Children who don't receive appreciation from parents might seek that appreciation through negative ways.

Behavior Problems in Early Childhood

by Damon Verial

Behavior can vary widely between two kids simply due to individual differences. But once in a while, problems arise that parents cannot contribute to a mere difference of personalities. If you find your child engaging in worrisome problems during her early years, you might have some cause for concern. Then again, it could just be natural childishness. Knowing the difference is the first step to solving behavioral problems.

Common Reasons for Behavioral Problems

Childhood is a complex beast with a complex set of problems, leading to complexity in determining the root of a certain behavioral problem. For example, a child who is sweet in front of Mom’s eyes and suddenly becomes the schoolyard bully when Mom is out of sight might be suffering from a number of personal problems. But in general, many problem behaviors stem from the family dynamic and how parents treat their children. Researcher of bullying behaviors and author of the book “The Bully Action Guide,” Edward Dragan, mentions how problematic behaviors often deal with a missing need in the family environment. Children who do not receive enough appreciation at home might use the schoolyard or other social gatherings to gain appreciation from their peers, by whatever means necessary, including bullying and showing off.

Genetic Reasons for Behavioral Problems

Science has shown the world how some children are simply predisposed to problematic behavior. Before you worry, realize that genetic predispositions to certain types of behavior is not the same as determinism; a child with a gene that causes an emotional disorder, for example, will not necessarily become an emotional mess. Parents still have the opportunity to help their children through emotional and habitual problems, training them to act appropriately in spite of their impulses. About 15 percent of children aged 2 to 5 are diagnosed with a mental health problem that can contribute to problematic behavior, according to the National Scientific Council’s article titled "The Developing Child: Mental Health Problems in Early Childhood Can Impair Learning and Behavior for Life." This percentage both implies that such mental health problems are not common enough to worry the average mom but still commonplace enough where research exists to help the parents of affected children deal with these problems.

Recognizing Problems

Much of what children do is childish. But because being childish is part of a child’s job, parents need not worry about every small infraction against family or social rules. But parents need to know when being childish crosses the line into being behaviorally problematic. Children aged 2 to 6 naturally engage in behaviors that frustrate parents or cause parents to worry, such as throwing tantrums, hitting or breaking rules, according to the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development. The key to separating such behavior from truly problematic behavior lies in intent. Children with true behavioral problems will deliberately hurt others and disregard adults. This deliberateness of the action shows an anti-social attitude, not the normal frustration that causes young children to act up.

Raising Children without Problems

Parenting techniques and limit-setting strategies can help your children regulate themselves. By being firm yet warm, you show your child that limits are to be followed and these limits are not antagonistic: they come from a loving mom or dad. But another part of raising your child to act appropriately lies in playing the role model. Through leading by example, you teach your young children how to properly respond to certain stimuli. For example, a father who yells or even hits his wife when angry is only showing his child that tantrums and violence are appropriate reactions to the emotion of anger. This could lead a child to engage in extreme misbehavior toward his siblings or peers, all without knowing that his actions are inappropriate.

About the Author

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.

Photo Credits

  • David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images