Raising a Challenging Child (aka my carbon copy)

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The dream of having children came easily to me as a newlywed. I could see our kids playing happily in the yard–making pretend games and imaginative lands like my sister and I had many years before. 

From that first positive pregnancy test to the gender ultrasound that announced it was a girl, my anticipation grew. I just knew she would be like me. Quiet, sweet, a lover of words, and a dreamer. 

If you're raising a challenging child, I hear you! The joys are great, as are the struggles. Here are some tips for navigating this parenting journey. | #parenting #activekids


I was in for a big surprise. 

Maddie is many things. Her personality is far bigger than her little body. She’s strong and courageous. Friendly and outgoing. Imaginative, creative and kind.

But she is, above all, a challenging child. She challenges everything. Why, where, who, what, when. Her impulsive and demanding spirit lead to some frustrating moments. And while I at first assumed it was because we were nothing alike, I’ve come to recognize the head-butting is in part because we are too much alike. 

I stumbled across the Dressing Your Truth energy profile system by Carol Tuttle and quickly recognized my dominant energy as Type 4 – still. My secondary energy is Type 3 – forward push. Meaning, I am driven by tasks and results and there’s nothing quite like crossing things off a to-do list. 

Maddie, as far as I can recognize on the outside, is a dominant Type 3 – determined, forward push, and secondary Type 4 – still. She is almost always in motion, diving headfirst into things and always pushing forward with her body. However, she also has a side that allows her to stop and meticulously line up her toys in organized categories. 

From the moment she wakes up, she’s determined to direct the day and everyone who’s involved in it. On first reflection, it’s downright exhausting to be pushed forward in your day, and as a parent, I’ve fallen into bed beyond exhausted at 7 pm more days than I can count. 


I remember as a child always butting heads with my mom. It wasn’t until college when I began to see how similar our personalities were and how that defined so much of our relationship dynamics. 

While I was a carbon of my mom, Maddie is my carbon flipped, and the challenges are daily. With challenging children, the elements of the earth are shaken up, not to mention the elements of faith, hope, and love. 

I love her dearly, but some days I can’t bear to hear “M.O.M…” one more time. Some days I just crave 5 minutes of silence (seriously, ask me why I started getting up at 5 am). Some days the minutes and hours are so long and draining that I don’t know how I’ll make it through. 

But. There’s always a but. Her hugs are the sweetest. Her kisses melt the soul. Her “I love you, Mom” at bedtime makes every exhausted drip of sweat worth it. 

It’s hard when we have play dates with quiet and placating children who never run from their parents toward the street. It’s hard when you’re in the restaurant or store and *your* child is the one yelling at the top of their lungs “I WANNA GO HOME”.

It’s humiliating to push a stroller down the street with your child screaming and kicking violently because they don’t understand why you couldn’t stop at the park right now. 

There’s nothing that makes you feel more demoralized and humiliated than to have a sensitive child who throws a tantrum every time you tell her “not right now”–even if it’s for fruit snacks at 7 am. Yet, there is hope for us all.

Seek Support

It made all the difference in the world to find another parent with a similarly spirited child. To know that you are not the ONLY one struggling helps to change your mindset and gives a sliver of hope that you’ll make it through alive!


My top recommendation is The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle and in addition to her book, she has weekly emails, a podcast and blog with all sorts of valuable insights. The Child Whisperer is packed with examples of children in each of the four dominant energy types along with suggestions for communication challenges and so much more.

It was a breath of fresh air and like nothing I’d ever read before in child development books. I was easily able to identify Maddie’s dominant type based on the stories and examples and nearly cried from relief that truly, some of her most frustrating quirks were actually “normal” for a Type 3 child!

Prioritize “Me” Time

It is imperative that you get “me” time – early mornings, late nights, support from spouse, siblings, friends, parents, babysitter. You need a reprieve. Find your tribe. Take a breather. Start aromatherapy. Go to the gym. Find a spa. Get a massage. Have someone babysit so you can run around the block. It doesn’t matter–but find a way to breathe in relative silence.

I found a great reprieve in pulling out our dusty jogging stroller. We’ve been taking a lot of walks. To the local grocery stores. To the park. TO grandparents. To the post office. Simply around the block. I get air and exercise and she is (generally) happy to get a ride. 

on raising a challenging child

If you’re married, I highly recommend a heart-to-heart with your spouse. I read my husband a portion of The Child Whisperer and we talked about things that Maddie does and how they fit different types.

Through those discussions, we both came to the conclusion that she had a need we hadn’t been meeting adequately and that was physical interactions–rough and tumble escapades with each parent to connect on a physical level.

Does that fix everything? Of course not. But because she has different needs than us (who recharge with books, computers and alone time), it’s vital to know what makes her tick. 

On your hardest day, don’t lose heart. There’s a mom out there who feels just like you. Maybe she’s already had her hardest day, or maybe it’s around the corner yet. But we’re in this together. Our children are gems, precious, intelligent, amazing human beings who may have a slightly different way of doing things than us, and that’s okay!


The determined, challenging child... Oh Momma, I hear you! These bundles of joy are an adventure, but also wear us out. But I'm learning to navigate it, and so can you!

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