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Behaviour worries

If you are worried about your child's behaviour it can help to talk to a professional.

All children grow and develop at different rates and react to life in different ways. Children also go through different stages as their brains develop and they try out different ways of reacting to the world.

Personality also plays a part: some children are naturally more anxious than others, some children like to express themselves physically or are very outgoing while others are quiet and much more reserved. People have different ideas about what is ‘normal’ behaviour and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour. What you consider to be concerning behaviour might seem normal to other parents and the other way round.

All children go through stages of feeling anxious or angry and they can show this in different ways:

  • tantrums
  • crying
  • sleeping problems
  • being clingy
  • being aggressive towards family and friends.

They might be adapting to a change in the family or their school life, or just trying out new emotions, and will generally grow out of worrying behaviour on their own or with your support. Worrying or difficult behaviour might be short-lived.

Sometimes it can be difficult to work out why your child is upset, agitated or behaving differently to usual - if you are concerned it's really useful to talk to someone who meets a lot of children so that your concerns can be put into perspective.

If you're worried about your child's behaviour, you can talk to

  • Your health visitor or GP
  • The early years SEN support team
  • Youth service staff
  • Staff at your child's school. Many schools have experience teaching children with additional needs.

The important thing is to remember that just as babies develop at different rates, they also respond differently to different things. Some babies cry more than others, some are better sleepers, some smile more than others, etc. It is important that if a baby is crying or agitated, you can work out what is troubling them. Usually, this will be because they are hungry, tired, have a dirty nappy, want to be held, have tummy trouble, are too hot or too cold, are teething, want more or less stimulation or just feel unwell. If you are worried about your baby's general response to people and things around them this could be down to tiredness, level of stimulation, level of familiarity with other people, etc.

Young children

At some stages of development, for example, the preschool stage, children can find it hard to control their emotions. It is normal for younger children to have fears (for example, monsters, dogs, etc.) as they become more aware that there are dangers in the wider world around them and they learn to distinguish between fiction and reality. Many children develop patterns of behaviour to comfort themselves if they feel anxious, such as thumb-sucking or wanting to do the same things at the same time each day. Personality also plays a part in that some children are naturally more anxious than others, some children like to express themselves physically or are very emotional while others are quiet and much more reserved. People have different ideas about what is ‘normal’ behaviour and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour. What you consider to be ‘bad’ or concerning behaviour might seem normal to other parents and the other way round.

Sometimes a childs behaviour may change as a result of other changes, for example, at the birth of a sibling, a change in child minder, moving house, starting playgroup, etc. They can also notice if you are feeling upset. Sometimes they may respond in a particular way because of how you have handled a situation in the past and they might see a tantrum as a way of getting attention or what they want. Tantrums can also happen because your child wants to express themselves but they find it difficult to do this in any other way, as such, tantrums usually fall off as your child begins to talk more.
Older children and young people

During adolescence, young people can find it hard to control their emotions. This is a normal part of development as they learn to cope with life and changes to themselves. As they get towards puberty, children can become defiant as they start to become independent. As the teen years begin, many young people become moody, angry or tearful and battles with parents can become a daily occurrence.

Adolescence is a time of growth and maturation in the brain and many new behaviours begin to emerge which, while they can be a source of frustration and irritation to parents, are a normal part of development. These generally include changes in attention, motivation and risk taking

You might be wondering if your child is going through a tough time as part of their teenage development or is there truly something wrong? Sometimes it can be difficult to work this out and if you are concerned it is really useful to talk to someone who meets a lot of children and young people so that your concerns can be put into perspective.