Managing children’s challenging behaviours can be very challenging!

Understanding Challenging Behaviour

I worked with parents yesterday who were struggling to manage their son’s difficult behaviour. Many parents say ‘we have got into a negative spiral’. I asked them to try imagine how their child felt and they said ‘he probably feels constantly criticised and given out to’.

Responding to challenging behaviours

They thought this child was really trying to make their life more difficult. When they took another look, they were able to see that life was difficult for this child. Compassion therefore and not punishment is the No 1 response. Parents need to understand how the child feels.

Is it Sibling Rivalry?

Often, when they is a challenging child, I ask ‘does he have a sibling?’ The answer is often ‘Yes, and they are the perfect child and our interaction with this child is always positive; yet with the other child it is the opposite’. ‘How does that make the ‘problem’ child feel?’ Less loved? Less seen in the family? Not the favourite. Now, maybe we can see that a child, who feels bad in themselves, shows it in their behaviour. The ‘perfect child’ blossoms with a different interaction from the parent.

   1. Listen

No, really listen to how the child feels without interruption. Open the conversation by acknowledging how you think they may feel.

‘You look like you’re having a really hard time; I really want to understand what’s happening for you’

   2. Patience

It may take time for the child to open up and ‘spill the beans’ so patience is imperative. Be unconditional in the meantime by separating the child from their behaviour. I always love the child but tell them ‘I’m finding this behaviour difficult; we need to talk when we are both calmer’.

   3. Under-Stand

Try to get under the stand the child is trying to make. The more you understand how they feel and what they think, the more you can respond in the way that they need. It is often for one on one time with you that is positive

   4. Compassion

‘Looks like you feel angry by what your sister did; it’s hard having a smaller sister who can be annoying sometimes. I cannot allow you to hit her; but what else can we do to make it easier for you? Remember, when you feel you don’t have enough time with me, you can come and tell me. If you are angry; tell it to me in words; not in actions. You may be angry with her, you may be furious; but you may not hit her’.