screamer". Rather than use words to express her feelings of sadness, anger or frustration, she screams. She also screams when she is very excited. I have tried many things to control it, but I have not been successful. Your story was very encouraging and helped me to realize that I cannot give and that there are resources and support groups out there.

Juliet's picture

your artical was very useful for me.

Mom going crazy's picture

Moms please help me! I am at my witts end with my 4 year old who has adhd. He was diagnoised and I am waiting on an eval, but in the mean time he is driving me up the walls literally. I am to the point I want to sleep all day becasue of this. Please help me!!!!!

Nette's picture

I'm not sure what I can do to directly help you, but please know you are not alone. I'm a single mom of a 4 1/2 yr old that has not been diagnosed with anything, but I suspect adhd & oppositional defiance disorder. I'm frustrated & angry and feel overwhelming guilt for that; but I can't help it. I love my boy so much and I wish others could see him like I do. Unfortunately, many see him as an unruly child who needs discipline. Aaargh!!!! It's so easy for people who have never had a child like this to judge. Lately, he's been grunting/growling when he's asked to do something he doesn't want to do. He also gets sassy, which is a trigger for me; then the snowball effect starts. I know that the calmer I am the better he responds, but man is it hard to maintain calm when a 4 yr old is throwing attitude and you have to chase him to get him to listen. On top of this, my ex is a deadbeat dad who's in total denial that there's anything wrong. He actually told the director of his school that the behaviour is all my fault and that it's because women don't know how to deal with a son like his. (Yes, the director is a woman along with all the staff in my son's Anyways, I don't know about you but I find there is some peace in knowing I'm not alone (not that I would wish this on any parent). Lately, I've been writing an appreciation journal...that way, when my son sets off my triggers, the things I love about him most are fresh in my mind:) It definitely has a calming effect!

Sandy's picture

Reading your article has filled me with hope that things will get better for my son even when the whole world seems to think otherwise. I won't give up... I don't expect those people never having gone through this to be supportive and they haven't. Quite sad! But I'm glad to know that I'm not alone.

Mom of a difficult child's picture

I felt so much better after reading your article! I have a 3 year old who is prone to extreme emotions and I have just started a "holding time" with her. I am really hoping that it works out for us!

Mother of Two's picture

I wish I would have found this sooner. My 2 1/2 year old son is out of control. Im desperate to get him figured out. He is very very smart but he is very mean with other kids and awful with his sister, he will take ridiculous tantrums no matter where we are and they can last for 2 hours without him giving up. When me or my husband is alone with the kids you cant go anywhere, you gotta stay at home because our son needs atleast one adults full attention. I cant even take both of my children to the grocery store 1 mile away by myself.

Leeanna's picture

I am so glad I read your article! My now 4 year old boy is so different then my daughter was at that age. Tantrums and things that seem to be done vendictively (kicking/hitting) and I so understand the 45 second bathroom trip and some room in the house gets ransacked!! I am a single mom - so getting the breaks sometimes come few and far between with my family living 2 hours away - but it gives me hope to try something else. Thank you!

Alisha's picture

My seven year old is very smart he was saying ful sentences at 1 1/2 years old. He knew his colors young. blah blah but when i put him into head start he was the problem child. The teacher was so nice saying i love him to death but my co teacher cant handle him when she wasnt around. so he stayed home. Then pre k the teachers loved him but said he constantly touched kids or spoke loadly all the time. I put him on a non stimulate which helps some what.
My Three old is totaly different.No one could understand him he was bouncing on the walls throws tantrums


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