Recognizing that your child has behavior problems may seem like a simple concept, but it’s not always so. You may think your child has behavior problems, when in reality she’s just a typical kid whose behavior is completely normal, or you might think your kid is perfectly normal but her behavior is actually worrisome. A few embarrassing outbursts in the grocery store do not mean your child has behavior problems, but you don’t want to misinterpret potentially problematic behavior for everyday behavior. Learning to recognize the signs of behavior problems can help you figure out whether you need to get help for your child.
Look for signs that often point to behavioral problems in children that are outside the normal realm of childhood behavior. According to the Kids Health website, if you notice that your child is suddenly acting with extreme anger or aggression, if she wets the bed suddenly, if she experiences drastic mood swings, if her eating habits change suddenly or if she is acting out more than she usually does, she could be suffering from a behavior problem. If your little one exhibits any of these signs, it could mean she is suffering from a behavior problem.
Consider the issues other parents, teachers, family members or friends have pointed out regarding your child’s behavior. According to the Pacer Center, a program for children with disabilities, it may not be easy for you to tell if your child’s behavior is the kind of bad behavior most kids this age portray from time to time or a more serious behavioral problem. One way to tell is to think back to what others mention to you. If you’ve been approached by others who are concerned about your child’s behavior, you might want to stop and think about whether their concerns are valid. For example, if you think your child’s anger is normal for a kid his age but a number of others think that it’s too severe, it might be time to reconsider your own beliefs and look into his behavior with more concern.
Ask yourself if there is a reason for your child’s sudden change in behavior, such as a big move or the birth of another baby in your home, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. Sometimes your child may begin to behave in a negative way when there is a big stressor in her life, and you can rest assured that this behavior is normal and not typically indicative of a behavioral problem. Of course, you cannot allow her behavior to go undisciplined, even if it is just a passing phase.
Check for health problems that accompany your child’s behavior issues, advises Kyla Boyse, an RN with the University of Michigan’s Health System. If you notice that she is experiencing headaches, a change in appetite or a change in her sleeping patterns, you should contact her doctor. These symptoms often indicate that your child might have a behavioral problem caused by a serious health issue, such as a conduct disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. These types of health problems are treatable, which means your child’s pediatrician can help.
Consider whether your child’s behavior is normal for her. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it helps to recognize a behavioral problem based on your child’s past behavior. For example, if she’s always been a well-behaved child who is suddenly acting out without any reason -- such as a new sibling, new school or new house -- she might be experiencing behavioral problems. Children are not perfect, and it’s not uncommon for you to overreact to something minor or not react enough to something major. By assessing her personality and typical behavior, you can help recognize whether she is experiencing behavioral problems or just acting out, as children are known to do.
Discipline your child consistently. If you only discipline her for certain behaviors in public but let her get away with the same things at home when no one is watching, you might be causing a minor behavioral problem that can be easily changed by consistently enforcing the rules and the consequences.