Diagnosing Child Behavioral Issues

Parenting a child who struggles with behavioral issues can be difficult. It can be overwhelming to deal with disruptive behavior, and you may have more questions than answers. How do you discipline a child with behavioral issues? What is the best way to correct this behavior? Is there anyone who can help with these problems? 

Seeing a licensed therapist can help you through these question and more. These professionals are trained to deal with child behavioral issues. Your child may be developing in a way you can't understand, so a counselor can walk you through the process of caring for your child appropriately.

What are some behavioral issues that parents should be concerned about?

All children misbehave occasionally, and sometimes it can be linked to stress or traumatic life events. Things like the birth of a sibling, a divorce, or a death in the family might cause your child to act out. However, there are some behaviors that are inappropriate for a child. The following behaviors should be addressed immediately. If these problems are allowed to persist, then they could cause more problems. These include:

  • Harming or threatening themselves, other people, or pets
  • Damaging or destroying property
  • Lying or stealing
  • Not doing well in school
  • Skipping school
  • Early smoking, drinking, or drug use
  • Early sexual activity
  • Frequent tantrums and arguments
  • Consistent hostility toward authority figures
  • Threats to run away from home

Sometimes, these issues can be signs of larger problems. Behavioral issues could be masking disorders. For example, a child who engages in risky activity or inappropriate behavior could be suffering from childhood ADHD. A child that isn’t doing well in school could have autism. The only way to make sure is to visit a licensed therapist who can diagnose your child’s symptoms. From there, a medical professional will determine if they are behavioral issues or a sign of a larger disorder. 

What kind of mental health professional would work with a family to diagnose these behavioral issues? 

The first step you should take for your child is to approach his or her school psychologist. School psychologists are trained and work with children struggling with behavioral issues and disorders. He or she can determine your child’s behavioral issues, analyze whether they may be linked to a disorder, and develop plan for you and the school on how to treat your child.

If you don’t wish to involve the school, a child psychologist or psychiatrist should be sought. Often, psychologists and psychiatrists work hand in hand to assess your child and give him or her proper treatment. The difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is that psychiatrists are trained medical doctors.

How might these behavioral issues be addressed after they have been diagnosed?

Going to a therapist might seem scary at first, but it can be important for a child to see one. Since many of the behaviors can become exacerbated or lead to other behaviors, catching and treating them immediately is essential. A psychologist or psychiatrist will work by building trust with your child. He or she does this by allowing children to express themselves without consequences. Once your child trusts your therapist, behavior therapy will begin.

Behavior therapy helps your child by showing them how to react to situations appropriately. They will learn coping skills that they can use in life. Behavioral therapy is applied to a wide range of behavioral issues, so your psychologist or psychiatrist will target that behavior specifically. He or she will also find out why your child acts out in such a way. Once the root cause is identified, your child will learn how to act in that situation from that point on.

The psychologist and/or psychiatrist will also keep you involved in the therapy. He or she can teach you how to reward or discipline your child accordingly. If your child has been diagnosed with a disorder such as autism or ADHD, treatment will be specialized toward the disorder. Your child will go through cognitive therapy to minimize anxiety, which could cause symptoms to get worse. Your child will also learn how to react in certain situations that he or she previously couldn’t handle without acting out.

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