Tips for Dealing with Problem Children

It can be difficult to effectively parent children who display behavioral problems at school or at home. Continue reading to learn more about common behavioral issues and explore useful strategies to help reduce challenging behavior.

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How to Effectively Work with Problem Children

Where Do Behavioral Problems Come from?

Some children have a tendency to be disrespectful to other children or adults, to have a negative attitude or to act aggressively in social situations. In some cases, this may be due to a difficult temperament, which means that your child was born with this tendency ( If your child was fussy as a baby or likely to throw temper-tantrums as a toddler, his behavioral issues may be due to temperament. This child may naturally have trouble adjusting to new situations, including school.

Children may also act out when they become exasperated with their inability to do something that comes easily to others, particularly if the skill comes easily to other children their age. For example, children who commonly interrupt their teachers may be struggling to comprehend academic concepts more than their peers are. When children are unable to successfully communicate their frustration, they're more likely to act their frustration out through physical behavior, such as interrupting, yelling, crying, hitting or biting.

Your child may also be acting out due to a change in circumstance. If you think this might be the case, consider if anything has changed recently for your child. Changes that may be stressful include the birth of a new sibling, a death or divorce in the family, a change in physical ability or a move to a new neighborhood. Children may also experience internal stress if a parent undergoes a traumatic change. For a child without a strong ability to communicate her feelings verbally, changes in circumstance or daily routine may cause her to act her frustration out in a physical manner.

Strategies for Supporting Problem Children at Home

To help your child change her behavior, think about creating a discipline plan that you can realistically follow. Planning out what you can do when certain behaviors arise and writing these choices down in advance may strengthen your capacity to follow through. Consider your child's limitations and set realistic expectations.

As part of your discipline plan, consider using 'time-outs' to give your child time to consider her actions. You can create a time-out area in any corner of your home where your child can sit quietly without accessing typical activities she likes to do. Consider making your child's first time-out five minutes long; if this isn't long enough, add an extra few minutes. When the time-out is over, ask your child for her perspective on the situation and use descriptive phrases to share why you gave her a time-out. For example, rather than telling your child that she made you angry, opt for a phrase like 'when you threw that plate across the room and spilled spaghetti on the floor, I felt aggravated.'

It's often helpful to be consistent with the disciplinary consequences you enforce for particular actions. Children may test you to see if the rules you've laid down will be enforced, thus consistency is a key way to show them that you are clear about how you will handle particular behaviors. When you become confident in handling specific behaviors, your child is more likely to change his behavior accordingly.

Being specific with your own feelings may help your child learn that his or her feelings are also complex. Instead of verbalizing that you are angry, consider if you are annoyed, frustrated or aggravated, and try to be specific about what is bothering you. Helping your child acquire new ways to describe the qualities of her frustration can help her communicate her feelings verbally rather than showing her feelings through intense physical activity. If you find that you are too frustrated to communicate clearly with your child, consider giving yourself a 'time-out' until you feel calm enough to clearly explain what has upset you and how you feel about it.

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