Problem Child

Are you aware that families often have a “problem child”? They are like scapegoats in a way.  They frequently blamed for the negative things that happen within family. Parents will say that this is because they are frequently causing problems. I wonder why? My opinion is that kids do well if they can. So, what is happening? What is getting in the way of the problem child doing well? Are they simply bad, broken, or lazy?

Families that have scapegoat problem children often have a “golden child,” as well. The golden child is the child that parents are often proud of, or who comes across as more helpful, less trouble anyway. Of course, the intent is to love our kids equally. We never actually pick a scapegoat/golden child on purpose. It sneaks up on you….and before you know it, you have one kid that seems so easy, and one that seem so difficult. This exacerbates the problem child’s behavior.

Here are some important reasons why to be aware of the problem child/scapegoat phenomenon:

  • Labelling one child as more difficult creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. This child will live into the expectation put upon him.
  • Praising a child and blaming of another sets up a dynamic of “good and bad” that will cause big problems for both children…for years to come.
  • Because the golden child gets attention for being “good”, the scapegoat learns to act in a negative or helpless ways in order to get attention.
  • Blaming a child who is having a hard time, doesn’t help the child learn to solve problems…it further exacerbates their feelings of low self worth that might have led them to act out in the first place.
  • Scapegoating hides the fact that parents need to take responsibility for their own parenting actions rather than avoiding them.
  • The scapegoat does things in frustration, in order to deal with the lack of acceptance, and sadness he is experiencing. Blaming makes this worse.
  • Families focused on blame don’t model healthy accountability. Blaming is a dead-end and it is serious damaging to the one being constantly blamed.

Fortunately there are better ways to solve problems rather than blaming a scapegoat. Assuming the best of our challenging children is a good place to start. Next, we need to understand, that for children, behaviour is a form of communication. . If one of your children is causing a problem, it is likely because he or she doesn’t feel good on the inside.

Here is a reference to help you create positive family dynamics:

  • Notice that when you blame, you are projecting your pain. You are trying to make someone else responsible for your frustration and hurt.
  • Acknowledge and own your feelings. Feel your feelings. They are yours. And they are telling you something.
  • Be kind to yourself. Accept your feelings. It’s okay to feel sad, mad and frustrated.
  • If you hear yourself blaming (You did _____, You are so _____),  STOP. Take a break if you need. Come back when you are in control of yourself.
  • Aim to always respond rather than react. Develop a practice of being present. Regulate yourself through breathing.
  • When you are regulated, seek to connect. Empathize with children and validate their emotions as a way to help them calm down. Children cannot think or learn lessons in a highly charged emotional state. (no one can)
  • Seek to understand and empower. Look for the underlying emotion or lacking skill that led to a problem behavior. Address THAT, and help your child get what they actually want in a constructive way.
  • Get rid of the lectures. Speak in clear and CONCISE ways.
  • Adopt a way of respectfully talking with each family member. Do not speak condescendingly to your children just because you can. This is not your best self
  • Focus on solutions and repairing. Don’t get stuck in the muck.
  • Take responsibility for how you yourself may have contributed to a conflict.
  • Model owning your own actions and taking responsibility for your mistakes.
    • This includes owning the tendency to blame. Where did you learn how to blame and why are you continuing to do it? Are you willing to let go?

In truth and love,


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