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Behavior Issues in Children: What Every Parent Should Know


Behavior Issues in Children: What Every Parent Should Know


Children, like adults, face emotional difficulties from time to time. Negative feelings such as sadness, fear, or anger can be a part of growing up. It can be expected for children to struggle and go through the process from the “terrible twos” to adolescence. While there may be changes in behavior due to growth and development, the difficulties may tend to diminish on their own.

There are, however, some factors or life-changing events that can contribute to the development of emotional and behavioral issues in children. Sometimes, it may take seeing a counselor or other behavioral health professional to help children adjust and face the changes in their lives. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that children’s behavioral and emotional disorders affect 10 to 15 percent of children globally.

As a parent, it can be painful, frightening and challenging to accept that your child’s behavior issue may require professional attention. Whether the young person is defiant, or throwing full-blown tantrums, you may internalize the misbehavior as a personal failure and may find yourself at a loss in how to respond effectively.


The Three-Prong Aspects to Any Given Behavior

To understand and provide effective responses to difficult or unruly behavior, it is important to know the proceeding factors, as well as their potential effect. The three important aspects to know include:

  • Antecedents or triggers – What factors can cause a behavior to occur? Learning and anticipating the history is an extremely helpful tool in nipping misbehavior in the bud.
  • Behaviors – The actions you are specifically trying to encourage or discourage.
  • Consequences – The results or outcomes that naturally or logically follow a behavior. Whether they are negative or positive, the consequences are likely to affect the recurrence of a behavior. The more immediate the consequence is, the more powerful it is.


Possible Causes of Children’s Behavioral Issues

Certain factors can affect your child’s behavior. These include:

  • Genetics – Some children are born more active and energetic than others. They enjoy the company of people and may resort to doing things to be in the “limelight.” This type of behavior can be addressed.
  • Life Changes – Children often find it difficult to face change in their life. This may be their parents’ separation or divorce, the birth of a new sibling, a death in the family, relocation, or the change of caregiver.
  • Consistency in Parenting Style – The way parents faced difficult behaviors in the past may influence how children react. For example, giving rewards to encourage your child to behave well at the grocery may cause them to expect the same thing on each visit.
  • Parents’ or Guardians’ Behavior – Children can sense if the adults around them are feeling negatively or having difficulties. These may induce them to misbehave as a way of confronting the issue.
  • Need for Attention – A tantrum display may be a child’s way of getting attention, whether negative or positive. For example, your child may cry and wake you up in the middle of the night to feel safe after a bad dream.
  • Physical Condition – Some specific physical condition may affect a child’s behavior, such as allergies, hearing difficulties, illnesses, etc.
  • School Difficulties – A child may exhibit negative behavior when under stress because school issues, such as their relationships, bullying, or academic challenges.


Signs and Criteria that Warrant Professional Help

As a parent, you are the first to notice if there is something amiss in your child’s emotional and behavioral health. There are recognizable signs of how children in the same age group typically respond. It is often a gradual awareness in noticing your child’s emotional or behavioral pattern is unhealthy, thus you may be compelled to look for answers.

The big question, however, is to know where to start. While there is no substitute for parental instinct and knowledge, there are certain guidelines available to help you make the important decision to seek help, including:

  • Duration – How frequent or persistent is the child’s troublesome behavior? Does it occur without any sign that the child will outgrow it and continue to the next stage of maturity?
  • Intensity – Temper tantrums are common in many children, but if they are extreme enough to frighten you, there may be child issues that require professional help. Some warning signs are feelings of despair or hopelessness, lack of interest in enjoyable activities, or conduct dangerous to themselves or others.
  • Age – Extreme deviations from age-appropriate behavior can be a cause for concern as this often leads to the conclusion that the behavior in question is unacceptable.
  • Self-Harming Tendency – Attempts at self-injury, violent behaviors, or severe isolation that impair the child from carrying on daily routines are emergency signs for parents to seek immediate help. If your child is engrossed in behaviors that excludes usual activities, they tend to self-abuse, or they do not show any form of affectionate relationships with family and peers, help should be sought from a competent counselor.


A Parent’s Dilemma

Like adults, a young child or teen can be prone to tantrums, tears, and may be inclined to show the world what is on their mind. Along with the many antics and self-expressions, it is easy to understand that there are days or times more difficult than others. Knowing what your child is wrestling with and the developmental stage they are in can help you address the frustrating behavior they may sometimes demonstrate.

It is of utmost importance to give your child the space and support needed during this challenging phase. This doesn’t mean surrendering your boundaries as to what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to behavior. It means responding with greater wisdom, understanding, clarity, and with more appropriate action. At times, however, you may feel alone trying to struggle with your child’s behavior. This may be when you need help to guide your child through difficult times and gain the right tools to improve the behavior.


Providing the Support Your Child Needs

Having a child with behavioral issues can be overwhelming, especially if their misbehavior spans across different settings, including home, school, within relationships, and in public. It is also possible to feel guilty that you may be partly responsible, and you may worry about the immediate and long-term effects of your child’s behavioral issues.

There is help available in the form of child counseling services. An independently contracted counselor with Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC can help. When you call, your child will be matched with an experienced and caring professional. The earlier your child receives the right type of treatment approach, the sooner he or she can regain self-esteem, healthier relationships, positive self-growth, and an improved quality of life. Call now to request an appointment.


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Southern Pines, NC 28387

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  • Kristin Vernon, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Children, Adolescents, Couples, Families, Anxiety, Depression, Self-Esteem Issues, Grief and Loss, Communication Skills, Divorce, Adjustment Disorders, Mood Disorders, Coping Skills, Parenting, Family Conflict, Marital Conflict, Relationship Issues
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  • Gretchen Montesanto, MA, LPC, NCC

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Teens, Individuals, Anxiety, Depression, Self-Esteem Issues, Grief and Loss, Stress, LGBT, Adjustment Disorder, Motivation, Life Transitions, Mood Disorders, Military Spouses

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Southern Pines, NC
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare and Cash
    Location: Southern Pines, NC
  • Jaime J. Fitzpatrick MS, LPCS, LCAS

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Adults, Families and Couples, Anxiety, PTSD, Trauma and Abuse Recovery, Depression, Military Life Issues, Adjustment Disorder, Relationship Issues, Marriage Counseling, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Trauma Focused Therapy, Addictions, Emotional Disturbance, Coping Skills, Impulsivity, Grief and Loss, Self-Esteem
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  • Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
    Insurance: BCBS, Medicare,  Tricare Prime/Select and Cash

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    Location: Pinehurst, NC and Southern Pines, NC
  • Kathryn Wiens, PsyD. HSP-P

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Adult, Individuals, Couples and Families.
    Insurance: BCBS, Medicare, Tricare Prime/Select, Cash, HSA and FSA accepted

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Pinehurst, NC and Southern Pines, NC
  • Tracy Goldberg, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Individuals, Adolescents, Adults, Couples, Children and Families. Attention Deficit, Oppositional Defiance, Behavioral Issues, Peer Relationships, Family Conflict, Depression, Anxiety, Parenting Anxiety, ADHD, Self-Esteem Issues, Family Conflict/Divorce, Marriage Counseling, Adjustment Disorders, Relationship Issues, Grief and Loss, Communication Skills, Behavioral Issues, Coping Skills, Mood Disorders, Parent Skill Building, Christian Counseling upon request
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, Cash, HRA and FSA accepted

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Southern Pines, NC