Coping With Behavior Problems in Children

Dealing with children misbehaving and acting out

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Author: Diane Dean, RN, LPC

With summer right around the corner, many parents cringe as they replay the many times last year when neighboring parents delivered Johnny on their doorstep after he’d accomplished his latest ruse. Although summer offers the opportunity for vacation, relaxation and recreation, it also brings headaches for parents of children with behavior problems.

Offer Structure

Kids are used to the routine that school days offer, and helping them to build structure into their time at home helps to occupy them. With structure, children are less apt to misbehave because they’re focused on a specific task, with actions that pull them forward, and an ending time that helps them to move on to the next task. “Structure”, however, need not mean “rigid”, as most often both kids and parents want a break from the hustle that comes with a tight schedule. Try planning activities (i.e. electronic time, quiet time, outdoor time, chore time) around meals, posting the schedule where kids can see it and being certain to follow it daily.

Encourage Outdoor Time

With electronics dominating the market, spill-over into your child’s life remains probable. With kids spending an average of 5-7 hours per day in front of some sort of a screen, is it any wonder that they have so much energy to expend? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a minimum of one hour of physical activity daily for children. Limiting screen time and building in outdoor time to their daily schedules will both help them to reach this goal and help to tame any brewing tantrums.

Consider Natural Remedies

Many parents finger sugar and caffeine as the culprits for their child’s hyperactivity. And if substances can stir them up, perhaps they can also wind them down. Gingko biloba, an herbal remedy, has been known to improve concentration. A recent study shows that Gingko might be a “beneficial and useful treatment” for attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), improving symptoms such as hyperactivity, inattention and immaturity

Homeopathic remedies have also found their place in the treatment of behavior problems in those with ADHD. Multiple studies support that homeopathy is at least as effective as stimulant medication, and it contains fewer side effects. In most cases, it also performs better than a placebo. In one study of 115 children with ADHD, 75% improved by 73% with 3.5 months of homeopathy treatment. A small study also suggests that Matricaria chamomilla (or “chamomilla” or “chamomile”) may effectively treat ADHD as well.

Teach Cause & Effect

At least by the age of seven, most children understand the concept of cause and effect. Be certain to explain the household rules up front - even consider posting them. Be certain that all family members abide by them (Not just the kids!), and decide up front what will happen if they’re not followed. Some behaviors, like physical or verbal aggression, are deal-breakers that warrant immediate consequence. But kids aren’t perfect, nor are they adults, so don’t expect them to behave like them. Leave room for effective “if-then” warnings (i.e. “If you don’t put your shoes on now, then we can’t go to the park later”), and most importantly, mean what you say and follow through.

Perhaps the most effective use of cause and effect can be praise that properly reinforces children for appropriate behavior. Then? Those little buggers might just give you a very much desired encore!

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