From aggression to temper tantrums: 7 common behavioural issues in children and tips for parents to address them
Let's explore some common behavioural issues in children and tips to help parents navigate and address these challenges with confidence and understanding.
Parenting is a rewarding journey, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges, especially when it comes to addressing behavioural issues in children. From temper tantrums and defiance to sibling rivalry and attention-seeking behaviour, parents often find themselves navigating a complex landscape of emotions and behaviours. The continuous exposure to the digital world, increasing screen time, and decreased social interaction have resulted in a significant rise in behavioural problems among children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, there has been a concerning 40% increase in feelings of persistent sadness, hopelessness, and even suicidal thoughts and behaviours among young people.
Additionally, a study published in the International Journal of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine revealed that conduct problems were the most prevalent behavioural disorder, affecting 48.70% and 84.30% of children, followed by peer problems (44.60% and 48.30%), emotional problems (33.70% and 55.60%), and hyperactivity problems (26.70% and 32.30%) respectively. These findings highlight the urgent need to address these issues and provide appropriate support and interventions to promote the well-being and mental health of children. (Also read: Are your kids overdosing on digital media? Recognising signs of overuse and how parents can help )
Common behavioural issues in children and ways to address them
Dr Paula Goel, Paediatrician and Adolescent Specialist, Fayth Clinic shared with HT Lifestyle some most common behavioural issues in children and valuable tips for parents to address them.
1. Temper tantrums
Tantrums are common in young children, especially between the ages of 1 and 3 years of age. They occur when children become frustrated or overwhelmed and can include crying, screaming, kicking, and throwing things. In such a situation, remain calm and provide a safe and quiet environment at the time of temper tantrums. As a parent, you should not get agitated yourself. Distract your child with a favourite toy or activity and offer words of comfort. Establish clear rules and boundaries and use positive reinforcement for good behaviour. Disruptive behaviour includes anger, irritability, aggression, truancy, and antisocial behaviour.
Aggressive behaviour, such as hitting, biting, or pushing, can occur in children due to frustration, anger, or a lack of communication skills. You can teach your child appropriate ways to express their feelings, such as using words or gentle actions. Set boundaries and clear consequences for aggressive behaviour, such as a time-out or loss of privileges. You have to teach your child to be empathetic by explaining how their actions can hurt others and promote problem-solving skills.
3. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
ODD is a behavioural disorder characterized by persistent defiance, argumentativeness, and difficulty following rules. If you feel your child displays signs of ODD, you must consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and management plan. Strategies for managing ODD may include setting clear expectations, using consistent consequences, providing positive reinforcement for compliant behaviour, and support through therapy or counselling.
4. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Symptoms of ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorders include impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. If you feel your child may have ADHD, you need to take professional help for a comprehensive evaluation. Treatment may involve a combination of behavioural interventions, parent training, and, in some cases, medication. Creating a structured routine, breaking tasks into smaller steps, providing clear instructions, and using visual aids can be helpful in managing ADHD symptoms.
Anxiety disorders can manifest in children as excessive worry, fear, restlessness, and difficulty sleeping. Provide a calm and supportive environment for your child. Encourage open communication and validate their feelings. Help your child identify irrational thoughts. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or mindfulness exercises are helpful to deal with anxiety. In severe cases, professional counselling or therapy may be necessary. School phobia is another anxiety disorder. Behaviour and cognitive therapy and parental counselling will be required.
6. Sleep difficulties
Many children experience sleep difficulties, such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent night awakenings, or nightmares. Establish a consistent bedtime routine, create a relaxing sleep environment, and limit stimulating activities before bed. Ensure your child gets enough physical activity during the day and avoid caffeine close to bedtime. If sleep problems persist, consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying medical or psychological causes.
7. Psychosocial disorders
These may manifest as a disturbance in emotions (anxiety or depression), behaviour (aggression), physical function(psychogenic disorders), and mental performance (problems at school). This may be caused by inconsistent or neglectful parenting styles, family problems, abuse, overindulgence, separation, or injury. Children may not always display their reactions to stressful situations immediately and they can emerge later. There can be poor school performance and problems with friends. Anticipatory guidance will be helpful to parents and children. Habit disorders include thumb sucking, nail biting, air swallowing, body rocking, hair pulling, head banging, breath holding, tics
“Each child is unique and if you have concerns about your child's behaviour, it may be a good idea to consult with your pediatrician or psychologist for a comprehensive evaluation and tailored advice. Addressing behavioural issues in children requires patience, consistency, and understanding. It's essential to provide a nurturing and supportive environment while setting appropriate boundaries and expectations. Guidance from a paediatrician or child psychologist can provide valuable insights and specific strategies for your child's unique needs,” concludes Dr Paula Goel.