How to Love a Prickly Child


Trying to show love to a difficult child is a lot like hugging a cactus. You know he wants love, he feels upset and wants to be loved, and yet…

Not all children are receptive to hugs and kisses, or even a pat on the shoulder. When my second son is agitated, a light touch is met with a dramatic pulling away. Begging and pleading are to no avail. A slow walk toward him leads to his hiding himself under furniture and, if I keep trying, exaggerated threats and outbursts.

“Maybe I should jump out the window since you don’t want to see me anymore!”

“You are always picking on me and you never punish my brothers!”

“No, you don’t! You don’t love me!”

Granted, my son has a handful of autistic tendencies and these are some of them. I have four boys, though, and they all have periods of similar distress. So, what’s a mom to do?

Besides crying inside and eating chocolate, I’ve developed a few ways of talking to agitated children:

  1. Patience. In fact:
  2. Patience.
  3. Patience.
  4. Patience.
  5. Kind tone, even when my child is being a straight-up jerk and starts trying personal insults.
  6. Distraction: humor, favorite things, outside topics of interest, or a play date with a friend.
  7. Coping strategies we’ve learned in therapy; like breathing techniques, refocusing, calm spots, CBT, etc.
  8. Food! When I keep hitting a brick wall, I’ll subtly get a favorite snack and ensure he eats it.
  9. Rest. No one’s too old for a nap.
  10. Change of location. Drives are nice. So are walks.

For me, I need to remind myself throughout our conversations that my children have no filter. When they feel deeply, they speak deeply. I hurt when I hear them tell me mean things. Some days I get overwhelmed and spend a few hours at night hiding in the closet. Hopefully I am not the only parent who feels that way.

But in the end, I am their mother. I am the person who will teach and mold and influence these sociopaths into more reasonable members of society.

And I really do love them. They need to know that in any way I can tell them.


Photo Credit:
Stephanie Harvey


©2019 Chelsea Owens

16 thoughts on “How to Love a Prickly Child

  1. “But in the end, I am their mother. I am the person who will teach and mold and influence these sociopaths into more reasonable members of society.” YES. THIS. AAAAAALL OF THE THIS. Exactly how I feel, I struggle, but I hope on for those years to come. xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can completely relate. Trying to find patience – and keep patient during some of the outbursts is hard. For me, it is hardest with my daughter – for some reason when she is slinging her insults I feel like “she knows better” which can be unfair of me. Your list is great, but I really like to hear what it takes from you because it is true – they have no filter and they are just letting it all out to the safest person they know. And sometimes it is hard, but we just got to keep that in mind. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Robyn. Your reasons with your daughter are how I feel with my son.

      And, I was inspired to write it from reading your posts that day. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice! I love that we share our stories. It helps to find a community of people in similar boats to support and understand each other. So glad you wrote this 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I sometimes get this way when my batteries are almost totally drained and I’m running on E. When I’m well rested and my normal logical self, I can say the patience means world the world me from my spouse. It’s unconditional love that we fumbling humans need. Not want; need.

    Liked by 1 person

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