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Ages & Stages

Strategies and Solutions For Handling A Difficult Child

What is the best way to handle a "difficult" child?

Here are some general strategies and solutions to help you live with a youngster with bothersome temperament traits:

  1. First, recognize that much of your child's behavior reflects his temperament.
  2. Establish a neutral or objective emotional climate in which to deal with your child. Try not to respond in an emotional and instinctive manner, which is unproductive.
  3. Don't take your child's behavior personally. Temperament is innate, and your child probably is not purposely trying to be difficult or irritating. Don't blame him or yourself.
  4. Try to prioritize the issues and problems surrounding your child. Some are more important and deserve greater attention. Others are not as relevant and can be either ignored or put "way down the list."
  5. Focus on the issues of the moment. Do not project into the future.
  6. Review your expectations of your child, your preferences and your values. Are they realistic and appropriate? When your youngster does something right, praise him and reinforce the specific behaviors that you like.
  7. Consider your own temperament and behavior, and how they might also be difficult. Think how you might need to adjust yourself a bit to encourage a better fit with your child.
  8. Anticipate impending high-risk situations, and try to avoid or minimize them. Accept the possibility that this may be a difficult day or circumstance, and be prepared to make the best of it.
  9. Find a way to get some relief for yourself and your child by scheduling some time apart.
  10. Seek professional help, when needed, from your pediatrician or another expert in child behavior.
Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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