It is developmentally appropriate for children to demonstrate occasional misbehavior such as temper tantrums and defiance.
However, when these behaviors increase in frequency and intensity, parents need to connect with a counselor to discuss potential areas of concern. Warning signs that may indicate a more serious behavioral problem include: angry or irritable mood, easily annoyed, frequent temper tantrums, getting in trouble at school, physical aggression or vindictiveness towards others, arguing with adults or authority figures, refusal to comply with rules, social problems, self-destructive behavior, blaming others, and verbal aggression. When a child presents with these symptoms for at least six months, a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Behavior may be warranted after an evaluation with a psychologist. However, children act out for a multitude of reasons. Behavioral problems may be an external manifestation of underlying anxiety, depression, trauma, learning issues, or other mental illness. Therefore, it is essential for a thorough assessment with a therapist to gain a comprehensive understanding of current challenges.
Parents that seek support from a therapist for their child’s misbehaviors often share feelings of disheartenment, dejection, and frustration in their ongoing attempts to discipline a child that is often quite out of control, thus causing significant stress on the entire family system.
Our therapists can help by providing parents with support and training on positive discipline strategies. Parents will learn how to better understand and validate intense emotions, effectively implement time-outs, positive reinforcement systems, identify underlying goals of misbehavior, and increase compliance and cooperation at home. Children will learn assertiveness, anger management, mindfulness, and emotion regulation strategies to reduce power struggles and overall stress. Additionally, therapists can collaborate with a child’s teacher to set up a behavioral program that will increase prosocial behavior and improve overall functioning at school. With a therapist’s guidance, a sense of peace and calm can be restored in the family as well as a stronger, resilient parent-child bond.