Children with Bad Behavior

How to Stop My Teen From Being Annoying

Ignore the annoying behavior, if possible. As long as the behavior is merely annoying and comparatively unimportant -- does not involve safety or in-your-face disrespect -- ignore it, advises James Lehman, MSW, with the Empowering Parents website. By ignoring behavior, you take away its focus and power, and make it likely that your child will stop because it fails to achieve attention or energy from you.

Focus on something positive with your teenager instead of dwelling on the annoying behavior or habit. By choosing to accentuate the positive and praise it, you send your child an important message about your expectations, counsels Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., with the Psychology Today website. If your teen discerns that you give imbalanced attention to negative behavior, he may decide to get your attention with annoying behavior.

Redirect your teenager’s behavior with a calm suggestion. Approach the annoyance by assuming that your teenager may not realize he’s getting on your nerves. Perhaps he fails to realize that playing his music at ear-splitting decibels is bothersome or maybe he never considered that leaving dirty towels on the bathroom floor troubles you. By using a reasonable tone of voice and a respectful manner, you can teach your teenager effective conflict-resolution skills.

Thank your teenager when he makes an effort to avoid annoying you. When you notice the music volume go down regularly or the dirty towels make it into the laundry hamper, give him some positive feedback to motivate continued positive behavior.

What Can Affect Behavior in Children?


Lack of sleep is a major cause of negative behaviors in children. Children who sleep less than they should are more likely to be irritable and to act inappropriately. They are also more likely to do poorly in school than those who regularly get a good night’s sleep. Studies of children in elementary school showed that almost 40 percent of them had some kind of sleep problem and that 10 percent of them had daytime sleepiness, according to Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. of Ensuring your child gets enough sleep can help prevent many negative behaviors.


Diet can also affect a child’s behavior. Consider how your child acts when he has too much sugar, for example. In addition, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest conducted a review of 24 studies about how diet affects behavior in 1999. The review found that 17 of the studies determined that diet negatively affects the behavior of some children. Artificial colors were the main focus of many of the studies, but some focused on other foods, like milk and corn. The studies varied significantly in the percentage of children whose behavior was affected by what they consumed and how much the behavior changed. Six studies found no behavioral change due to diet.


Children can also be negatively affected by trauma. Symptoms of trauma can include irritability, mood swings, anger, fear, sadness or anxiety. Children who grow up in a stable home and who do not undergo psychological, emotional or physical trauma are much less likely to exhibit negative behaviors like these than those who do. With professional assistance, consistency and love, children can often recover from traumatic events in their lives.


Discipline plays an important role in determining a child’s behavior. How parents and caregivers react to negative behavior and how they model positive behavior also affects how a child will act. Discipline is teaching your child how to behave, what is right and what is wrong. This is different than the negativity of punishment. Consistency in expectations and follow-through are important to guiding a child to behave positively. Providing security and praise for the behaviors you want to see will help your child act respectfully.

Devious Behavior in Children

Devious Defined

When someone acts deviously, the person plots to achieve personal or selfish goals. The methods used to achieve goals are generally underhanded and slyly achieved. People surrounding the person might be pawns in the plan or unwitting accomplices. A child can engage in devious behavior for a variety of reasons, including having the desire to draw attention to himself, being selfish or having a simple misunderstanding of right and wrong.


The heart of manipulation is selfish ambition -- the desire to maneuver conditions so they fit a person’s desires and wishes. Manipulation tactics might include lying, making excuses, threatening and plotting, according to the Family Education website. As a child grows, rudimentary attempts at manipulation -- tantrums, for example -- gradually give way to more creative and subtle manipulation that is often crafty and devious. A devious kid might plot to get parents to make expensive purchases or give in to privileges. A devious child might learn these tactics from adults who demonstrate these behaviors, and the child might resort to manipulative behavior when he feels insecure or mistrustful of adults.

Lying, Cheating and Stealing

From about age 3, kids are old enough to understand the moral lesson that lying -- and by extension, cheating and stealing -- is wrong, wrote Dr. Ruth Peters, a clinical psychologist and author of six books on parenting. Even with these moral values firmly in place, many kids aren’t above telling fibs, pilfering goodies and bending the rules of a game. The motivations behind these devious behaviors are usually selfish -- either attention seeking or protecting the self.


Your first line of defense when you notice devious behavior in your child is to clearly define what behaviors you expect and which behaviors are unacceptable. Clear standards make it obvious what kids should expect. For example, common standards might include always telling the truth, acting honestly, working your hardest, and respecting other people and their property. These standards are broad enough to cover most devious behaviors. Give your child lots of positive feedback when you see behaviors you want. The “catch your child being good” routine really works because it motivates kids to do more of the praised behavior. Avoid overreacting to devious behavior if you notice it -- that could actually reinforce it so your child engages in more of the same. Give your child relevant alternatives to whatever misdeeds occurred and encourage him to make better choices next time. Keep yourself in check, too. Your child is watching everything you say and do -- ensure your example is as good as it gets.

How to Deal With Someone Else's Bratty Kids

Consider whether the bratty child's behavior is endangering the safety of anyone, including himself, advises Betsy Braun Brown, child development and behavior specialist, parent educator and author, writing at For instance, you will be hard-pressed to encounter a parent who becomes angry with you for taking a sharp knife away from her toddler.

Discreetly ask the parent of the bratty child to intervene, if the circumstance warrants it, advises Lawrence Kutner, a clinical psychologist at Harvard University, writing at For example, if you are having a play time at the park and someone’s child is repeatedly dumping buckets of dirt on your child, quietly let his mother know what just happened and ask her whether she minds saying something to her child because yours is upset.

Enforce the rules in your own house, advises Brown. If you witness your friend’s child jumping on your daughter’s bed while she’s over playing, let the child know that jumping on the bed is a no-no in your house and politely ask her to stop. Turn to her mother and say something along the lines of, “I hope you don’t mind, but we don’t allow Jill to jump on the bed and we want to enforce the fact that the house rules apply to everyone rather than just Jill.”

Be firm but gentle when you are in charge of someone else’s child and her behavior is bratty, advises Brown. Remain calm when dealing with someone else’s child’s behavior. Consider how you expect other parents to treat your child if she misbehaves when they are in charge of her and let that be your guide. Don’t spank someone's child. Remind her of the rules and speak to her mother or father when they retrieve her, if her behavior does not improve.

Abnormal Child Behavior


Tics are repetitive and involuntary actions that children may exhibit. They can occur in any part of the body. Tics may be as simple as a twitch along the edge of an eyelid or as complex as a jerk of an entire limb. Vocal tics can include sniffing or throat clearing. Transient tics occur when the child is stressed, tired or ill. These tics usually disappear without treatment. But other tics are more serious. Children who suffer from Tourette’s may have severe vocal tics that cause them to blurt inappropriate words.

Night Terrors

Most children have nightmares at one time or another. Nightmares occur at any time in the night. Children generally wake from them and are comforted by parents. Night Terrors are different. During a night terror, the child may sit up in bed, scream or cry, but remains completely unaware of the parent. She won’t respond to attempts at comfort. Night terrors usually occur during the first two or three hours of sleep. The occasional night terror isn’t a cause for concern. However, frequent and repetitive night terrors may indicate high stress or anxiety.


Many children have imaginary friends. Hallucinations go beyond play. During a child’s hallucination, he will fully believe that he is seeing or hearing a sight or sound that doesn’t exist. This is terrifying for parents to see. Many factors may cause hallucinations. There are several mental illnesses that cause hallucinations. There are also non-psychotic hallucinations. High fever may cause a child to hallucinate. Febrile hallucinations may be frightening. In addition, some medications may cause children to hallucinate.

What to Do

Anytime a child engages in abnormal behavior, parents should note the behavior. If the action is repetitive, keep a small journal noting the day, time and the child’s condition. Take this information with you when you talk to your pediatrician. Contact your doctor immediately if the child’s behavior threatens himself or any other member of the family.

Behavior Problems in Adolescents

Hanging Out Late

Teens test rules to see if parents will enforce consequences. One test is breaking curfew. Allow a grace period of 10 minutes, but anything past that requires a consequence. Your teen has to know that breaking curfew is a serious infraction. Remain consistent and give the consequence. Your teen will not take your authority seriously if you waver with the punishment. Make sure the punishment fits the "crime;" for example, do not let your teen go out with friends for a week or two.

Being Overly Dramatic

When a teen wants to fit in with those around her, even the slightest issue is a big deal. These issues may not seem important to a parent, but be careful not to trivialize them. Finding humor in a teen's emotions could cause her to resist confiding in you, if she mistrusts you. When she slams the door and shuts you out, settle her down and listen patiently. Let her know that the problem concerns you, as well, and try to see the situation through her eyes.


Lying can become a habit that teens use to stay out of trouble or to fit in with peers. If teens begin lying about risky behavior, parents must address this behavior immediately and seek necessary resources, suggests Megan Devine, of Let your child know that she can talk to you without you overreacting. Teens want you to treat them with respect, and to not yell at or lecture them. Doing so will only cause her to tune you out and hide important information.

Talking Back

Teens believe that rude behavior and talking back are acceptable since they are prevalent on television. "As a mild, relatively safe form of rebellion, back talk appeals to teens' desire to feel independent and adult,” states Charlotte Latvala of Talking back can have negative effects when done in school and with future employers. Parents must correct this behavior by making it necessary for their teen to correct the language and apologize. Overlooking your teen's back talk sends a negative message that this is acceptable behavior.

Child Behavior Counseling


Child behavior counseling can be effective in addressing a range of typical and abnormal child behaviors, including lying, fighting, stealing and talking back. Additionally, behavior counseling can address separation anxiety, phobias, depression, insomnia, attention issues and academic problems. Furthermore, child behavior counseling might be useful for children whose parents have divorced or who have experienced a significant loss, such as a death in the family.

Individual Approaches

Individual child behavior counseling can include several approaches, including play therapy, behavior modification, role playing, and talk therapy. During the initial assessment, the counselor might simply watch the child play and observe the troubling behaviors. In subsequent sessions, the counselor will generally take a more active role and might help the child learn new behaviors or modify troubling ones through a combination of age-appropriate conversations, play and behavioral redirection. Additionally, a therapist might take a cognitive behavioral approach and help the child explore the way her thoughts and feelings affect her behaviors.

Group Behavioral Counseling

In addition to individual therapy, child behavior counseling might take place in a group format. Generally, group counseling brings together children of similar age with a common presenting issue such as aggression, anxiety or depression. In the group format, children practice new behaviors with their peers and learn about their behaviors or concerns from both their counselor-facilitator and fellow group members, according to the American Academic of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Group behavior counseling might be used either as a primary behavior therapy or as an adjunct to individual therapy.

Parent’s Role

Counselors often ask parents to take part in their children’s therapy and ask the caregivers to act as partners in the child’s treatment. For some issues, such as defiant behaviors, counselors might want to have family counseling sessions to evaluate family dynamics and improve the quality of caregiver-child interactions. For other issues such as panic, anxiety and depression, counselors might teach parents strategies that they can use at home to help modify troubling behaviors at home. Likewise, child behavior counseling might involve teaching the parents about the child’s diagnosis or symptoms.

What Is "Prosocial Behavior" for Elementary Children?

Offering Assistance

Even a young child can offer assistance to someone in need, advises the Stanislaus County Office of Education. Find an opportunity to help a friend in need or someone in your neighborhood. Your child could help rake leaves or shovel a front walk for someone who can’t perform these maintenance tasks. You and your child could bake cookies for a friend who needs cheering up. Your child can also find individual opportunities to help others – helping a teacher at school clean up a mess or helpiang a classmate find a lost object, for example.


Sharing toys and possessions with others can be an ideal way for children to exhibit prosocial behavior, states an article published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Whether the situation involves sharing a treat ora possession, the sharing child demonstrates empathy, kindness and the desire to help others when offering the use of a possession to someone else. One caveat: if a child is prompted to share, the gesture cannot fall under the heading of prosocial behavior because the gesture wasn't independently motivated, according to the NAEYC article.


When someone feels sad or hurt, putting an arm around the person, a hand on a shoulder or extending a hug demonstrates prosocial behavior. When a child feels empathy or sympathy toward someone else and then approaches the situation altruistically with the other person’s plight in mind, the child has made a prosocial gesture.

Inviting and Including

The child excluded or isolated sitting alone on a playground or in a busy playroom can be an opportunity for a prosocial gesture. If your child notices the lonely child and invites or includes her in play, this helpful and thoughtful gesture fits the description of prosocial behavior, states Kathy Preusse, with the Early Childhood News website. The child can use empathy to see a need and feel empowered to extend help and kindness for the good of someone else.

How to Respond to Difficult Behavior in Children

Make sure your expectations are age-appropriate. Two-year-olds are supposed to lack emotional control and display temper tantrums, but a 10-year-old who still throws fits has challenging behaviors. By elementary school, most children can respond to reason and use their words instead of resorting to violence.

Pick and choose your battles. Some behaviors aren’t serious and can be ignored, while other difficult behavior must be addressed. Don’t waste your parenting energy fighting your child on something inconsequential like your child’s choice in fashion when you can focus on his angry outbursts.

Understand that your child may not be able to control all his behavior. Some of the difficult behaviors may actually be the result of his natural temperament, not his choices. Most children have an easy, shy or challenging temperament. A child with a challenging temperament usually begins life as a fussy baby. These children don’t try to be difficult, but their personality can be challenging to live with.

Avoid emotional responses to your child’s behavior. Even if your child is pushing your buttons, do not push back. If you respond to his bad behavior with hysteria, he will continue to misbehave. Your child may even return your outburst with one of his own. Remain calm, even if you have to leave the room for a few minutes and count to 10 before you can deal with your child.

Model appropriate behavior. Show your child how you maintain self-control and patience. Explain to him that you are upset, but that you are choosing an appropriate response.

Praise and reward your child when he behaves appropriately or shows improvement. Let your child know exactly what he did well. Emphasize the effort he exerted instead of his character. If a child hears the empty “good boy,” praise he may think that he is normally “bad.” Focus on the positive by telling your child that you appreciate the hard work he did.

Schedule time away from your child to get some rest. A weekly date night with your partner or a girls’ night out will do wonders for your ability to deal with your child.


If you feel like you can’t handle your child’s behavior, discuss your child’s issues with his doctor. Consider seeking counseling to help you deal with the challenges of parenting.

How to Correct Inappropriate Child Behavior

Discover the reason for your child's outburst and inappropriate behavior. Kids rarely act out without a reason and understanding the trigger can help you first rectify the situation and then prevent it in the future. If your toddler or preschooler is throwing a fit at the grocery store, it could be that he's tired or stressed by a lack of autonomy and choices. It's tempting to just leap into survival mode and stop the behavior cold, but you'll be more effective if you can pinpoint the trigger and remove your child before you start discipline or consequences.

Ignore minor infractions if they aren't bothering anyone else. You might find your child's constant humming or loud voice annoying, but you might be the only one. Children will consistently execute a behavior when they receive attention for that behavior -- good or bad. When you simply ignore minor stuff, there's a good chance your child will quit it and correct the behavior on his own.

Withdraw your presence when your child is acting up. Kids crave attention and personal contact above all other rewards. When you put your child in time-out or explain that you're leaving the room until he can behave, he'll probably shape up when he realizes that he no longer receives attention while misbehaving. Just make sure that your time-outs aren't too log -- try one minute for each year of his age.

Allow logical consequences so your child can understand the repercussions of his behavior. If you catch him bullying on the playground, he no longer can play until he learns to play nicely. Or, if he acts up in the grocery store, he can wait in the car with Dad instead -- way more boring. These logical consequences help your child better understand how his actions are linked to a reaction and to anticipate consequences before he makes the decision to act out.

Be consistent with your consequences and reactions to your child's behavior. If your child learns that he can behave inappropriately and get a different reaction each time, he may be more willing to gamble with the consequences. Instead, setting an example and always levying the same discipline helps him know what you expect as a parent.

Commonly Reported Behavior Problems in Children

Temper Tantrums

Tantrums usually occur when a child has trouble expressing his needs and thoughts. This typically happens between the ages of one and three, before effective communication has developed. When communication skills increase, the recurrence of tantrums decrease. Tantrums stem from needing attention or from frustration. During a tantrum, a child kicks, screams or cries uncontrollably. Some children have tantrums more frequently, depending on personality. It is important to teach children coping methods to avoid dealing with this behavior.


Bullying is a serious problem that usually stems from the bully being exposed to violence within his environment. He has a high regard for self and likes being looked to as the leader. Children often look for others to bully at school or in the neighborhood. "It's easier to bully somebody than to work things out, manage your emotions and learn to solve problems," states James Lehman, MSW of To overcome this behavior, he may need to seek counseling in order to learn how to get along with others and support his social development.


Children are learning profanity earlier and there's been an increase in swearing in kids between the ages of three and four years old, according to Timothy Jay, professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Many words have been learned by the time a child enters school. This language is coming from listening to adults. Children may not understand the severity of the language or the inappropriateness. They are learning, however, that words are definitely powerful and often repeat profanity for the shock value it brings.


A child becomes noncompliant when he blatantly ignores a request or direction. When this occurs, redirect the child by letting him know what the expected behavior is and give him a chance to follow instructions. Explain the importance of following the directions. If he is upset, try to listen calmly and not match his anger to escalate the situation. Make sure that the child is able to hear and understand the instructions by repeating them.

Reframing Techniques for a Child's Negative Behavior

Assume the Best

It’s easy to assume that your child is out to drive you crazy or that she’s just being defiant. Reframing her behavior assumes that she really wants to do what’s right, but can’t figure out an appropriate way to make it happen. She wants to try something new and develop new skills when you just want her to do the same thing every day because it has worked just fine so far. Assume that there is a positive reason for her resistance to routine and ask her, “What are you trying to do? What would it take for us to work at this together?”

Understand Motivation

Listen to your child’s rationale for his behavior. Perhaps at school he learned there was a quicker or more efficient way to study for a test or the methods that you learn are different than his primary learning style. Once you understand his motive, it becomes easy to see that he isn’t challenging your authority or defying you. Applaud his desire to use techniques that work well for him and for wanting to do his best in the most efficient way possible.

Brainstorm Solutions

Once you understand her motives, you can help her brainstorm appropriate ways to achieve her goal. She might work best late at night when things are quiet and less distracting, for example. Suggest that she start early, but create a quiet zone around her bedroom, requiring younger siblings to play in another part of the house. Alternatively, she might create a study bunker in the attic where no one will be stomping above her head as she studies. For a third option, she could spend some time each day at the library where she has access to materials unavailable in your home. Support the options that you can live with and encourage her to do what she needs to do to accomplish her goals within the limits that you have set.

Positive Terminology

Your brain looks at a situation and draws conclusions based upon your experience and beliefs. You might have no idea why someone does what he does, but changing your terminology gives you a different perspective. An aggressive child is actually asserting his rights. A disruptive child could be eager to get on with the next activity or simply need to move in order to learn. The class clown could be hiding insecurities or possess a witty sense of humor. It’s all about perspective.

Child Behavior Checklists Made Simple


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are three primary types of normal child behaviors. These include approved or wanted behaviors; those that you can tolerate given certain circumstances such as your child's stress level or illness; and completely unacceptable behaviors. Using these three primary categories to start off your checklist can help to simplify your thinking and create an organizational strategy. Without categories, your checklist may end up as a random string of behaviors that doesn't necessarily make sense when it comes to making observations and looking for specific things that your child is, or isn't, doing.

Age-Appropriate Behaviors

Listing off all of expected, or even unwanted, behaviors that kids go through won't do much to simplify your checklist. Rule out some behaviors based on your child's age and developmental level. Toddlers may have trouble with self-control issues and often act out. According to KidsHealth, behaviors such as biting are actually common for a 2- or 3-year-old. Not that you should add this one to your checklist, but instead think of the reverse. Expecting your toddler to maintain perfect self-control and emotional expression is unrealistic. On the other hand, you should expect your 9-year-old to demonstrate self-control.


Create a unified rating system to simplify your child behavior checklists. Instead of simply falling in to the "yes" or "no" category, use a multi-numbered scale that rates your child's behaviors from "not at all" to "sometimes" and "always." While this might seem more complex, it can actually help to simplify your understanding of your child's behaviors. Your child might do her homework without you nagging her sometimes, but not on a daily basis. If one of your checklist items is "does homework on her own" you couldn't give it a definitive yes or no. Adding in a "sometimes" category will help you to rate her behaviors more accurately.


There is little hope of including every possible child behavior on your checklist. Instead of keeping everything in, rank behaviors to include by importance. This will vary depending on your own values and expectations. You might place a high priority on obedience to parents, while another family may think that showing self-control when it comes to emotions is number one. Review your ranked order and list, and consider cutting off the ending behaviors. If a certain behavior ranks at the low end of the spectrum, you might not need to include it.

Behavior Management Strategies for Children


Children thrive on routines because an ordered and typical day offers comfort and routine. Havoc and upheaval can cause your child to act out because he's nervous, upset or surprised. Creating a routine eliminates this from happening and can keep your child calm and well-behaved, notes the Pratt Center. Of course, things happen and your routine might get thrown off at times, but stick to it as much as possible for the most benefit.

Parental Involvement

Parents play a key role in their child's development, which includes his behavior. Modeling desired behaviors is ideal for getting your child to follow suit. Kids are imitators and often do what those around them are doing. So, if you want your child to eat with a fork and chew with his mouth closed, show him how to do this by doing it yourself. Spending time with your child is another important way to get him to behave, according to The Successful Parent website. Quality time to play or go on outings helps a child feel loved and understood, which helps manage how he behaves. Just make sure your time together doesn't involve talks about previous bad behavior.


Much like routines, consistent rules and consequences are vital to managing a child's behavior. If you tell your child not to call his sister names, but let it slide sometimes, he's getting the message that he can get away with it on occasion. Instead, your rules and the punishments for them must stay the same, advises the Pratt Center. If your child throws his food, remove his plate immediately. He'll quickly learn that if he wants to eat, he better keep his meal from flying across the kitchen. For an older child who texts a friend after lights out, remove his cell phone privileges for a day or two.


The State Government of Victoria's Department of Education and Early Childhood Development recommends using positive behavior management techniques because they reward desirable behaviors and improve the chance that you'll see them again. If your child cleans his room the first time you ask, he gets to go to the park or to see a movie with a friend. If he walks away when his brother slugs him instead of hitting back, praise his restraint and encourage him to keep up the good work. Kids naturally want to please their parents, so positive behavior management is a valuable way to get your children to behave.

Unstable Behavior in Children Linked to Food


Dr. Ben Feingold was the first medical professional to propose a link between foods and behavior in children in the 1970s. After a number of studies, he concluded that certain additives contributed to hyperactivity. His findings were rejected after other studies took place that found no link. In 2008, food regulators in the United Kingdom banned certain additives after a 2007 study showed a link between certain artificial colors and children’s behavior. After this study, the Food and Drug Administration met in 2011 to review a possible link between additives and children’s behavior. As of 2012, the FDA had taken no action on banning additives.


The Feingold Association discusses a number of behaviors that additives seem to affect. These behaviors include hyperactivity, such as the inability to sit still or excessive wiggling; impulsive actions, such as poor self-control or inappropriate noises; compulsive actions, such as aggression, scratching or chewing on clothing or other objects; and emotional concerns such as irritability, nervousness and mood swings. According to Australian Certified Organic Magazine, additives might cause quiet children to become forgetful or lethargic and have mood swings or panic attacks, restless children to become irritable and fidgety and have frequent night wakings and defiant children to become argumentative, throw tantrums and disobey rules on purpose.

Additives to Avoid

The additives researchers recommend avoiding are artificial colors, chemical preservatives, naturally occurring salicylates, amines and glutamates. Artificial colors include anything that starts with the letters “FD&C” such as "FD&C Blue #1." Chemical preservatives include sodium nitrate, sodium benzoate and BHA. Salicyclates are natural pesticides produced by plants and occur in a number of common fruits, such as citrus, strawberries and kiwi. Amines are found in high amounts in cheese and chocolate. Glutamates are found in foods that might be identified as savory, such as soy sauce and certain types of cheese.

Eliminating Additives

Changing your child's diet to eliminate additives that might contribute to unstable behavior requires some work when it comes to shopping. You can start by reading the labels on the groceries you buy to check for any of the additives that might be linked to unstable behavior. Choose products that are labeled “preservative free” and not just “no added preservatives.” Shop for more fresh produce and whole grain foods rather than packaged and processed foods. Bake cakes, muffins and other goodies from scratch rather than from a box mix. Try to choose less colorful cereals, which will have less artificial coloring.

Signs a Teen Is Out of Control

School Difficulties

Signs of an out-of-control teenager can present themselves at school. Slipping grades, lateness or avoiding class altogether suggests a problem. If the teenager constantly "forgets" to do his homework, is unable to wake up in the morning for school or talks about quitting school, his behavior might be out of control. Behavioral issues such as the inability to get along with classmates, having to stay after school, getting suspended or being expelled also indicate a problem.

Substance Abuse

Sometimes a teenager's behavior is so out of control that parents are unable to manage him at home. According to, chronic substance abuse is an example of this extreme behavior. If you discover that your teenager is abusing drugs or alcohol, quickly intervene so he does not pose a danger to himself, your home or the family. Signs of substance abuse in a teenager include personality changes, initiating arguments, red, glassy eyes, deteriorating grades, poor attitude and fatigue, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Problems with the Law

Getting in trouble with the law is an obvious sign that your teenager is spinning out of control. Regardless of the nature of the incident, whether it involves getting stopped for erratic driving, disturbing the peace or getting arrested, these behaviors can quickly spiral out of control.

Violent Behavior

Violent behavior is a significant warning that your teenager is unable to manage his feelings. Violence directed at his family, friends, co-workers, classmates, school staff or strangers not only indicates out-of-control behavior, it might also signify psychological problems that require professional help. In addition to directing violent behavior at others, your teenager might direct it at himself, too.

Common Problem Behaviors of Children


As a parent, you're probably well aware of what can set your child off into a tantrum, though sometimes the reason might be a mystery. Tantrums vary among children and change with age, but most kids will throw their fair share during their childhood. Young children probably kick, scream and throw themselves to the floor -- and flail their arms. Older kids might stomp down the hall, throw things or slam their bedroom door. However, tantrums generally tend to diminish as a child gets older, with the peak of activity being before age 3, notes The Centre for Community Health, based in Australia.

Physical Aggression

Young kids don't always have the words or self-control to let a parent or peer know that he is angry and upset. Sometimes, they lash out by kicking, biting or hitting instead. Many times, this isn't cause for concern, but some children may continue using physical aggression as they get older, according to the website. For this reason, you should never ignore aggressive behavior. If you're concerned about your child's behavior, consult your pediatrician for follow-up.

Bad Words

Much of the time, kids use dirty words or swear words because they get such a reaction from adults, whether it's laughing or gasping in horror. Saying bad words when he drops his toy or if he falls down isn't likely a reason to be overly worried. However, if bad words are accompanied by fighting or aggressive behavior, your child might have a behavior disorder, notes The Centre for Community Health. If your child's swearing worries you, talk to his doctor about effective ways to put a stop to it.


When your 3-year-old shouts "No!" at you when you ask him to put his toys away or when your teen stays out an hour past curfew after a fight over the topic, he's being defiant. Some of this is normal behavior, as children gain more independence and want to show it. However, if your child defies you often, this is not good, and you'll want to speak to your child's pediatrician for follow up. Some children have many angry outbursts, blatant disobedience and frequent fights with their parents and other authority figures.

Behavior Management for Kids

Setting Limits

The first step to solving behavior problems is preventing them. Setting limits is an important goal for all parents, yet setting the right limits is not always easy. For instance, a young child upon getting upset might break a toy. When you let the child know that such an action is inappropriate, you are setting a limit. However, you must let the child know why the action is inappropriate. In other words, setting good limits means setting limits on the types of actions, not the actions itself. An example of setting a good limit is to say, “Don’t break things when you're angry,” as opposed to “Don’t break toys.”

Define Goals

Most negative behavior arises from negative emotions. Negative emotions are inevitable. Thus, you cannot remove the anger or jealousy from a child, but you can set goals for your child for dealing with such feelings. When you notice your child emotionally upset, intervene immediately and remind him of a goal that will set him on the right track to appropriately deal with his feelings. For example, when a child is frustrated with a homework problem, talk it out with him. Stop him before he throws his textbook or breaks his pencil -- and let him know the problem is solvable with concentration. Remind him that the goal is to solve the homework problem and that breaking his pencil will not help. Have him imagine how good it will feel to reach his goal.

Help with Solutions

Especially for young children, finding a solution to what parents would label a typical childhood problem is not a piece of cake. Parents can help their children solve problems without actually taking over. Elementary school children have not yet developed abstract thinking skills, so a parent's simple suggestion might be a revelation to children in “troubling” situations. For example, if your daughter comes home from school complaining that her teacher always assigns her a work partner who is mean, suggest that your daughter tell the teacher that she wants a different partner. Solutions that are obvious to adults often easily elude children.

Teach Morals in Tandem with Solutions

When you give solution suggestions to your child, explain why those solutions are better than responding with bad behavior. Use the values you already taught your daughter to explain why telling the teacher that a classmate is pulling her hair is a better solution than hitting the hair-pulling classmate. When you give children a moral backing, they are more likely to avoid bad behavior in problematic situations. In “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,” author John Gottman, psychologist and educator, suggests using questions such as “Is this solution fair?” and “How will other people feel?” when discussing solutions with your child.

Child Behavior Modification & Control

Behavior Is a Response

The University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development published a tip sheet of behavior modification techniques for parents and teachers. The authors state that behaviors have antecedents; in other words, behavior is often a response to something else. Parents may pay attention to what happens before misbehavior. For example, some kids detest stopping playing and coming to dinner. They start to whine and refuse to comply. Parents may modify this behavior by giving the children warnings beforehand. "Dinner is in 10 minutes." This gives the child a chance to adjust and may decrease whining and refusal.

Positive Reinforcement

One of the best ways to encourage desirable behaviors is to compliment or praise the child. For example, after a child washes his hands for dinner, the parent may say "Your hands are nice and clean. Good job." After the child clears his plate, the parent may say "Thank you for clearing your plate. I appreciate when you pick up after yourself." Praise encourages kids to keep behaving well.

Logical Consequences

Consequences and punishments work best when they are logical. For example, a teenager who stays out past curfew will understand why he can't go out the next night. But making him do extra chores for a week is less effective because there is little connection between curfew and chores. On the other hand, if a child does a chore sloppily, it makes sense that he should go back and do it again. But it would not make sense to make him stay home because he performed his chore poorly.


Extinguishing is a relatively difficult behavior modification technique. It involves completely ignoring behavior that you do not approve of. It works for behaviors that are not disruptive; for example, if your child whines, and you ignore what she says, then she may try asking in a better tone of voice. You must respond to the nice tone and ignore the whiny tone consistently for this to work. Also, before incorporating this technique, tell the child you will only respond to the appropriate tone of voice so she is not confused.


Modeling is a powerful behavior modification technique. Children watch what parents do. Parents who yell will raise children who yell, generally. Think about your own behavior, and try to act in the same way you want your child to act.

Disturbing Teen Behavior

Risk-taking Behaviors

A continuum of disturbing behaviors includes lying, theft and academic difficulties that range from the normal experience of most teens to more extreme cases where the bad behavior is severe and chronic. Most parents can expect their teens to have lapses in truthfulness every so often, but if you feel your child rarely tells the truth to you anymore, he might have a serious problem. Other disturbing behaviors that need attention if they occur repeatedly include smoking, drinking and unprotected sex.


Self-inflicted injury might include hair-pulling, burning and cutting. Psychologically damaged youngsters engage in self-mutilation for a variety of reasons and need professional help. They are usually suffering from a form of depression. Other risky behaviors that result in self-harm are eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, although the intent to harm oneself is less overt. Some withdrawn teens might become suicidal -- some depressed teens find each other and form suicide pacts. Drunken driving and promiscuity are examples of disturbing behaviors that teens might not recognize as self-destructive.

Negative Interactions

Some youngsters who had previously been social, personable and compliant seem to change overnight into surly creatures oozing rudeness and disrespect. While milder forms of oppositional behavior are normal, teens who are constantly defiant and disobedient need attention. Teens who initiate physical fights and who are aggressive with younger siblings are also cause for concern. Bullying behavior, whether at school or online through social media sites, should also be taken seriously.

Criminal Behavior

Many teens might cut a class or two, but habitual truancy is cause for concern. Other extreme behavior includes running away from home and living on the streets. Some teens might join gangs and engage in acts of vandalism and robbery. Criminal behavior such as setting fires or hurting animals might be a cry for help and are definitely cause for concern. Any use of weapons and all aggressive behavior is also beyond the norm. Drug abuse and dealing drugs can be life-threatening and must be dealt with immediately.