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Disruptive behaviour in children

Disruptive behaviour in children

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All parents will have to deal with naughty and difficult behaviour from their children; from refusing to do as they are told to full on temper tantrums. Disruptive behaviour is a normal occurrence during early development, particularly as children struggle to express themselves and control their emotions and environment. We all get angry at times and this is nothing to worry about, but sometimes that anger can lead to bigger problems when children lash out at their peers or adults.

Disruptive behaviour triggers

Occasionally, disruptive or aggressive behaviour can be a result of a condition such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In any case, managing difficult or defiant children is one of the biggest challenges parents face. There are a number of causes of aggression in children, including frustration, attention seeking and being territorial and a number of triggers can cause a child to become frustrated, such as being told to stop playing or to do something they don’t want to do.

Attention-seeking can occur if a child thinks a younger sibling is getting more attention than they are and they may become aggressive in their quest to grab your attention, even for a negative response. Territorial behaviours can occur when children don’t want to share with others. Assuming it’s not ADHD or another similar condition, youngsters should grow out of aggressive and disruptive behaviours as their vocabulary and understanding develops. However there are techniques that parents can adopt to help encourage positive behaviours, while minimising the more undesirable actions. Setting boundaries and demonstrating what constitutes acceptable behaviour early on can make all the difference.

Little girl being naughty


Your reaction

Being aware of how you react is key to this. If you respond to problems by shouting or hitting out, your children will think this is the appropriate reaction to stress. Children need plenty of attention and affection. Lots of special time, especially for children with younger siblings, can prevent them from feeling rejected and isolated which can lead to negative attention seeking. Monitor when your child is becoming aggressive to see if there are any particular triggers for their disruptive behaviour. Many children get angry or frustrated when they are told it’s time to stop doing something they enjoy or when they have to do something they don’t want to do. In this situation it can help to give a warning five or ten minutes before, to let them know what will soon be happening. By telling them that it will soon be time to stop playing they will have the chance to get used to the idea first.

Have a range of toys and stimulus to hand so you can divert their attention if you see them beginning to lose patience or get angry. It’s also beneficial to talk to your child about acceptable and unacceptable behaviours from a young age, as well as encouraging them to discuss their problems and how they feel. The more you talk to your child, the easier they will find it to establish their vocabulary and express their frustrations in words rather than actions.

One of the most tried and tested behavioural management techniques is the praising and positive reinforcement of good behaviour. Make sure you praise your child if they have behaved well or had a good day.

If aggressive behaviour persists despite the adoption of some of these strategies then it may be worth considering seeking further advice. A health visitor or GP is a good place to start.




About Linda Ram

About Linda Ram

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