Helping Kids with Challenging Behavior

Helping Kids With Challenging Behavior


Your kids want to do well. They want to make good choices. Your children truly want to be successful.

“Kids do well if they CAN … if they could do well, they would do well. If not, something must be getting in the way” (Dr. Ross Greene).

If you have a child who’s struggling with challenging behaviors you need to know they’re not trying to make your life difficult. Your little one is not trying to ruin your day!

Behavior is a skill and lagging skills are what are preventing kids from meeting the expectations of more appropriate behavior.

A simple mistake many of us parents make when dealing with our kids’ challenging behaviors is that we focus only on the behavior. We bribe and reward our kids in an attempt to encourage the behaviors we like, and we punish them when problem behaviors occur.

If all we focus on is the challenging behavior with our kids, we miss what’s most important - the opportunity to discover and understand what is causing the behavior (what is getting in the way of their success) and the ability to create solutions with our kids which teach the needed skills they are lagging in.

Believe it or not, challenging behavior is normal in young children. I often meet with panicked parents in my coaching practice whose internal alarms are blaring that there is something wrong with their child. They’re sure a mental health diagnosis is needed, and they’re worried their toddler or preschooler is headed down a bad path because of their defiant, aggressive, non-compliant or other challenging behavior. This simply isn’t true.

When we view behavior as a skill and we know which skills our kids are lagging in then our most important job as parents is to teach!

If we want our little ones to ride a bike, we teach them. If we want them to learn to swim, we teach them. If we want them to behave appropriately, we cannot bribe and punish them … we need to teach skills and appropriate behavior expectations.

With your love and support there is lots you can do to help your child manage their behavior.

Look beyond the behavior. Focus instead on determining the lagging skills that might be causing the behavior.

Think about your expectations. Make sure the bar for your expectations is realistic for your child’s developmental age and is close to their skill level.

Brainstorm alternatives. Many times parents come up with solutions that are done TO their child. What you need to do is come up with solutions WITH your child. When things are calm talk with your child about other ways they could handle the situation (or their behavior) next time.

Stay calm and model empathy. Take a deep breath and pause before you react. When you have a calm, level head, you are better able to determine your child’s lagging skills. You’ll also be better able to show your child you care and empathize with his/her struggles in these lagging skill areas.

Supervise. Your child may need more supervision than others their age with behaviors that are challenging. Stay close, present and aware. As your child matures and builds more skills less supervision will be needed.

Your child’s behavior may seem like they are intentionally acting out to get their way or it may seem like a personal attack against you. You may feel that they are choosing not to handle a situation even though they know better.

I wonder how things would change in your family if you remind yourself that challenging behavior is a sign that your child needs your help. Your toddler or preschooler has limited coping strategies and problem solving skills. These are skills you can teach them.

Children have a lot to learn. If you can be there with support and a willingness to teach, your child will learn new skills. They’ll make better choices, they’ll do well, and they will be successful.

Support is always available. Changing patterns of behavior is hard and it can be confusing to try new things.

If you relate to any of this information and want to learn more about how I can help you, or if you want to schedule a free phone conversation to see if my work is right for your family, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Your parenting counts!

Heart of Connecting

My work is dedicated to supporting parents and early childhood educators in understanding and reducing challenging behavior in young children at home and in the preschool classroom.

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