The first time I heard a parent use this expression, I laughed. I’m sorry, but visions of O’Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief” crossed my mind, and that is a very funny story. Unfortunately, the anger and frustration behind the words are anything but amusing. We read about mothers who hurt their children, or murder their children, and wonder how such horrible things can happen, yet we do not respond to the subtle cries for help all around us. So this post will attempt to alert those of us who are managing okay to those of us who may be struggling, and also to point those who are struggling to sources for help. And even if we are managing, we can always improve the way we deal with our children.
What is a Demon Child?
Horror movies aside, parents who may give this demeaning moniker to their youngster probably are struggling with various behavior issues. The child throws violent temper tantrums. The child may hit, bite, scratch, yell, or throw things. The child exhibits explosive behavior, going from complacency to catastrophe in sixty seconds or less. The child may resist nap time, bed time, meal time, bath time, and time to get dressed. In fact, the moments of inappropriate behavior far outweigh the loving moments, and the parent is thoroughly lost and frustrated.
This is a home on the edge of disaster. However, it is not hopeless!
Some children just are more difficult to raise. They are more demanding, more loving, more energetic, more annoying, more physical, more emotional, more spirited than their peers. The one word that sums them up best is “more”. They aren’t really different from other children their age, just more so! A generation ago, we used to call these children “brats”. That’s not really very helpful. I remember thinking that all they needed was a stern parent with established boundaries and perhaps a spanking to get their attention. Then along came my grandchild, and discovered that spanking her does not work. Time outs don’t work. Taking away toys or privileges do not work. She can be utterly delightful and charming one moment, and then you’re ready to pull your hair out the next, except she’s quite willing to pull your hair out for you.
I’m reading two books that I am finding very helpful. The first is “Raising Your Spirited Child – a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. The title pretty much says it all. Run out to your nearest book store and buy a copy – don’t get it from the library. If this sounds like your child, you’re going to want to keep this book handy and refer to it often.
The second has the misleading title of “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline – the 7 basic skills for turning conflict into cooperation” by Becky A. Bailey, Ph.D. I did get this one from the library, but I’m going out tomorrow to buy my own copy. It’s another one that I need to keep on my shelf. The information inside is so simple, yet mind-blowing, because I’ve never looked at the situation quite like this before.
Basically, the author tells us that all the methods of disciplining children we’ve learned in the past do not work, because they do not build love and unity. Punishment and rewards teach our children that they are somehow lacking, they are not good enough as they are and they need to change. We use fear to motivate them. A better method of guiding children’s behavior is to build love and unity. To teach them the skills they need to relate to the world around them and to lead them to willingly cooperate, rather than create conflict.
If you swear, your child will swear. If you drink or smoke, your child will drink and smoke. If you lie, your child will learn that telling lies is acceptable behavior. If you lie to your child, you will also break trust with him. If you call him names, he will call you names. So never call you child “a demon child” again. Stop, and think about what you are teaching him.
If you want your child to be more loving, then love him more. If you want her to get along well with others, then you must be kind to others. If you want her to share, then you must share of your time, your talent, and your treasure. If you want her to learn self-control, then you must first learn it. Do not waste time wallowing in guilt for past mistakes. Do not look to lay blame, and say that you are only parenting the way your parents did. You have a head on your shoulders, and the will to want to be better – or you wouldn’t be reading blogs online! Blame and guilt are counter-productive. Read, think, learn, model, pray, and relax. Love yourself! Even one of the two most powerful commandments in the Bible – “love thy neighbor as thyself” – assumes that you do, indeed, love yourself!
For more specific directions on dealing with inappropriate behavior, pick up a copy of Bailey’s book and pour through it. Your life will never be the same again.