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» Troubled or Troublemaker: Understanding Your Child’s Bad Behavior

How Did I Do It? > Parenting & Kids > Troubled or Troublemaker: Understanding Your Child’s Bad Behavior
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While parents hope that every communication they receive from school talks about how their child excels at his studies, the good news occasionally gets outweighed by reports of lying, fighting, bullying, or disrupting class. Even though these types of behaviors often amount to a normal part of a child’s development, the line between precocious and troublemaker can be precariously thin.

Trying to decide if your child is just going through a phase or has started to develop some serious behavioral problems can be a difficult question for parents to answer. To start, you need to investigate what could be behind your child’s change in behavior.

Play the Part of Detective

Begin you investigation by examining the evidence. Look carefully at your child’s actions and what motivating factors could be dictating them.  When you examine your child’s behaviors, make sure you factor in what stage of development she has reached.

Parents need to understand what dictates typical behavior for their child at each stage of development, so they can determine what is appropriate for a child at her age level. While certain behaviors may be appropriate during specific periods of the development process, those same behaviors may become inappropriate the older a child becomes.

For example, while it’s perfectly acceptable for a toddler to throw a temper-tantrum, that same behavior would be a cause of concern if exhibited by a teenager.

Parents also need to closely examine the behavior and ask themselves several questions based on their child’s actions. These questions should include:

  • How long has your child been exhibiting this behavior? Is this the first time you’ve heard of your child disrupting class, bullying, or lying, or has a pattern of this type of behavior begun to emerge?
  • Has this behavior started to progress? Have you noticed a recent improvement to your child’s behavior, or has he started to act out more at home and at school? Some kids may act out briefly when starting a new school or grade, but eventually begin to act normally once they become comfortable with their surroundings. However, a parent should start to become concerned if this behavior continues to get worse over time instead of better.
  • Where does your child act out the most? Does your child’s troubling behavior only occur at school, a friend’s house, or at home? Does you child only lie to you, for example, but remains truthful to teachers, friends, and grandparents? If your child’s behavior remains isolated to only specific situations, examine what in that environment could be the cause of your child’s behavior. If your child acts out no matter what the environment, there’s a more serious issue at work.
  • How bad has the behavior become? Has your child started getting into physical altercations with other children, has she become overly argumentative with teachers and classmates? When young children fight, the fight itself shouldn’t involve more than typical pushing and shoving. If your child has started throwing multiple punches at other children, she might have problems dealing with anger management.
  • What else is going on in your child’s life? Bad behavior typically manifests when a child has trouble dealing with stress, which could be caused by a recent move or pending divorce. Your child’s behavior problems could also be a manifestation of a deeper issue, such as having trouble sleeping or being bullied at school. Look for any underlying issue that could be the root of your child’s problems.

As part of your investigation, make sure you talk with teachers, coaches, parents of friends, scout leaders, relatives, and anybody else who frequently spends time around your child. As the final step, you need to sit down with your child and ask him about any struggles he’s been having recently and whether he realizes his behavior has become a problem.

Getting Help

Parents need to remain honest with themselves, as well as with their child. If you refuse to believe your child as anything other than perfect, you’ll look for others to blame as the cause of your child behavior. Trouble at school becomes the fault of the teacher for not understanding how to reach your son or the other child involved in an altercation must have started the fight.

Once you’ve accepted that a problem exists, prepare to seek assistance by finding the right person to help put an end to your child’s poor behavior. Start with someone you know and trust, and who knows your child, such as a school counselor, teacher, or pediatrician. If that person can’t help improve your child’s behavior, you may need to seek the help of a child psychologist.

A therapist can help provide clarity to the reasons behind your child’s behavior by providing a potential diagnosis of any underlying medical conditions, like depression or ADHD.

These problems won’t get better on their own, and the longer you wait to seek assistance, the more detrimental your child’s behavior may become. The sooner you act, the sooner your son or daughter can get the help they need to return to normal.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Jason Peacock, a Tumwater, WA dentist.


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