Behaviour that challenges

Tips to manage your child's behaviour

Many young children have emotional outbursts, but behaviour can become challenging when it happens frequently or repetitively or it is harmful to the child, the parent or other people.

All children are different so there isn't one answer. Some of the tips below might help you find a solution that works for your child.

  • Carrying out tasks in the same way, or at the same time, every day helps children become familiar with what is expected of them.
  • Keep a diary of things that trigger or lead to bad behaviour, how your child responds or behaves and what happens next as a result. This will help to remove the triggers or see where strategies aren't working.
  • Help your child develop ways to communicate their emotions. This might include using simple language, objects, picture cues or sign.
  • Give your child plenty of opportunities to play and exercise. Research shows that physical activity relieves stress and eases frustrations.
  • State what you'd like your child to do, rather than telling them what not to do. Make yourself less threatening, for example by sitting down.
  • Initially things may get worse before they get better. It may take your child time to learn a different response. Be patient and persevere.
  • Look after yourself. Take your own needs for relaxation seriously, because this can help you stay calm and recharge.

Getting help from others

  • Tell people what strategies you're using to manage difficult behaviour so that anyone supporting your child can use the same approach.
  • Asking for help is not a sign of failure, but a way forward to support your child, increase your knowledge and feel in control.
  • Rule out any medical or dental problems. Your child may be in pain but not have any other way of telling you.
  • It can help to talk through things with someone else; this could be a friend, another parent or a professional.

Who can help?

Does your child's behaviour seriously impact on family life and his or her ability to learn?

Challenging behaviour can be the result of certain medical conditions. Difficult behaviour can sometimes be resolved using simple strategies. You should not feel embarrassed asking for help.

A doctor, health visitor or your child's school might refer you to:

  • Specialist parent classes to help you find strategies to manage your child's behaviour, run for parents who have disabled children
  • An educational psychologist or clinical psychologist for help with managing the problem
  • A paediatrician or psychiatrist for assessment and advice on how best to manage your child's behaviour

Related information

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