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Parenting Spike: The seriously difficult child – Raising Your Voice

by Andrew Gibson, Ph.D.


To live with Spike is to yell. Spike is your ten-year old out-of-control son who delights in making you miserable. You’ve tried everything that you can to calm him down. None of it has worked. He has you backed into a corner. You can’t think of alternatives. There seem to be none. Like most cornered animals you react, generally with yelling. It seems like a defense but it isn’t really. You’d think your kid would care if you got angry or not. But Spike doesn’t care. In fact, Spike encourages you to flip out. He thinks it is kind of amusing. He knows you don’t have a lick of control over him and he rubs your nose in it. Everytime you yell at him, he chalks a point for his side. He somehow knows in his ten year old brain that he pushed you into an ineffective tantrum. That’s really what it is: an adult tantrum. If you boiled down your reaction to one of Spikes outrages, you’d see a parent out of control. The only thing missing, from his persepctive, is you throwing yourself on the floor while kicking and screaming. It is a mistake to display yourself to Spike as out of control. It makes you seem, well, pathetic. He doesn’t respect you and an adult tantrum won’t make him change his mind.

Respect is essential if you are to turn the clock on Spike. We respect strength, not weakness. There is nothing in principle preventing you from regaining control over Spike. However it was that Spike got to be Spike, he really only stays that way because you enable his behavior. Sound outrageous? It isn’t. It is as common as rainwater. Everything we do in the name of parenting an out-of-control child is likely to maintain his terrible behavior. Everything. Don’t believe it? Think about your recent confrontations with your Spike. Did you win or lose? What do you suppose Spike would say about those confrontations. Is he adding more chalk marks to his scoreboard? You can’t govern an abnormally developing kid with normal parenting techniques. They will beat you up every time. You need another strategy. Try NEVER raising your voice. Promise yourself, that no matter what (except an bona fide emergency) that you will seem so calm that you can not be heard in the next room. You should apply this to situations that anger you and situations that don’t. Even calling the little monster to the table is now forbidden. Do it faithfully for a month. See what happens. You can impose the calm you want. Don’t wait for Spike to do it. It won’t happen.

About The Author

Dr. Andrew Gibson was born in Detroit at the close of WWII. He grew up in the midst of farming country in central Michigan. Both parents were teachers. He keeps a picture of his childhood companion, Wags, to this day (you had to see the tail to appreciate the name). After discharge from the Navy after the Viet Name war, he graduated with a BA and MA from San Diego State University and earned his Ph. D from the University of Connecticut. He has taught at Portland State University, n Portland Oregon, at the University of Maine, Presque Isle and at SUNY New Paltz. He resides in Eastern Connecticut, with his wife of 41 years, where he conducts a private practice in parenting seriously difficult children. His book “Got An Angry Kid? Parenting Spike-A Seriously Difficult Child’ is the first of a series examining seriously difficult children at various age and emotional disturbance levels. He invites you to find him on the web at

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