Challenging Child? One Simple Secret

There's one in every crowd, or so they say. 

The Challenging Child

Labels may differ in various may have heard these children referred to as spirited, extreme, intense, difficult, challenging, or, as my friend, Louise, of Signing Families likes to say, "festive"!  I quite like that term because it really best defines this particular type of child's experiences. 

I often refer to these kids as "living large", because every feeling, every experience, every situation they seem to encounter is embraced with an intensity that most of us do not achieve, let alone understand.  That intensity doesn't seem to bother us so much at some times as others, but it can become glaringly magnified when the child is experiencing anger or upset.

What Do We Do with a Kid Like This?

Many a dollar is spent to research the best way to deal with the challenges that these kids present.  We observe behavior, take notes and analyze data.  Billions more are spent on pharmaceuticals to try to "treat" the challenge, intensity, or "festivity" if you will.  Parents and teachers furrow their brows and grit their teeth...waiting for the secret "something" that will make it all better.  Sometimes there are even control groups when there's an official "study" on the topic. 

The Simple Secret

Yet, one of the best ways to deal with children who are challenging costs nothing and works wonders.  Best of all, there are no side effects with its use.  It's been around since the dawn of humankind and is so simple it might not show up on our radar. 

Somebody got it right...and here is the simple secret:

"Her magic formula for dealing with children is ignoring all faults and accentuating tiny virtues." 
~Betty MacDonald

Now, this may raise some skepticism for some.  Ignore all faults?  How will these kids ever learn the error of their ways?  But that is exactly where the magic in this approach lies. Truth be told,  it really should be our goal to ignore as many negative traits as possible...and by shining a light on what is right...pull that child towards bigger and bigger successes. 

One easy way to remember to pay attention to mostly the good things is by remembering this universal truth:  Whatever you pay attention to you get more of.

Try may be surprised. 

PS...I'd never ask you to do anything I hadn't already tried myself!          ;-)


Melissa Taylor said…
Yes, and it is so hard. Sometimes those annoying things are so hard to bear and drag me down. We've got a marble jar for those wonderful good things -- and celebrating those. Then, when she fills up her jar, she has a list she made of things to pick from like buying a book, date with mom, movie and popcorn.
Jessie said…
Melissa, that is such a wonderful idea! My daughter is what we call "spirited" - she seems to experience everything a little more intensely than we do, and we sometimes have a hard time dealing with her extreme emotions and behavior. We have tried a reward chart, but she gets bored of that pretty quick. I will definitely be trying the marble idea! Wish me luck!! :)
The Twin Coach said…
I love the "festive" viewpoint. My daughter had a particularly festive day all day today. Thank God she's finally asleep. :-) But I think this idea of focusing on her virtues as opposed to her "faults" is a great one. We do a version of Melissa's marble jar & have a Kindness Tree (which we use to help our twins focus on kind acts toward each other). When the tree is filled with leaves (kind acts) we celebrate kind brother, kind sister day. I've been thinking about creating something new just for recognizing wonderful things about each kid - the marble jar might do it!
Thanks for another thought provoking post!

I, too, have been blessed with a very "festive" child or two...and those younger years provided me ample opportunity to really "get" the depth and breadth that it takes to raise a child that just experiences life "larger" than others. It is a thing of beauty, however, when you see all of your hard work culminate into helping grow a child with compassion, kindness, heart...and one that is just plain fun to be around. These kids shape us as much as we shape them...we get to learn a whole new level of patience, understanding, empathy, forgiveness and fortitude that we might not otherwise be able to claim.

I love that you are so proactive in bringing out the best in you child. One other thing you might consider is "The Victory Cup", which you can find here:

Happy parenting!

Megan said…
Love the post, but I'm a little dubious about the comments.
I would shy away from any kind of reward for good things - research has shown that when children are rewarded for doing something, it lessens their desire to do it again - even if they enjoyed the activity prior to the reward. Alfie Kohn has all the research, if you're interested.

Thanks for dropping by and taking time out of your schedule to comment. I'm a long-time Alfie fan, as are many of our readers. More than a decade ago, I was giving trainings entitled "Charts and Stickers and Prizes, Oh, My!"

While much has been learned (and continues to be learned) about the most effective ways to raise ethical, competent children, transitioning into these changes takes time.

Thanks so much for your insights! Indeed, if people would like to read more on Alfie and his take, please go to:

Come back anytime!

Wendy =)

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