Raising Your Challenging Child: What is a Challenging Child?

I’ve posted quite a bit about my challenging child.

There have been many labels for this type of personality.

Dobson called this style “strong willed”

Others call it “spiritied. ”

Deep in the back of my head, I have other names for her personality:




I try not to dwell on those negative labels. I have a hard enough time being positive about this child without reinforcing my negativity.

So I just call her “challenging.”


I’ve conversed with other mothers with challenging children of their own.

The following are several common characteristics to these kids :


This is the best word that I can think of for my daughter. Everything that she does she does intensely. She “feels” things to a greater degree than many other people. She cares deeply about many things, and many things are worth a big, ugly stink. There is no middle ground with my daughter. She either cares passionately about something or she is totally uninterested in it. My mother described her as being: “wound up tight.”


Challenging kids have a very hard time giving ground. Once they get their minds set on something, you’d better just look out. They don’t like change and they have a hard time looking at things differently.

Challenging children often struggle with change and transitions because they are so inflexible.


Challenging kids know exactly what they want and it takes an act of Congress to divert them from their goals. These are the kids who consider the consequences of their actions, (maybe a punishment) consider what they want to do,  and decide that they will simply take the punishment rather than obey what an authority figure asks.

Parents of these kinds of kids get very frustrated when well-meaning advisers tell them to “distract” their toddlers from tantrums and forbidden objects. For a challenging child who really knows what they want, there is NO distraction.


I’m mentioning confidence because it sounds more positive than this trait sometimes comes across. These kids have SO much confidence that they can border on arrogance. They don’t see themselves as kids. They take themselves very seriously. They don’t understand why adults should have more privileges than they do or why they should listen to an adult.

They have extremely inaccurate views of their own opinions, viewpoints, and knowledge. They can come across as haughty and imperious to adults when they correct, advise, or instruct adults.

Lack Self-Awareness

Challenging kids frequently have no idea how they are perceived by others. They may have a hard time realizing when other kids or their parents are getting frustrated by their behavior.  (of course, there are disorders like Asperger’s where this is quite pronounced. Challenging children are simply so wrapped up in their own views, thoughts, and feelings that they don’t pay attention to simple things.) Challenging children don’t understand that their own behavior alienates people that they care about.


Challenging kids often see the world rather negatively. They often struggle with moodiness and grumpy is often their baseline mood.  One bad thing can ruin a whole day. A child may have a fairly nice day, but report at bedtime that it was rotten day because they fell and skinned their knee at 10 in the morning.

Black and White Thinking–Perfectionism

Many challenging children  struggle with perfectionism. They have high standards for themselves and others, and if things don’t go 100% the way that they believe it should go, the day is ruined. School is often difficult because challenging children see struggle as a bad thing. They seem to feel that if they don’t do things perfectly the first time it is a reflection on their intelligence.  Many mothers of challenging children report that their kids moan that they are “stupid” if school is difficult at all.


While many of these traits can be negative in a small child or a teen, they will benefit the child in adulthood. These kids will be great leaders. However, they are not easy kids.

I am far from an expert in parenting. However, my challenging child is almost 17 years old. I’ve learned so much along the way, most of it from trial and error.

Parents of these challenging kids have a special task before them if they are to try to homeschool. Challenging kids take a tremendous amount of energy, consistency, and a special dose of parenting wisdom.  My hope is that I can share with other parents who are facing their own challenging child some of the things that I’ve learned in the past 17 years.

In the coming weeks, I plan to share some of the tips and tricks that I’ve had use in raising my daughter.

Raising a challenging child is not easy. However, if you have one, I want to encourage you. God gave you that child for a reason. He will use all kinds of situations to draw you closer to Him, and I’ve seen personally that He’s made me into a better mother, wife, and Christian as a result of my challenging child.

You can do this! Rest in his promise that he will sustain you as you parent your challenging child.

Psalm 52:22

“Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kate
    Apr 14, 2015 @ 02:06:23

    So glad to find your blog! I have a very challenging 11 year old daughter that I am homeschooling. I see her as having mental health and possibly developmental issues more than being wrapped up in pride and selfishness, though she certainly is.
    She meets all the criteria for that controversial diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, AND I’ve recently discovered a form of autism only diagnosed in the UK called Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome
    . It seems these kids have a tremendous amount of anxiety at all times that causes them to act out and they truly can’t help it.

    Anyway, I am happy to read that your daughter is coming into her own and that you see great potential, it gives me hope.


    • fairfarmhand79
      Apr 14, 2015 @ 08:38:52

      There is a wonderful book that really helped me help my daughter. It is called The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. It gives concrete strategies to help parents talk through issue with their kids and assist the kids in moving from emotion based reactions to more thoughtful ones. He mentions that whatever the diagnosis, these strategies can help. Good Luck to You!

      I will be presenting a Seminar in June about homeschooling the intense child with the Well Trained Mind Summer Seminar series. http://wtmonlineconference.com/speakers/april-freeman/ Perhaps there will be some help for you in this session.

      Thank you for dropping by!


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