Challenging behaviour, or behaviour that is difficult to change or manage, is a way for your child to communicate with you, without using words. Some children cannot find the words to express what they want or how they are feeling, some children are so full of emotion that they have ‘lost’ the words.
Consider whether your child is trying to tell you one or more of the following:
- Frustration – they can’t do something or can’t tell you what they want.
- Fear – they are frightened of something.
- Strong feelings – they are unhappy or angry about something; they dislike or are unhappy about a situation.
- Anxiety – they are feeling confused, worried, stressed, unable to think clearly.
- Hyperactivity – they have excess energy and cannot seem to burn it off.
- Discomfort – they are in pain and can’t tell you.
- Attention – they are making attempts to meet their need for attention.
- Difficulty with understanding – they may not know what is expected. They may need time to work out what you mean and so don’t respond to an instruction when you expect them to. They might not know what is happening around them or retain information that you have given them.
- Difficulty processing or making sense of sensory experiences in the environment – for example, certain touch, noise and lights may stress your child.
- Seeking sensory input and/or experiences
You might consider:
- Does my child need predictability and structure? Have I got the right boundaries in place and am I being consistent in my approach to managing outbursts? Children need boundaries; they make them feel secure and loved.
- ‘Pick your battles’. This is a term frequently used in education. Consider whether you need to reproach your child for everything or just larger things. Be consistent though, but recognise that being rebuked for everything can be really difficult for you and your child
- Build two-way communication. Talking with, but also listening to your child is very important. This way you can build a strong relationship. Try to keep your language simple and straight forward and give your child time to process what you have said. Also, your tone of voice, warmth, posture, stance, positioning, eye contact and facial expression all speak volumes about your own feelings and will affect how your child responds to you.
- Jump it out or laugh a little. Exercise or a sudden tickle game can really diffuse a tricky situation.
- Recognise when your child is doing something appropriate and praise them for it. Children love praise, it makes them feel warm and secure.
You might like to check out these links for further advice and support:
Challenging behaviour – Family Lives
How to deal with challenging behaviour in children – NHS (www.nhs.uk)