I strongly believe that a problematic child is a result of a number of factors, the most important of which is the parenting. Effective parenting is the best way to solve these problems.

To begin with, let me introduce some of the common behavioural problems that children have and how you as parents can deal with them.

It takes time for children to learn how to behave properly. With help and encouragement from parents and teachers, most of them will learn quickly. All children will sometimes disobey adults. Occasionally, a child will have a temper tantrum, or an outburst of aggressive or destructive behaviour, but this is nothing to worry about. He may argue fight, hold his breath, bawl and threaten you as long it is occasional it does not create a problem. You just need to leave him alone and give him time to recover.

Behavioural problems – the signs

Behavioural problems can occur in children of all ages. Very often they start in early life. Toddlers and young children may refuse to do as they are asked by adults, in spite of being asked many times. They can be rude, swear and have tantrums. Hitting and kicking of other people is common.So is breaking or spoiling things that matter to others.

Some children have serious behavioural problems. The signs of this to look out for are:

  • If the child continues to behave badly for several months or longer, is repeatedly being disobedient, cheeky and aggressive
  • If their behaviour is out of the ordinary, and seriously breaks the rules accepted in their family and community, this is much more than ordinary childish mischief or adolescent rebelliousness. This sort of behaviour can affect a child’s development, and can interfere with their ability to lead a normal life. When behaviour is this much of a problem, it is called a conduct disorder.

What does this mean?

Children with a conduct disorder may get involved in more violent physical fights, and may steal or lie, without any sign of remorse or guilt when they are found out.

They refuse to follow rules and may start to break the law. They may start to stay out late at night and create trouble in school during the day.

Teenagers with conduct disorder may also take risks with their health and safety by taking illegal drugs or having unprotected sexual intercourse. They experiment with alcohol, cannabis and inhalants

What effect can this have?

This kind of behaviour puts a huge strain on the family and makes you as parents feel very upset and sometimes even guilty. Children who behave like this will often find it difficult to make friends. Even though they might be quite bright, they don’t do well at school and are often near the bottom of the class.

On the inside, the young person may be feeling that they are worthless and that they just can’t do anything right. It is common for them to blame others for their difficulties if they do not know how to change for the better.

What causes oppositional defiant disorder/conduct disorder?

A child is more likely to develop an oppositional defiant disorder/conduct disorder if they:

  • have a difficult temperament;
  • have learning or reading difficulties – these make it difficult for them to understand and take part in lessons. It is then easy for them to get bored, feel stupid and misbehave;
  • are depressed;
  • have been bullied or abused;
  • are ‘hyperactive’ – this causes difficulties with self-control, paying attention and following rules.

Parents themselves can sometimes unknowingly make things worse by giving too little attention to good behaviour, always being too quick to criticise, or by being too flexible about the rules and not supervising their children adequately. This often happens if one of the  parents especially the mother is depressed, exhausted or overwhelmed. Parents not getting along with each other and domestic violence can add to this.

Giving too little attention to good behaviour:

As a parent, it can be easy to ignore your child when they are being good, and only pay attention to them when they are behaving badly. Over time, the child learns that they only get attention when they are breaking rules. Most children, including teenagers, need a lot of attention from their parents, and will do whatever it takes to get it.

Perhaps surprisingly, they seem to prefer angry or critical attention to being ignored. It’s easy to see how, over time, a ‘vicious cycle’ is set up.

Being too flexible about the rules:

Children need to learn that rules are important and that ‘no’ means ‘no’. Keeping this up is hard work for parents. It can be tempting to give in ‘for a quiet life’. The trouble is that this teaches the child to push the limits until they get what they want. Teenagers need to know that their parents care about them. They must also understand that rules are needed to protect their safety and that they must learn to live within these rules.

What can you as parents do?

Treat children as young adults. Children go through the same emotional issues that adults do only their coping is limited making it difficult for them to handle it in a mature manner and with all that pent up energy it manifests in physical and behavioural ways

Parents can do a lot. It helps if discipline is fair and consistent, and it is crucial for both parents to agree on how to handle their child’s behaviour (Read article on good parenting  http://blog.mindcares.com/parenting-the-toughest-job-in-the-world/). All young people need praise and rewards when they improve their behaviour. This can be hard. Remember to praise even the small, everyday things, and let them know that you love and appreciate them.

It is worth asking the school about whether they are also worried about your child’s behaviour. It is helpful if parents and teachers can work together. Extra teaching may sometimes be  necessary.

If serious problems continue for more than 3 months, its best to seek professional help from a psychiatrist or a psychologist dealing with children’s issues.

Leave your comments on this article. Criticism and brick-bats are also welcome.