December 18, 2017

Questions for Karen: Why Do I Butt Heads With Only One of My Kids?

Q:  Why does a parent butt heads with a particular one of his/her children and what can be done about it?

A:  There are different ways people look at this; one opinion is that you tend to butt heads with the child who is most like you.  The idea behind this is that you see your own worst traits reflected in the child’s bad behavior, and this causes you to react more strongly when the child misbehaves.

Another school of thought relates to personality; the less similar your personality is to a child, the harder it may be for you to share that child’s outlook and perspective on life, and the easier it is to misunderstand him.

Finally, if a child is a “pleaser” she probably wants to make you happy, and may generally behave better as a result; if a child is more of an independent thinker, she may care more about her own wishes than about what you think.

Why Do I Butt Heads With Only One of My Kids What is it exactly about the “harder” child’s behavior that makes him more challenging?  If you can identify the specific behaviors that you would like to change, that’s a good starting point.

We’ll look at each of the four components of personality in a series of upcoming articles, which might give you insights as to how to better relate to each of your children, but in the meantime there are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Focus on the behavior and not the child.  Make it abundantly clear to all your children that your love for each of them is equal, just not your preference for certain behaviors.
  • Try to stay calm.  Some children will misbehave purely for the joy of creating drama; don’t reinforce what they do by getting upset and thereby giving lots of negative reinforcement.
  • As much as possible, address your issues with the disobedient child away from the others.  It’s a double blow when a child is criticized in front of a sibling or anyone else.
  • Keep the emphasis on what you do want rather than on what you don’t.

This isn’t an easy issue.  Having difficulty with a particular child can create a lot of guilt, and it isn’t something you can necessarily “solve,” but with some attention and new tactics you may find yourself better able to handle the situation in ways you feel good about.  Good luck!

Karen Harvey, CEC, is a life coach and mother of two who specializes in working with moms.  Visit her website at

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