Some kids are easier to raise than others. They are cooperative, happy, flexible and a joy to be with; they make their parents look like parenting geniuses. Others, however, can be moody, stubborn, wild, anxious, intense or otherwise challenging. Despite their parents' best efforts, these kids are aggressive or uncooperative or somehow difficult to deal with. They've inherited certain traits that make their lives hard, and their parents' lives hard as well.

Youngsters in this group have been dubbed the "challenging child," the "spirited child" and even the "difficult child." They sometimes have received clinical diagnoses that explain some of their symptoms: the may have ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Asperger Syndrome, Childhood Depression, an Anxiety Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder or something else. Very often, they have nothing that can be formally named: they're just difficult.

Parents have to deal with their disappointment when raising this kind of child. Everyone wants nachas from their youngster—the pride that parents feel upon sending a little mentch out into the world. Parents love to hear from teachers and other parents how clever, well-behaved and well-liked their child is. When what they hear is a litany of sour reports ("He doesn't seem to have any friends," "He scares the other children," "She has trouble listening," "She is impulsive"), their hearts sink. Every parent tries his or her best. They sometimes feel like it is their fault that they're child isn't behaving nicely. No parent is perfect, but in most cases it is not the parents who make a difficult child difficult—the child is born this way. His genetically inherited cluster of traits comes together in a way that makes him dramatic, tough, needy, oversensitive, negative and/or unhappy. He's just difficult.

The difficult child is sometimes only difficult at home. In these cases, he manages to pull himself together at school but then disintegrates upon entering his house. This is some comfort for the parents who are at least spared the agony of public shame, but they still feel helpless, overwhelmed and miserable at home in having to deal with disobedience, tantrums, endless demands or other unpleasant behaviors.

Parents of difficult kids need to be gentle on themselves. They shouldn't blame themselves for the difficulties the child has. Unless they've been abusing the youngster, their parenting strategy is not the most likely cause of the child's personality. Kids are born with much of their personality intact, which is why King Solomon advises us to "educate the child according to his way"—his inborn way. Parents need to understand that G‑d entrusted this child to them because G‑d had faith in their ability to help this tender soul evolve. It is always appropriate to include G‑d in the parenting plan—talk to G‑d daily when raising kids. It is especially important when one has a special needs child to ask G‑d for help, guidance and energy to carry out the special parenting task.

Consulting a child psychologist or parenting expert early in the game can be most helpful. Parents of special kids need special tools and there are people out there who can provide them. A difficult child should be assessed and, if necessary, treated. Early intervention can reduce the difficulties for parents and child and prevent an unnecessary spiral of problems. If there is nothing to treat (according to the doctor), naturopathic assessment and intervention may sometimes provide alternative strategies that make a difference.

Parents need to nurture themselves and their marriage in order to continue to have the necessary energy to deal with their challenging youngster. Downtime, private time, date night, exercise, time for learning, socialization and all the rest are extremely important to replenish exhausted resources. Before the bank runs dry, parents need to make joyful deposits. This will give them more patience, clear thinking, compassion and energy to deal with raising a difficult child.