Los Angeles Christian Counseling
Imagine you are a mom to three kids all under the age of five. Your days are filled with changing diapers, cleaning up messes, constant feedings, countless loads of laundry, and getting dinner on the table while it’s still hot.You are barely keeping your head above water when two of the children begin to act out. Instead of engaging in a battle with your toddlers over their disrespectful attitudes, you overlook their problematic behaviors.
The distractions of the day keep you from addressing the issues at hand. At times, a child may become overwhelmed and be unable to control his or her behavior. This is normal and to be expected.
However, there are some behaviors that should not be ignored, especially when these behaviors become habitual. The earlier you can address and eliminate child behavior problems, the less stress you will have down the road.
It’s not easy trying to intervene and implement consequences to behavior. No matter what child behavior problems you are facing in your home, there is hope. A child can be influenced to grow and change in constructive ways. Adults play a critical role in helping a child develop healthy coping skills and learn to regulate emotions.
As this article explains certain child behavior problems, keep in mind what the behavior could mean for the child in question. It’s important to ask yourself, “What could be fueling this behavior? Is there an underlying problem?”
Ten Child Behavior Problems You Shouldn’t Ignore
Here are several child behavior problems that should not be ignored.
Lying is something everybody has done at some point in their life. You might lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or you might lie to avoid getting in trouble. Kids begin to lie without someone ever teaching them to do so.
An example of this is when you find a toy in the toilet and your toddler claims he didn’t do it. Lying usually happens when a child becomes anxious or fearful. In a child’s mind, a lie will protect him or her from the feared consequences.
A child will lie to avoid the feelings of shame that come with getting into trouble. However, lying becomes a serious problem when it turns into a habitual act.
It’s not uncommon for a child to try to steal something. This can look like stealing a treat at home to stealing a candy in the store. Children may steal for the adrenaline rush that momentarily boosts their mood. It’s important for your child to know he can’t have a treat, whether in the home or a store, without asking you for permission.
3. Bullying or Violence Toward Self, Others, or Property
Children are known to play rough at times. Of course, you know to step in if your child slaps another kid. But it’s equally important to address subtle aggressive acts. Even shoving or biting a sibling should be confronted on the spot.
You need to seek immediate professional help if your child threatens to hurt themselves or others. This includes behaviors such as self-inflicted injuries (e.g., cutting, scratching) and bullying others. If your child is displaying these behaviors, it’s an indicator that the child is struggling with deep emotional problems. The best course of action is to seek professional help for your child.
4. Temper Tantrums
If you are parenting children, you know that temper tantrums come with the territory. Children are developing emotional regulation which means when they become upset, a tantrum flares up. Emotions can swing like a pendulum during the toddler years. Emotional regulation combines brain maturity with environmental stressors.
There are tools that children can learn when they start to feel overwhelmed that can prevent a meltdown. This requires a large amount of patience and consistency. If your child is having tantrums that last a long time or the child becomes violent, this is an indicator that help is necessary. If you feel like you’re out of options, enlist the help of a counselor to learn strategies that will support your child’s emotional regulation skills.
5. Argumentative or Disrespectful Attitude
An attitude problem shouldn’t be ignored or labeled as a phase. At times, toddlers imitate their older siblings, but if that behavior isn’t confronted it can turn into serious issues as the child ages.
If your child is disrespectful or defiant toward authority, this may be a sign that they are having emotional problems. The child may be defiant in order to assert control over the situation or to test his or her limits. Anxiety or depression could also be the underlying issue. A counselor can help dissect the root cause in these cases.
6. Ignoring Others
Ignoring others could be intentional or unintentional. For example, one sign of ADHD is that an individual doesn’t appear to listen. The child’s thoughts may wander to other subjects related to or unrelated to the conversation. The child becomes lost in his or her own imagination. If ADHD is the culprit for ignoring others, children can learn to cope with inattention using specific tools.
A child could have something weighing on her or him emotionally if he seems lost in his own world. Instead of verbalizing what’s happening, the child starts to withdraw. When a child habitually ignores people, it’s the perfect time to determine the reasons behind the behavior. He could be trying to show his disregard for you as an authority figure over his life by ignoring your multiple requests.
7. School Refusal
If a child refuses to go to school, most parents jump to the conclusion that their child is being defiant and finds attending school not useful. Something more serious could be occurring in your child’s life if she blatantly refuses to go to school, has meltdowns in the morning, or complains of stomach aches regularly right before school.
What are her actions telling you? Your child, for whatever reason, dreads going to school. Some children could have separation anxiety and become panicked at the thought of leaving their caregiver for a prolonged time.
Your child might have a bully at school and wants to limit interfacing with that person. If your child is self-conscious about reading aloud or doing a spelling bee, she might attach her anxiety and stress to the school.
8. Lack of Motivation
Children who appear “lazy” or apathetic may have serious issues going on below the surface. A lack of motivation is one of the symptoms of depression. Your child may not be able to articulate his or her problems. Anxiety can keep a child from moving forward or can make a child feel hopeless at school. There’s normally a logical reason for a lack of motivation in a child that can be uncovered through counseling.
9. Substance UseIt’s hard to imagine the words child and substance abuse in the same sentence. Obviously, this problem should not be ignored. It’s important to examine why a child is resorting to substances in the first place.
The child could be numbing some sort of pain, be attempting to fit in at school or be coping with certain emotions. The reason for substance abuse needs to be addressed before the issue escalates to severe consequences.
10. Early Sexualized Behavior
If your child is showing sexualized behavior, this is a sign that your child was exposed to something harmful. The child may have internalized what he or she was exposed to and is acting out. A counselor can help identify where this behavior originated from and create an appropriate plan to help the child.
What To Do About Child Behavior Problems
The behavior is a result of a root issue. Once you identify and understand the root issue, you can better create a strategy that can help solve behavior problems and promote healthy brain development.
The first step is to ask yourself, “What is causing this behavior? Is my child stressed because of school or conflict with friends? Is there something at home causing tension? Does he lack the tools to feel confident at school?” Children resort to an adaptive response when a challenging situation arises.
A child may fake an illness because of an exam that he is afraid of failing or a speech he doesn’t want to make. Anxiety from taking a test or making a speech can cause a child to want to avoid the situation.
We all have engaged in negative coping, drinking wine to take the edge off a day, eating a bowl of ice cream when sad, or spouting off negative sentences when you feel someone is being disrespectful. Children are no different and they lack the brain development adults have to navigate convoluted thoughts and feelings.
It’s understandable that children can’t cope in healthy ways and should not be expected to do so. This does not imply that parents should sweep problematic behavior under the rug, but, instead, implement the tools needed to learn and teach healthy, constructive skills.
When a parent identifies what the child is trying to accomplish through the behavior first, the parent can logically address what’s really going on. A counselor can equip you with tools to understand and support healthy brain development. The more you know, the more your child can thrive.
When To Seek Help
Naturally, if your child is threatening to harm himself or others, it’s important to find help instantly. If the problematic behavior has become habitual or having a negative impact, it’s critical to contact a counselor to evaluate your child’s behavior. Even if you, as the parent, want to learn new tools to use to better manage your child’s behavior, a counselor can help support you in this. Help is just a phone call or email away!
“Uh-oh,” Courtesy of Patrick Fore, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Problem Child”, Courtesy of Patrice Audet, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Crying Boy”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Smoke with Me”, Courtesy of Smoke & Vibe, Unsplash.com; CC0 License