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How to Support a Child with Behavioral Problems

In this guide, we discuss how to help a child with behavioral problems. Here’s how to support and guide them in the right direction.

Behavioral problems are common in children.

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that as a fact! For some young people though, the problem runs a little deeper than an occasional breaking of the rules.

Indeed, in the US, 4.5 million children aged between 3 and 17 have a diagnosed behavior disorder.

These children experience extreme episodes of challenging behavior.

Supporting these guys can be just as hard. First and foremost, it can be difficult to know exactly how to help. Over time, with zero improvements, things can start to feel a little overwhelming.

Thankfully, with the right approach, it’s more than possible to offer appropriate and effective support. We wanted to offer some suggestions to help out. Interested in learning more?

Keep reading for seven tips for supporting a child with behavioral problems.

1. Consistency is Key

This piece of advice is more general in nature.

It’s absolutely central to seeing progress in a child’s behavior though.

Inconsistency is confusing for kids. It makes it more difficult to realize the rules.

For example, imagine reprimanding them for particular wrongdoing. Then, they do it again but this time you let it slide. This sends mixed messages; it’s harder for them to separate right from wrong.

Likewise, everyone else who spends time with your child should strive to uphold the same rules and regulations. If they don’t, then they’ll learn to divide and conquer! Consistency must be maintained among everyone involved.

2. Avoid Empty Threats and Promises

A key component of consistency is following through on what you say.

It’s never fun to be promised something that doesn’t happen. It makes it harder for children to understand and predict the outcomes. Cause and effect become harder to ascertain.

“If I do this, then that will happen”.

They must realize the consequences of their actions. For that to happen, you must be consistent in your delivery. Threatening a punishment that never comes is anathema to this endeavor.

Likewise, if you promise a positive outcome, be sure to stick to your word! Otherwise, what incentive do they have to behave well?

3. Persevere

Next, don’t give up.

Let’s face it, this isn’t an ideal situation.

Dealing with challenging behavior is hard, and no-one asks to be put in this predicament. Remember though, it’s hard for the child too. They’re unhappy. They’re sad and upset and they’re acting out. They lack the capacity to self-regulate.

Finding a solution never happens overnight. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. It requires patience and an acceptance that this might go on for some time.

Be sure to look for help as well.

You can’t carry the burden of responsibility alone. Seek professional support if you need it; look to friends and family too. Having people to talk to will stop you feeling entirely alone in this endeavor to support your child.

4. Physical Punishment Doesn’t Help

Things were different in the olden days.

Corporal punishment was an accepted means of disciplining. The problem is that it doesn’t work. It sends all the wrong messages to a child that needs love and care.

Think about it. The person you love the most in the world is inflicting pain upon you. It’s impossible not to come away with deep emotional and neurological scarring. Kids learn to express themselves with violence.

It is never OK to use physical punishment on children in foster care. These children have already experienced immense trauma and physical punishment only adds to that trauma.

Remember, you’re trying to improve their behavior. Constant physical punishment is not the way to do that. Be the change you want to see. You have to be a role model for your children.

Of course, that isn’t always easy. When frustration builds and you don’t know what else to do, step back from the situation if you notice yourself getting worked up. Find alternatives. Take time out. Ask someone for support.

5. Reward Good Behavior

What’s the ultimate goal?

Is it to stop bad behavior, or encourage good behavior?

Sure, these results are wrapped up in one another. Overall though, good behavior is the outcome you seek. For that to happen it’s important to recognize good behavior when you see it.

Indeed, when a child is badly behaved more often than not, ignoring their good behavior becomes likely. The good stuff can be easily overlooked.

Good behavior is more likely to be seen again when it gets associated with positive outcomes. Offer words of encouragement, hugs, and attention whenever your child does something good. If they ask politely, stop acting out, do something kind, or whatever, be sure to reward it.

6. Understand the Triggers

Bad behavior rarely comes out of nowhere.

Sure, sometimes it seems to! In reality, though, there’s almost always a trigger than can explain the issue. This is often referred to as the ‘antecedent’.

Paying attention to antecedents is important. Learning what upsets a child means you can predict an outburst or issue in advance. Of course, that allows you to prevent it from happening in the first place. Prevention, as they say, is better than the cure.

Stopping problems before they happen will save everyone involved a lot of hardship.

Here is a selection of common triggers for misbehavior.

7. Make Sure a Child Understands Good Behaviour

Have you expressly told your child how they should behave?

There’s a difference between saying “stop acting out”, and “please stop shouting”. This is about identifying and stating the target behavior. Simply, you want to be clear about what you want them to do. Your child should be clear about it as well.

Target behavior must be well-defined. This is the key difference between the two instructions we just gave. The first (to stop acting out) is poor. What does that mean exactly? It leaves room for confusion. The second is better.

Final Thoughts on Supporting a Child with Behavioral Problems

There you have it: seven tips explaining how to support a child with behavioral problems.

Millions of children around the country struggle with a diagnosed condition. Yet, in truth, bad behavior is common among every child in the world. After all, acceptable behavior is learned over time.

That fact doesn’t make it any easier for caregivers. Supporting a child who misbehaves can be a real challenge. The right approach can make a significant positive difference.

Hopefully, this post will help you in that ongoing endeavor.

Have you ever thought of fostering a child? If so, then we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today with any questions.