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Son Is Moody, Mean and Miserable

Son Is Moody, Mean and Miserable


Dear Rachel,

My ten-year-old son, Mendy, is never happy. Everyone in the family knows about it; he affects the mood in the whole household.

I feel terrible saying this, but the best time of year for us is summer, when Mendy goes to sleepaway camp. We all can finally breathe! Until then, everyone has to tiptoe around him, because you never know when he’s going to explode, have a complete meltdown and scream his head off. He’s a terror to live with.

As his mother, I feel confused, guilty and sad. Is this my fault? Is it because we moved too often when Mendy was little, or because I sometimes yell at him? Or did I simply give birth to a monster?

Li’l Monster’s Mom

Dear Mom,

Here’s a few things to keep in mind that may help you in raising little Mendy.

Difficult Children

Don’t blame yourself. Children can definitely be born with difficult temperaments and personalities. These children are harder to raise than the “sunny-side-up” variety, and they often provoke the worst parenting—it’s just the natural result of being impossible to deal with. As a loving parent, you may always regret your lapses in self-control or good judgment, but unless you are chronically angry and negative, you certainly can’t blame yourself for your child’s difficult persona. Genes are the primary culprit, but what can you do to help?

Draw on Spiritual Resources

First and foremost, you need to realize that G‑d chose you to nurture the development of a special neshamah, soul. You have just what this child needs in order to best develop. Moreover, Mendy’s particular challenges are just what you need in order to fulfill the potential of your own soul. Like all shidduchim (marriages), this child-parent shidduch is a match made in heaven! Although parents need to access G‑d’s support, love and guidance along the journey of raising each of their children, they sometimes forget how close G‑d is with them in the project of raising a difficult child. As it says in Psalms, G‑d is very accessible in time of need, and answers all who call out sincerely.

Draw on Professional Resources

No one has to raise a challenging child alone. Children who are particularly difficult have been studied for decades, and we now have identified many causes for their behavior and interventions that can help. We know that such children are struggling inside—they aren’t trying to hurt their families! They may be suffering from various mental-health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, OCD, ASD, ADHD, and so on. Each disorder gives rise to the kind of excessive negativity that so confuses parents. Professionals can offer diagnoses and treatments that can help improve cooperation, mood and overall functioning. When conditions are left untreated, they are unlikely to just disappear on their own. In fact, they may worsen over time. Moreover, the child experiences the negative consequences of his behavior on family members, teachers and peers—often with devastating effects. It’s both preventative and healing to access professional help in a timely manner.

Upgrade Skills

A child who has a difficult temperament is a special-needs child by definition. Just as parents of a deaf child need to learn new things in order to raise that child properly, you will need to acquire new strategies to raise your difficult child. Professionals, books, online resources and support groups can all point the way. Learning leads to practice: you can provide significant education, training and reinforcement for your difficult child. For instance, why does one child become violent when something doesn’t go his way, while another shrugs his shoulders and moves on? Sometimes it’s because the first one gets emotionally stuck and doesn’t know how to “self-soothe.” You can learn a variety of techniques for self-soothing, and teach them to your distraught youngster. The more you know, the more you can help Mendy rewire his brain for healthier functioning.

Take Care of Yourself

Raising a difficult child is exhausting—the child’s unpleasantness is endlessly draining. It’s important that you look after yourself. Taking breaks, having fun, and replenishing spiritual, mental, emotional and physical resources is an ongoing responsibility to yourself and your family that allows you to do the best possible job of raising your difficult youngster. People don’t usually volunteer to raise a very difficult child—unless you include signing up for the task before coming down to earth. But then again, life is like that. G‑d makes us work hard here. It can help to keep in mind that there are rewards in this world and the next for doing the best we can with our challenges, including the challenge of raising a difficult child.


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sarah Chana Radcliffe. Sarah Chana Radcliffe is the author of The Fear Fix, Make Yourself at Home and Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. Sign up for her Daily Parenting Posts.
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Discussion (18)
March 6, 2015
Sadness with a touch of hope
I am the mother of a daughter who was just like that while growing up. Now a difficult adult, I've come to realize she has Borderline Personality Disorder with possible Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Your son may have this too, you can look it up. It will most likely never get better, as BPD and NPD usually don't seek help, and if they do they rarely complete the therapy needed. It's very depressing, but those around people with these disorders can learn how to deal with them in constructive ways.
December 16, 2014
Monster Child
That's a interesting choice of words. I would suggest pretending that he's not misbehaving. Get his attention off what he is doing, pull out the popsicles, play some soothing music before he comes home from school, the kind that you like to listen to, not kid music, this will help you to keep your cool, and remember he is not a monster, children are wet cement, a mirror image of there parents(sorry) also remember that drugs are in school playgrounds now a days, do some snooping, look through his school things, and pray for him , everyday, Let Hashem in on these thing,s of course he knows already but he likes to be invited into our life. In the end he's the only one who can change things.
Bernice Needham
London, Ont/Can
October 16, 2013
Homeopathy definately works. He should be a doctor of homeopathy. Some are MD's. The truth in health care is hard to come by. Homeopathy is very big in Israel and India and England. Shower filters, clean air and pristine environments should be taken seriously.
Rome, NY
October 15, 2013
For everyone out there i just took my 5 year old son to a honeopath he was having daily violent tantrums. I dont believe in these alternative medicines but my friend said to go, it worked!! He is now calm pleasant throughtout the day boruch Hashem. She did say that many homeopaths dont do it properly so not sure how u would know if u r going to someone good. If i had gone to a psychologist they would say its my parenting and we would spend tonnes of time managing the behaviour when really it is like an ailment he was out of balance.
October 15, 2013
If you ever have the opportunity to learn the Shefer approach to parenting it will change your life. My "difficult" child is now a happy, functional, kind and sensitive child without medications or therapy Baruch Hashem.
Melbourne, Australia
October 13, 2013
Re: Anonymous Henderson, NV
While I wouldn't recommend those things that the natural mother did. I do believe in the what is called neuroplasticity, meaning that while your son or daughter may always be challenged, that if they are careful not to fall into the traps of their ancestors, then there is a great deal of blessings your son or daughter can have to bring to this world.
Craig Hamilton
Sandwich, MA
October 13, 2013
Son is Moody, Mean, and Miserable
Li'l Monster's Mom, your son is NOT a monster, and you made a mistake thinking that!

Frequent moving, yelling, and being sent to sleepaway camp causes tremendous stress for ANY child, and you need to ask your son about it. It's possible that he may have a severely depressed personality and you need to talk to his doctor about it. You also need to get counseling for him and your whole family in dealing with his problems, including disciplinary issues. He or she may be able to help you and your family figure out what to do when he misbehaves.
Providence, RI
October 10, 2013
A difficult chid
We adopted our son. His mother relinquished he rights, and we became parents on the same day. Ten months later, just before we finalized the adoption in the court, I received a phone call from the midwife who helped deliver him. She then told me that she had withheld information from me regarding the birthparents habits and health. The birthparents were both involved in every kind of drug imaginable, even all through her pregnancy. I was told that my husband and I would experience problems in behavior, learning disabilities, development problems, etc. I rally didn't know what to think, so I just embraced the belief that nothing she said would come true. IT ALL CAME TRUE! it was apparent in pre -school that something was wrong. He disrupted the class constantly, had no controls about speaking out loud all the time, didn't obey rules, was constantly being corrected, and on and on! There are still no fixes. He is now 30, still living at home, same problems, no answers.
Henderson, NV
October 9, 2013
When Adam erred, Hashem provided very harsh, but fair, consequences. I have learned, very late, that I was not consistent in my discipline. Moms love their kids to the point where they indulge them, unwittingly. My rebbitzen told me that a mother must know when to let the child take the "punishment' meted out by life, as harsh as it can be at times. We don't help our kids by over-protecting them. For those here who asked for advice....if you are a grandparent, and if you have leverage with the child, you can provide the consequences. If you don't, you may have to bow out and allow Hashem to deal out justice. He always does, even if not immediately. Kids cry out, in one way or another, for boundaries, structure and appropriate and authentic consequences. Hard to do, but critically necessary--and always balanced with praise.
Ma'ale Adumim
October 8, 2013
Answers In Faith
Some may find this aggravating, but I have one child and he is absolutely perfect at 5yrs old. He is very well behaved. He is good looking. He loves doing his homework with his mom, who reads with him nearly everyday. He is outgoing. He makes new friends easily. He is exceptionally intelligent. He lacks nothing. So why do I say this? It is because Torah says Gd will bless the fruit of the womb of the righteous. So if I might put my two cents in, when making babies there is only 1 Creator and whether or not you have a good one or a bad one, it all comes back to the Creator. To unlock the secrets of your child's problems it is going to take a lot of faith. I find faith starts when you first believe that there is an answer to your problem, and not only that, but Hashem will then come to your side cheering for you as you seek answers.
Craig Hamilton
Sandwich, MA