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Difficulty Quantified

Throughout the past month or so, I’ve been struggling with the question of whether Simon is truly difficult. My heart had pretty much settled on “no” from the get-go, as difficult is indeed in the eye—or heart—of the beholder.

My brain began to move in the same direction shortly thereafter, but doubts lingered. So Thursday night, while out running an errand for Simon’s preschool, I ran by Borders and picked up a recommended book called The Difficult Child. The name put me off from the beginning, but the Amazon reviews are strong, the professionals all recommend it, and I figured if it was good enough for T. Berry Brazelton to endorse, I could get past the unfortunate title.

Right up front is a self-assessment quiz with questions about your family and questions about your child. The family questions are:

  1. Do you find your child hard to raise?
  2. Do you find your child’s behavior hard to understand?
  3. Are you often battling the child?
  4. Do you feel inadequate or guilty as a parent?
  5. Is your marriage or family life being affected by the child?

It was a sea of nos. Matt and I decided to answer an anemic yes to question #3, but we are both convinced that we battle no more than most parents of children Simon’s age.

Next, we moved on to the questions about Simon. These were categorized according to type of difficulty and were scored on a scale of 0 (never present) to 3 (always or nearly always a problem). The categories are: high activity level, impulsivity, distractibility, high intensity, irregularity, negative persistence, low sensory threshold, initial withdrawal, poor adaptability, and negative mood.

We ended up with a questionable 1 for negative persistence, a highly (and ironically) questionable 1 for low sensory threshold (noise only, and only some noise, and only some of the time, and he’s getting better), a 1 for initial withdrawal (Matt voted a 2 for this one), and a 2 for poor adaptability. Add all this together and you get a combined score of 6 or 7 depending on which of us you ask.

So where does that put us in the grand scheme?

“May have some difficult features.”

Not “very difficult child” or even “somewhat difficult child”, but rather may have “some difficult features”. As we were looking for difficulty and Simon is at a famously difficult age, I figure our results skew to the more difficult end of the spectrum.

I’m trying to think of one person I know well whose score would not likely qualify them for “some difficult features.” I drew a blank. I have a few suspicions, but when I analyze my closest friends and family members, we all qualify for “some difficult features.” Some of us more. Some of us, echem, perhaps much more.

I think the book is going back.

2 Responses to “Difficulty Quantified”

  1. Amanda says:

    Oh, hell, Jessica–by this criteria I’M a freakin’ difficult child. Simon is NOT a difficult child. Like most children, Simon has some things he is better at than others, some things he likes more than others, and some things he prefers more than others. So do we all. It sounds like he’s a pretty typical 3 year old. You and Matt know him best–go with your gut.

  2. harriette says:

    Don’t let the teachers call him “difficult”. Once a label is applied, it sticks, no matter what the subsequent behavior. I think a better way of looking at it is that Simon may have some challenges. Challenges are made to be overcome. To overcome a challenge is to be a success. And that’s what we want our children to be….successful! Lord knows, I was shy child and look at me now :).

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