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Are You a "Problem Parent"?

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 28 February 2023

Happy, confident, caring children grow up in an atmosphere of flexibility and trust, supported by respectful and realistic parents who do not see challenging behaviors as indications that there is a problem with their children.

Adults and children share many of the behaviors considered to be "problem behaviors" when exhibited by children. Why is there a "problem child" but not a "problem parent"? 

The "Problem Parent" Self-Assessment

Do you ever... with your mouth full?

...skip the broccoli but eat the ice cream?

...have trouble choosing what to wear?

...forget to say "please" or "thank you"?

...stay up past your bedtime?

...prefer not to sleep alone?

...forget to brush your teeth?

...spill anything?

...break a bowl or plate?

...get food stains on your clothes?

...cry when upset?

...fidget when bored or nervous?

...break a bowl of plate?

...get food stains on your clothes?

...cry when upset?

...fidget when bored or nervous?

...become irritable when tired or ill?

...decide not to share your things?

...not come promptly when called?

...leave your clothes and things around?

...prefer playing or relaxing to doing chores?

...need repeated reminders?

...have trouble buying only essential items when shopping?

...speak too loudly?

...get distracted?


...feel annoyed at being told what to do?

...have trouble getting along with others?

...avoid eye contact during heated moments? others' undivided attention?

...become withdrawn when not getting the support you need?

...feel indignant when people don't take your feelings or concerns seriously?

...enjoy having others serve you?

...need support when upset or scared?

...forget where you put something?

...forget to birng along your jacket?

...need approval?

...tell little lies to protect yourself from disapproval?

...get frustrated when not given the benefit of the doubt?

...become frustrated when you can't figure out how to do something?

...become adamant about doing or learning things in your own way, and in your own time?

...feel upset when you can't meet others' expectations?

...have trouble controlling your emotions?

...become irritable for no apparent reason?

...reject cuddles and kisses?

...walk away when lectured to?

...have difficulty saying "I'm sorry"?

...become uncomfortable when others talk about you in your presence, as if you weren't there?

...feel stressed when rushed?

...react negatively to threats, bribes, or other forms of manipulation?

...get overwhelmed by complex instructions or explanations?

...become sad when you feel misunderstood?

...complain when you don't get your way?

...complain when you have to sit in the car for a long time?

...complain when the weather isn't cooperating with your plans?

...need reassurance that you are loved and valued?

People of any age can be labeled as "problems," but only if we choose to perceive them that way. I must confess to you that I answer many of the above questions with a "yes." If I am honest with myself and fair to my children, and have a sense of humor, I should refer to myself as a "problem parent."

Perhaps the self-acknowledged "problem parents" among us, myself included, can agree to do away with the label. The label is the problem, not the person, no matter their age.

Parents are much older and have accumulated learning and life experiences, while children are fresh to the world and have much to learn, but the learning hasn't stopped for parents. Our children can offer us so much through their innocently insightful perspective. Parents can learn and grow alongside their children. Consider this quote from C.G. Jung: "If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves."

Take This Self-Assessment a Step Further

List your child's behaviors that are of concern to you. Include any behaviors that you feel need to be corrected, whether they evoke a strongly negative response from you. Mark the behaviors that do evoke a strongly negative response from you. 

Compare this list with your self-assessment:

  • Which behaviors do you share with your child?
  • Which behaviors that you share with your child are behaviors that evoked a strongly negative response from your own parents, a teacher, or another caregiver?

Other people, especially those closest to us, act as a mirror for us. Sometimes we see in them what we like about ourselves. Sometimes they reflect back to us aspects of ourselves that we don't like. Because our own children can be our most powerful mirrors, they offer us our greatest opportunities to learn and grow.

Thus, when I am bothered by my child's behavior, I need to ask myself: 

  • When I see what I like about myself in my child, how do I respond to her?
  • When I see what I don't like, how do I respond to her?
  • Why do I respond in the ways that I do?
  • What can I learn about myself?


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