By Vanessa Gonzalez
All parents hope their children behave and listen to instructions. Not only listening to them but also their teachers and following rules outside of the home. However, parents are typically caught off guard when their child beings to “act out.” When a child exhibits frequent tantrums or blatant defiance, we need to understand the reason for what’s causing it.
Young children may not be able to verbalize their issues or even know what the cause is themselves. However, behavior issues are signs of something bigger, and the child is struggling with feelings they don’t have the skills to manage yet.
- Anxiety – When children are out in situations that trigger anxiety, they may act out to avoid a specific situation.
- ADHD – Behavior is typically a common symptom of ADHD. Typically, a child will lash out if the activity is too difficult for them or it’s too difficult to focus on the task to avoid doing the activity.
- Learning Disability – Rather than asking for help when frustrated or having difficulty, they may throw the assignment away or “act out.”
- Sensory Problems – Kids who have difficulty processing sensory information may exhibit confusing behavior when overstimulated.
- Depression – Sometimes, children may have disruptive mood dysregulation disorder – DMDD. Typically, these children view things negatively and struggle with chronic irritability that causes them to lash out.
- Autism – Children with autism are dependent on routine, and if something changes, they may act out or experience a “meltdown” Children on the spectrum may lack the communication skills to express their needs.
- Trauma – Children who experience trauma also have difficulty expressing and managing strong emotions and can be quick to react to situations when triggered.
Other Diagnosis causing Behavioral Issues
A licensed therapist can evaluate a child who shows signs of behavioral issues and determine if there are any undiagnosed disorders. Two behavioral disorders are:
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) – Children with ODD typically act out in school, at home, or with other peers. They typically show signs before the age of eight, and typical symptoms include:
- Arguing with adults/authority figures
- Refusing to comply with rules
- Blaming others and lacking accountability
- Easily annoyed by others
- Antagonizes others
- Often angry or losing temper.
Conduct Disorder (CD) – children with this disorder have difficulty respecting others, expressing empathy, and following rules. They may also be aggressive toward others or animals and are described as “bad.” Some symptoms include:
- Physical fights with others
- Harming others with intent
- Little signs of remorse for behavior
- Destroying property
- Harming others or animals.
Treatment and Managing Symptoms
It is essential to begin treatment early, and the goal is to manage symptoms to prevent issues from carrying into adulthood. Behavioral therapy can be beneficial for those with various behavioral problems. It is also helpful for parents to learn more techniques to help their child and strengthen the parent-child relationship.
In addition, certain lifestyle behaviors may reduce symptomology. Specifically: Engaging in regular activity, a diet centered on a well-rounded variety of food groups, and at least 7 hours of sleep each night.