What causes behaviour problems in children?

Dealing with child behavioural problems is a natural part of raising children. Children are not born with an instinctive knowledge of appropriate child behaviour. Therefore, all parents at some stage or another struggle with behaviour challenges, no matter how lovely or saintly their children are.  This is to be expected and it is usually a transient problem, often as part of the frustrations and challenges of growing up. However, some children have persistent behavioural problems that go beyond what is expected for a child of their age, or developmental stage, and parents or carers are often at a loss to understand poor child behaviour and what to do to change it.

The first thing to understand is that all behaviour has a reason for it, even problematic behaviour; it seeks to achieve something even if it is not clear to us or to the child. Some undesirable child behaviour such as tantrums, mood swings, avoidance or extreme nervousness can be a signal that something is not quite right with the child. They are perhaps under emotional stress, suffering from anxiety or even depression.

Tantrums are one of the behavioural problems that is particularly distressing for the parents to experience. It can be traumatic to see the child in such a state of emotional turmoil, and it is embarrassing when the tantrums happen in public.  In toddlers, tantrums are relatively normal, hence the expression “terrible twos”. They are usually the result of the child’s frustration at his or hers own difficulties of making him or herself understood or in achieving the level of independence they want, or simply for being overtired or overwhelmed.  As they grow up and they get more skilful in communication and independence, usually the tantrums subside.

In older children persistent tantrums and other, behavioural problems, can mean that the child has not learned to understand and control his or her own emotions, and is some stressful situations they simply lose control. Persistent tantrums could be in some cases and indication of a condition that somehow limits the ability of the child to deal with particular situations.

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