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Parenting Spike: The seriously difficult child- the neighborhood

by Andrew d Gibson, Ph.D.


Spike, a ten year old out-of-control kid, is a menace. It would be one thing if he just confined his maladjustments to this family. Terrorizing them is bad enough. But he takes his unhappiness out on the neighborhood as well. Nobody is particular likes him and he knows it, so he doesn’t have any problem getting into any unlocked car or back porch to see what he can swipe. He isn’t generally destructive though people invariably know he has been there. He has been known to cut down the decorative blue spruce in someone’s front yard for the family Christmas tree. If something is missing, his parents are the first that the neighbors call.

Spike has been a problem for his family for a long time. He must either have gotten bored or bold. He evidentially thought there was no new territory to conquer at home, so he’d spread out and see what the world offered. It has plenty. He takes a perverse pleasure in seeing what he can get away with. Sometimes it isn’t much and then someone calls the police. But the stuff he does is petty so the police don’t do a whole lot. They will show up at his parent’s door and threaten both Spike and his folks. Spike just swears at them which irritates them into more threatening but Spike knows they aren’t likely to do much. Spike knows how much he can get away with and how much he can’t so he plays things up to the edge.

The police are practically family members except they get annoyed with Spike’s parents and lecture them on how to be parents which is galling. There isn’t a whole lot his folks can do about the embarrassment except say they are sorry Spike is the way he is and that they would change things if they knew what to do. They don’t know, of course. and neither do the police. Everybody thinks if his folks would just get tough on him then, by golly, things would change. They assume that the police could scare him straight as in, “I’m gonna call the cops!” but it doesn’t faze him. He promises again to behave, the police leave and Spike heads out the back door to see what else he can rustle up. Spike doesn’t know it but he is on a long slide to a detention center. A sooner or later the system will catch up with him. Unfortunately, detention has the reputation of making things worse, not better. It will just give Spike another forum to be defiant.

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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