The Behavioural Approach

When it comes to children’s problem behaviour, you are often told there must be an underlying reason.  You are told that your child has a disorder, or your child has trauma, or ‘attachment’ issues, or your child is this or that, or something else that you’ve likely never heard of before.  It all becomes very confusing, very confronting, and often very unhelpful.  And it depends entirely on which expert you talk too.  Then you are told your child needs counselling, or your child needs years of ‘therapy’ – and you and your family need to turn your life upside down to cater to your child’s behaviour, because they can’t help behaving like that.  Parents often come away feeling blamed or guilty, and powerless to do anything.  

If your child has a diagnosis that can lead to challenging behaviour, we need to focus on the behaviour, not the diagnosis. We need to help a child cope better with normal life, rather than create an artificial world where they can cope more easily. We need to help children adjust to real-world expectations and demands – this is how children become resilient. If your child struggles with everyday life, like changes to routines or a noisy classroom, our job is to help a child get use to change and noisy classrooms – not cater to it or protect them from it.

If your child has faced difficulties in the past, counselling cannot change that. Counselling’s only role is to provide a person with a healthy understanding of what has happened – and there is nearly always a sensible adult in a child’s life that can do this job perfectly well. Counselling and simply talking about our feelings rarely changes children’s behaviour. And we can’t let past bad experiences to be an excuse for bad behaviour now. (Please refer to my blog articles for more information.)

If your child has got themselves ‘dressed and ready’ once before, contained their tantrums once before, followed your simple instructions once before, they are perfectly capable to doing it again – unless they have a broken their leg or lost a limb – then you might have to help them. It doesn’t matter if they are tired or hungry, or grumpy after a long day at school, they still need to learn to behave normally. And it shouldn’t rely on you saying it in a certain way, or them needing your unconditional love and support to nurture them through their big feelings.

As a Psychologist, I rely on decades of behavioural science and research, and twenty years of experience working first-hand with children’s challenging behaviour.   This informs what can be done about it.  And we cannot let popular opinion and political correctness get in the way.  We need to focus on what can be done now about the behaviours that are causing problems, not focussing on what’s happened in the past, or making excuses for bad behaviour. Parents need effective strategies that teach children how to behave now and for the future.  

Common Myths and Misconceptions about Children’s Behaviour

  • Your child needs counselling, and this will improve their behaviour.
  • Your child can’t help it, it’s not their fault, they have a condition
  • They will grow out of it, it’s just a stage
  • They have big feelings that are too big to manage
  • We need to give your child the tools to self-regulate
  • You need more patience and understanding and reconnect with your child
  • Your child’s emotional cup is empty

Parents are sick and tired of the warm fuzzy mamby pamby parenting strategies. Parents need strategies so they can effectively parent their children.  Telehealth is a highly effective way of providing this service, and there is usually little wait time for appointments.  For more information, please see my Blog, or subscribe to our Podcast “Permission to Parent”, or see the Telehealth page for appointment information.