Bad Behavior or Something Else?

I am struggling with a child whose behavior is becoming more disruptive and disturbing the older she gets. I am starting to think there is mental illness involved but I feel vilified before I even head down that path.  Some friends have told me this is a sin issue, while others have suggested a lack of discipline.  I don’t know where to turn.

I would imagine these behaviors are exacerbated since you’re together 24/7 right now. I’m so sorry. From these few sentences, I’m not sure exactly what you are experiencing, but I can hazard to guess. Angry outbursts? Picking fights? Refusing to do anything you ask? Disrespectful? Name calling? Belittling? Destructive rampages? Acts like everything is fine after shredding you?  Lack of empathy? Torments siblings? Depression? Anxiety? Unable to sleep? Sleeps all the time?

Be assured this is a judgement free zone.  Here you will find a warm hug and the promise of prayers and support during this painful season.

And a few thoughts, thanks to some help from an extended family member facing similar challenges.

Mental illness is just that – an illness.  While some illnesses (like the common cold) will eventually get better on their own, mental illness will not. Ignoring it and hoping it will go away is like living in a fantasy world. I know it’s hard, but it’s important to move forward in the pursuit of answers.

In order to know how to proceed, you need to know what you’re dealing with. First thing, find a psychologist, and make an appointment for a psych eval.  Armed with these results, find a counselor who specializes in your child’s area of greatest need. Your counselor will develop a treatment protocol based on the psych eval, and will direct you to a psychiatrist for determination and management of medication.  Medication, as in any illness, may be a part of the treatment plan. Please don’t deny your child medication because you feel stigmatized by it. Should your doctor recommend it, allow your child the best opportunity to learn to live successfully with her condition.

Family counseling may be in order.  Depending on the level of trauma your other children have endured, they may need to work through their feelings with a counselor.  You may need to see a therapist to learn coping skills for the daily stress of living with a child who is regularly out of control.  As you well know, the whole family is impacted by the one.

It is easy to become isolated.  My relative tells me that their friends started slowly disappearing when their child started having issues.  No one knew how to act around them, nor did they want their kids to be exposed to the difficult one, who was at best unpredictable. Do what you can to avoid isolation by finding a support group with other parents who are in the same boat.  Don’t do this alone!  There are others out there who are experiencing the same thing, and may have found an approach to a particular behavior that works for them.  As you lean on each other and hold each other up, you find strength to press on.

I promise to pray for you. May God give you wisdom as you move ahead.


Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. –Romans 12:12 (GNT)

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