child behavior problems

Behavioral Disorders in Children


Behavioral Disorders in Children

Children from time to time can be naughty, defiant and impulsive which is perfectly normal. But some children have extremely difficult and challenging behaviors that are outside the norm for their age.

child behavior problems

Child Behavior Problems

There are various children behavior disorders but most common disruptive behavior disorders include oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

These three behavioral disorders share some common symptoms due to which diagnosis may be difficult and time-consuming. A child or adolescent may have two or more disorders at the same time. Other exacerbating factors of behavior disorders include emotional problems, mood disorders, family difficulties, and substance abuse.

Oppositional defiant disorder

Around one in ten children under the age of 12 years are may have the oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), with boys outnumbering girls by two to one. Some of the typical behaviors of a child with ODD include:

  • Easily angered, annoyed or irritated
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Argues frequently with adults, particularly the most familiar adults in their lives, such as parents
  • Refuses to obey rules
  • Seems to deliberately try to annoy or aggravate others
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low frustration threshold
  • Seeks to blame others for any misfortunes or misdeeds

Conduct disorder

Children with conduct disorder (CD) have delinquent behavior and refuse to accept rules due to which they are judged as ‘bad kids’. Around five to 10 year old children are thought to have CD, especially boys outnumbering girls by four to one. Around one-third of children with CD will also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The following are the typical behaviors of a child with CD:

  • Frequent refusal to obey parents or other authority figures
  • Repeated truancy
  • A tendency to use drugs, including cigarettes and alcohol, at a very early age
  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Being aggressive to animals and other people
  • showing sadistic behaviors including bullying and physical or sexual abuse
  • Keenness to start physical fights
  • Using weapons in physical fights
  • Frequent lying
  • Criminal behavior such as stealing
  • Deliberately lighting fires, breaking into houses and vandalism
  • A tendency to run away from home
  • Suicidal tendencies – although these are more rare

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Around two to five percent of children may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with boys outnumbering girls by three to one. The characteristics of ADHD are as follows:


  1. Difficulty concentrating
  2. Forgetting instructions
  3. Moving from one task to another without completing anything


  1. Talking over the top of others
  2. Having a ‘short fuse’
  3. Being accident-prone


  1. Constant restlessness
  2. Fidgeting

Risk factors in children’s behavioral disorders

The risk factors of ODD, CD and ADHD include:

Gender – Boys are much more likely to suffer from behavioral disorders compared to girls. It is unclear whether the cause is genetic or linked to socialization experiences.

Gestation and birth – Difficult pregnancies, premature birth, and low birth weight may contribute to the child’s problem behavior later in life

Temperament – Children who are very difficult to handle, temperamental or aggressive from an early age are more likely to develop behavioral disorders later in life.

Family life – Behavioral disorders occur mostly in dysfunctional families.

Learning difficulties –Problems with reading and writing are closely associated with child behavior problems

Intellectual disabilities – Children with intellectual disabilities are more likely to have behavioral disorders

Brain development – Recent studies say that areas of the brain that control attention appear to be less active in children with ADHD

How to Diagnosis of children’s behavioral disorders?

  1. Diagnosis by a specialist service, which may include a pediatrician, psychologist or child psychiatrist
  2. In-depth interviews with the parents, child, and teachers
  3. Behavior checklists or standardized questionnaires

What is the Treatment of behavioral disorders in children?

Treatment is usually multifaceted and depends on the various factors that contribute to it but may include:

Parental education – Teaching parents on how to communicate with and handle their children

Family therapy – The entire family taught on improving the communication and problem-solving skills

Cognitive behavioral therapy – To help the child in controlling their thoughts and behavior

Social training – The child is taught important social skills like how to have a behave and start a conversation or play cooperatively with others.

Anger management – The children are taught on the signs of their growing frustration and are given a range of coping skills which are designed to defuse their anger and aggressive behavior. Relaxation techniques and stress management skills are also taught as a part of anger management.

Support for associated problems – A child who has a learning difficulty will benefit from professional support

Encouragement – Encouraging the child on his failure to excel in their particular talents (such as sport) can help to build self-esteem

Medication – To help control impulsive behaviors

Signs and Symptoms of Abnormal Behavior in Children  

  • Your child seems to have difficulty managing his emotions. He has frequent emotional outbursts and minor things bother him.
  • It is not normal if your eight-year-old girl or boy becomes impulsive. They may display destructive behavior like hitting, throwing things, screaming, etc.
  • Your otherwise talkative child withdraws into a shell, talks back and seems rude for no reason.
  • Your little boy maybe lying more often than you realized. Stealing or taking things that do not belong to them becomes a habit.
  • Your child’s behavior is affecting his performance at school. For example, your kid may be getting into fights, going late to class or missing classes.
  • Spats and disagreements that your seven-year-old girl has with peers become problems that affect her social life. That is not normal.
  • Unable to focus on one thing, gets restless, extremely lazy or disoriented.
  • Indulges in sexual behaviors that are not age appropriate.
  • Your child starts questioning your instructions and does not respond to discipline. He may defy rules just to challenge you.
  • It is not normal for children to harm themselves or even think about self-harm. So, if they are harming themselves physically and having suicidal tendencies, you should be worried

8 Common Behavioral Problems in Children

  • Disrespect and backtalk
  • Abusive language
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Lying
  • Bullying
  • Manipulation
  • Lack of motivation and laziness
  • Behavior problems in school

8 Tips to Handle Bad Behavior in Children

Misbehaving children can make parenting stressful. We have put together a few tips and tricks that can help you handle bad or disruptive behavior in children.

  • Don’t react: When you react or respond to your child’s bad behavior, you are encouraging her.
  • Stay positive: When you consider your child as a problem, you cannot find effective ways to deal with his behavior. Focus on rectifying the behavior.
  • Be consistent in your reaction or responses to your child’s behavior. More importantly, be consistent in the consequences to driving the point home. Give the same responses to their conduct, and eventually, they will get it.
  • That said, it is okay to change the rules sometimes, to change old habits that may have gotten out of hand. For example, cutting down TV time, video game time or other activities for the child’s benefit is okay.
  • Be a role model: Change your bad behavior to change your kids’ behavior. Children of all ages learn by observation and imitate you because they assume that their parents know the best.
  • Disciplining is necessary, but is effective only when it is valid. You need to think well before determining the consequences for your children’s misbehavior.
  • Relax: Don’t worry too much about the usual yelling, arguments, and defiance. It does not hurt to chill out once in a while and take a break from disciplining.
  • Use child behavior chart or reward charts to track your child’s behavior patterns. You can create one for a specific behavior or multiple behaviors. You can also have a good manners chart that has details like “said thank you and please”, “helped mom with chores”, “waited for my turn to speak” etc.

Activities for Children with Behavior Problems

A highly effective way to deal with behavior problems in children, especially toddlers is through activities. There are several activities you can try and here are a few that we think will be most helpful to you.

  • Exercise or physical activities are perhaps the best means to blow steam off. When your child gets excited or angry, getting them to play outside can help relieve them of the energy. If a child’s energy is not properly released, they tend to release it in the ways they know – tantrums, destructive behavior, acting out, etc.
  • Role-playing is an excellent activity that can teach your kids to control impulses. One of the major factors affecting kids behavior is the lack of self-control.
  • Ask your child to read aloud a book or what they are writing. You can try this at bedtime when they are still full of energy and need an activity to calm down and relax.
  • Storytelling is yet another activity that engages their imagination and lets them use their energy in a positive way. This activity also helps you get an insight into their frame of mind.
  • Play good behavior games and read child behavior books that can teach kids about good deeds such as kindness, sharing, waiting and saying nice things to each other. When they learn that good things can be rewarding, they won’t try the bad ones.

Strategies for modifying behavior include the following:

  1. Identifying triggers for the child’s behavior and factors (such as additional attention) that may inadvertently reinforce it
  2. Clearly defining for the child which behaviors are desired and which are undesired
  3. Establishing consistent rules and limits
  4. Tracking how well the rules and limits are followed
  5. Providing appropriate rewards for success and consequences for inappropriate behavior
  6. Minimizing anger when enforcing rules and increasing positive interactions with the child

Why do many children misbehave in schools?

  1. Boredom
  2. Frustration
  3. Needing to run
  4. Needing to play
  5. Wanting to have sex
  6. Not liking the teacher
  7. Showing off
  8. Insecurity
  9. Defining yourself as part of a particular clique
  10. Unreasonable teacher demands
  11. Too long a school day
  12. Not enough sleep
  13. Too little play

What Should We Do As Parents?

  • Always communicate with your children
  • Spend time with them talking about there day
  • Don’t look down at there anxiety or fear
  • Be supportive but don’t give in
  • Your child needs to know that they can trust you
  • Show them how to do something, don’t take over
  • Help them with their own problem-solving skills
  • Teach your child how to handle a disappointment
  • Step in where necessary
  • Let your child develop their own way of positive coping strategies
  • Teach them that they must be responsible for there action
  • Let your child have input into decisions which will affect them (only where possible)
  • Be consistent where discipline is concerned
  • Encourage friendships with other children in their age group
  • Show them how to learn from there mistakes
  • Take an interest in what interest them
  • Treat each child as an individual
  • Express pleasure in all their efforts good or bad

Behavioral Disorders – FAQs

At what age does OCD begin?

OCD start between the ages 6 and 15 years for males and between ages 20 and 29 years for females. It begins as early as preschool and continuing to adulthood.

Is OCD Inherited?

OCD does run in families and that genes likely play a role in the development of the children disorder. Genes only appear to be partly responsible for causing the disorder though. It is more likely to be a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental influences.

How is OCD diagnosed?

There are no laboratories or brain imaging tests to diagnose OCD because the diagnosis is made based on the observation and assessment of the person’s symptoms by a mental health professional.

What treatments are available for OCD?

OCD is typically treated with

  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy
  • Combination of the two

What causes mental illness?

There isn’t one particular reason for an individual to develop a mental illness because it is usually a combination of factors, which may include:

  • Inherited traits or genes
  • Psychological or emotional problems brought on by major life changes and/or events
  • Exposure to environmental stressors before birth

How common are eating disorders?

The eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa affect 0.5 percent and 2-3 percent of women over their lifetime respectively. Although much more common in females, 10 percent of cases detected are in males and the most common age of onset is “12 to 25”.

What are the symptoms of mental illness?

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Homicidal thoughts
  • Anger or irritability
  • Posing a threat to others
  • Loneliness, isolation or withdrawal
  • Feelings of helplessness or despair
  • Inability to cope with grief or loss
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Tearfulness or crying spells
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping

What are the approaches to treat persons with co-occurring disorders?

The basic approaches to treating persons with co-occurring disorders are

  1. Single model of care
  2. Sequential model of care
  3. Parallel model of care
  4. Integrated model of care

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorders in children?

  1. Overanxious at being apart from family even during a short time
  2. Apathy, depression, passiveness
  3. Problems with authority
  4. Wetting the bed
  5. Craving for carbohydrates and sweet things
  6. Experiencing delusions and hallucinations
  7. Insomnia
  8. Irritability
  9. A fast change of mood over a few hours or days
  10. A temper that is destructive extensively
  11. Grandiose ideas
  12. Night fears, ranting
  13. Inappropriate sexual behavior
  14. Very talkative with fanciful ideas

What are the primary symptoms of co-occurring disorders?

  • Using drugs or alcohol to reduce the difficulty or pain associated with the psychiatric problem
  • The psychiatric problem has generally got worse because of drugs and alcohol.
  • The addiction to alcohol or drugs has generally got worse because of the psychiatric problem.
  • It seems harder to get treatment for both, or harder to benefit from treatment because of having both disorders.
  • It seems harder to find and talk with others who share the same common problem, co-occurring disorders

What are the negative impacts that affect other aspects of life?

  • An obsessive need to participate and plan the activity
  • An inability to control participation in the activity in question
  • Negative consequences as a result of the activity
  • Behavior interfering with relationships
  • Engaging in illegal activities to satisfy the addiction
  • Preoccupation with the activity while doing other things
  • Use of the activity as a means of escaping unpleasant feelings or situations
  • Continued participation in the activity despite highly negative outcomes

What are the types of parenting?

  • Authoritarian parenting
  • Authoritative parenting
  • Permissive parenting
  • Uninvolved parenting

How to ask a carer about conduct disorder?

  1. Do they have severe temper tantrums?
  2. Do they repeatedly defy reasonable requests?
  3. Do they show provocative behavior?
  4. Do they show excess bullying or excess levels of fighting?
  5. Do they show cruelty to other people and animals?
  6. Have they shown destructiveness to property?
  7. Have they been repeatedly truanting?
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