The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

Behavioral Issues in Children: Is My Kid Crazy?

You may have asked yourself on more than one occasion, is my kid crazy? We have all been there. Sometimes it is just normal child and adolescent behavior. Sometimes it is us as the parent. And sometimes, it just plain old behavioral problems. If you feel like you're doing what you can as a parent (i.e. being consistent, managing your own mood without taking it out on your family, etc.), it may be that your child is experiencing some type of emotional or behavioral problems that go beyond typical parenting and growing pains.

Many parents ask me if medication is the answer to behavioral problems for kids. Often, medications can be helpful if other avenues of help have been exhausted. Make sure that the following are done before going the route of psychiatry:

  •  Rule Out Medical Issues- See the pediatrician for a full physical.
  •  School Check-In- Talk with your child's teacher(s), guidance counselors, social workers.
  •  Family History- Check with relatives about their mental health history.
  •  Evaluation by a Psychologist/Counselor- Check out counseling as an option to have your child properly diagnosed and to build coping strategies for both parent and child.

If you've gone the route of counseling and feel that you're either not seeing an improvement in your child's mood and/or behavior, you may want to consider a few things:

  •  Do you feel the counselor you have chosen your child to see is a good fit for him/her and the family?
  •  Do you have a fair mix of family sessions as well as individual sessions?
  •  Has the counselor indicated that a medication evaluation be helpful?
  •  Do you and your child feel comfortable with the counselor's techniques?
  •  Are you and/or your child following through with the suggestions being made by the counselor?

Sometimes it does take a few sessions (or more) to click with the counselor. Especially if you have a child who is resistant to your efforts, it may take some time for him/her to develop a rapport with the counselor. You will also want to be thoughtful about how much you expect the counselor to share about what happens in your child's individual sessions. It is important that the child feel safe and comfortable to share what he or she needs with the counselor without fear that everything will be reported back to the parent. A good counselor will strike a balance with incoporating you in the child's treatment while also keeping the child's privacy and confidentiality in mind.

If you're really struggling with where to go with your child's behaviors and emotions, keep these tools and tips in mind:

  •  Your child is NOT a mini-adult. He/she does not have an adult cognitive capacity.
  •  Reasoning will get you nowhere.
  •  Be specific and consistent with your rules and expectations.
  •  Talk to your child about how they are feeling. Something deeper is going on for your child than him/her just wanting to be a thorn in your side.
  •  Positive Reinforcement will get you everywhere.
  •  Hitting, spanking, or any physical punishment will not improve the behavior and will most likely make it worse.
  • Ignoring a tantrum or holding your position is KEY.

Working closely with school personnel, mental health professionals, and sometimes even the addition of medication (by a pediatric psychiatrist), can all be added steps to how you manage the issues at home. Talk to other parents. Get support. You're not alone.

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