Yes, you are not alone. It is tough to parent a "tough kid". Lets define a "tough kid"...
The kid who was colicky as an infant, hard to soothe.
The kid who as a toddler was running the moment he/she stood up and has never really stopped.
The kid who started to hyper focus on toys, throw temper tantrums, and be demanding.
The kid who sneaks into forbidden items, is hard to redirect, has difficulty with transitions, or plays aggressively as grade schooler.
The preteen kid who talks back, sneaks in food, refuses to listen or participate in family activities, and has poor hygiene.
The teenager who complains, acts anxious/depressed, highly disorganized, and has poor grades.
Can you identify with parenting any of the above children? Many parents can and here we will lay out 5 things to remember when you are parenting a "tough kid".
1. Stay consistent. Whatever you do, Don't Give In. Children are smart. They want to break us down, but you can't fall for it. Make sure your expectations are clear. Stand firm, if you said "No" stick to it. If you said you would do something, follow through. And if circumstances change, explain your reasoning for changing your answer. Children don't forget so be sure not to say something you can't back up.
2. Respond calmly. When I was stressed out with my child's behavior, I vigorously searched for books and websites to help me respond to his behavior. For example, I ran across this website, it basically challenges parents to yell less and to separate the child's behavior from the child. They aren't "bad", its their behavior we don't like. Our children's self-esteem and self-worth are preserved when we respond to them calmly.
3. Listen, listen, listen. Your child is trying to tell you something. Sometimes they communicate through their actions versus their words. Actively listen to your child by not interrupting, validating that you hear how they feel, and encouraging them to share more. The more you listen to them, the more willing they will be to listen to you. All of this with the understanding that they are still expected to talk and act respectfully towards you. This again, should be something you do not allow or waver on.
4. Allow some autonomy. Although their behavior is challenging, you will need to allow them to express themselves and be who they are. Nagging or nit picking at your child isn't going to get you anywhere and it will only frustrate you both. This is an opportunity to help your child find more appropriate outlets for them to channel their energy. Such as playing a sport, going for a walk, listen to music, or writing in a journal. Pulling the strings too tight on your child can cause rebellion. This takes some balance, try to keep them busy and active.
5. Therapy. If you have tried to set clear expectations, improved your response to your child, gave time to listen to your child, and allow for autonomy but still deal with challenging behaviors then it is time to seek help. There is no shame in admitting that your child may require more adult intervention than just "mom and dad". As the African proverb states- It takes a village to raise a child. Develop your support system along the way.