Challenging and disruptive behaviours in children include behaviors such as frequent temper tantrums, arguments with parents or other adults, talking back, defying or disobeying rules and requests set by adults, deliberately pushing others’ buttons, aggression, and blaming others for misbehaviour. Children who struggle with challenging behaviours often experience angry and irritable moods. These behavioural issues may negatively impact a child’s relationship with their family, teachers, and peers and can cause significant stress within the family.

If your child is struggling with issues similar to the ones above, the team at ChildForward Inc. will be able to assist you in clarifying the concerns and developing a tailored treatment plan that will lead to the best possible outcome for your family.

When to Seek Help

Challenging and disruptive behaviours are commonly experienced in every family at one time or another, particularly when children are tired, hungry, stressed, or upset. However, if your child is demonstrating an ongoing pattern of these behaviors over a longer period of time (say, greater than 6 months), if the behaviours are present in multiple settings (e.g., home, school, and with friends), and/or these behaviours are causing relationship problems, problems at school, or significant distress in the family it might be time to seek further support and explore treatment options.

Won’t My Child Just “Grow Out of It?”

Maybe. But maybe not. Although some children may demonstrate less and less of these behaviours as they mature and get older, other children may continue to demonstrate these behaviours or engage in more serious behaviors (e.g., bullying, physical fights, stealing). Each child’s trajectory with regard to engaging in less or more of these behaviours may differ depending on a variety of factors including the child’s personality/temperament, school supports, parent-child relationship, and the child’s social group. The good news is that, with appropriate psychological treatment, the research evidence shows that these behaviours do improve over time!

What Can I Expect From Treatment?

If your child and family are struggling with these behaviours, we first recommend a comprehensive assessment to establish a diagnosis and rule out any other causes. In particular, these behaviours often co-occur with or result from other conditions such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, or mood disorders. Determining the right treatment approach involves a thorough understanding of your child’s difficulties.

Evidence-based treatment for challenging and disruptive behaviours includes parent-focused behavioural treatment (sometimes known as Behavioural Parent Training). This is especially the case when working with younger children since it is very difficult for young children to change their behaviour on their own without their parents’ support. Parent-focused behavioural treatment involves weekly or bi-weekly meetings with a therapist for approximately 8-12 sessions. Because challenging behaviours tend to cause stress and conflict between a parent and child, treatment first involves increasing positive parent-child interactions (e.g., spending quality time together, catching your child being good). Treatment will then focus on setting specific and attainable behavioral goals and learning strategies that will help your child attain these goals (e.g., creating a daily routine, effective methods of communication and providing directions to your child, establishing age-appropriate rewards and discipline, working with teachers at school). An important part of treatment involves practice at home and troubleshooting issues that come up during the week with the therapist. In addition, we understand that it can be very difficult and stressful to parent a child who struggles with these challenging behaviours, and therefore, another focus of treatment is on supporting parents in understanding their own emotions and needs specific to parenting and building a self-care routine.

Individual Therapy

For older children/teens, and particularly those who are motivated to learn skills to manage their emotions and behaviours, treatment may also involve an individual component. During these sessions, your child will meet with the therapist and will learn skills such as how to become aware of their emotions, how to recognize and cope with anger, how to perspective take, and how to problem-solve social situations. Home practice is an important component of treatment, and parents will be involved in providing small rewards for your child’s active engagement in treatment. Learning new skills to manage emotions and difficult situations can be very hard work! However, treatment can also be fun and involve lots of games and activities that support learning these skills.