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Your High Maintenance Child, Part 2


What sort of behaviors do parents of high maintenance children confront on a daily basis?


My wife had the honor of studying children with noted child expert, Stanley Greenspan at George Washington university in the 1980s.

Greenspan described five high maintenance types of children:

The Highly Sensitive Child tends to:

  1. Demonstrate a more intense reaction to change

  2. Become overwhelmed more easily

  3. Tend to be much more clingy

  4. Be cautious, fearful, shy

  5. Show anxiety

  6. Act moody, irritable or depressed.

  7. React negatively to lights, touch, cloth

  8. Be unable to control his emotions

  9. Read people well


If you are the parent of this type of high maintenance child, the authoritative style of parenting that we describe in an earlier blog on our Confident Parenting website will work best for your highly sensitive child.


The authoritative parents that offer empathy, in conjunction with firm limits and encouragement likely will see their child grow over time.


The Self-Centered Child tends to be:

  • Quiet

  • Low energy

  • Uninterested in others

  • Looking internally; not externally for stimuli

  • Passive

  • Independent of others


Parents with this type of high maintenance child need to be persistent in gently pushing their child to engage with the world. Parents of such children may not receive a whole lot emotionally in return for their often intense efforts-their child’s tuning out may simply be her default method of communicating.


Capturing their attention for more than a very short time may be difficult for this type of high-maintenance child.


The Defiant Child tends to be:

  • Negative

  • Controlling

  • Have problems with transitions

  • Enjoy power struggles

  • Passive-aggressive

  • Perfectionists.


For these parents, their high maintenance child does not play by the rules. They do not care about losing privileges, their toys, groundings, etc. They do not do well with an authoritarian type of parent that seeks to enforce the rules.


As their high-maintenance child raises the stakes through yelling and ever worsening behavior, his parents need a response that is consistent, measured, and does not back the child into a corner.


The Attention-deficit Child tends to be:

  • Inattentive

  • Lacking focus

  • Restless and fidgety

  • Unable to sustain mental energy

  • Forgetful

  • Disorganized-unable to organize any part of his world-internal or external.


These parents often feel like they are making no progress in their parenting with this type of high maintenance child. This is often the child exhibiting some form of ADD behaviors that are exhausting for the parents to try to manage.


Structure! Structure! Structure is the key when dealing with these high maintenance children.


The Active Aggressive Child tends to be:

  • Physically impulsive

  • Easily frustrated

  • Expresses anger by hitting

  • Cannot block negative behaviors

  • Sensitive to touch or sound


This type of high-maintenance child is likely dealing with serious aggression/bullying issues that will require professional support to figure out their roots.


These parents need to build empathy and respect for others in their child. Parents who provide firm structure and limits, as well as lots of opportunities for consistent, warm encouragement and engagement can build this child’s positive qualities over time.


This child likely needs to be taught communication skills other than hitting, and needs to understand that actions have consequences, good and ill.


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