How to Address Behavior Problems in Children With Low IQs

Children with low IQs who act out behaviorally may fail to understand rules, boundaries and expectations. They may suffer from issues such as lack of impulse control, short attention span, poor emotional regulation and inadequate social skills. When not caught early, behavioral problems can escalate affecting a child's friendships, school performance and overall adjustment, according to an article written by Greg J. Duncan, Ph.D. and Irvine Katherine Magnuson, Ph.D on the University of California - Irvine website. Fortunately, many behavioral problems in low-IQ children respond to patience, kindness and repetition.


  1. Break down tasks into their individual steps. Use task analyses to help children with lower IQs avoid misunderstandings, foster success and prevent acting out due to frustration, according to the University of Illinois Extension website.

  1. Set goals that are realistic, attainable and within the child's cognitive abilities. Allow several months to teach a new skill to avoid the child's becoming frustrated and lashing out.

  1. Give instructions and explain concepts in a concrete, precise fashion. Sometimes children with low IQs don't understand abstract concepts, which can trigger behavioral problems. Demonstrate the task on multiple occasions to foster success.

  1. Recognize the signs that the child is becoming frustrated, such as raising his voice, shifting or fidgeting. Respond by removing him from a problematic situation, at least until he calms down.

Negative Behavior - Response

  1. Remove an acting-out child from a volatile situation immediately. Confronting a child with a low IQ in front her peers may further escalate an already bad situation, according to a 2004 article published on the Expert Consensus Guidelines website.

  1. Help the child calm down by asking him to take at least two deep breaths. Practice this relaxation method with the child during both times of crisis and calm moments to reinforce the likelihood that he'll remember when stressed.

  1. Teach concrete problem-solving skills. For example, tell the child to first stop, listen, then act to help him control his impulses. Remember that the more concrete a strategy is, the more likely it will be successful.

  1. Be loving, calm and patient. Impose limits in a caring and nurturing manner to avoid agitating a special-needs child and help her build a positive self-esteem.

  1. Reward positive behavior. Make rewards concrete and immediate to help the low-IQ child establish a relationship between what he did and the consequences of his behavior. Repeat the reward every time the child behaves appropriately.