When a difficult child changes, is it just random?


Active Member
I was reading a post from another member in a different forum here on the board about their difficult child, how they feel nothing they have done has made a bit of difference for their difficult child. It got me thinking about my difficult child. I too did all the same things for my difficult child, dragged him to appointment with this person and that person. Counselling, psychiatrist, pediatrician, assorted types of therapists, social workers, day treatment, out of home placement in theraputic care, tough love having him live away from home etc. During all those years, knocking on doors and banging my head against the proverbial wall, my difficult child just kept plugging away. Escalating from anger to rages at home, to the school, suspensions, smoking, drinking, pot smoking, stealing, completely out of control. I had given up. I stopped any involvement in trying to help him, other than telling him that when HE got with the program, when HE was ready to do better since by then he KNEW better, THEN he was welcome back into our home. I just had to quit because it wasnt' getting difficult child anywhere at all. He simply didn't care about the effect of his actions on his own life, and definitly didn't care about the effect of his actions on the lives of those around him. For my own sake I had to make a change that made life chaos free and healthy again for me and easy child. The decision broke my heart but as tough as it was, and trust me it sucked, big time, I still have no regrets. (And not just because he is now back home, I would feel this way even if he was still out in the abyss and destroying himself)
Then one day, subtle changes in difficult child started showing up. Smiling again, laughing, controlling himself, being enjoyable. It took me quite a while to even BELIEVE the changes. Truthfully I believed that difficult child was manipulating me to come back home since he'd burned bridges other places. Then one day it hit me hard, something HAD changed in difficult child. It hit me when one day I was trying to figure out what was different with difficult child truly. It struck me like a brick, the difference was overwhelmingly that his anger was gone. Simply gone. It changed him in ways I cant' explain.
So what happens to some of our kids that just change their tune? It certainly wasn't therapy or anything I did to try to get him support and help because he NEVER participated in any of it. I'd take him, he'd stare at his feet, wouldn't speak, he'd leave the room, I'd dump my woes on therapists etc and off we'd go home for another round. If anyone asked difficult child now what changed, what got through to him, he would have no answer. None. It just happened. All those years just KNOWING in my gut that he had some diagnosis that was not being spoken, heck he was semi-diagnosis bipolar when he was about 10 but the psychiatric wouldn't label him, told us to wait until he hit puberty and then he'd diagnosis him. Well oddly, this change in difficult child happened right along with puberty. Related? Who knows????
So what does this mean? Is it all random? When we beat the path to door after door begging for intervention, consume ourselves with the idea of helping unwilling difficult child's etc, well when our difficult child's aren't gaining anything from all we are putting into place for them, does this mean that it is all just flipping random?
Having said that, looking back I would STILL bang on every door I banged on because what else could I as a parent do? Certainly not sit back and do nothing and watch my beautiful son self destruct. Yet in hindsight, nothing I did, or any agency or social worker or doctor or school program or whatever was going to change difficult child. Ultimatly he changed when he was good and ready and wanted to change. And he did it without therapy and doctors etc. (Disclaimer, I do not believe this applies to difficult child's with mental illness diagnosis which are very serious medical issues and not always within a child's control, heck an adults control)
Anyone else ever thought about this? The one thing I do regret looking back was all those gazillion times I blamed myself, wracked my brain to try to figure out what I could have, should have done differently. I realize now I am the same parent (stronger though perhaps) that I always was. Looking back I would have not kicked myself and sort of loathed myself and felt a failure.
I really wonder if with some of our difficult child's it isn't at all in the power of us, of support people, etc at all, to any degree for our difficult child's to change.



Active Member
Yes, I've thought about it a lot. My son's life (and mine) turned into a nightmare last winter. He was then diagnosis's with depression and disruptive conduct disorder. when i reached a point of calling social services because i could not take anymore and thought someone else could do a better job (i had exhausted all options i knew of), coincidentally or not, i started seeing changes in my difficult child. he also had been put on prozac. he did not become a easy child but he was much more like his old self and was back in control. so, he did not leave home and i left him on the prozac because i couldn't be sure if that had something to do with it- lord knows it wasn't any of the counselors we tried. it was fairly good for about 8 mos., then, the school didn't think it was good enough and he started feeling some other pressures. doctor increased prozac dosage; a few weeks later, difficult child goes on crime spree and gets self in big trouble and is out of control again. doctor says he could be bipolar and changes from prozac to mood stabilizer.
i think the decision to help himself, accept other help, and make an effort to do the best he can is in his control in a way. i don't think he knows constructive ways of dealing with bad feelings(perceived rejection, failure, unhappiness) and this contributes to completely giving up. in my difficult child's own words- after he tried and tried, it wasn't good enough so why try anymore. now, of course, i'm trying to help him turn that back around, which is harder because he's in SOOOOO much trouble. when depression has set in, it is very difficult to believe that all that help and effort is worth it. i, too, have felt many times that the "you are going to live somewhere else until you are ready to do what you're supposed to" is the answer, until i think about whether or not the "somewhere else" could provide a miracle and i, so far, have concluded that him living somewhere else might bring some peace to my house but would not "cure" him. if it's painful enough to get him to be motivated to turn things around so he can come back home, is it causing more long-term damage in other ways? i don't know- i'm still battling this.
one hope- the psychiatrist told me sometimes adolesccents just "grow out" of this and it goes away as mysteriously as it starts.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts

How much would you attribute this to maturing? Seriously, I'm reading your post & then klmno's response. Both of your difficult children are 12 & 13 y/o respectively.

In some cases, there is no counting for kt's change of mindset except for a hint of maturity sneaking in here & there.

Something to consider.


New Member
I believe a lot of difficult child changes have to do with maturity, but at the ages of 12 and 13, I don't know if I would think maturity had so much to do with it. My son just turned 20 and has made some great changes in his life, so at that age I can say I feel maturity had a lot to do with it. Boys especially take a lot more then the age of 12 and 13 to mature. Usually that is the age they are heading in the wrong direction, so if at that age you are seeing positive changes I would attribute it more to finding the right medications, counseling, etc. and the luck that you found something that made a difference.


Active Member
I definitly do see a growing maturity in my difficult child. I believe this plays a part for sure in the changes in him. Other than that, luck seems to feel like a good contribution.

I am shocked lately with the level of mature thought processes difficult child is showing. Looking for tools on his own to deal with frustration, especially how to cope at school. Anytime in the past anyone attempted to help teach him coping tools he'd be so closed minded and tuned out, it didn't reach him. Now, he comes to me and asks what I think he can do in certain situations to decompress, calm down, handle specific situations. This is hugely apparent in his questions for tools for coping with stuff at school. Even last night he said mom, what can I do to succeed at school and be able to go to University. I don't want to blow it. I knew he normally wouldn't be happy about my answer. I told him the truth, very calmly and gently. I told him he has to be willing to put some daily effort into his work/studying and make it a habit for learning. That he was intelligent and although I'm proud of him at this stage and he should be proud of himself, he obviously wants to do more than he is doing. So the answer is to do the work with a bit more interest. We settled on dedicating 30 minutes a night to reviewing notes, asking to talk about things he can't understand in his classes etc. This would not have gone over well with difficult child before. Heck he wouldn't have cared, let alone asked. He just said okay mom, that makes sense. Is that how you got such good grades in college. I told him yes, because i took the time to learn what I knew I'd need to learn.
I think he is definitly maturing and it is obvious. I wonder what mixed blend of factors have brought him to where he is.



Well-Known Member
My own experience, as somebody who had a mental illness is that it really depends on the cause of the bad behavior. It's not possible to learn to control, say, severe moodswings and sometimes you can't learn to control rages, and they get worse. Mine got worse as I got older until I found the right medications. My daughter, who is now 22, was a drug abuser and that was the cause of her bad behavior. We threw her out too. She changed when the drug abuse stopped, so there was an obvious reason. My child with autism is getting better every year. In his case, he has a neurological disorder that is being treated very effectively. He's an angel now, no longer frustrated and mad at the world. Then, again, I think some kids cycle. I would have a "good" year and a "bad" year. The bad year was hell on everyone, myself most of all, but also those around me. When I got depressed, I was prone to rages, tantrums, threats...I felt so horrible that I couldn't stand it. I almost wanted to rage so I felt angry rather than depressed and ready to jump off a cliff. I don't think there is one answer for everyone. I did not get better due to any sort of therapy. I feel that the only therapy that ever helped me was long after I was stable on medications, and that was Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Any other therapy just bored me to death or made me feel worse, but I went because I couldn't get medications if I didn't go. I feel it's extremely individual and depends on the cause of the bad behavior in the first place. I doubt anyone can predict the outcome of a difficult child. Also, I was very nervous for two whole years when my drug abusing daughter turned around--I'd known kids who relapsed and were suddenly very much in trouble again. Maturity does't always work. Some things, like bipolar, get worse with age if the cycling isn't stopped. Some kids have executive function issues and plain don't mature. We all know that forty year old adult who acts more like a pouty child. All we can do is cross our fingers, not predict. Very often it's a matter of finding the right diagnosis and medication. medications can change your life--they did for me.