Child behaviour problems are very common and not necessarily a sign that a child will go on to develop more serious behavioural problems in the future. That said, it is always best to tackle any behavioural issue as early as possible so that your child can learn appropriate ways of behaving and relating to others.
Here are some common behavioural problems that our clinical psychologists are able to provide treatment for:
- Disobeying instructions
- Talking back or arguing
- Aggression towards peers or adults
- Excessive crying, whining or fussing
- Bullying or teasing
- Temper tantrums or difficulties expressing and managing anger
- Difficulties when they do not get their own way
- Sibling rivalry
- Difficulties with chores or doing things independently
- Refusing to attend school
- Low motivation or not complying with class-work or homework
- Problems complying with routines such as waking up, bed time, meal times, bathing, brushing teeth, etc
- Lying, swearing or stealing
- Difficulties getting along with other children or displaying sportsmanship
- Frequent or constant demands for parents’ attention
If your child is frequently showing a combination of these behaviours, and it is interfering with their ability to form friendships or progress at school, it could indicate a more severe problem such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
Treatment for Child Behaviour Problems
Behaviour Management Training for parents is a highly effective strategy for behavioural problems. After a thorough assessment, the psychologist and parents discuss the factors that are contributing to or maintaining their child’s behavioural problems, and then put in place specific strategies that will address these issues. Strategies include the following:
Positive parenting skills. Children are more responsive to discipline when they share a close, positive relationship with their parents. Giving children specific praise, one-on-one quality time, affection and modelling correct behaviour are all effective ways of encouring the appropriate behaviour.
Behaviour management techniques. Setting goals for appropriate behaviours, giving clear instructions, setting clear boundaries and rules, and using a variety of rewards and consequences can increase desirable behaviours and decrease undesirable behaviours.
Teaching children values and skills. Skills such as independence, problem-solving, empathy, expressing and managing feelings appropriately, taking responsibility for behaviour, and getting along with others can all be addressed during treatment.
Forming a solid team with other caregivers. Parenting is generally more enjoyable and manageable when everyone involved in parenting is communicating, cooperating, and supporting each other. If there is conflict in relationships, inconsistencies in discipline, or differences in parents’ own upbringing, these difficulties can be addressed in treatment.
Taking care of yourself. Children are generally calmer and respond better to discipline when their parents are in good health, are managing their own stress, have social support and are balancing commitments well – including taking time for themselves to recharge. When a parent is experiencing other personal difficulties that make parenting a more challenging task (e.g., depression, anxiety, anger issues) these may need to be addressed.
Boost parent’s confidence in their parenting. Parents can sometimes feel overwhelmed by their children’s behaviour and may lack confidence in their parenting skills. It is important to recognise the strenghts in your relationship with your child, the things that you are doing well, and to continue doing these things. Parents may also need help with increasing their confidence to set firm limits on their children’s behaviour and follow through with any consequences that they have warned.
Reflecting on the way we were parented. Understanding how we were parented ourselves, and how this has influenced our own parenting style, can be helpful. It is also helpful to explore the beliefs that parents have about their children, and how these beliefs affect how they manage their child’s behaviour. For example, a parent is likely to manage their child’s refusal to do homework differently if they are thinking “he’s so lazy and is deliberately pushing my buttons” as opposed to “he’s finding this work hard and is anxious about making mistakes”.
If you would like to find out more about our treatment for child behaviour problems or parenting skills, or to book an appointment with one of our child clinical psychologists who provides treatment for these issues, please email or call the clinic on 02 9438 2511.