Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Contact Us

Son Is Moody, Mean and Miserable

Son Is Moody, Mean and Miserable

 Email

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.

Rachel

"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.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
20 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Julie France December 5, 2016

Children need to express themselves. Sometimes what they want to express is beyond their verbal capability, so they do other things. No stage is permanent, just be there, wait and love him. Reply

Kimberly Lenoir City December 4, 2016

I don't normally post comments but I have to on this...if we as a mother call our child a "monster", it doesn't mean we don't love them, it's just the best way to discribe it. If you have a child with bipolar or any other mental disorder like it, you should be able to understand. I feel the same way that the mom with the "monster" child. And yes it's horrible to feel that way, but it Does Not change the love we have for them. And besides, isn't the purpose of this column to ask questions and get advice? Not to ridicule parents in how we explain the question. Reply

Keke Canada March 6, 2015

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. Reply

Bernice Needham London, Ont/Can via chabadwestern.org December 16, 2014

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. Reply

Anonymous Rome, NY 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. Reply

Anonymous 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. Reply

Anonymous Melbourne, Australia 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. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA October 13, 2013

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. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI October 13, 2013

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. Reply

Anonymous Henderson, NV October 10, 2013

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. Reply

HappyMinyan Ma'ale Adumim 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. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA October 8, 2013

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. Reply

Anonymous October 8, 2013

PLEASE, PLEASE! Get professional help yesterday!!! The behavior of your son is indicative of many mental issues. Don't let your pride stop you from helping him and keeping your other son from being tortured. You are at fault if you don't do something quick.
Been there. Reply

Anonymous UK October 8, 2013

The books are just fine they tell you what you should do but not how to do it. The food factor is also fine but you can only control it to a point. Punishment just seems a waste of time with a difficult child, it makes them meaner.

What you need is to realise the G_d factor in your child! Love does the trick, G_d loved us all into being, so love your kids into being - not the silly sentimental adoration you might give to a cute puppy or kitten but the love you would give to G_d, have humility, give sacrifices (from your own comfort), keep the commandments with joy and struggle through never failing to let your child know through your ACTIONS that you are GLAD they are there - even when they are awful. This takes time and immense effort but it pays off in the end. Reply

Anonymous Rome October 6, 2013

I am 52 years old. Not until 19 years old did I realize the weoponized food was a big culprit. There is no 100% solution; however in my case diet, allergy testing by an alternative M.D. avoiding sugar, dyes, chemicals in food and eating organic literaly changed my life. The psychological factors were secondary. You must work with from his somatopscho (body/mind) standpoint. It all
started when I was vaccinated. The torah says "Guard your health diligently". Reply

Anonymous bklyn October 6, 2013

one also needs support. the emotional drain is very great and you need to have supportive people when this is going on Reply

Anonymous Mission Viejo, Ca September 6, 2013

My grandson is almost 9 years old. When I visit his house, he rarely says hello. When I walked in during my last visit, he was sitting at a table and told me he was too busy to say hello. Whenever I'm with them, my daughter and granddaughter are constantly telling my grandson how beautiful he is. They never praise him for being kind or a good person - just for being beautiful, which they say in a kind of baby talk way. I'm afraid to ruin my already strained relationship with my daughter by commenting on my grandson's rude and unfriendly behavior towards me. My grandson acts very entitled and pulls presents that I give him out of my hand. He tosses them aside if he doesn't like them. Aside from not visiting him or bringing him presents is there anything I can do to improve his behavior without getting my daughter angry at me. She's very sensitive to ANY perceived criticism of her parenting.
Thank you Reply

Anonymous Maryhill, Ontario July 16, 2013

I have a 20 year old daughter, and a boy and girl twins that are 18, the dynamics in the house are different all the time, my son says he does not like to hang around his sisters at all, and we have a cottage that he will never venture to, due to the fact that he works weekends and the two girls do not, and they are either at the cottage with mom and dad or off for the weekend with boyfriend or friends camping or away.... how do I get the 3 to work together and at least talk? Reply

Sarah Chana Radcliffe Toronto July 11, 2013

It's so hard to raise a challenging child! There is no magic parenting tool to make the child calm down and cooperate, but over time, the consistent use of good tools will have a beneficial effect. Read as many parenting books as possible just to get some new ideas. Take classes. If possible, consult a professional who can guide you through specific challenges. In addition, you might consider some Bach Flower Therapy for yourself (for parenting stress) and for him (for his behavioral challenges). Check out my book "Make Yourself at Home" for more information about this strategy. Reply

Leona Felt July 10, 2013

My son is 10 years old. He has a little brother who is 4 and he is constantly hurting him, jumping on him, etc. My 10 year old acts younger than my 4 year old. He is very disrespectful. He blurts out anything and everything he thinks of. When we have guests over he chases his brother around the table and bar. And when told to go to his room he goes to his brothers room and holds him down to the ground until he cries and screams. I have told him a million times over to stay off of his brother and I have taken every kind of electronics and anything away from him. He still does the same things every single day. Going to town is a nightmare for me if I have both of them because my 10 year old will do something to embarrass me for sure. I am at the end of my rope. Reply