The “HARD To Grow” Child

Observations and Assumptions about Complex Children

Hard to Grow Children are “Complex.” These children present a variety of strengths and weaknesses. They may or may not be intense in their needs, but they are always complex in the profile of their strengths and weaknesses. Intensity does not, in itself, create a hard to grow child.

Hard to Grow Children are “Inconsistent.”

Hard to Grow Children “Act Out” when they are young and small and may continue to do so when they are older and bigger. Acting out is a gatekeeper difficulty. Acting out must be addressed as a high priority target behavior, at any age. It is usually under-emphasized in direct proportion to the physical size of the child!  An acting-out child with a developmental disorder – and behavioral problems –  is not necessarily an aggressive child – a primary foundation if treatment is to interpret the meaning of high intensity behaviors. Are they premeditated and target directed? Are they reactive and self-protective?

Hard to Grow Children require specialized “micro-environments” to prosper. The environments of hard to grow children are under analyzed. In education, the continuum of “least restrictive environments” simply defines a gross administrative concept of environmental structure. It does not define a structure sensitive to the needs of the child.

Hard to Grow Children Present extreme behaviors that have meaning for the child. In an attempt to manage these extreme behaviors they are frequently over analyzed into discrete elements. When this behavioral analysis is taken to the extreme, the meaning of the behavior to the child is lost. When meaning is lost, external power is frequently imposed to suppress purposeful, but unpleasant behavior. This external power often takes the form of multiple medications, increases in medication, or increases in “human one-to-one power” and thus to change the behavior, learn its meaning and change its antecedent.

Hard to Grow Children are hard to grow because of their extreme emotions and extreme behaviors, not because of their specific academic/educational needs.

Hard to Grow Children require the protection of a diagnosis and an understanding of that diagnosis. In the absence of a diagnosis that enhances understanding of the biological, developmental and emotional basis of a child’s functioning, children are frequently blamed for their reaction to the demands of their environments.

Hard to Grow Children require environments that place an emphasis on their sense of personal safety and protection from exploitation.

If you have a “hard to grow” child, consider contacting our office for help and support.
You are NOT a failure – you are the parent of a very difficult child.

– by Frank Doberman, PhD

Dr. Frank Doberman is Co-Founder of Karner Psychological Associates (KPA) and is a leader in the fields of clinical psychology, is a Licensed Psychologist, Certified in School Psychology, Educational Administration and is a regular contributor to News 10 WTEN.

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