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Difficult character

«The child of Difficult character» (Andre Bergé) is the title of a work already classic in psychopedagogy and a concern of many parents when their first son turns 3 years old.

The three-year crisis, also called the personality crisis, urges the child to become aware of himself in front of the world with a word «no.» It’s an opposition crisis.  And the more precocious the child, the smarter, the more he’ll suffer this crisis.

It is normal for a child not to be always easy. Psychologists agree that personalities are forged in opposition.  And are necessary for growth. As long as they don’t chain one after another. As long as they are not excessive in intensity. Without continuity solution. Without rest for parents and educators.

But is it normal? Parents ask with despair.

It is necessary and advisable to remember that normality is a very wide area in primary child psychology. But above all remember, that this child who is in full development of his first infantile stage, is acquiring the concept of himself, the key to his safety, the lever in his personal motivation, in the reflection that his parents and educators emit from him.

If you look at him constantly like a rare and difficult bug that torments you day and night, he will end up becoming that rare and difficult bug. As it is decisive the look of parents and educators in the concept that each one has of ourselves.  That is why in education it is more important to praise than to tell off.

Remember that classic experiment of doing an IQ test in a class with six year olds and totally random, without having any relation to the results of the test, explain very seriously to your teachers that A, B and H are the most intelligent children in the class, which are outstanding.  Repeat that same test two years later. Note how those randomly marked children get better scores than the average.  This experiment serves to check the weight of teachers’ eyes on their students.

What degree of relationship would the experiment get if it was done with parents? Much greater still!

Although it was only for this reason, it would be advisable to be a little more optimistic, and especially not to label the child since he is three years old.  «This is the naughty,» «The Wicked,» «The moved.»

And even less in comparison with his younger brother: «This the Good», «the sympathetic», «the Funny».

A behavior should not be dramatized in a three-year-old child.

First because there is no bad intention in a child of that age, because there is no «full knowledge», then it is out of place to say: «You’re bad.»

Secondly, the child will grow and in most cases that «no» of constant opposition will pass. A bit of patience. And a lot of hope.

And thirdly, it would be advisable to apply that critical spirit that we use to judge our child’s behavior to ourselves, and ask, am I doing well as an educator?  Since it is not easy to be a parent and the child is born without a manual or instructions for use, ask the experts.  Although some people say that council is rarely well received, because the one who needs it is the least that wants it.

There are parents who always think they are right, the bad intention would come from the ill will of their children but can a three years-old child have bad intentions?  Where does that bad intention come from?  It is not a question of pointing out a culprit, in education it is simply a matter of improving, to try to do «the best possible», as Julian Marias said, being a person is being able to be more.

The difficult child is the one who has difficulties, and deserves our support, especially our love, even if his behavior also makes us as parents the hardest life and we also need support and understanding.  Unfortunately the mutual difficulties do nothing but reinforce each other.

To get out of this nightmare you only have to ask the elders, this is to parents, understanding: they understand that they are, we are, inductors, and three-year-olds induced.

We are therefore the parents who have to change, at least in perspective, to modify the process.  The reactions of the parents have a decisive influence, they are determinant in the way in which children react in the processes of a crisis.  And even more so in this first opposition.

Much affection, much praise when it works well. Moments of silence when the behavior is wrong. Patience and perseverance.

It is a responsibility and a merit for parents to know how to take advantage of crises to grow together as a family.


  • * El niño de caráter difícil. André Berge. Ed. Morata. Madrid 1972.

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