I think we need to define typical teen versus difficult child


Well-Known Member
I have raised both a male typical teen, a female typical teen, a male difficult child, and fostered a female difficult child.

The biggest difference is that typical teen's learn from the mistakes they make. They do the same things difficult children do---but they also know when to stop. Both of my typical teen's have experimented with drugs and alcohol. Neither ever took it to extremes. The difficult children---well they live in the extreme.

Another difference is the typical teen's accept responsibilities for their bad choices, face their consequences and work to find their own solutions. They are truly sorry when they do something wrong. Again, both of my typical teen's have been some bad choices, but they also have been more than willing to face their consequences and have worked hard to overcome them. Their first concern was how their actions would affect those they love. The difficult children have always looked for others to blame. They are always concerned about self first and can't see how their actions might affect others.

Finally, my typical teen's are grateful and satisfied with their lives. They have goals and look for opportunities to move forward and are willing to work to get the things they want. The difficult children are constantly looking for you to give them something---make it easier for them to get what they want---and they are insatiable.

That's just my .25.


Active Member
The biggest difference is that typical teen's learn from the mistakes they make.

I think this is because for a lot of difficult children, they repeat their mistakes for a number of different reasons. First, they may not be aware of what they are donig wrong and so cannotchange what they do not recognise. And second, they may know that they've just done something wrong and be able to tell you what they did badly, but due to impulse control problems they will still get it wrong next time.

Impulse control issues plus lack of understanding/capability - you can get that with a number o fdisorders, including younger TTs (usually well and truly pre-teen, though, in PCs).

Another difference is the typical teen's accept responsibilities for their bad choices, face their consequences and work to find their own solutions. They are truly sorry when they do something wrong.

Again, you can get this in difficult children too, but their ability to get it right next time will still be limited by their ability to self-control.

We all cope with different patterns of behaviour from our difficult children and what one of us might find intolerable, another of us might consider normal and acceptable.

Trying to find the border between normal and dysfunctional can be really difficult.



Well-Known Member
Marg, good post. I also think, as I've said, that difficult child's tend to lack good social skills. Now that's not EVERYTHING. L. is sixteen with Aspergers and, although he's not a typical teen, he is a really good kid who makes good choices. His conscience is very strong and he has good values and character.

difficult child's tend to be very confused about who they are and what they should do (I was a difficult child). They have trouble staying focused on their goals or often, because many have trouble in school, give up and rebel because they have the attitude that life is crummy AND because almost all difficult child's are very impulsive. They know the consequences, but, at the time they are doing something they know is wrong, they set them aside in their brains and just do what they want to do. And then they, being more emotionally liable, get angry when they are called on it, and may act out worse as if it is your fault, not their fault.

Sadly, looking back, I don't really think they are 100% able to correct themselves. They need a lot of help and MUST be on board with that help or nothing will change. In my day, there was no help. I desperately wanted somebody to guide me as to how to behave so I wouldn't always be "bad."

Today there is a lot of help. We go overboard trying to help our kids. Unfortunately, many difficult child's, especially those who go on to become criminals, just plain don't work with us. If they don't take advantage of what is offered, nothing will change. difficult children tend to get stuck in behaviors that they can't or won't change (I'm not sure which).

I read that 80% of the teens DON'T cause trouble. That surprised me and made me feel hopeful for our future. But that 20%...they're the difficult children. Often they self-sabotage their own lives...and, of course, it's never their faults. in my opinion a lot of them will go on to develop personality disorders. JMO
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Lot of good insight here.

difficult child is definately not a typical teen. I can't imagine anyone having 2 or 3 TTs that acts like difficult child and everyone lives through it.....

I think this is a good thread to archive when everyone is finished responding.


Well-Known Member
Where does the parent's expectations come into play? I have seen some TTs be labeled as out of control, when really the parent's just would not accept anything less than perfect.

I think we are all safe here - LOL! We are never expecting perfection with our kids. But, many parents with PCs and 0 difficult children, do have an unrealistic expectation of their TTs.

Extreme. That is what I think about when I compare my difficult child to a typical teen. Everything was extreme with her. To the Nth degree. Over the top. Out of control. Irrational. These are the words that separate a difficult child from a typical teen.

Similar behaviors, but extreme.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
Janet, I love your definition of a teen difficult child. It certainly fits the tweedles.

There has been a great deal of thought put into your responses. I have given this so much thought.

As a typical teen, I slammed doors, but I darned well had to go downstairs & apologize or suffer the consequences. I we egocentric but learned quickly that didn't work well in a family of 8. The phone, the music my parents hated (Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin - seems so innocent today), the goofy clothes & such.

AND I learned from the dumb mistakes I made. Staying out late with a boyfriend to find my dad laying in my bed with a flashlight. Go to crawl in bed & the light flips on in my eyes. I was grounded for 3 months. Boy did I learn.

The tweedles do the same things over & over & just do not learn. Many of their actions not so typical teen - putting themselves in very dangerous situations by running, physical aggressiveness, verbal threatening, & the non stop impulsivity.

Sheila, I'd like to see this archived as well.

Wonderful Family

A lot of good comments to think about.

In my mind, typical teen's typically don't require a brick wall to hit them before they stop and change their behaviors; my difficult child must hit the brick wall a couple of times before he does. But once he changes it, it's typically the end of "that" behavior. Of course, something else will quickly take it's place . . .


Mom? What's a difficult child?
typical teen's don't require medicine to help them through the day.
typical teen's don't cry that their brain made them do it.