If you have a challenging child, fear seems to always be with you.
If you have a hard child, chances are very good that you are often afraid. The fears change as they grow, but they seem to be an ever-present companion.
A baby who challenges you from the very beginning creates doubt and fear about your ability to mother. You see other people enjoying their new little ones and seeming to slip into the role of mother with great ease. The questions start early in your mind about why you aren’t a good mother.
I would think that other moms could comfort and quiet their newborns but I couldn’t. Some days I questioned what was wrong with him. Most days, I questioned what was wrong with me. Even a bad mom could at least get her baby to stop crying.
If I was failing so early, what hope did I have of being successful as time went on? If I wasn’t a good mom now, I most certainly wouldn’t be as he grew older. The early fears set the stage for the many that continued to follow me as the years went by.
Once he began to walk, my fear was that he would hurt himself. As a super active and defiant toddler, the odds of him getting hurt had to be higher. Either in the house or outside, I knew my level of control wasn’t the same as other moms.
I was also afraid that his temper tantrums in public would embarrass me. I didn’t want others to think the same things about me that I thought about myself; that I was a failure as a parent.
The dark thoughts about his future had not yet settled in but they were on the way.
When the daycare center couldn’t manage him, where was I to go from there? When the “professionals” didn’t want the challenge, what was next? Thankfully, I found a child care center owner who had many years of experience and wasn’t the least bit overwhelmed by a difficult child. I was and still am grateful for her.
Once your challenging child begins formal education, the fears are different and they are worse. The fears about safety still exist but now you are faced with fears about the short term and long term future. What if he is a discipline problem, what if he can’t learn, what if he gets held back or worse, suspended. What if, what if, what if……
Some of those what ifs happened and many did not. I can assure you that they are always worse in your mind than they are in reality. That’s not to say that it isn’t painful when some of those bad things do happen, but usually, by the time they do, you’ve lived them a thousand times in your mind.
You become aware of the judgment of teachers, other parents, and administrators when you enter the school arena. As others question your parenting, you question yourself even more. It is so hard to know that others hold you completely responsible for every action and shortcoming in your child. They make themselves feel better as parents by deciding that you have fallen short, way short.
For the first time, you start to understand that successful adulthood might not happen. The mind can go to some dark places and the fear that you feel about your children is especially intense. You really do become your own worst enemy.
What are your fears?
Are you afraid that your child will not make it through high school? Are you afraid that he will not go to college? Is your fear that your daughter will make horrible choices that will result in lifelong consequences? What if he breaks the law and gets caught? Is she more likely to use drugs and alcohol? Will he live in your house forever? Can he hold a job? The list is endless.
Here is the good news. I know quite a few young people who were difficult and many were a great challenge to their parents for many years. Almost all are now responsible adults. Some are married, some are parents, most have jobs and live independently. Some went through several years that were incredibly hard for their parents.
What I want you to have is hope and confidence that things will be ok. If you love your child, provide discipline and guidance, and NEVER give up on them, they will come out as decent adults. You will be grateful for the adult your child can become. You will also have some amazing stories!