How to Manage Children and Adolescents with Behavioral Problems?


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There is nothing more important to parents than their children. No parent or adolescent is perfect and everyone will have some problems at some point of time. When the problems are persistent and troublesome and affect your life, something needs to be done about them. The most common problems affecting children and adolescents psychologically are problems related to unwanted behavior.

One of the commonest behavioral disorders in adolescents is conduct disorder. Conduct disorder is a worrisome condition as adolescents with conduct disorder are likely to have personality problems in later life. Adolescents with conduct disorder show defying behavior and do not agree or listen to parents or teachers, indulge in activities like stealing, lying, fire setting, harming animals, hitting others, shoplifting, and breaking in, running away from school. In addition, temper tantrums and emotional manipulation of others is very common. Adolescents with conduct disorder usually have friends who are like them and they are often considered as bad adolescents. It is serious disorder that requires specific professional help from a psychologist.

Another very common but under diagnosed disorder is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is characterized by a triad of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Children and adolescents with ADHD have difficulty in sitting still, they are restless, they have difficulty in concentrating in studies, frequently pick up fights with other children, keep looking here and there without focusing on the task at hand, they disturb others while they are talking, they often take decisions without thinking of their consequences. These children are usually labeled by parents and teachers as bad and mischievous. As a result, the disorder is commonly missed, children and adolescents are scolded and they lose their self esteem.

Another common disorder is oppositional defiant disorder characterized by children who just do not listen to their parents and would do things opposite of what is told to them.

The behavioral problems in children are best managed by behavior therapy which consists of the following steps:

a) Define and describe the different behaviors that the adolescent shows.
b) Exactly record the behavior as it happens with the particular time when it happens.
c) Record the antecedents and the consequences of the behavior. Antecedents are the preceding or precipitating factors that lead to the particular behavior. Consequences are the events that are a result of the behavior.

Once you have made a record of the behavior and its precipitating factors, you have to look to change the behavior by modifying the antecedents and consequences.

Observe behavior of your adolescent under different settings like classroom, home, and playground or in the market. Is the behavior happening at all the places or is it happening at a particular place. If a problematic behavior happens at a particular place, observe the antecedents that happen at that particular place. There must be some reasons that an adolescent who is normal in most situations shows problematic behavior in a particular setting. For example: if an adolescent has problems in a particular class or with a particular teacher and he is ok with other teachers, it could be possible that teacher's behavior is precipitating unwanted behavior in the adolescent.

Positive reinforcement: it is one of the best ways to change the behavior of the adolescents. Reward good or wanted behavior with something the adolescent likes. You can also use the technique of differential reinforcement in which good behavior is rewarded and unwanted behavior is followed by withdrawal of reinforcement.

It is important to remember that the behavior of children and adolescents can only be managed by managing your own behavior. A punishing or shouting parent can never hope to discipline his or her child. A teacher who keeps punishing a child or adolescent will never be able to teach good manners. These children revolt one day and either defy others or become anxious and depressed due to loss of self esteem.

So, it is possible to discipline your child and teach him good behavioral patterns by some simple techniques. Just get to know what these techniques are and use them in your child. In case you have difficulty doing so, meet your psychologist.

Written By: Dr. Aastha, Mohali, Punjab, India

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice