Could Your Child Have A Behaviour Problem?

Behaviour problems are frequently overlooked

Challenging behaviour is more prevalent in some children

Challenging behaviour is more prevalent in some children

It’s difficult to spot a behaviour problem in its early stages. Parents are usually extremely apprehensive when dealing with their children, but their first response to a real problem is usually a heavy dose of denial. On the other hand, childcare practitioners may not have enough time alone with a child to realise that a behaviour problem is forming.

To top it off, almost all children will exhibit symptoms of a behaviour problem, usually as part of a development stage the child is going through. Temper tantrums, shyness, moodiness, even violent behaviour; which child doesn’t act like this from time to time? Early signs of a behaviour problem could be easily dismissed, as “every kid does it”, or “the Terrible Twos”, etc.

It’s when challenging behaviours become prevalent and severe that a behaviour problem truly exists. For example:-

  • Children may occasionally strike another child, but if a child has a problem with handling anger that is not properly addressed, an aggressive behaviour problem may form. The child could begin to irrationally attack others, in other words striking out merely on impulse.
  • It is normal for children to go through a biting stage, but if this stage is not contained and discontinued, the child may develop a behavioural problem involving frequently biting others.

It is also important to note that behaviour problems can crop up from as early as around 18 months of age.

Why do behaviour problems arise?

Behaviour problems can be a result of a setting which the child is uncomfortable with. This is of course highly dependent upon the child. Too much noise, the presence of a particular person, a certain kind of smell, these are all liable to set a particular child off.

It could also be the result of the child’s emotional needs going unanswered, in which case the problem will begin to arise in all settings. Where emotional distress is involved, the child is more likely to hurt himself or even other children, and as such warrants careful observation.

How to deal with it

Of course, this makes it seem easy to solve the problem. Just remove the source of distress to the child, i.e. change the environment, or pinpoint the source of stress and remove it. Followed with proper support, the behaviour problem could be resolved.

Naturally, remedying a behaviour problem won’t usually be such a simple task. In such cases, it is important to help the child understand what is and is not acceptable behaviour. Set limits to help the child determine the types of acceptable behaviour, so the child knows when he is behaving inappropriately. It is important that children understand the reasons behind the limits. If they continue to behave inappropriately despite understanding the reasons, the child may require further intervention from professionals.

Besides setting limits, give the child choices, and time to respond to those choices as well as to think about what they did or said,. This will help them learn to control their behaviour and realise what type of behaviour is acceptable. Make sure you don’t set too many rules or choices for young children though, as you may confuse them.

And don’t forget!

Always remember to focus on the behaviour, not the child, otherwise the child may develop a poor self-image. When dealing with children, it is common for a lot of frustration to be involved whether or not a behaviour problem exists; always be patient and understanding. And never give in just to keep the child quiet, this will teach the child that reacting negatively will get him attention/his way.

It’s very important that children with behavioural problems are not approached with an attitude of “just treat them like any other child and maybe the problem will go away on its own”. Problems have to be addressed properly, so that progress can be made. Otherwise, the child’s condition will only worsen, causing unhappiness to not only those around the child, but to the child himself.

How do you deal with challenging behaviour? Do you agree wtih punishing a child? If you found this article informative, please share it with others by clicking the share button below. Otherwise, tell me what you think was missing in the comments section.

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13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mel on 10 August, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Have you watched Super Nanny? >.< winks
    Its this really good program where Super Nanny comes to a household where the parents are having problems with their kids and she watches them and then advises them what to do and where they're going wrong!


  2. Posted by Mel on 10 August, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    What’s your take on things like the naughty corner/naughty step? Its very encouraged here in London but I don’t think I’ve seen any ppl in Msia use that tactic.


    • Hi Mel,

      I like the idea of the naughty corner/step. But it has to be done properly, and communication with the child is essential. It has to be ensured that the child know’s that he’s being put there to think about and understand what he did which was unacceptable behaviour.

      A lot of times adults just do a time out or naughty corner/step because they’re frustrated, and are essentially using their bigger size to forcefully put an end to a current situation of unacceptable behaviour. So they just angrily grab the child, chuck him in a corner/step, and say in a harsh tone “You’ve been BAD! NO!”.

      That won’t teach the child much. He’ll just feel upset and confused that he’s being randomly yelled at. So what’s his next response? To seek comfort from an adult. But when happens next? “NO! BAD! YOU STAY THERE!”. Hence more unhappiness and confusion.

      It’s always always always important to develop good communication with children, even from an extremely early age (even before they learn to speak!).


  3. Posted by p a t t on 11 August, 2009 at 1:08 am

    spare the rod and spoil the child?


  4. Great post. But do find reasoning with a child, too mild an approach? Do you oppose to caning?


    • Posted by p a t t on 11 August, 2009 at 3:41 am

      Yar – i agree – i think children generally tend to test the limits of reason….so they won’t get it at an early age

      but caning is a bit dangerous because one can easily lose your temper and use too much force


      • Maybe I’ve been exposed to too many “Peace and Love” forwarded emails, but I’m quite opposed to physical punishment of children.

        But whether you’re going to enact some form of physical punishment (smacking, caning, etc) or non-physical punishment (naughty corner/step, taking away privilieges, etc), like I mentioned to Mel, communication is key.

        And that’s the problem with physical punishment, because it’s very linked to an adults own frustration. When we’re frustrated, we’re less likely to be able to calmly try and communicate with the child, so that he learns from his punishment.

        And then it’ll just be a form of forcing the child to do as you wish, when you wish, just because you can. Children will pick up all sorts of bad behaviour from this, even at a young age. They’ll learn that bad behaviour is guaranteed to get them attention (even if it’s a yelling), they’ll learn that force can get them their way, etc.


    • Thanks Mumzzy, always a joy to see your supportive comments. 🙂

      I didn’t mean to say that you should always reason with the child, i.e. to have a meeting and discussion with her every time she does something you disagree with. 🙂 But with every interaction with a child, it’s important to develop good communication.

      There will undoubtedly be times when punishment is required, but the punishment doesn’t have to be physical, and even then the punishment should come with attempts at communication.

      Children will begin to understand you from a very very early age.

      And yes I’m very opposed to caning! 🙂


  5. I always say stick with “pick your battles”
    You as the parent are allowed to state rules as you want, but giving warnings WITH a consequence are the way to go. I’m a special education therapist and I hear parents say warnings with no time frame and no consequence to be heard of. If a child doesn’t know the after effects how can they decide to make a good choice??

    Thanks for the well posted blog!


  6. […] Could Your Child Have It’s difficult to spot a behaviour problem in its early stages. Parents are usually extremely apprehensive when dealing with their children, but their first response to a … […]


  7. I love the part in your article where you say…. “It’s very important that children with behavioural problems are not approached with an attitude of “just treat them like any other child and maybe the problem will go away on its own”. Problems have to be addressed properly, so that progress can be made.” The question becomes… “HOW do we address these problems properly?”

    I’d like to suggest that when conditions surrounding your child become overwhelming, there ARE people out there who can help! They’re called Therapeutic Consultants, and they can provide a wide range of options surrounding children who are struggling.

    A lot of people can easily answer the question “Where do you go if you have something wrong with your teeth”… “A dentist”. But if you ask people where they might find help with their struggling children, the answer is less clear. A therapeutic consultant is a professional who works with parents to help remove the confusion and chaos surrounding the idea of “What should we do??!?”

    Many parents wish the could get a “Super Nanny” of their own. Well, when times get tough, a therapeutic consultant can be called in to provide the enhanced level of care needed.



    • Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      A major concern with behavioural problems though is the reluctance of some parents to accept that their child could possibly have issues.

      There won’t be any visits to the dentist if parents are adamant that ‘My child’s teeth are fine, thank you, end of discussion!’


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