Understanding why your child is acting out + Tips to handle bad behavior

Q. My child is starting to act out a lot. Is this normal? How can I best handle this bad behavior? 

Managing and dealing with difficult and inappropriate behavior is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. As parents, you always wonder why your child is acting in a specific way. One day you’re dealing with hitting, the other day you might be dealing with screaming and yelling, and the list can go on and on. Almost all children act out; however, the frequency, the severity, and the duration of the behavior are what vary from child to child.

It’s very important that parents understand that behavior is often learned, and there is always a reason as to why a specific behavior is taking place. Sometimes the reason can be obvious; however, a lot of times, there are several underlying factors (that can’t be observed directly), that can be causing bad behavior. Once you’re able to understand why your child is acting in a specific way, you’ll be able to implement the appropriate consequences. Some of the reasons for your child’s behaviors can be:

  • Wanting attention
  • Escaping a particular task
  • Wanting a tangible object (An iPad, Candy, etc.)
  • Inability to communicate and express needs and wants properly
  • An emotional reaction to something happening in the child’s environment (Parents undergoing a divorce/separation, death, illness in the family, a newborn sibling, etc.)
  • Unrecognized sensory issues (Such as feeling overly stimulated, being exposed to loud sounds, the urge to constantly move, etc.)
  • Has ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Learning Disabilities.

How you as a parent approach and deal with a particular behavior is extremely important. You have to always remember that it’s not easy for a child to change his/her behavior immediately, especially if they have been happening for a while. 

Some key factors in dealing with behaviors:

  • You need to be extremely patient, and very consistent with the approach you’re using. Don’t put a consequence if you can’t follow through. Always stand your ground.
  • Explain the “no” to your child.
  • Use positive reinforcement: what does your child like? Use that to your advantage.
  • Use verbal praises; sometimes our children just want to hear “I love you!” or “I’m super proud of you”
  • Model the appropriate behavior you expect from your child.

Generally, most frowned-upon behavior is perfectly normal and a result of your child testing out emotional responses to various situations. If the behaviors don’t correct themselves with your input over time, you may want to consider consulting your pediatrician. 

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Written by Hiba Bahsoun,
Director of Inclusion, Pulse Therapy and Learning Center

Hiba has over 11 years of experience in the field of special educational needs. She has experience working with different disabilities ranging from ADHD, Autism and Learning Disabilities, with students of different ages.