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Here’s How To Spot And Manage Child Behavior Problems According To A Counselor

Common signs include mood swings, withdrawal, lack of confidence, weight problems, failing grades, among other things

At what point does bad behavior become a serious problem for kids?

According to Maria Sharon King-Villaruel, a guidance and student discipline in-charge at the University of Rizal System, not every child is a social butterfly. Each child is different, and it is important to understand what leads up to certain behaviors. However, certain behavior has meanings and as adults, it’s our job to really figure that out because kids are trying to learn from us what’s going on. (Read: 4 Children’s Books That Inspire and Empower Little Girls)

“When it becomes persistent despite multiple interventions and talking to the kid and it’s already disrupting their ability to learn, engage with peers and other people, then it’s important for parents and caregivers to make sure that they’re seeking out support,” says Villaruel.

Common signs of child behavior problems

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The common signs of a child heading in the wrong direction are mood swings, withdrawal, hiding things, failing grades, sudden changes of friends, fluctuating weight, personality changes, and changing the way they dress.

“Everyone experiences the occasional change in moods. Be calm if in case the child has a mood swing. Adding to the drama will only make things worse. Finally, try to get your child to communicate what he is truly feeling,” she says. 

If one sees signs of withdrawal, it could be a cause for concern. Watch out for signs of depression, lack of confidence, and if he feels rejected by other children.

“If a child is getting lower than normal grades, something is wrong somewhere. It could be a learning disability, laziness, need for more instruction, or any number of social or domestic issues. It could also be a sign of depression or discontentment. Get to the core of the matter instead of just punishing,” says Villaruel.

Today, disciplining kids has become kinder and gentler. Parents explain to kids what they expect of them before you can punish them for a behavior. Instead of hitting the kids, parents try to negotiate.

Mental Health And Behavior Problems

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According to Villaruel, life can be demanding as children grow. They experience problems they may not want to talk about. Unfortunately, due to their undeveloped brain, they may not know how to overcome their struggles in life. (Read: Three My Pope-approved tips for better communication)

“Suicide attempts are often impulsive among younger children. They may be associated with feelings of sadness, confusion, anger, or problems with attention and hyperactivity. Among teenagers, suicide attempts may be associated with feelings of stress, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, disappointment, and loss. For some teens, suicide may appear to be a solution to their problems,” says Villaruel.

However, depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders. The child or adolescent needs to have his or her illness recognized and diagnosed and appropriately treated with a comprehensive treatment plan.

Causes of child behavior problems

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Causes of problematic behavior can be a life event or a family situation, health, family or personal problems, adjustment or developmental issues, or general academic difficulties.

“A person might have a family conflict, struggle with poverty, feeling anxious, or had a death in the family,” explains Villaruel. (Read: LOOK: These 4 Popes Took Family Lessons To Heart And To Their Papacy!)

If a kid is a danger to himself and is manifesting signs of child behavior problems, Villaruel advised parents not to wait for children to come to them– instead go to them.

“Knock on their door and say, ‘You seem sad. Would you like to talk about it? Maybe I can help.’ If your instinct tells you that the child might be a danger to himself, heed your instincts and don’t allow him to be left alone. In this situation, it is better to overreact than to underreact,” Villaruel adds.

She also said to treat any written or verbal statement of “I want to die” or “I don’t care anymore” seriously.

“Often, children who attempt suicide had been telling their parents repeatedly that they intended to kill themselves. Any of these other red flags warrants your immediate attention and action by seeking professional help right away,” she warns.

Advice to parents

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According to Villaruel, parents should monitor their child and their activities as this allows them to decipher what paths they are headed down.

“When you just focus on punishment and not the root of the issue, there is a good chance he or she could become a problem child,” she says.

“Open communication is also important. When parents communicate effectively with their children, they are showing them respect. Children then begin to feel that they are heard and understood by their parents, which is a boost to self-esteem,” she adds.

She also advised parents to encourage their kids to make time for relaxation, get enough sleep, exercise, and eat well as alternative activities.

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