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Current Issue of BDINews
Caring for the High Maintenance Child
By Kate Andersen.

Improving Fit. April, 2018.
Dear Kate:
I have trouble explaining why I am so drained and stressed by our four-year old daughter.......
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"Andy was a child with a very high maintenance temperament and some learning difficulties. It was difficult to find activities that he could manage without running into problems. Eventually we learned to sit down and do some problem-solving with him before he tried out a new game or toy. We put him in the driver's seat and invited him to tell us how he would figure out solutions. Eventually, he even told us how he would handle his frustration if something didn't go well."

"Natalie is a child who is just plain shy. We rehearse going to new places and meeting new people with puppets before we go. It helps a little. She's still shy but she sure has fun in her quiet way."

"Jake is very active, very intense, very inattentive and distractible, very positive in mood and outgoing with new people. Our problem used to be that he was always enjoying himself but seemed oblivious to other people's annoyance with the ruckus he made. We hesitated to spoil his fun by asking him to calm down until one day he got a swift time out from his soccer coach. We were crushed on his behalf but amazed that in the car on the way home he said "that was the funnest practice I've ever had". We started setting limits more swiftly at home, too, and noticed that over time Jake became less wild but much more content. He stopped having nightmares and woke more rested, too."

"Nicola is an unusual child. We've seen her as slower than her sister and that's probably not fair. At home she plays quietly and is most cooperative and undemanding, letting me give tons of attention to her needy older sister. But in the swimming pool Nicola comes to life and calls out, time after time, 'Daddy, watch me, watch me.' After her swim, she's positively glowing with pleasure and pride. I've come to think that she may be "too good for her own good" in the family when competing with her older sister. When she is swimming she is able to express her real needs and wants more clearly, it seems. So now I make a point of giving her some one on one time at home and she is becoming a more confident and more competent girl."

"Kyla has a challenging temperament and diabetes. She doesn't feel very well much of the time and she has few friends. At the moment, nothing gives her greater pleasure than playing with her dog. It is a wonderful thing to see all the tension disappear from her face and body after a half hour's frolicking with Toby."

"Cub scouts is Taj's greatest joy. We signed him up for the structure and discipline and he absolutely LOVES it. We are amazed! He hates rules at home! But he absolutely loves cub scouts."


1. Examine your own expectations and values and consider whether you are recognizing that not everyone enjoys the same things.

2. Observe your child objectively for at least a week to see if you can determine what he/she enjoys the most.

3. Ask yourself if you are blocking your child's ability to enjoy him/herself, whether intentionally or by accident.

4. Consider whether you have set up the home environment in a way which is conducive to your child's preferred style of play. If not, what can you do to foster joy in your child?

5. Make note of any negative comments or other discouragers which may be preventing your child from fully enjoying any activities.

6. Are you taking pleasure in your child's pleasure? Spend time watching your child playing in his/her own style and make your appreciation very clear without directing or criticizing.

7. Remember that some children show that they are having fun by being loud and boisterous whereas others display their pleasure in more subtle ways.

8. Some children need time to decide whether they are enjoying something or not. Don't pressure your child to show pleasure just to please you.

9. Some children wear out new games and new toys quickly. If that's your child's their style, be prepared for your child to need new and different forms of pleasure quite quickly.

10. Some children stick to the same game and the same toys for a very long time. There's no need to insist on variety for its own sake if your child is enjoying him/herself and developing normally in every other respect.

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