All children misbehave; after all they don’t call it the “terrible twos” for nothing. But how do you know when you child is merely displaying typical though exasperating bad behavior, or is exhibiting the signs of a deeper behavioral problem? We all have stress and believe it or not children can have very stressful lives, and their reaction to stress is often what we may perceive as a behavioral problem.
So before you hit the panic button, see if there is anything in your child’s life that has changed recently that can increase stress. Have you recently moved? Has your child started in a new school, or new class? Has a newborn just arrived? The birth of a sibling can often cause a child to regress developmentally, to act younger or to otherwise go back to a behavior pattern you thought they “grew out of” like bed wetting for instance.
When do you know when there might be a true behavioral problem worthy of concern? Behavior issues deserve a closer look when they are persistent enough and severe enough to impact your child’s everyday life. You may need to seek professional help for your child if you observe problems such as changes in appetite or sleep patterns, social withdrawal, or fearfulness; signs of depression such as sadness or tearfulness; and any kind of consistent self-destructive behavior such as head banging.
If you do suspect that your child does have a behavioral problem, it does not mean you are a “bad parent”. Often a parent’s first reaction is “what did I do wrong?” Honestly, probably nothing. The first thing you should do is seek the advice of your family physician to rule out any physical reasons for changes in behavior, your doctor can then recommend if a further evaluation by a specialist in child behavioral problems is necessary.