Behavioral Problems

Behavior problems in children

Behavior problems in children are very common; many of these children will turn out to be normal functioning adults. However, it is important to remember that about 13% of children meet the criteria for diagnois of " behavioral, developmental, or mental health disorders (Spratt, E.G., 2013). Psycho-social dysfunction is the most common chronic condition of childhood according to the author. Children are different from one another in their personality and nature. However, many aspects of children's behavior are shaped by parents reaction to them. Knowing how to react to certain types of behaviors will go a long way in shaping future behaviors. The following are the common issues parents face.

Temper tantrums:

It is common for children to go into temper tantrums between the ages of one and six years. Temper tantrums are expressions of inability to cope with the current situation. This does not mean that the child is behaving purposefully. This means that the child is not able to handle the situation at that mental set-up. It is important to learn to manage temper tantrums so that the child will not use this as a tool to escape the situation or as a tool to manipulate the parents.

The following measures can be helpful:
  1. Reduce the stress as much as possible
  2. Stay calm
  3. Talk about the issue the child is concerned about
  4. Remove the child from exposure to any danger because of the tandurm
  5. Hold the child for a short time to give some time to calm down
  6. Distract the child
  7. Provide comfort without giving-in for tandrum


Children use whining as a tool to get what they want. This can be a sign not getting the attention they seek for. It is very common in today's socieity for parents to be too busy to provide the attention children need at this age. The children at this age seek attention continuously. The child could be sleepy, hungry or bored. The following practices could be helpful:
  1. Put in your own words what the child is talking about.
  2. Explain to the child that you will listen when he or she stops whining.
  3. Continue to do what you are doing until the child stops whining.
  4. Speak words of appreciation when the child stops whining.
  5. Try to address the special situation that could have led to whining.


Breath-holding is a common behavior disorder in chilren and occurs when they are upset about something. Children cry, stop breathing, and turn blue or white. This could be associated with seizure occassionally. Breath-holding does not result in any harm to the child. They out-grow this by 8 years ofage.Because this is associated with tandrum and does not result in any harm, the parents should not express concern when the child wakes up. Expressing too much concern can lead to secondary gain and the behavior may persist longer. You may talk to your pediatrician as medication may be helpful.


Head-banging is a very common behavoir disorder which the children out-grow by three years of age.Head-banging does not result in any danger. The children will not suffer any damage from it. Howeverprotect from sharp edges. If head-banging is associatedwith other developmental disorders, the children will need special attention for the associated conditions.

You may have the child examined by your physician associated conditions such as pain in ears or head.

The following practices my help:
  1. Reduce stress
  2. Distract
  3. Reward positive behavior
  4. Stay calm and not get too excited


Thumb-sucking is a common behavior in children. Children attain a pacification from sucking thumb.Encouraging to use pacifiers longer may reduce the chance of thumb sucking.

The following measures may help:
  1. Reduce stress
  2. Distract
  3. Reward for not sucking thumb
  4. May use use ThumbGuard
  5. May consult a dentist for applicances in mouth in older children

Aggressive Behavior:

Aggressive behavoir towards younger siblings may be a way to get attention. This may be part of sibling rivalry.

Involving the older child in the care of the young child, and dedicating personal time for the older child may reduce the chance of sibling rivalry. Distract the child and try to avoid focussing on the aggressor. Stay calm and do not get excited about the older child's action towards the younger child. Pay attention to the victim's feeling ignoring temporarily the aggressor's action. Parent's need to make sure that the aggressor does not get any secondary gain from the action.

Aggressive behavior towards other children in school or play ground could be related to effects of medications, especially stimulant medications used to treat ADHD.

Toilet Training:

How fast a child attains toilet control differs from one child to another. Parents should not put too much emphasis on issue of toilet training. The following measures make help to make it easier:
  • Encourage the child to sit on a toilet placed in a specific room
  • Let the child take its time
  • May be allowed to have a toy while waiting
  • Keep the child in the room until she or he uses the toilet
  • Take the child away if it fails in about 30 minutes
  • May give some token awards for following instructions

When a new sibling arrives it is normal for many children to regress in their ability to use toilet.