Do you have one of those kids that is so strong-willed and stubborn that you typically feel ineffectual as a parent? What psychologists know is that many of the difficult traits that appear in childhood can turn into strengths as your child matures and figures out how to channel the traits. Children often misbehave if they want power, attention, control or if they feel inadequate. Your child may yearn for opportunities to feel powerful and this may manifest in him or her being oppositional when you want him to do something. How might you turn this into a strength? You may have to find opportunities for your child to be a leader and assist him or her in learning diplomacy, leadership, and relationship skills. Your child may look for ways to control others. If your child has a natural tendency to control, it may be important to get her to be part of a team building experience so that she must learn how to share the control to get what she wants. This may mean putting her into a sport or activity that promotes teamwork. If you have a child who craves attention and looks for chances to demonstrate both negative or positive to have others noticed him or her, you might find opportunities for your child to stand out in a healthy way. Acting classes, singing, or other performing arts may really help your child to find healthy ways to get the attention they so badly desire. If your child tends to feel inferior and inadequate and wants to avoid situations because they don't feel the confidence to pursue daily activities you may want him/her to volunteer at your church or at the Humane Society or in organizations that require the natural process of helping others. This can reduce feelings of inferiority when help other. It naturally produces a sense of self-worth and confidence. It enhances an improved sense of self-esteem.
I really do believe as a child therapist that it takes a village to raise a child and so part of your responsibility for good self-care is to ensure that your child will turn these stubborn characteristic traits into character strengths. Find others who can reinforce positive values for your child. Finding other adults that share your values and can reinforce the same messages that you do will increase the probability that eventually the child will integrate the same messages with others. Often parents feel like they must get their child to behave differently when, they need to find opportunities for the world to help shape their child. When you look at character strengths such as ambition, confidence, leadership, tenacity… you may realize that their origins occurred from wanting attention, control, power because a child felt inadequate.
Homework Assignment Find some quiet time and ask yourself how you might feel inadequate as a parent in raising your difficult child? Do you have safe people in your life that you can go to and share your own personal feelings? Do you have your own village to help you raise your child? Do you have the courage to be imperfect and know that parenting is trial and error and that you have the right to make mistakes? The good news is that as children mature they will likely find their niche to make them feel better about the things they really want life. How exciting that you can be a guide for them and help take them to the next level!