Parenting Spike:  The seriously difficult child-Splitting Parents

by Andrew Gibson, Ph.D.




Spike, the ten year old out of control kid, splits his parents because they let him. Splitting means Spike comes between them and, in this case, he comes with a vengence. They are so tied up in their own marital unhappiness that they can’t hear themselves fight. They haven’t got a clue that Spike is caught in the middle of the squabble. If they did, they might do something about it. But one parent is so disapointed in the other and so convinced that the other is, among other things, a lousy parent that the idea of yielding ground to the opposite is impossible. So they fight. Spike gets drawn in and behaves badly, but predictably. So one of his parents yells at the other, “ Do something!” and the other parent yells back, “Like what?” and the other one says back, “ You’re the expert! You know everything. You figure it out.”

In fact, neither are experts or this wouldn’t have happened. All the yelling does is throw more fuel on the anger fire. Nothing changes except Spike gets nastier. Thus, he gets in all kinds of trouble; home, school, neighborhood. Somebody needs to pull back. Somebody needs to call a halt. Who will do it? Probably neither parent. Pride is in the way. Dad becomes more rigid. Mom compensates by becoming looser. This is going no where.

Their relationship stopped being a marriage a long time ago. And just to make things worse, Spike takes control of the place simply by becoming outrageous. His outrageousness is coupled with his parents inability to control him. Couples counseling might be a good place to start. But this isn’t the time for one party to enter into a deal with the other. Sensitivities are too raw. There isn’t much trust between Mom and Dad. What they really need to do is to agree on an approach that they separately perform. They shouldn’t set themselves up where one parents says to the other, “See! I told you so. I knew I couldn’t depend on you.” Any deals that might be made ( “You do this for me and I’ll do that for you”) need to come later when they can actually depend on one another to be supportive.


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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