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Why Children Exhibit Challenging Behaviour

The following information is brought to you by Q-Psych psychologist, Alithea Taylor.

Naughty child stands in the cornerWhen a child is engaging in challenging behaviour, they are not just a bundle of naughtiness – although it may feel that way at times!

Children are highly complex beings with emotional, physiological and psychological needs that they do not necessarily have the maturity to communicate effectively.

Which of these six common causes of challenging behaviour do you recognise?

Reason 1: Tiredness and Hunger

Sleep deprivation destabilizes mood and intensifies negative emotions.  Hunger causes anxiety and agitation, while low blood sugar leads to disinhibited behaviour.

Reason 2: An Undeveloped Brain

Sometimes children are too immature to behave better.  In young children, the higher brain is still very underdeveloped, which means they can’t naturally inhibit primitive impulses when activated.

Reason 3: Psychological Hungers

Under-stimulation.  The brain registers under-stimulation as stress. Because children have fewer resources than adults, the stimulation they choose may be aggressive, noisy, or destructive.

Recognition Hunger.  Children have a genetically programmed need for attention.  If they don’t get enough loving attention, they will settle for negative attention.

Structure Hunger.  Without rules and routines, children (like adults) descend fairly quickly into anarchy.

Reason 4: Needing Help with a Big Feeling

Children may discharge tension from painful emotions they are unable to express in words. Or, as a signal that they need help managing their distress.

Reason 5: Picking up on Your Feelings

Children (like dogs) are great barometers for how you are feeling – the more stressed you are, the more likely your child is to behave in challenging ways.

Reason 6: Activating the Primitive Brain

The way you interact with (or react to) your child (e.g. shouting) may be activating primitive rage and fear brain systems.

Q-Psych’s child and family psychologists can assist you to identify the underlying causes of your child’s behaviour and help you find creative, effective and conflict-free ways to manage it. To find out more about our child and family psychology services, including our popular parent courses, click here or call (07) 3356 4242. We’re ready to help!

© Alithea Taylor, Q-Psych psychologist, 2016.

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