It can be hard as a parent to handle your child acting out, or behaving in ways that aren’t appropriate. Though your child’s behavior doesn’t take away from your love of them, you may find it difficult to manage. It can be hard to understand where the behavior is coming from, especially if it seems out of character.
It’s no secret that the hormonal changes that occur as a child grows up can affect their behavior, especially during puberty. They may become moody, irrational and they may want to be alone more often. Though some of this behavior is to be expected, you may be concerned if it seems to be persistent or destructive. It can be hard to understand why your child is acting in a certain way, and what you can do to help it.
Behavior is determined by a combination of factors, and understanding what can have an effect can help you understand your child on a deeper level. For additional information on behavior, check out these articles from BetterHelp: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/behavior/. Though problematic behavior can be frustrating to deal with as a parent, with a little patience and effort, you can get to the root cause.
Rule Out An Underlying Mental Health Disorder
Many children with mental health disorders begin showing symptoms during adolescence, and they may progressively increase without treatment. If your child’s behavior suddenly shifts and they begin to isolate, behave aggressively, or they seem to be having a hard time dealing with complex emotions, you may want to reach out to a mental health professional. With their help, you can find out if your child has a mental health disorder, and how you and your family can cope.
Some common mental health disorders that can affect a child or teen’s behavior include: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, autism and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Though symptoms aren’t always easy to spot right away, children and teens who have these disorders are likely to behave in ways that may not make sense to you at face value.
Children who have mental health disorders may feel confused by their diagnosis at first, which is why speaking to a family therapist can be helpful. Though a diagnosis isn’t a clear cut answer for why your child is behaving in a certain way, it can give guidance on how your child’s brain functions. The more you understand their disorder, the easier it will be for you to handle their symptoms in a productive way.
It’s important to remember that your child’s mental health disorder doesn’t make you a bad parent. Mental health disorders are common, and most are highly treatable. A child who receives a diagnosis at a younger age is more likely to learn healthy coping skills, and will have an easier time understanding how their mental health disorder affects their behavior.
This isn’t to say that mental health disorders are the root cause of all behavioral issues. Some children act out due to environmental factors, or because they have trouble understanding their emotional needs. Figuring out if a mental health disorder could be at play can help you move forward in the most productive way.
Find Ways To Communicate
Children often have a harder time communicating their feelings, as they may not yet have the vocabulary to communicate them effectively. They may need prompts, or for you to initiate conversations about their feelings in order for them to feel comfortable to open up. Some parents like to use charts with images to help their kids express their feelings, or use simplified language. It may take time for your child to express themselves in a way that helps you, but the more that they practice communicating in this way, the more instinctive it will become for them.
It’s also important to find ways to be assertive in your parenting, and make sure your child knows when they are behaving inappropriately. Some children may have a harder time understanding when their behavior crosses a line than others. Being aggressive and angry can lead to more problematic actions in the future, and also ignite a sense of fear in your child that can be unproductive. Being passive, or allowing actions to go without consequences, can give a child the impression that their behavior is okay.
Though you might feel overwhelmed, frustrated and concerned, keeping yourself calm when you communicate to your child can help foster a sense of trust. Most of the time, children in these situations are not purposefully acting maliciously. They may need additional support, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to find ways to better handle their emotions in the future. Helping your child develop a language around their mental health and wellbeing can set them up for success in the long run.
Get Support And Be Patient
As a parent in this situation, it’s okay if you don’t feel like you can handle it on your own. Reaching out for support from friends and family members is crucial for you to maintain your own mental health and wellbeing. You may also want to work with a behavioral specialist, and engage in conversations with school teachers about your child’s behavior. Feeling like you’re working with a team can help you feel more confident in handling difficult circumstances, and help prevent you feeling drained, or lashing out at your child.
Regardless if you discover that your child has an underlying mental health disorder, problematic behavior will likely not end overnight. It may take time and patience to notice these changes as they occur. By regularly encouraging positive behavior, and enforcing specific boundaries, you can give your child the best opportunity to learn how to behave appropriately.
It can be challenging to manage the behavior of your child if they are acting in problematic ways, but there are many ways for you to encourage positive change. Though it may take time, your efforts can help your child manage complex emotions more effectively.
About the Author
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-
related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health
resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with
mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.