It’s normal for children to be defiant or impulsive from time to time and throw the occasional temper tantrum. Children and adolescents experience many challenges as they grow and their brains develop, so it is normal for them to push limits. However, for some kids, these can develop into serious behavioural problems, and they may exhibit patterns of impulsive, aggressive or defiant behaviour. While these problems can be quite challenging to parents, they can also affect the child’s social development and functioning at school.
There are many factors that may contribute to behavioural problems in children. Difficult pregnancies or births can contribute, as well as the child’s temperament from an early age. They may be difficult to manage or aggressive from an early age and this can put them at risk for problems later on. Their family life is also linked, as dysfunction can create an ongoing source of stress for the child. Poverty, domestic violence, poor parenting or substance use are all risk factors. Children with learning difficulties or intellectual difficulties may also be prone, as they may struggle to understand and take part in lessons.
There are ways to detect the emergence of behavioural problems, and many signs that your child might be struggling.
Your child may:
It can be hard to tell if these denote a serious behavioural problem. You may notice differences in your child’s behaviour to others their age. You may wish to speak to your child’s classroom teacher to see how they are managing and assess their behaviour in the school environment.
While you may feel frustrated and overwhelmed, there are many ways to support your child and address these behavioural concerns. Start by remembering the good things about your child, identifying and keeping track of the things that they do well. It can be helpful to talk to your child about these good traits and actions to reinforce them by rewarding cooperation. It can be easy to ignore the good actions and only respond to their bad or naughty behaviour, however this tells the child that acting out is the only way to get attention. Your child may also benefit from setting rules around the house like talking about problems instead of fighting. In order for these rules to be effective, you must stick to them though and provide consistency. Make sure the consequences for breaking these rules are fair and appropriate.
As a parent, this can be overwhelming, and you may benefit from reaching out to others. Parenting groups may give you the chance to connect with other parents that are experiencing similar problems with their child. Talking to the school staff about your child’s difficulties can help by bringing awareness and transferring rules to the school environment. Staff may be able to use positive reinforcement for good behaviour to encourage being helpful and cooperating.
Accessing help for your child can give your child a better chance for the future, and assist with their development. If you believe your child may be displaying concerning behaviours, contacting a specialist can get them the help that they need and offer you support.