As parents, there’s nothing worse than our kids acting out and not being sure of what we should do. So identifying child behavior problems and solutions is critical both for our kids and us.
Here’s what I know as a father of 3 and someone who works with hundreds of kids:
- Throwing fits – Often this is a sign of their not being clear boundaries and rules. While kids would never tell us they want those, they actually crave them deep down inside. So have clear expectations, rules, and consequences for what happens when those aren’t met. Then, in a loving way, stick to that. Eventually, they learn this behavior will not get them what they want.
- Too much screen time – Set clear time limits and boundaries on screen time and which apps they can use. Also, have 1 day each week designated screen-free (for the parents too)
- Defiance – Give kids choices. When there’s a choice to be made you narrow it down to 2-3 and let them pick. Defiance often comes from feeling helpless or out of control
- Too aggressive – This is a sign they are afraid. So we have to figure out what is driving the underlying fear. Look at the home life and be honest. If there is fear or aggression between the parents, that is the root issue.
- Lying – Kids lie because they are afraid of the consequences. But if our kids are afraid to tell us the truth, we have to look at ourselves as that’s a failure in us. Our kids should love and respect us, but if they are actually afraid of us we’re doing it the wrong way.
But that only just scratches the surface of child behavior problems and solutions. So let’s keep reading!
Great parents aren’t perfect. We mess up. We make mistakes.
But we recognize and learn from our mistakes. We strive to be a better parent today than we were yesterday.
Those qualities, and not perfection (or the illusion of) are what makes a great parent. The same is true for our kids.
In this post, we’re diving deep into the world of kid’s behavior.
We’ll look at the most common issues parents face today. We will explore bullying, depression, defiance and more. More importantly, though, we look at real-world solutions you can put into place today, for a more harmonious house tomorrow.
So specifically, we’re looking at child behavior problems and solutions.
How do you know if your child has behavior problems?
As for whether a certain child behavioral problems are a passing phase or not; they all are.
Or can be.
Behaviors only become permanent when not addressed or when they get reinforced and rewarded.
If your child is disruptive to all within earshot when you’re in public and you take a lax approach, you are reinforcing that behavior.
That ensures they will continue to behave that way.
If they throw a temper tantrum because they want a juice box and you give them a juice box to quiet them down, guess what?
You just ensured they will do it again. They are learning that to get what they want they have to be disruptive. So part of child behavior problems and solutions is not reinforcing bad behavior.
As parents, our job is not to take the easy way out.
Our job is to set them up for success as an adult. Guess what doesn’t fly in the real world as an adult? You guessed it! Bratty entitled behavior.
If you are attentive, responsive, involved and lovingly hold your child accountable for their behavior, child behavior problems and solutions get much easier over time.
What are signs of behavioral problems?
Child behavioral problems become real problems when they affect learning at school.
They also become problems when they get the child in trouble due to what they say and do with other kids.
Sometimes child behavioral problems simply make it hard for other parents with kids to want to be around your kids.
Thus if you start to see a trend with a particular negative behavior, you have to address it early and often.
You don’t want to shame your child.
But the key to child behavior problems and solutions is not letting poor behavior go without consequences.
The world won’t be kind to an adult with behavior problems.
Thus you are actually being more kind and more loving by correcting the child behavioral problems early on when it’s easier to fix.
So how do you know when a problem is really a problem?
The easiest ways will be when you see consistent changes in grades, mood, friends and negative communication from their teachers.
Children don’t have a fully developed emotional toolkit yet the way we adults (hopefully) do. They don’t always know how to express anxiety, stress, frustrations, sadness, anger, etc.
Thus sometimes when kids feel these feelings over a longer period of time, they manifest as child behavior problems.
If you take an active role in your child’s life, child behavior problems and solutions will be readily apparent.
Need some help with child behavior problems and solutions?
These are my personal all-time favorite parenting books!
Dr. Meg Meeker, author of Strong Mothers and Strong Fathers takes a traditional, but realistic approach to parenting in today’s world.
Whereas Life Ki-do Parenting takes more of a Montessori approach.
That being said, they have ALL helped me parent better for different reasons.
If you’re looking to dive in deeper into the world of child behavior problems and solutions, I highly recommend getting one, or all of these!
How do I fix my child’s behavior problems?
I like to talk to my kids like an equal.
They know I’m the parent, so I don’t need to talk down to them or talk to them like I’m superior.
In a way, it was the same when I was the GM for my former employer Whole Foods, running large grocery stores. I was the boss, but I didn’t need to remind everyone of that or talk to them like they were less important than I was.
That doesn’t mean (in either arena) I am a pushover, but I always start conversations the way I like to be spoken to.
You have to be loving.
You can be firm, stern or strict but when you aren’t loving at the same time that creates fear. The old-school model of Authoritarian Parenting (click to read my article which breaks down why that’s such a terrible way to parent) where you raised your kids to fear just doesn’t work.
You can’t really force your kids to respect and follow you through fear. If you try, they’ll learn to lie, cheat or steal to deceive you into thinking they are doing what you want them to do.
“Because I said so” or “do as I say, not as I do” are not how you want to parent your kids.
Love, support, being nurturing and communicating effectively, along with clear consequences are the real key to child behavior problems and solutions.
It will also help you to raise excellent children.
Avoid the absolute worse parenting styles!
If you struggle with your parenting style, I recently broke down all the most common parenting styles and compared their pros and cons.
I highly recommend checking out the 3 Worst Parenting Styles (click to read on my site).
Avoid talking to your kids in the heat of anger.
I know if you had to leave work early to pick up your kid from the principal’s office you’re not a happy camper.
But to communicate effectively you need to be in a good headspace.
It might feel good in the moment to yell at your kid, but you’ll feel guilty later and you’re not helping them to learn the lesson.
Plus if every time there’s an issue you behave inappropriately, what kind of message are you sending to your child? Trust me; that is not an effective way to approach child behavior problems and solutions.
How do you discipline a child who won’t listen?
To be clear is to be kind.
Dave Ramsey actually said that phrase and while it wasn’t said regarding parenting, I think it applies perfectly to child behavioral problems.
We have to be crystal clear with our kids about:
- What we expect from them
- Things they can expect from us
- The consequences of not doing what we need them to do
Don’t assume your kids know.
My kids brush their teeth every morning before school and every evening before bed. Guess what my wife and I still often have to remind them to do?
Along those lines, don’t assume they know what is expected from them.
Let them know. SPECIFICALLY. If you don’t tell them exactly what you want, who’s fault is it if they don’t achieve it?
When possible, explain to the child the behavior you are seeing (without judgment).
Ask them to identify why that behavior might not be OK. Talk to them about what they think an appropriate consequence might be. Make an agreement that everyone feels they can stick to.
When you learn to communicate clearly, effectively and without yelling, many child behavior problems and solutions become a thing of the past.
How do you get a stubborn child to listen?
Kids have VERY LITTLE say in anything in their world. As they get older, the responsibilities grow but they still have precious little say over their life.
So, when it makes sense, let them make decisions about what happens to them.
Can you only afford one summer camp this year?
Pick the best 3 in your price range and let them decide which one to go to.
Revamping their allowance/chore chart as they enter the teen years?
Map out together what the changes to the chores and allowance amounts will be. Get their input!
If you need help specifically with a chore chart, get a free copy of my customizable chore chart right here:
The more choices, however small, you let them make, the more control they will feel over their life.
Even further, they will feel heard, respected and validated.
You have shown them that they matter. More and more as kids get older it can get harder and harder for them to feel like they matter.
Start that process now and child behavior problems and solutions just get easier and easier.
Self-image, confidence, and self-esteem are huge hurdles for many kids. If you are looking for some proven ways to help your kids, I highly recommend checking out my post on the best Confidence Building Activities (click to read my article on how to build them up the right way).
What is the worst thing parents can do to their child?
In my experience both as a parent but also as someone who works with kids and parents, lack of parental involvement drives many of the child behavioral problems.
Children want love. They crave connection and attention. They need our time. Our support. They want us to listen to them; to play with them.
Sometimes that’s exhausting; I get it.
But in situations where a nanny does more raising than a parent, you will find kids starved for parental attention.
Maybe the kid goes to aftercare while the 2 parents work their fingers to the bone and are exhausted by the time they all get home.
Perhaps you have a situation where another family member is raising of the kids.
In these cases not only is the child missing that connection with their parents, but they may also feel like they are to blame for somehow pushing the parents away. “Why didn’t they love me enough to stay?” “Maybe if I was a better child they would still be here.”
The same is true for children of divorce (of which I am one).
No matter how congenial the split, the fact remains that children don’t get to see both parents on a daily basis.
Add to that factors like moving to another city/state, absentee parents or less than amicable splits and the problems can worsen.
So putting the needs of your child first (most of the time) is one of the keys to child behavior problems and solutions.
How does divorce affect children’s behavior?
Now if you’re in a divorce situation I don’t want you to feel guilty.
That doesn’t help anyone. The past is done and all we can do is learn from it and move forward as best as possible.
I don’t, however, want you to gloss over the issue out of shame.
In my day job, I spoke to a woman the other day about her child’s bad temper and fits of rage. I asked a series of questions to get to the heart of the matter.
We discussed school and other changes. Eventually 10 minutes into the conversation she admitted to having recently divorced her husband and that the Dad had not seen his son in a year.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Finally, she got to the heart of the matter. All of the other stuff she said really was meaningless. She was either too embarassed to admit that up front or genuinely that clueless.
But the problem is there whether we pretend it is or isn’t.
This kind of situation literally pours gas onto child behavioral problems. Thus, you and your former spouse need to put aside petty differences and squabbles and focus on what’s best for the kid(s).
Sometimes that’s hard, especially if the other spouse is more interested in revenge for an assumed wrong than what’s best for the kids. That shouldn’t stop you, however, from doing what’s right even if they don’t.
If you think your marriage is in trouble or you just want to keep it in top shape, I recently researched the Top 3 Reasons for Divorce (click to read on my site) and How You Can Avoid Them. It’s well worth checking out!
Of course, some other child behavioral problems could also be attributed to a learning disability such as dyslexia. Or possibly even a food allergy or just not going to bed early enough.
Also, you may notice I haven’t once used the term disorder.
To me, while I know there are some kids who may genuinely have a disorder, I think we’re all too quick these days to slap a label on behavior and head to the pharmacy.
I think we owe it to our kids to keep searching for answers until we find them and not just reach for medication at the first sign of trouble.
While medication may be genuinely needed in some cases, I think we’re WAY over-prescribed as a society.
Around the time of the death of rock star Chris Cornell, I did a post specifically on the problem of Overmedication. If you’re not sure what I mean, that post could be well worth checking out.
There has been a massive increase in prescribing of anti-depressants to children over the last decade. https://t.co/11nBwsHR0a
— Manor Pharmacy (@ManorDrugCo) September 11, 2016
What is a disruptive behavior disorder?
Essentially there are 2 types of behaviors that fall under this header. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD).
According to CHADD, the National Resource on ADHD, “Common symptoms occurring in children with these disorders include defiance of authority figures, angry outbursts, and other antisocial behaviors such as lying and stealing. It is felt that the difference between oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder is in the severity of symptoms and that they may lie on a continuum often with a developmental progression from ODD to CD with increasing age.”
They go on to say “Approximately one-third to one-half of all children with ADHD may have coexisting oppositional defiant disorder.” and “Children with ADHD and CD are often at higher risk for contact with the police and the court system than children with ADHD alone.”
Thus if you think your child behavioral problems go beyond the scope of what I’ve discussed above, you should definitely seek out a medical professional or other experts in that area.
How do you deal with Oppositional Defiant Disorder?
The most common behaviors that children and adolescents with ODD show are:
• Hostility & aggression
The causes of these types of disorders vary, as does the consensus among professionals.
However, the American Academy of Adolescent Psychiatry seems to concur with a number of things I’ve addressed in my post. But they go on to add parents with drug or alcohol issues, abuse, neglect, and other mostly environmental factors.
Their recommended treatments include family therapy, social programs, and training for the children on how to better self-regulate themselves and their emotions.
I would also add enrolling them in a martial arts program could be a great way to bolster confidence, self-esteem and resilience.
If you want more on that subject, since my day job is helping run a large martial arts school, check out my post about how to find a great martial arts school for your child (click to read on my site).
So what are my . . .
7 Worst Child Behavior Problems and Solutions for You?
Defiance is simply your child trying to exert a little control over their lives.
Kids naturally feel like they have no say in their lives. What time they get up (at least weekdays), where they go, what they do, what they watch (or don’t watch) are all controlled for them.
Thus, as they get older, it’s natural for them to start to feel frustration over that and take a stand.
Since they are still developing emotionally, their defiance isn’t always done at the right time and place for the right reasons and thus can create conflict.
SOLUTION – When possible without driving yourself crazy, give your kids choices. We do crock pot dinners in our house a couple times a week.
My girls started to complain about me always making the same thing, so we sat down together and they each picked a recipe they liked.
Give them options you approve of (for any category of choice) and let them pick. When they feel like they have a little say in their life and don’t feel totally controlled, child behavior problems and solutions get easier.
Aggression towards you or others is a sign your child is hurt or scared. In fact, that’s true even if you’re talking about a grown man.
Fear & insecurity drives aggression. Want to curb this damaging behavior before it gets your child in trouble at school or elsewhere? You have to figure out what they are scared of.
SOLUTION – Look at your own life and home situation and be honest with yourself.
Is there divorce or separation? Perhaps you or your spouse are aggressive or abusive toward the other?
There’s no shame in admitting a mistake or recognizing a need to change a behavior. There is shame in pretending the issue isn’t there. If it’s an issue that can be remedied, focus on that and making your child feel safe.
In a divorce situation at the very least focus on trying to have an open and amicable relationship with your ex. Don’t let negative feelings towards them interfere with their access to their kids.
Why do kids lie? They lie because they are afraid of the repercussions of telling the truth.
Now if we’re talking a 15-year-old who stole a car, that’s one thing. But for the purposes of this blog, we’re hopefully finding these child behavior problems and solutions early.
If your child is lying about whether they brushed their teeth or did their homework (and note: lying is different than genuinely forgetting), we have to look at ourselves.
SOLUTION – If our kids are afraid to tell you us the truth, that’s a failure in us.
Our kids should respect us, love us and obey us, but if they are genuinely afraid of us we’re doing it wrong. You can hold your child accountable and set boundaries and consequences and still do it in a loving, but firm, way.
Do that consistently and make sure your kids don’t doubt for a second that you love them and there will be no reason to lie.
We’ve all seen those kids. The ones at restaurants or other public places who are just out of control.
They run wild, knocking into stuff and people seemingly without consequence from an oblivious parent.
If your child is acting out in a way that interferes with others you need to take a look at how you parent. It’s one thing to let them grow and develop and to “let kids be kids” but that should not come at the expense of unwilling bystanders.
SOLUTION – Kids crave structure. They need boundaries and consequences for poor choices.
More than anything they want attention for their parents. When there’s a lack of structure and guidelines (basically a lack of parenting) or the parent spends more time on their phone than with their kid, children will naturally act out. If that’s how we parent regularly, we will see this disruptive behavior regularly.
As parents, we have to parent.
We can love our kids and enjoy spending time with them, but our primary job after safety is to prepare them for the world.
We aren’t doing them any favors by setting them up to believe they can do whatever they want whenever they want with no consequence.
Depression is all too common with kids these days.
Feeling bad about one’s self on a regular basis is what feeds and creates the depression.
Almost anything can trigger this; poor grades (and your reaction to those), changing schools frequently (and thus consistently losing friends), bullying, divorce, physical or sexual abuse or parents who are addicts, are just some of the causes.
We have to take this seriously when we see signs. According to a recent CDC report, almost 30% of students they surveyed admitted to feeling sad or hopeless frequently and 17% had considered suicide.
SOLUTION – If you identify things in the above list you are contributing to the problem we have to start with our actions and choices.
If we have made mistakes (and we have!) it’s important that we be open (in an age-appropriate way) and honest with our kids.
They know we aren’t perfect so when we pretend we are we just look like hypocrites. Talk to your kids, spend time with your kids.
More importantly, if they push you away, don’t respond negatively to that or push them away.
They are testing you. They want to know if you love them enough to stay connected even when they push you away. I’m not saying that’s easy but it is necessary.
But the key to child behavior problems and solutions is staying strong even when the going gets tough.
This ties in closely with the above, but in my context, I’m talking about what to do if our kids are doing the bullying.
If your child is a bully, as I said in #2, that’s a sign they are afraid and insecure.
They are trying to mask the fear and insecurity by making themselves feel superior or dominant to another.
The trouble (aside from injuring others) is this doesn’t work. The more someone bullies and doesn’t truly feel more secure, the more they desperately repeat the cycle in the hopes of feeling whole again.
SOLUTION – If your child is being accused of bullying, we have to understand the root of their fear or insecurity.
It could be any one of a number of the issues we’ve already discussed; divorce, parental absence, addiction or neglect.
Once we understand why our child is insecure then we can both begin to fix that and work on developing other, more healthy, outlets for their feelings.
Just punishing them alone isn’t going to fix anything; they’ll just get better at not getting caught.
That has a high probability of them ending up in a correctional facility down the road and we don’t want that.
7. BEING AFRAID
Fear, as I’ve mentioned, is at the heart of a lot of these child behavior problems and solutions.
In fact, I would go so far as to say fear is the biggest issue ALL of us face every day. We often live our lives in fear rather than accepting that risk is a part of life.
People lie, cheat and steal their way through life to avoid admitting we’re just afraid. We fight with our spouse because we’re afraid to admit they are right or that we made a mistake.
We fear being left, so we leave a relationship first. Fear is our #1 enemy.
For our kids, we have to walk a fine line. We want them to be informed and aware of things like stranger danger. But we don’t want them fleeing every time a stranger looks their way.
SOLUTION – Confidence beats fear every day of the week.
To raise confident kids we have to help them learn to feel good about themselves by their own observations about how their accomplishments make them feel.
It can’t all be based on grades or you saying “good job”; those are all external factors. If their feelings of self-worth are 100% tied up in what others think and say, what happens when those voices go silent?
No; they have to feel good about their own accomplishments.
That doesn’t mean we can’t praise them or acknowledge when they did well. But instead of saying “good job”, ask them how they feel about their achievement.
If you can raise your child to feel confident from their own intrinsic motivation rather than solely external praise, fear won’t even be a factor in their lives.
When that happens, child behavior problems and solutions just might become a thing of the past.
8. MELTDOWNS & TEMPER TANTRUMS
There’s nothing worse than being in a store and having your kid just lose it.
It’s embarrassing and we feel bad for how it’s impacting all the innocent bystanders. It’s crucial in that situation to remain calm. You can be stern, but if you get angry and lose it yourself it will make everything worse.
SOLUTION – These behaviors are a cry for attention.
But it’s crucial that we not give in to them when they behave this way as we are literally programming them to throw a fit to get what they want. Every time you cave, you reinforce that. Then it becomes a regular occurrence and can be very hard to break.
First, immediately remove yourselves from the place and surroundings where the fit is happening. If that means going back to the car and going back home instead of doing whatever you were intending to do, so be it.
Stay calm and let them see you are remaining calm (not always easy). Don’t leave them alone, but also don’t give in and don’t try and shout over them. Eventually, they will wear themselves out and/or see their behavior isn’t getting the expected results.
Then clearly and simply explain why the behavior was wrong and what the consequences are for behaving that way.
9. ADDICTED TO SCREEN TIME
Unfortunately in our world today, kids have WAY too much screen time.
Overworked parents see it as a would-be nanny so they can catch a break. But the reality is it is stunting our kids’ growth and development and hampering their social skills.
Of course, too much social media can also impact our kid’s self-image and feelings of self-worth too.
SOLUTION – We have to set limits and boundaries (and honor those ourselves too)
Have designated days and times when the get screen time. Monitor which apps they get access to. Also, have 1 day out of the week that is a no screen time day for the whole family.
Check out all 13 of the Benefits of Limiting Screen Time (click to read on my site).
It can explain the why behind the limits (including scientific studies), but also lays out a clear strategy for how to implement a system.
Just click the link to read it now.
Did I cover everything you were looking for in child behavior problems and solutions?
In this post, we took a hard look at some of the worst behavior issues parents and teachers alike are seeing today.
But more importantly, we looked at solutions you can implement today for a better tomorrow. Solutions that can bring peace & sanity back to your house and your family.
Specifically, we looked at the 7 worst child behavior problems and solutions.
Any tips or ideas you have on child behavioral problems?
If you like this post, please follow my Parenting board on Pinterest for more great tips from myself and top parenting experts!