It’s common to notice behavior changes as children and teens grow. Pushing boundaries is normal and healthy for children and teens. It might be considered a behavior problem when the actions of a child or teen harms him or herself or another person, or if the behavior is severe and disrupts their schoolwork and learning.
Sometimes behavior might stem from a traumatic experience the child has had or from a mental or behavioral health challenge he/she is facing. If left unaddressed, behavior problems can have long-term effects on the child’s development, social competence, health and wellbeing.
Understanding Behaviors and Triggers
Behavior is often a child’s way of trying to communicate. Through behaviors, a child is telling you something about themselves and their situation. Here are some common emotions and behaviors and what they may mean:
- Anger/Frustration: The child is unable or unsure how to do something or can’t find the words to express what he or she needs or wants from you.
- Seeking Attention: The child wants interaction. He or she wants you to play, talk or read with him or her and make him or her feel emotionally supported.
- Disobedience: As children grow, they experiment with independence and discover the boundaries of rules, parents and themselves. Children may be exploring how much freedom or control they have in a given situation.
While many of these behaviors are normal parts of child development, a child who has experienced trauma may have a different, more serious source for his or her behaviors. Childhood trauma includes things like abuse, neglect, a mentally ill or incarcerated parent, parental drug use, having parents who divorced or witnessing domestic violence. If your child has experienced one or more of these things, he or she would benefit from professional treatment to help process and heal from these traumatic experiences.
To learn more about how to assess your child’s behavior, please download this free guide titled Quick Assessment: Does My Child or Teen Need Professional Help? It will provide you with 10 helpful questions that can help you learn more about your child’s challenging behaviors and whether he/she might benefit from counseling or therapy.