If you have a challenging child in your family, then you know they’re not always easy to connect with. Building and maintaining a close bond with kids who seem difficult to get along with can be, well . . . challenging.
As hard as it can be on some days, though, connecting with the little (or not so little) ones that are capable of pushing us to the brink of insanity is vital. They are brilliant people uniquely designed by God! One of the greatest ways to connect with our challenging children is to encourage them. They possess creativity and drive that we may not fully comprehend, but we should still be their biggest chearleaders.
I am certainly not an expert on dealing with difficult children. I’m not a therapist or researcher; I am a parent. I know my own children – at least on some days! They’re not always predictable. Through trials and failures, I have picked up on a few things that encourage my most challenging child and take the edge off the struggle.
Of course, every child is different . . . these things may mean nothing in your situation. I’d love to hear in the comments below how you encourage your challenging child. My examples will reflect that my current challenger is a pre-school girl, but the principles can be applied at any age.
Three Ways to Encourage Your Challenging Child
Challenging kids love a challenge! Let them do things beyond what you might normally expect or allow at that age. Give those busy brains and bodies a problem to work through and conquer. The challenge could be:
- physical – miles to run (my 4 year old would run 2 miles with Dad!), number of jumping jacks or pushups to do
- mental – various types of puzzles and riddles; an organizational quandry to sort out
- time-based – beat the timer or a parent while doing a task
- skill-oriented – master a sport, craft, instrument or life skill
- involve risk – my challenger loves danger! For her, this means being allowed to help at the stove, carry glass objects, climb high and ride her bike crazy
Praise and celebrate the successes. Encourage and affirm their efforts. The payoff doesn’t have to be immediate. It can be something that they work toward over time.
Give them a job and trust them to do it. Challenging kids want to know they’re needed. This is going to look different for everyone. Giving tasks in the moment works best for us right now.
Hey, I’m making dinner. I need you to run downstairs and get me a bag of pasta. Oh, that’s great. Thank you so much. Now I want you to put napkins and forks on the table so it’s all ready for us to eat.
Praise and thank them for making your job easier. Tell others how much you appreciate their contribution to the family.
Start by looking for fun, relatable stories. I was recently at a workshop with Martin Cothran (a respected leader in the field of Classical Education). In the midst of his presentation, he made a comment that confirmed something I’ve noticed here at home.
One of the best things you can do for kids who are a handful is give them books about kids who are handfuls!
Now, I’m not at all a fan of books that magnify or glorify poor behavior. However, we have discovered a few picture books that seem to resonate with our daughter. They manage to capture the essence of her character with humor and understanding without sacrificing respect or consequence.
She loves to hear them read. (So do the siblings who
put up with love her!) Laughing at the character’s antics reminds us that we can also look for humor in our own tense situations. Sometimes, when we’re about to go head to head, we can ease the tension by quoting from a story or saying one of the character’s names.
If I say, “Harriet . . . ,” my challenger will start to grin and say, “You drive me wild!” Then we can all giggle, breathe and move forward without falling apart.
Here are some of our favorites. They obviously reflect the fact that our current challenger is a pre-school girl! If you have suggestions for boys or other ages I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Connecting with challenging children doesn’t come easy, but every time we encourage them we’re one step closer.
How do you encourage your challenging child?
Shared at: Booknificent Thursday, Literacy Musing Monday, What To Read Wednesday, Grace & Truth, Thoughtful Thursday, Saturday Soiree, Tuesday Talk, Work In Progress, Coffee and Conversation, Women With Intention, Fellowship Friday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, Art of Homemaking Monday, and Modest Monday.
This post includes Amazon Affiliate links.