Challenging Behaviours in Children

Help and advice for supporting our children and working through challenging behaviours.

Jillian ADHD 2e MB
Apr 29 · 7 min read

In this case challenging is an adverb, not a verb. We’re not challenging the kids, even though their behaviour is sometimes challenging.

This is the second of a two-part blog series — but also the fourth of a four-part blog series — (because ADHD)… The two-part series focuses on supporting children whose behaviour can become quite challenging when they are dysregulated. We suggest you read our most recent post, entitled Misbehaviour is Stress Behaviour before reading this one.

Engage in Self-Refelction

Before you begin addressing any child’s particular behaviour, check in with yourself (and maybe a trusted adult/co-parent/friend/colleague) to see if it is actually a problematic behaviour.

Is the behaviour only a problem for you, or is it a problem for that child, and for others in the child’s life?

Behaviours we are focusing on are behaviours that:

If the behaviour is simply irritating to you, or one you don’t like, ask yourself why? Ask yourself why the behaviour might make sense for that child, and whether perhaps there is something you need to work on, rather than expecting the child to change to suit your needs.

If the behaviour is potentially harmful, dig down to see what need that behaviour is meeting for that child, and find other ways to meet that need that are safer.

What NEED is the behaviour meeting for that child?

When considering prevention:

Why Punishment is Counter-Productive

If the child has repeated this behaviour in the past, it’s highly likely they’ve been told a thousand times that behaviour is inappropriate.

Intellectually, they almost certainly already know that. ADHD causes impulsivity, so the child may have the knowledge, but not the ability to stop, think, and apply that knowledge before acting.

Behaviours and triggers are often largely outside of the child’s control. When we punish behaviours that stem from the child’s neurodiversity (which is most of them), we are essentially punishing a child for having a disability.

If a child is frequently singled out because of their behaviour, other children look to the adults to role-model how to deal with it. This is particularly true with siblings, teammates, and classmates. If adults frequently punish, shame, or reject that child, the other children will follow their example.

Note: I am not advocating a lack of accountability, far from it. The point I do wish to make is that if punishment worked then behaviours would stop after the first few times the child was punished, so it would not be necessary to continue punishing the same behaviour.

Our previous blog post, “Punishment Does Not Work” expands on this point.

That was the first in the four-part series that started out as a two-part series, but then blended in to this other two-part series… confused? Welcome to my ADHD brain.

All you really need to know is that there are four blog posts with themes around preventig and addressing challenging behaviours:

  1. Punishment Does Not Work
  2. Punishments Don’t Teach Skills
  3. “Misbehaviour” is Stress Behaviour
  4. Challenging Behaviours in Children (the one you’re reading right now).

So, how do we achieve what we want?

Reconciliation, restoring relationships, and collaborative problem-solving.

Before a child is able to accept responsibility for their actions, they need to feel that their experience has been heard and their feelings validated.

When we truly listen to the child, we are role-modelling how we want them to validate the experiences and feelings of the others their behaviour has impacted.

Overcoming Defensiveness

We all can become defensive when we know we’ve made a mistake, and this is even more so when we feel attacked. When we don’t have a chance to process and acknowledge our errors, we may feel backed into a corner and so our defences go up.

To avoid defensiveness in the child:

The goal is connection, not compliance.

Collaborative Proactive Solutions by Dr. Ross Greene

Collaborative Problem-Solving

The key premise of CPS is that kids do well when they can, and when they can’t, they need adults to help teach them skills they are lacking.

It’s not malicious or willful misbehaviour, it’s a lack of skills

For more, visit livesinthebalance.org/about-cps

Collaborative Problem-Solving in a nutshell:

  1. Identify something you’ve noticed without blame or judgement.

2. Give them a chance to explain their perception of what is happening.

3. *Empathize with the child’s experience and validate their feelings

4. Identify your concern — without blame or judgement.

5. Ask the child to express any concerns they may have.

6. Invite them to be part of the solution

They may shrug their shoulders and mumble “ idunno”, especially if this process is new to them. That’s okay. You can ask them if you can make some suggestions, or if they would prefer to take a little time to think about it and come back to it. Be specific about when you will come back to the conversation: “ Would it help if we both took some time to think about it this afternoon, and we’ll talk about it after dinner?”

Some suggestions the adult can make (or the child might make) in the scenario above:

Check in with your child at the end of the conversation

For more information about the Collaborative-Proactive Solutions model, please visit the Lives in the Balance website. Their website has been updated and contains a wealth of free or low-cost resources for families and schools.

That was the last in a four-part series that started out as a two-part series, but then blended in to this other two-part series… confused? Welcome to my ADHD brain.

All you really need to know is that there are four blog posts with themes around preventig and addressing challenging behaviours:

  1. Punishment Does Not Work
  2. Punishments Don’t Teach Skills
  3. “Misbehaviour” is Stress Behaviour
  4. Challenging Behaviours in Children (the one you’re reading right now).
ADHDMB.ca

About the Author

Jillian is an ADHD 2e Coach and Child Advocate in Manitoba, Canada.

Jillian has a diploma in Child & Youth Work and a Degree in Psychology, as well as being the parent of an amazing 2e/ADHD child.

Visit and Facebook.com/ADHD2ePro to learn more.

facebook.com/ADHD2ePro

Related Posts

“Punishment” Does Not Work

Punishments Don’t Teach Skills

“Misbehaviour” is STRESS Behaviour

Originally published at https://adhd2e.blogspot.com on April 25, 2021.

neurodiversified

Exceptionally Divergent: Collaboration, Commiseration, and Celebration.

Jillian ADHD 2e MB

Written by

CYW, BA Psych. Worked in Social Services since 2003. Founded ADHD 2e MB in 2017 in oreder to support & advocate for neurodiverse children in Manitoba.

neurodiversified

We write about ADHD, twice exceptionality, neurodiversity, parenting, advocacy, and education. We’re unique, just like everybody else.

Jillian ADHD 2e MB

Written by

CYW, BA Psych. Worked in Social Services since 2003. Founded ADHD 2e MB in 2017 in oreder to support & advocate for neurodiverse children in Manitoba.

neurodiversified

We write about ADHD, twice exceptionality, neurodiversity, parenting, advocacy, and education. We’re unique, just like everybody else.

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