How to Help Your Fall-Apart Child…Pull It Together

How to Help Your Fall-Apart Child Pull It Together1

Any advice for this weary mom?

She was tired, discouraged, and a little disappointed. Wondered if she was doing it right.

My friend went on to explain. Her 12-year-old daughter had been helping with the dishes since she was about three. But as their family size grew, she now had to handwash a few extra dishes, mainly pots and pans. Not too difficult of a chore.

Except that she kept forgetting. And had to be called back to the sink to do them.

And 100% of the time she threw a crying fit about it.

My friend nearly despaired.

The last thing I ever wanted was to raise kids who are spoiled – too good or too lazy to put in some work. Is this normal, kid behavior? I mean, I can understand not being thrilled with doing chores. *I* don’t love doing chores. But to scream and cry about it?

I feel like a horrible mom. Am I expecting too much from her? I know she is capable of washing the dishes, but her attitude . . . ?

Any advice for this weary mom?

Ah yes, the Fall-Apart Child.

While this can be frustrating to just about any parent, it can be especially so to the more no-nonsense mom.

Downright exasperating to a mom like me.

Yet God saw fit to give me a Fall-Apart Child. Probably so I’d be more sympathetic to all the parents out there with fall-apart children—very sympathetic.

The short answer?

Yes, it is normal. At least for the fall-apart child.

Are you expecting too much?

No, your expectations aren’t too high,  but it might take more time and effort to help this child learn to pull it together.

So if a child is struggling with cheerfully responding, the first thing I’d do  is examine the possible reasons.

*Because the original question was in regards to a daughter, I will refer to the child as “she”, but recognize the same holds equally true for a son.

Here are some possibilities:

1. She is working too much. She’s expected to do too much around the house for a child her age. It’s a burden for her. In that case, lighten her load.

2. She is not working enough. She’s become “spoiled” so that work is cramping her style. In that case, I’d cheerfully add jobs to her list. Not only does she have to do the extra pots, she can do the next meal’s dishes all by herself.

3. She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t understand or embrace the connection between her contribution to the home and the blessing it is to you and her family. You might need to help her grasp the gift that it is to her family.

Helping the Fall Apart Child Pull It Together

Some Ways to Help Your Fall-Apart Child . . . Learn to Pull It Together:

Tie her to your apron strings. Which is to say pull her in closely by your side. Work together, play together, spend time together. I have one daughter in particular that I’ve had to do this with at age 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15. Umm…you get the idea. She just seemed to need more tying than the others.

For her, Relationship speaks more strongly than responsibility.

Take time to SLOW down. I’ve even put a halt to all extra activities and focus solely on attitudes for a period of time. Because rather than rushing off to the next event or appointment, I have the time (and patience) to get to the bottom of the attitude issue. It makes for a slow week or two, but it can sure pay off.

Get creative. Sometimes I’ll try something unusual and do things like offer to wash the dishes with her. Or even for her. Remaining calm, kind, and simply offering a gift of grace.

Communicate confidence. My daughter later confided in me that it really mattered whether I communicated if I thought she would conquer…or if I doubted if she’d ever really make it.

Confession: I had no idea that it was obvious to her how weary she made me and I certainly underestimated how strong the impact would be. She needed to know that I believed in her.

So if you have a Fall-Apart Child?

Look her in the  eyes – ignore the tears and fussing – and communicate that you are confident that she can to this and that she is stronger than she knows. Be that powerful voice in the heart and mind of your child.

And now for a word of hope to the weary mom.

Just because she’s this way at 12 (or 5 or 15 or whatever) doesn’t mean she’ll be like this forever.

I know because I’ve watched my Fall-Apart Child grow tremendously since she was 12. In fact, you’d never guess now that she fell apart. Ever. What was once her weakness has become her strength.  She can climb mountains and suffer severe trials  – without throwing a single crying fit.

And the same with your Fall-Apart Child.

She will grow and she will conquer.

She just needs your patient, steady instruction to help her find her strength.

She’ll pull it together.

With you by her side.

*Do you have a Fall-Apart Child? Or maybe you were one yourself? Please share any insights you have on what encourages you and/or your child!

In His grace,
Signature small

(This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)
100 Ways to Love by Matthew and Lisa Jacobson

Subscribe to Club31Women

*If you’d like these posts delivered directly to your inbox (and get 2 FREE eBooks), Subscribe to CLUB31WOMEN.



Owner at Club 31 Women

Lisa is the happily-ever-after wife of Matthew Jacobson and together they enjoy raising and home-educating their 8 children in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She’s also rather fond of dark chocolate, French press coffee, and deep friendships (though not necessarily in that order). She encourages women to embrace the rich life of loving relationships and the high calling of being a wife and mother. Lisa is the author of 100 Ways to Love Your Husband and her husband is the author of 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. They are also the authors of several children’s books, including a winner of the C.S. Lewis Silver Medal for Children’s Literature.



The Happily-Ever-After wife of Matthew. Mom to 8 children. Sharing my passion for husband, home, and family at Club31Women. 100 Ways to Love Your Husband.

“Marriage is a gift of love you give to your spouse everyday, with a never-ending promise that you’ll walk side-by-side.” -Darlene Schacht – 6 months ago

I’d love to have you join Club31Women!

I’d love to have you join Club31Women!

  • Shonda Knowlton

    Thank you for this article. I have a fall apart child who is 5. He is fully capable to do so much, but I dread the attitude that comes along with every single thing I ask him to do. I am going to try to some new things and new ways of relating to him and slow down. He’s the one who always wants to be going somewhere and doing something, but the more fun stuff we do, the less he is willing to do anything that requires responsibility.

  • Cindy Rinna

    This is soooooo timely! Just this morning in the school parking lot my 6yo fell apart. He has ADHD and I’m sure would qualify for some other diagnosis but the fact is, he needs extra help…with everything. All that you suggested is good and we’ve had some success with those approaches. I think you nailed it on the head when you said they need to know we believe in them. I was so convicted when you mentioned that you didn’t realize how much your daughter picked up on your emotions. Thank you for this post!!!

  • Nadine

    Love this! I was the fall apart child in my family. Thankfully I did outgrow it but, it was only because of my parents. To this day I still need to talk to my mom more than my siblings…mainly just because I love her though :) So take heart great moms..we get better! Plus we love you all the more when we grow up. :)

  • k. Friedlund

    Beautiful article! I especially love the advice to let our kids know we believe in them…I am convicted by this! Thank you.

  • Karen

    I needed this Blog post so much! I have an 11 year old fall apart child. I think that because she’s getting older, I have less and less patience for her when she falls apart because I think that she should be as mature as her friends. This post helped me to better understand what triggers her fall apart moments & also how I can better respond to help her. THANK YOU so much for your insight!

  • Jenna

    I have a 6 yr old daughter who “falls apart”. My no-nonsense type self has always tried disciplinary action to no avail. It just makes the hysterics worse.
    I remember an instance where I asked her to complete a simple task and she lost it. Something I had helped her with numerous times and it was time she needed to be responsible for herself.
    For 20 minutes, I stood apart from her and quietly spoke words of encouragement. I told her I believed in her and knew she could do it, but I would not help her. She cried, whined, wailed, and made a huge scene. It took EVERYTHING in me to stay quiet, calm, and gentle when all I wanted to do was punish her for her “rebellious attitude”. I just sat there with the kindest eyes I could muster.
    After that 20 minutes, she finally relented and assumed responsibility for this task. Afterwards, we joined in a huge hug where I continued to pour praise on her. It was a great moment.
    Unfortunately – those moments are rare.
    Thank you for this post which reminds me that this is a season and I have a responsibility to not spiritually fall apart.

  • Tiffany

    I’m a single mother and my youngest is a fall apart child. In the beginning I felt guilty for leaving my abusive ex to raise my children alone. After reading other children are similar to my son I know I’m doing the right thing. No more guilt, confidence and love reign.

  • Christine Gould

    My fall-apart son is almost 4. It’s rarely when asked to do something, though — he loves to be helpful. It happens when he thinks he’s being left out (his big brother happened to get to the table first, etc.) or he couldn’t find the –whatever– he wanted, etc. Lately I’ve taken to telling him, “I’m going to count to 4, and I want you to be all done screaming by the time I get there.” (Sort of shamelessly stole that from a Daniel Tiger episode.) Most of the time, it works — he can calm down his sobbing enough to at least listen to what I have to say. We’re just trying to gain slow self-control over the breakdowns.

  • Stephanie

    My fall apart child is 9. She cries over dinners she doesn’t like (almost all of them because she only has a handful of things she won’t eat). She drops to the floor and cries in trantrum style over not liking her clothes, not being able to wear short shorts and a tank top to church, things that she has never been able to do. She loses it when she doesn’t get her way or you say no. No amount of consistency has made a difference, she falls a part as if was the first time she heard it. It sometimes takes me to a place that is dark. The loudness of the crying. I can’t stand the crying. I don’t have time to feed into this, we have been over it before. It brings the worse out of me, I will admit. It is exasperating for both of us, the whole family. Sometimes I wonder if she will ever grow out of this. I can handle it from her 4 year old sister, it is age appropriate, but a 9 year old! Oh, I pray for her, for me. She was also my baby who would not let you put her down by herself without being asleep. She wouldn’t go in a bouncy seat, swing, nothing. I had to hold her. She is my child that didn’t do well going off to school by herself. She cried when I dropped her off at pre-school for 2 years. She couldn’t be by herself like the other kids for safety town in Kindergarten. Her older sister had to stay with her. We ended up holding her back for a 2nd year of Kindergarten to help with this. Even this summer at 9 she cried and clung to me when I dropped her off at a day camp. However, she is a social butterfly in a group of kids she knows. She takes off outside with her friends and can be gone all day until I hunt her down. So I know this is her God-given personality and I try to have patience, but it goes against, as you called it, my no nonsense personality. Sorry for the long post, but this is the first thing that I have ever seen that addresses a child like mine. Thank you.

  • Eva Wright

    My daughter is 12 and we are going through this too. It is exhausting when they turn something simple into an all day ordeal. Thank you for showing us that we are not alone.

  • Janelle Esker

    I also have/had a fall apart child…she is now a 22 year old who loves the Lord and was even a missionary in Thailand for a year. God can do wondrous things! The advise you gave it right on! Thank you for your heart for “all things family”!

  • yekcal

    Stephanie {{{HUGS}}}} I have a son that is very similar to your daughter with the exception of school and drop offs. And yes, even as an infant, it was ALL ME allthetime….soooo exhausting. No help cuz I’m still in the same boat and he’s 10 but lots of {{{{{HUGS}}}} from a fellow sufferer! :)

  • Lisa Jacobson

    Yes, sometimes the best thing to do is to step back and work on the responsibility side of things before diving into the fun things. It can be painful for both the child and the parent, but a blessing in the long run. (Even he will thank you later, by the way!)

  • yekcal

    Thank you SO much for this! I have 2 fall apart children…both boys and both are extremely active and bright. I’m definitely going to be using your tips to manage my relationship with my sons better! It is so exhausting and I frequently lose my temper. :(

  • Lisa Jacobson

    What an encouraging testimony, Janelle! It’s good to hear from others who have “been there”. :)

  • Lisa Jacobson

    You are not alone, Eva. Hang in there – it IS exhausting, but as I – and others here – can testify it is really worth the climb.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    Oh, bless your heart Stephanie! It can be a very difficult challenge for a mom to face. My advice would be to pour, pour, pour into her. Some children just need more of this than others. I’m really not sure why and part of me wants to question why one child….would require so much more of my time, attention, and prayer than any of the others, but it can just be like that! I’d also encourage you that it is very often that this “kind” of kid, when guided by a loving, steady mom, can turn into a real powerhouse for God someday. You wait and see!

  • Lisa Jacobson

    I think it can be different “triggers” for different child, but you’re right, it’s the same basic concept. I like your approach of “gaining slow self-control” because that’s how it usually goes…slowly. But then one day you wake up and realize, “Wait! He/she doesn’t scream anymore.” and you barely remember that it was once such a challenge for you both.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    I am so sorry that you’ve been through such a rough time and it is all the harder when you’re trying to do it alone. Keep up the good work, Tiffany, and may God give you an extra measure of grace and strength.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    My fall-apart child was a screamer. I never dreamed I”d have what seemed to me an “hysterical child” but boy! this girl flipped out sometimes.

    Here’s what I recently wrote about her, however, in another place:

    “One of our daughters was a screamer.

    Whenever she got hurt – she screamed. When she was afraid, she screamed. When she was upset, excited, mad – you guessed it, she screamed. We honestly wondered if we’d find her screaming on her wedding day.

    She’s also our intuitive and insightful one and we love that about her. But the girl needed to get a grip in order for anyone to be able to hear all that loveliness down inside her. Not that we wanted to make her tough; we just wanted to make her strong.

    Now she often laughs where she used to scream – a much better approach to life, don’t you think? She also boldly shares her love for Christ wherever she goes.”

    So stay strong, mom! She’s going to turn out to be a blessing to so many people!

  • Lisa Jacobson

    You know, I think you hit on something really important, Karen. So much of this has to do with our expectations. I think if we adjust our expectation that this is “normal” – at least for this child, it helps us to move forward in greater peace.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    I was convicted too! And so thankful that she was able to articulate how much she needed to hear it. I’m so much more mindful of this – even with all our kids!

  • Lisa Jacobson

    This made me smile, Nadine! My daughter is now a young adult and we still tease each other about her being “high maintenance” but we’re blessed with a very strong friendship.

  • Tiffany

    Thank you Lisa, if you remember please pray. That’s the best I will ever receive.

  • Tiffany

    Whoops, see reply above.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    You’re so welcome, Cindy! Your little man is blessed to have a mom like you. Keep up the good work!

  • Lisa Jacobson

    I think this often seems to go with the “active and bright” for some reason. I also sometimes stop and try to imagine what it must be like to have that much energy and intensity without the self-control to go with it. Must be hard for those little guys! So keep equipping them and someday their gifts will be used for God’s glory!

  • Lisa Jacobson

    I am stopping to pray right now for you both, Tiffany!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you for the words of encouragement. I think sometimes I don’t handle it well, because I am worn out from years of challenges from my oldest (now 17) who has Asperger’s. He took everything out of me when he was younger. Sometimes I feel I had nothing left to give his sisters. My 9 year old is number 4 and though the days that her brother took everything out of me are mostly gone, I am older and just tired. God has blessed me with a few challenging children (all in different ways) and also with some health challenges. I have seen how prayer has worked in several of my children. I keep praying. But it is always helpful hearing other’s stories and to know you are not alone and have the encouragement to continue walking in God’s light. He carries me often. I often don’t think I can do it anymore, yet I do.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you. Same.

  • HisCrown

    My middle child is a “fall-apart” kiddo. It seems to coincide with a lack of self-confidence. She wells up if I ask her to do extremely simple things. I think it’s because she’s afraid of messing up. I don’t know…when I ask her why she’s crying, she usually doesn’t answer. It is exasperating, but I’m trying my best to not lose my temper.

  • olderthanyou

    This is so very ,very true! I have five boys. My oldest son and youngest son both have similar personalities. They each are very intelligent and extremely strong willed boys. The way that I am capable of parenting my youngest in comparison to how I parented my oldest at the same age is like night and day.
    I do think that having many children allows me to have more perspective and less expectations for my children. I so often look at my youngest and think about how tough I was with my oldest when he was only five.
    It has helped me to gain perspective not only with my youngest , but with the oldest and all the betweens.
    I have found that while I may expect them to do 1,2 or 3-I have to be willing to remember that they may be having a hard day for whatever reason. I need to be willing to allow room for grace- some day I may need it from them as well.
    Many times all I need to do is adjust the way I relay a need to them to receive a better response from them.

  • yekcal

    Exactly! I tell them (and those frustrated around them) that they will be mighty men of GOD when they grow up. Unconventional, authoritative, independent, go getters, you name it! Now if I can just survive the growing up process :)

  • yekcal

    My youngest was this way from birth. I would lay him down on his boppy and physically restrain him while he screamed and then when he was done, he would snuggle and finally sleep. :( It was so so soooo hard but as an infant, he didn’t have any way of expressing how out of control he felt. This has continued up to now at age 5 and frankly I’m worried about public schooling because he still throws a fit at the drop of a hat. His older brother outgrew his screaming around 4 although he still throws a mean temper tantrum. I usually use your method of counting till done also :)

  • R S Salas

    We had a tough year with my 12 year old son. I had to make the tough decision to take him to the hospital out of fear he would hurt me or one of my daughters. He was treated by a great team of doctors and counselors and placed on medication for his moods, which has made a huge difference in his behavior, but he is still a fall apart child. However, now that he is better able function normally at home it is easier for me to help him through his fall apart moments. I understand that our situation may be different than most, but I want to let other “no nonsense” moms out there know that these moments are not necessarily anything you are doing wrong. Please, please, please do not let yourself think you are bad parent! There is definitely a time to slow down to focus on your child, and times you can move through life a little faster. Respond to your child with sensitivity during breakdowns (hard to do, I know!), and know that God will not give you more than you can handle.

  • Nancy Kenaston

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU Lisa :) Such affirming words of insight. Yes, my 9 year old fall-apart-er sometimes needs the relationship before the responsibility. Thanks for the reminder, as well as the extra info, such as a vote of confidence for her. This no-nonsense-mom needed to see this from a new perspective.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    Okay, Nancy, I’m sending you a big hug through the screen here. ((hug)) You’re such a good mom and I know it! We all need a reminder now and then. I sure do!

  • Heather Fryfogle Strickland

    I so needed this. My second child (4 1/2 yr old boy) is a fall apart child. At times it can be anything. It really wears me out and I don’t know what to do sometimes. I pray for him everyday though. That’s the advice I would offer.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    Oh, Heather, of course! I’ve spent hours praying for my Fall-Apart child. Why didn’t I think to mention that? Thanks for reminding us of that critical element in raising all our children – but all the more so for our more challenging ones.

  • Shanon

    Funny, I’ve looked at this message in my inbox all day but never even noticed the subject. Tonight we were at a cousins b-day and my soon to be 7 year old fell apart on the way home. I open up my email after bedtime and there it is just like a gift from God! Thank you Jesus!! :) I know the best response is always love but man am I thankful for His grace!!!

  • Angel Beattie

    I have 3 children. Ages 14 (girl), 11 (girl) and 6 (boy). My oldest cried over everything until she was about 9. We were having issues with her bio – dad until he decided to sign over his rights when she was 11. Best thing ever. She continued to get better and not fall apart even through this. Now, she has the teen age attitude, “I know it all”. Over all a great kid!
    My 11 yr old is still a fall apart girl. She cries loudly over anything. Doing dishes every other night, doing her laundry – once a week, cleaning the not so messy living room the opposite nights of the kitchen. She used to cry over homework. I would yell and get mad. Then, my wise friend said comfort her. Encourage her. Help her. Things may overwhelm her. I have to tell her, that her crying doesn’t work and she still has to do chores. She used to say, “I don’t like to do this and you don’t either but we have to because we’re a family and it’s all of our home”! Nailed it. She gets it. Doing what she doesnt want is just an inconvenience to her. She’s slowly getting better. She’s a smart gal and very sensitive to others!
    My 6 yr son. The same yet different. He doesn’t cry as bad but oh boy his fits are off the wall crazy! When he calms down and is able to communicate, he tells me why he was mad. We have to work on breathing and talking it out. His main issue is not having a schedule during Summer and his girls- that’s what he calls his sisters – not wanting to play. Most days I make them give him an hour of their time and he’s better.
    Lots of prayer and talking with older, wiser mommas like mine has helped us a lot!
    Thanks for this post. It helps. Everything that’s been said-especially prayer- helps!

  • Angel Beattie

    Same thing happened to me. My daughter fell apart earlier and God knew I needed this to know I’m not alone.

  • Janelle Esker

    Lisa, I appreciate your blog and posts so much…what a blessing you are!

  • Sherry

    Don’t really agree with the label you give kids who lack structure and
    discipline. Twelve-year-olds should not be having fits about doing chores if
    they are raised with having responsibilities. Kids need to learn from an early
    age that tantrums are unacceptable when asked to do something or else they will
    be in for a rude awakening when they step out into the real world. Let’s stop
    pampering and labeling kids who act like brats.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    Thanks for sharing your experiences too, Angel. I appreciate your approach of “crying doesn’t work and that you still have to do chores” and yet encourage her to do what she doesn’t necessarily like or enjoy. That is a skill that will help her (and the others) for the rest of her life!

  • Abbie

    As I’m reading this I can’t help but admit… I’m a fall apart adult. And I have a fall apart 8yr old daughter. I can’t stand when my daughter flips out, usually about an expectation that wasn’t met. I hate telling her things ahead of time because if it doesn’t go exactly the same way she gets really upset. The worst for me honestly is getting her dressed in the morning – I have tried laying out clothes the night before, having her pick out her own things, etc but it seems every day there is something wrong with what was put out. I can’t even express how much this angers and upsets me, why can’t she just go with the flow?? And maybe it’s because I’m a fall apart mom… Help?

  • Lisa Jacobson

    Dear Abbie, I think when we give our day over to God and hand it over to Him, then we can walk in a much greater peace – without so much falling apart. And if you’ll start turning it over to Him (pray,pray, pray), then you’ll be in an even better place to ask your daughter to do the same. When circumstances (or outfits) decide whether we’re going to be “okay” or not, then that puts us in such a helpless place. Maybe you could take your daughter out to to tea (or whatever she enjoys) one afternoon and even explain this to her in an age-appropriate way. Help her to see how these relatively little things are controlling her – rather than the other way around? I’m going to stop right now and pray for you both! ~ Blessings, Lisa

  • Lisa Jacobson

    I’m glad for this chance to clarify where I’m coming from, Sherry. It is by no means acceptable for kids to be throwing fits and perhaps I was unclear about that. As a “Just Get With the Program” kind of mom, that is why I’m thankful that I had a “fall apart child” which is just a simple name for a child who – for various reasons – is more sensitive or struggles more than the others. I found that the “just snap out of it!” approach was not only ineffective? It was damaging. Sometimes we have to look beyond the structure and find what’s in their hearts – in order for them to be better equipped to step out into the world.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    I’m so sorry that you and your son have been through so much. I’m glad you were able to find help though – and thank you for sharing your story with me and the others here.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    Yes, some children seem to need more comfort and encouragement than others. Hang in there, mom, I know it’s not easy! Keep praying and keep pouring into her. You’ll both be so glad you did!

  • MaryEllen@Imperfect Homemaker

    I’ve got a fall apart child too! And honestly it irritates me and I want to let her know how annoyed I am that she whines and cries about everything. But that only makes the problem worse (and also shows her that it’s okay to vent your emotions instead of learning to control them – exactly what I’m trying to teach her not to do!) I’m learning that gentleness and extra one-on-one time make a huge difference.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    That’s what I’ve found too, MaryEllen! Gentleness and a little extra connection time makes a definite difference.

  • April Olmstead

    I have a screamer. My darling middle child, a daughter who has the heart of a princess. (I have a 10 yr old and 6 yr old as well) She has the gift of insight of people-she can make friends and draw out shy people in a way far beyond her years. But boy, let there be anxiety, fear, anger, defensiveness, anything not going her way and SCREAM. We have been working on this since she was 3 (now 8) and diagnosed with seizures and put on heavy duty medicine for them. She has had more than her fair share of facing medical issues (all now resolved, even the seizures-no more medicine) but the behavior continues. We have tried everything and she is now in counseling for 8 mths with very little change in her behavior. Most days I dread because things she says to me are horrendous and it is SO HARD not to take the viciousness personally. We homeschool, so I don’t get a ‘break’ from her tirades. She is even now lashing out at my husband, her Daddy. This article helps give me hope and some new ideas to help her.

  • Natalie

    Thank you for this. I needed it. My 3 year old dsughter has always been this way. Cries and screams and whines about EVERYTHING. We are constantly walking on thin ice, afraid to upset her. I am usually very tough with her, trying to make her toughen up, but it does nothing, she just cries more. I’m trying to be patient with her, but it doesnt change her attitude. She’ll cry for everything, because we didnt let her open the door, because I put her peas on the wrong side of her plate, because i tried to help her button something, because she can’t have cookies for breakfast. Because we have to leave, She’s ALWAYS crying. It’s so frustrating. I just want her to be happy. :(

  • Lisa Jacobson

    I know how difficult that can be. I hope this article encourages you that 1) you’re not alone and 2) that it will get better as she grows under your care. Pray for wisdom that you’ll know when to help her “get tough” and when just to hold her. It’s sure not easy, Natalie, but God will help you to raise your special gift.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    I’m glad to hear you’re encouraged in your very difficult situation. I pray you’ll find the strength and wisdom to raise your little girl, April.

  • Melissa Speakman

    One of my six year old twins is my fall-apart child. I’ve kind of figured out that part of it is that she gets an expectation in her heard and when something doesn’t align with that her world crashes in. Two books that have helped greatly are Have a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leman and When Labels Don’t Fit by Barbara Probst. My daughter prefer some space when she truly falls apart and then often it is like it never happens (some kids are the opposite) and then she likes me to repeat when she’s upset (you are upset because you feel it’s unfair that I said….xyz”.) She also does a lot better when I let her make decisions like if I say, “How many more pages before you think you’ll get to a good stopping places (or how many minutes til xyz?” She’s always been very reasonable and then she doesn’t throw fits that way when it’s time to move on.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    Thanks for the recommendations, Melissa! I’d like to check those out.

  • Emily

    I was a fall-apart-child, but never learned to control it till I was an adult. I think I was able to “conquer” it when I got married. Because he believes in me. My parents love me and did what they thought best, i.e. public school. But I struggled to fit in, and academically, and my mother couldn’t understand either one of those problems, and my father was too busy with the farm and 4 other kids to really be able to help. He has since talked of his regrets of not being more involved when we were younger. Now I have a fall-apart-child, and your article was very helpful, since I never learned how to control it as a child. It is EXTREMELY exasperating for me as she is the second of four kids, and we have a small homestead, and it just feels like one more distraction/problem when she acts up. I know now though, when it comes to chores, it’s cause she is spoiled, and when it comes to school, it’s a lack of confidence.

    Thank you again for your tips, wisdom, and encouragement. God bless!

  • Emily

    I just read about your boy calling his older sisters “his girls” and wanting so badly to play with them, but they don’t want to. That is so the case in our house too. Our kids are 10 (girl) 7 (girl) 4 (boy) 21mos (boy). Since his younger brother can’t play that much, he turns to “his girls”, and they don’t really like it “cause he messes everything up”, but lately my oldest hasn’t wanted to play with her sister, so (7yo) has turned to her brother for a playmate, and things are better, when they choose to get along. :-) Just wanted to let you know that your post encouraged me. Thanks.

  • Angel Beattie

    Thank you! He is a little better now that school has begun. This weekend we were busy at our local fair and other kids were there to play with him. I have to remind the girls he looks up to them and if they want him to be kind they have to show him kindness. I’m sure it’ll all work out the older they get but right now sometimes it’s a struggle. I’ll be praying for you all.

  • Holli

    Thank you so much for this article. My oldest is a “fall apart” child, and it makes life incredibly difficult and frustrating. He is eight, and just started third grade yesterday. When he came home from school, he had a 2 hour long meltdown, and I almost lost it. It is SO reassuring to know that I am not alone, and that there isn’t anything “wrong” with him. It’s exhausting, and my biggest fear is that he will end up being a spoiled child that no one likes. You have given me some new things to try. Hopefully something will help him, and I won’t feel like such a horrible mother!

  • Mandy Tirado

    Oh I need this. Both my girls are fall apart kids. I’m so deeply concerned for them. My husband is in law enforcement and it’s so easy to see the path they’re on is not a good one. I fear my girls will continue to be disrespectful and out of control and will end up in jail someday. I’ve been trying EVERYTHING I could think of to reign them in now. No chores EVER get done unless I do them myself. They’re attitudes are deplorable, yet they really and truly are wonderful children! I love them and I want the best for them.

  • Megan

    I needed to hear this. I need to hear this over and over and over again. Maybe I’ll print it out, or perhaps I should just paint it directly on the walls. It’s so bizarre to have the methods that have worked so well with your other children completely fail. It’s exhausting and it has left me on the brink of despair more often than I’d care to admit. Time to take a step back, and take a step closer to her. Thank you for this.

  • Rebecca Bodily

    Mine needed more affection, which does not come naturally to me, but the more affection I showed, the more comfort and confidence he felt in his world, so there was less to fall apart about because he felt good about the rest of him.

  • Julie Filter

    Such. A. Blessing. To. Me! I have an absolute Fall-Apart Child and I can definitely testify to several of these things having been significant in helping us through the years. I have absolutely learned to allow her the extra time to grow in these struggles, as well as try to constantly reinforce that, with Yahweh’s strength, she can overcome every hardship and CAN do the task at hand successfully. She is a beautiful child, and I eagerly look forward to the woman she will become (she is now only 9). Thanks for such a great reminder for how to help our Fall-Apart children keep it together!

  • Jana

    So what if the fall apart child is not even 3 (until December) and NOTHING works with her? She has 5 other siblings and is the second to the youngest… and I feel so overwhelmed with her. She screams, kicks, wont listen to any sort of reasoning at all. She hates anything authoritative. Even if it is something as simple as “Come on honey lets eat breakfast now” to “Oh did you hurt yourself? Let momma, see”. She rebels. I have NEVER had a defiant child like this. Ever. And I know God gave me her for a good reason. Humility towards other parents perhaps with the same issues. But its so hard. We feel like we are constantly walking on eggshells with her. I get so nervous at times to take her in public, because her meltdowns are the kind you think a good swat on the hiney would take care of, but it only makes it worse. I could go on and on… I LOVE her soooooo much and I need to figure out and pray daily to God to show me how to deal with her spirit. I give her more attention than even the baby.. but in the real world we know that there are other things that has to be done day to day and she can make it so hard. :(

  • Lisa Jacobson

    Oh, bless your heart Jana! I so hear what you’re saying and, honestly, I don’t think that I’d know what to say to you…except that I had a child not too unlike your own. And now she’s such a joy! So strong and yet loves the Lord and feels so deeply! If I had just one little glimpse of what she’d become at 18 then I would have been so encouraged to keep on.

    So keep on. Pray for wisdom (and I’m sure you do!) and pray for patience (and I’m sure you have!). But have hope. Under your loving hand, it is going to slowly get better. And this is just the kind of child that God does amazing things with they get older!
    Cheering for you ~ Lisa
    (You can peek at mine here:

  • Jana

    Thank you for the encouragement….:)

  • Jana

    It is so frustrating at times… I feel the same way.. and mine isnt even 3 yet.

  • Jana

    You just described my almost 3 year old. :(

  • Kasey

    I just came across this post and I will be using some of these techniques with my fall-apart 8-year-old daughter. It has been especially hard for me because her older brother has always been super chill, so when she came along I was just flabbergasted- had no idea what to do! She is now the 2nd child of 4, with 2 little sisters. One thing that I know helps her is to have some time to herself, even when she doesn’t want time to herself. I just know that she needs it, so I make her go away from everyone for awhile. I also try to emphasize all the things I love about her as often as I can- I tell her how much I appreciate her help with her younger siblings, and I love how she is always so good at completing tasks in a responsible way, and how brave she is- she does things I never would have dreamed of having the courage to do at her age, like climbing to the top of trees or performing a dance in the school talent show.

    I’ve also gotten her involved with a counseling group at her school for children with anxiety issues. She gets so panicky about tests, and worries herself to death about homework. She wants so badly to be perfect, and I just keep reminding her that I love her no matter what!

  • libby brown

    Was one. Have one. For her, it helps to remove her for just a few minute for a reset and then go back and attempt the task again. She can freak out, recover, and start fresh. For me, just push through. I had to be made to continue straight on. Cry while I do the dishes if I need to but if I was given a break, I’d cry again when it was time to readdress the task.

  • Rachel Engelman

    My 3 year old falls into this category. And lets just say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I was a very emotional child also.
    I’m not always successful, but I try to lower my voice the louder she gets. It keeps my emotions in check (fall-apart mommy isn’t very pretty either) and the calm voice has an effect on her as well. We have a cushion in her room for reading or snuggling but also as her ‘calm-down’ space. When she is throwing a tantrum/emotional/upset, I will ask her to calm down on her cushion. Because we have been doing it since she was 18 months- 2 years it mostly works. Sometimes I need to help her go to the cushion. It is NOT a time-out or punishment but meant to help her realize her need for some space to calm her emotions so that we can get to the point of talking about what upsets her.
    And then there are the days when nothing works. When my own emotions take over. When the ugly comes out. When I have to apologize to my daughter for how I have acted. When I thank God for His grace in my life.

  • Heather Alicia Finch

    I have a “fall apart child” a 7 yr old daughter. I can relate to all of the comments I have read and I encourage all of you to keep at it. I also suggest the book The Out of Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz. My daughter was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder at age 4 and gaining an understanding of how such a child feels in their environment makes my approach to her far more effective. I see now that I was also this way growing up. And as a teacher I have had further success with many children who are (often undiagnosed) also sensitive to the world around them.

  • Sarah

    I don’t know your daughters’ ages, but I had a similar situation with a child. The best help I found was The Total Transformation program by James Lehman. Following the program has done miracles here. While the materials are written for dealing with adolescents and older, I modified it for use with a 6 year old and got great results. Blessings!

  • Moriah Avrick

    I was a “fall-apart” child. :) My parents would get so confused by me because I would disobey or do something wrong and then absolutely break down when they tried to correct or discipline me for it. Once they realized it was because I was always in my own little world (therefore not always hearing/paying attention to rules or instructions they gave me) I know that helped them figure out a course of action.
    I think most fall-apart kids are just empathetic, feeling little people who don’t know how to express their emotions in a healthy way :) Once I got older and my whole family took a Meyers-Briggs personality test, it revealed a LOT about the way we are and why we do what we do. I’m an INFP, which means I’m an introverted, intuitive, feeling perciever- or, I’m a big-picture daydreamer, extremely empathetic, and feel crushed under too much structure. INFP’s also have their personal little “moral code”, and they are likely to fall apart if they feel this gets violated.
    In 10th grade, my parents and I were in a stand-off war because I wanted to be on facebook at ten o clock at night- I had a friend who was struggling with some rough things, and I was helping and encouraging her. I was furious that, to me it seemed, my parents would rather have me have a good nights’ sleep, than have this struggling girl be helped. To me that was just wrong, and I would lose it.
    Today (I’m 20 years old, married to an amazing man), I know how to better explain when I feel that my “moral code” has been violated and to understand that other people might not see (or feel) it the way I do. :)

  • Shelley

    Keep up with the counseling but if it doesn’t get better you may need a different counselor, it could be that they are not equipped to deal with this issue and you’ll need someone who is better at it. At the same time counseling isn’t a quick fix, a lot of issues can take a few years and loads of work but the good news is it should be quicker with children!

  • Laurel Isaak

    My oldest daughter never was disobedient when asked to do something “better”, but she always gave me a quizzical look like, “Mom, what on earth are you talking about?” One time I sent her to her room and gave her the first step and an hour later I went to check the progress and she was still in the same spot completely lost! Over the years I helped her and taught her specifically how to accomplish certain tasks to still have her lost! She would get in trouble at school for things like forgetting to take a pencil to a special class. I also noticed she was growing more and more melancholy. I suggested to her teachers that she was ADD. They dismissed it because she is very bright and very well behaved. I ignored them and took her to our pediatrician and had her do the testing. Sure enough, off the chart! We chose not to do medicine because she was getting excellent grades and just focused on working on her administrative skills instead. She is now a freshman in high school and is in all AP classes with high A’s. I no longer “help” and she is no longer lost. There are some great books available on helping a children who get overwhelmed with administrative tasks. Be sure before assuming they are just have a fit that they don’t need some help that is a little more specific and their behavior isn’t due to being totally overwhelmed due to something they can’t help.

  • Kelly

    This is such a great post! I have a fall apart child who drops to the floor in a fit at a simple request like “please go potty.” On more occasions than I would like to admit, she has reduced me to tears. Thank you for this post.

    Blessings to you,
    Kelly Marie

  • Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

    As parents, it is also helpful to remember that our job is to nurture our children to be the best that they can, but that God gave us the children He did for a reason. Perhaps we have something to learn from these children? Very thoughtful post. Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind. I remember this truth when I worry for the future of my children.

  • Annie Morgan

    What steps did you take to go from the screaming to where she is today? I have 4 wonderful children and my 3rd is a screamer. Can you link me to anything that may help in the journey toward more appropriate ways for my little one to communicate? Thank you, Annie

  • Emily Neidigh

    I was sorta hoping with ways to help the fall apart child pull themselves together in the moment. Mine is only 4 and I’m very no nonsense. It’s very hard for me when my 1yo is more capable than the 4yo who doesn’t have any interest in doing anything that might be hard. So, if you think about writing another article about helping in the moments that they are actually falling apart, that would also be useful.

  • Danika Cooley

    This is wonderful, grace-filled advice. Thank you!

  • April{*}

    Thank you for this article. I have not been understanding my fall apart child. It really helped me see what frustration was doing to me and to her.

  • becky

    I just happened upon this on Pinterest and have to let you know I agree. You have written Wonderful! article and absolutely right on, with help for the fall apart child and parent! I do like your term “your fall apart child”. It is a perfect description without getting into anxiety, depression and ADHD traits. I learned to do the same things with apron strings. It is easier to see looking back, I would say I was a fall apart child, not only about a chore, but about changes, new things and transitions. I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me and therefore others who cried and had a hard time etc. I was blessed to have a child to challenge me and teach me as I taught her. Now as she is an absolutely superb mom, she still teaches me with her strength. I see my fall apart grandchildren will have wonderful help in learning. Thank you!

  • becky

    Actually one other thing that helped my daughter’s weaknesses be turned into strengths and still does, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a little program we used to help her learn what to do with her frustrations instead of falling apart or screaming. The program maybe was more for me, it’s called Total Transformation and goes along with a scripture, that if you do God’s will you will know if its true. Total Transformation is about good behavior, and helps parents, at least me, know how to talk and help a screaming child without spoiling or hurting them.

  • Roxy

    You hit the nail on the head when you said “Look her in the eyes – ignore the tears and fussing – and communicate that you are confident that she can to this and that she is stronger than she knows. Be that powerful voice in the heart and mind of your child.”

    I was the fall apart child and this is exactly what I craved. Now I teach a Sunday School class and I have a fall apart child in there. When she begins to cry over miner things I don’t react with irritation or sympathy because this is not what she needs she needs for me to say “come on you got this” with such conviction and strength that she believes me. When I react this way she is always quick to dry up the tears and choose joy.

  • annette from A Net in Time

    Clear instruction, working together, saying i know you can do this, do you mind finishing this up for me, and compliments/acknowledgement of a job well done works with my lad. He’s coming along nicely.

  • Tia

    I just had to reply to this because this is so powerful! My 9 year old daughter is going through a tough tough time, she has always needed more attention then the rest but has just recently started to fall apart over alot of things to the point they are almost rage like episodes. However in the past couple of months after we continue to go over and over and over with her trying to help her get it together this is what has hit home the most. She needs me to be her voice she needs me to tell her she can do it – she’s only 9 and she’s not there yet she is still learning how to be strong and some children need to hear it more then others. I get scared that she is never going to out grow it – but this post has given me such peace – so thankyou Roxy and Lisa!

  • Nicole

    I was a fall apart child. My brother was my senior by 8 years and he seemed good at everything. None of my accomplishments were impressive next to his, and lacking that vote of confidence was highly damaging to me. I’d just like to say to all the frustrated, weary mom, that patience does pay off and most of the time, yes, we know that we wear you out. It makes us feel incredibly guilty. Sometimes there are deeper causes to our fragility, and I pray you don’t forget that sometimes a fall apart child does desperately need your help in some way. If my mother could have done this for me while I was still young and impressionable, I feel like so much could have been different! (Not that I blame her now or hold against her our circumstances, which were not necessarily ideal sometimes.) I just wanted to be the voice for what these children may also be feeling and speak from experience. Have faith in them.

  • Lisa Jacobson

    Thank you for this good word, Nicole! I think my fall-apart daughter (who is now grown up) and wonderful would echo your thoughts here. Patience and a kind and confident love go a long way….

  • Jessica Williams

    What will i do to thank Doctor Atete the great spell caster for the help he rendered to me? how do i appreciate him for helping me get my lover back after 9 years of breakup? this is a testimony i must share because Doctor Atete is a God on earth. My heart is filled with Joy because Meyer the father of my three children is back. He left me 9 years ago for Jessica and said he does not love me any more because we had a fight, though i did all i could to get him back but my effort seems abortive just 4 days ago a friend of mine told me about Doctor Atete who helped her to solve all relationship problems so i decided to contact him also via email. Today i want to let the world know that Doctor Atete’s spell is active, he is a man of his word and can be trusted 100% because as i speak now Meyer the father of my three children came back to me yesterday on his knees begging me to forgive and accept him back. Do you need help of any kind then Contact Doctor Atete today via Email: or website: or Whats-app: +2348068784784 or call him: +2348068784784 or +2347056505954

  • Kelly Johnson Bohn

    What if I have more than one? Does that say something about me? Thank you for this article. I will keep these tips in a 3×5 card so they are handy. Along with prayer & my gracious husband, I will feel more confident in the “growth opportunities” ahead.

  • Susan

    So encouraging to hear that they could grow out of this….To keep going on and to help them so they do not become discouraged. So many wonderful bible verses come to my heart when I read this. Its just like how Jesus works with us.

  • Camilla

    My youngest (age 7) has “fall-apart” tendencies. I so appreciate this post because it is both positive and encouraging. I, too, have found that attaching her to my apron strings, though most challenging for me, the most effective because it’s really what she is needs most from me. The only other thing I would add is that for us it helps to step away privately together to take a moment to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us BOTH, admitting that sometimes we can’t do it in our own strength, we need the Spirit’s strength to control our emotions.

  • Godfrey Omoifoh

    This is a great testimony i must share. I never believed in spells or magic not untill i met Dr. Solution ( ). My life is back!!! After 2 years of Broken marriage, my wife left me with two kids. I felt like my life was about to end, i almost committed suicide, i was emotionally down for a very long time. Thanks to a spell caster called Dr. Solution who i met online. On one faithful day, I was browsing through the internet, I came across a lot of testimonies about this particular spell caster. Some people testified that he brought their Ex lover back,some testified that he restored their womb, cured cancer, and other sickness, some testified that he can cast a spell to stop divorce and so on. I also come across one particular testimony, it was about a woman called Sonia,she testified about how he brought back her Ex lover in less than 2 days, and at the end of her testimony she dropped Dr. Solution’s personal email ( ) . After reading all these testimonies, I decided to give it a try. I contacted him via his email and explained my problem to him. In just 48hours, my wife came back to me. We solved our issues, and we are even happier than before, Dr. Solution is really a gifted man and i will not stop publishing him because he is a wonderful man. If you have a problem and you are looking for a real Solution and Genuine Spell Caster to solve all your Problems for you, Contact Dr. Solution via email: . He Will be the Answer to your Problems. With His powers He can turn your dreams into reality.

    Contact him Now:

    1. Bring your boyfriend back
    2. Bring your husband back
    3. Bring your wife back
    4. Bring your girlfriend back
    5. Win lottery
    6. Complete cure for HIV/AIDS and any kind of sickness
    7. Get back your scammed money and lots more.
    8. Your business problems
    9. Kick an addiction
    10. Get pregnant
    11. Barrenness/Sterility
    12. And lot more..

    Contact him now via:
    Mobile: +2347088671568

  • Sarah Craven

    Thanks for the great reminder and encouragemt. My 11 year old is a fall apart child. After about the “millionth” fit of crying about everything one morning from getting dressed, to brushing teeth, to getting in the car…, I came home and sat with Jesus. And prayed for insight into this girl. I ended my time writing her this letter – so cathartic and focusing for me. Sometimes we focus on what the aren’t doing, and forget to look at all they are. I like – that your apron strings together.

  • Aimee Salazar

    After reading this blog, I think I may have 2 fall apart children. I have 6yr old twin boys. Both are generally happy and loving, however, they don’t seem to have a care in the world about the going ons around them. If they are merely watching tv and I ask them to pick up their toys and place in a bin, they start to cry that it’s too hard and suddenly they are too tired. I’ve just given up making them do anything because I can’t handle the emotion it sucks from me. I have two older sons who try a bit to help me out, but even seeing their older sibs do chores, the twins still refuse. I fell apart tonight tucking them in because I just couldn’t understand how I had failed as a good mother, raising spoiled, entitled children. They are scared of everything (won’t try to ride a bike) and have even been rude to other fam members. This is not the way I have taught them though….help. Any advice would be enough to massage my soul for the time being. Thank you for your blog!