Beliefs and Strategies that Will Allow You to Enjoy the Challenge of Raising a Difficult Child

Core Beliefs

Core Belief: For children, the most effective and positive behavioral development occurs when a parent or caregiver encourages the child to think about his or her behavior and its potential outcome. Parents and caregivers must provide the time and a safe space for the child to make choices and gain control of his or her behavior. The ability to make better decisions and true learning of positive behavior and emotional growth does not occur when we make the child “listen now!”

Core Belief: After assessing the safety in the ongoing situation, our mission is to allow the child to experience the consequences of his or her choices and actions! This is paramount if the parent or caregiver wants the child to make better decisions, reduce future behavioral problems, bullying, irritability, whining, depression and anxiety and other potential mental illnesses. The goal for the child is emotional growth, health and wellness and the ability to make better decisions. Parents and caregivers must teach children how to appropriately and effectively deal with consequences as a result of the child’s own behavior and decision making abilities.

Core Belief: The probability of enhancing the child’s emotional growth and decision making ability increases when the parent or caregiver focuses limited energies of control on what they realistically have the best chance of controlling. These are the parents or caregivers own beliefs and behaviors which stem from the parents or caregivers own personal health, mental health and overall wellness. Family health, family preservation and family protection are also factors which parents and caregivers must contend with. Overall, parents and caregivers must be aware that they themselves are their child’s model for positive behavior. Making better decisions will be apart of the child’s emotional growth and development if the parents or caregivers themselves are making better decisions. Family health, family preservation and family protection are strengthened when the entire family learns how to make better decisions.

Core Belief: We must believe that we have the skills to be effective. Parents and caregivers must believe in themselves and their internal parenting skills. If parental growth and confidence building are necessary, parents and caregivers alike may acquire parenting resources like those found here: In our Parenting Place!

Core Belief: We must give children the opportunity to make choices. We must also display our respect and faith in them, by allowing children to solve the problems that arise from their poor choices. A child’s emotional growth, wellness and mental health will be exercised as they grow, develop and become more confident in making better decisions.  

Core Belief: Social skills are crucial if a child is to be successful in life and have a sense of well being. Children need to develop socially, establish friendships, maintain peer relationships and discover their unique place in the family. Many childhood and adult mental and physical illnesses could actually be minimized or eliminated if children became socially successful and carried this trait through their adult lives. Social anxiety, phobias, stress, anxiety, substance abuse, health problems and many other mental health issues stem from being socially unsuccessful and lacking a solid support system.

Core Belief: Parent strength is a product of the consistent expectation for courtesy from their children; coupled with the application of basic strategies of behavior development which they teach their children in hopes of the child making overall better decisions and living a successful life. Teachable moments, developing manners, respect for other people and their properties are all part of the parents or caregivers necessary expectations. Children’s emotional growth and social skills have the ability to blossom into positive character traits when parents or caregivers exercise their consistent expectations.

Core Belief: We must focus our energy in creating antecedent environments that promote positive behavior. Environmental influences have major effects on children. Parents should strive for a positive, stable, nurturing environment where their children can learn, grow and become self sufficient, socially successful, emotionally stable and an asset to his or her family in developing  family health, family preservation and family protection.


Parents and caregivers need to embrace confrontation and non-compliance as teachable moments. These are the critical moments when you have the ability to connect with the child and help him or her understand why you have expectations for their behavior.

Behaviors Valued by Society

The development of behaviors valued by society are based upon:

  1. The child’s skill in self-monitoring his or her behavior
  2. The growth of the ability to defer his or her gratification
  3. The ability of the child to tolerate frustration

Creating an “Illusion of Control”

 We must create an “Illusion of Control.”

  • Put probability on your side
  • Model thinking and control.
  • Be prepared for the child to say “NO!”

Be Prepared to “Unpack the Bundle”

The Bundle: “I want that phone … you don’t love me anymore!”
The Unpack: “You are talking about two different things. Which would you like to discuss first … me not purchasing the cell phone for you?  … or how much I love you?”

Be prepared to “Punt” if you do not have the time or answer to the challenge.

The Punt: “I cannot give you an answer right now – I need time to think about it. If you push me for an answer NOW … then it will be NO … if you give me time to think about it the answer might be yes.”

  • Do not give a command that you know will not be followed.
  • Give commands when you have the will to enforce them, a plan of action and when you have the time to do it.
  • “Stack the deck” in your favor. Rehearse behavior that you value, cue that behavior and set up training runs.
  • Make sure that the choices you give the child are choices you can live with.
  • Behaviors that look alike on the surface may have different underlying motivations.


  • Focus energy in establishing antecedent conditions that prevent difficulty and behavioral problems.
  •  The joy of knowing your goals and having a place to meet them.
  • View behavior as the tool by which the child communicates immediate wants and needs.
  • Make a best guess “hypothesis” about the motivations that energize the child’s difficulty and behavioral problems.

Teach Children Basic Rules of Thinking and Doing

  • If you don’t want to talk about it, you should not have done it in the first place.
  • Stop, Think, Act and React – be a S.T.A.R.
  • You have two ears and one mouth. A good listener uses them in that proportion.
  • If you can’t “dream it,” you won’t be able to achieve it.
  • A belief in your competency is the best prevention. It will give you the most happiness.
  • If you speak with your behavior, your message will not be heard.
  • If your messages are delivered impolitely or in anger, listeners will react to your words and not the message that you want to deliver.
  • Getting angry directs attention to you and not to the person who hurt you! “Anger is like being drunk on emotion.”
  • Your first job is not to behave. Your first job is to think about your behavior. Thinking will lead you to the right decision and to satisfying behavior.
  • Think about taking time to think! It takes a lot of slow to grow, because it takes a lot of time to think!
  • If you want to change tomorrow, do something different today.

– 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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