How do I recognize behavioral problems in my child?

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How do I recognize behavioral problems in my child?

Behavioral problems in childhood are more common than one might think. Around 20 - 25 % of all children show corresponding signs according to a baseline survey by the RKI. However, very few parents like to talk about this topic. But you can only avoid negative social consequences if you recognize behavioral problems in time and lovingly support your child.

When is my child considered to have behavioral problems?

Every child has his or her own individual character. Just because we adults may find one or another of our child's habits annoying or irritating, this does not necessarily equate to a behavioral disorder requiring intervention. Therefore, it is even more important to recognize serious psychological causes in time.

According to the well-known child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Nawid Peseschkian, whether or not a particular behavior is to be classified as requiring treatment depends to a large extent on the level of suffering that arises for the children themselves and for their immediate environment. If everyday life and well-being are impaired, action is required in any case.

What are the signs of behavioral problems?

It is not easy to identify specific signs of behavioral problems, as these can vary depending on the child's personal situation. In principle, a behavioral disorder can be assumed if the following criteria apply:

  • Over a longer period of time, these behaviors lead to suffering and uncertainty in the child himself as well as in his social environment.
  • The child's reactions are clearly inappropriate in the respective situation. Example: The child suffers a crying fit just because a pencil falls down.
  • Development opportunities are limited by behavior.

With regard to the assessment of whether behavioral problems are present, the Culture and the Zeitgeist a decisive role. Much of what is considered perfectly normal today was unthinkable in our grandparents' generation and would have been classified as conspicuousness.

Culturally conditioned differences influence the definition of a conspicuous behavior as well. The Lower Saxony Institute for Early Childhood Education and Development has published an interesting article in this context:

Also decisive is the Age of the child. If a toddler throws himself on the floor screaming at the supermarket checkout because he didn't get any candy, the behavior may be unpleasant for the parents. Nevertheless, it is a normal reaction that corresponds to the developmental stage. However, if a ten-year-old behaves in the same way, we are talking about an abnormality.

children with behavioral problems symptoms

What are the different types of behavioral problems?

At this point, it is first important to differentiate behavioral problems from behavioral disorders. This is not so easy, since the possible manifestations are relatively identical. The crucial difference lies in the Frequency and intensity of the occurrence. As soon as there is pressure to suffer or even a health risk, parents should act.

The most common behavioral problems in childhood and adolescence include:

Self-harming behavior

  • Nail biting
  • Thumb sucking
  • Pull out hair
  • Refusal to eat
  • Inflicting cuts or other injuries
  • in adolescents: Drug and alcohol abuse

Behavior that causes harm to others

  • verbal and physical aggressiveness
  • Vandalism
  • Ignite
  • Stealing
  • wanton destruction of other people's property


  • social isolation
  • strong Fears (Anxiety about school, fear of loss, nightmares).
  • Depressiveness
  • pronounced shyness

Behaviors that lead to educational difficulties.

  • excessive lying
  • conscious Manipulation of other people
  • age-inappropriate defiant behavior
  • strong concentration deficits
  • strong defensive behavior

What are the possible causes of behavioral problems in children?

The causes of behavioral problems in children can be manifold. In most cases, it is an interaction of several factors, whereby the personality of the child must also be taken into account. For example, it is quite possible that two children who have the same Trauma have lived through, only one later shows behavioral problems.

Which brings us directly to the keyword: Traumatic experiences are a frequent cause for the development of behavioral problems. This may be the death of a close relative, the Separation of the parents or sudden changes within the social environment. The latter is the case, for example, with a move with a change of school.

If the child is in a sensitive developmental phase such as school entry age or puberty, it is all the more susceptible to the development of behavioral problems. This does not even necessarily require a traumatic experience. Even the birth of a sibling or the first heartbreak can temporarily lead to behavioral problems.

Over- or underchallenge: a factor not to be underestimated

If your child shows behavioral problems, it is worth checking whether he or she feels over- or underchallenged. Many highly gifted children who do not receive sufficient support show aggressive behavior and poor grades at school. If the support is adjusted accordingly, the problems disappear.

But the opposite can also be the case: Overstrained children often react with defiance and refusal because they simply cannot meet the demands placed on them. In this case, it is important to curb parental ambition and adjust the learning level to the child's actual ability.

How can behaviorally challenged children be helped?

If you notice behavioral problems in your child or if you are asked about them by teachers and educators, this is understandably a very stressful situation for you as a parent. To help your Child However, if you want to help your child, you should never deny the problem. Basically, the sooner you react, the better you can help your child.

If, on the other hand, you wait until there are serious social consequences for your child and you are completely at the end of your rope, the way out of the vicious circle will be all the more difficult. Therefore, seek professional support early on. You can confidently turn to your pediatrician, to a specialist or to an educational counseling center.

Ideally, a few conversations with the appropriate professionals are enough to get to the bottom of the behavioral problems and take appropriate countermeasures. If this is not enough, family therapy is a good idea. You can ask the doctor, the educational counseling center or the health insurance company for the appropriate addresses.

In the case of behavioral problems: What can I do as a parent myself?

If their own child displays behavioral problems, many parents feel powerless in the face of the situation. In addition, there is often additional pressure from the school environment as well as their own fears and self-reproaches. Therefore, do not be afraid to seek therapeutic help for yourself as well.

That being said, there are some important principles to keep in mind when interacting with your child to help defuse the situation at home:

1. set limits and stay consistent

As a parent, you need to communicate clear (and age-appropriate) boundaries about what behavior is tolerable and what is not. If your child exceeds these limits, he or she will face appropriate consequences. It is important that you follow through with the announced actions. Otherwise, nothing will change in your child's behavior.

2. express yourself clearly

Your child needs to know exactly what you expect of him. Therefore, explain the rules that apply to you briefly and succinctly. Avoid long discussions and attempts at explanation. In most cases, these are fruitless.

3. be a role model

Children prefer to copy behavioral patterns from their parents. The younger they are, the more pronounced this phenomenon is. So pay attention to your own behavior. If you yourself tend to react quickly and aggressively, there is a high probability that your child will copy this behavior from you.

4. behavioral problems: Praise your child

Don't just focus on your child's unpleasant behaviors. Don't forget to praise him when he does something right. In this way, you will motivate your child to continue to behave appropriately.

Every once in a while, it's okay to hold out the prospect of a reward for desirable behavior: "If you do all your homework for a week, we'll go on a great field trip this weekend."

5. do not reward undesirable behavior

Often, we adults pay too much attention to our children's undesirable behaviors. This leads to unconsciously rewarding the behavioral problems in order to quickly regain calm or avoid embarrassing situations in public.

A classic example is the argument at the supermarket checkout. If you buy the defiant child the candy he wants just to get him to shut up, you are encouraging the unwanted behavior.

It is not uncommon for children to use certain behaviors that they know their parents do not like as provocation. This is an attempt to get attention. If you respond accordingly, you encourage the behaviors. Instead, show your child that he or she can always be sure of your affection and does not need to challenge you for it.

6. even small progress counts

Don't overchallenge your child and praise him or her for even small steps forward. Overcoming behavioral problems is a slow process in which there will also be regressions. Do not expect too much at once. If there are several problems, take care of one "construction site" at a time.

Conclusion: behavioral problems are not a stigma

Behavioral problems are a child's outlet for solving problems. Far too often, however, they are stigmatized. Just because your child exhibits an abnormality, however, does not mean that there is something fundamentally wrong with him or her. Nearly one in five children will develop temporary behavioral problems as they grow up, often in response to significant events.

It is important that you lovingly accompany and support your child. Do not deny the problem, but seek professional help early on. The sooner your child receives the necessary support, the sooner he or she will learn to put aside the behavioral problems and instead find other outlets for his or her emotions.

As a parent, you should remain calm and also seek professional help if necessary. Only if you keep your strength up will you be able to support your child appropriately. Also, stay in regular contact with teachers, educators, doctors or other caregivers.


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