Behavior and conduct disorders rank among the most common reasons why children are referred for mental health evaluations, according to The Ohio State Medical Center. Parents should seek the advice of professionals if a child shows symptoms, because a failure to deal with the problem effectively can put a child at a higher risk for failing in school or developing other mental health problems. The challenge is in recognizing the difference between normal and abnormal behavior.
Normal or Naughty?
Observe whether your child’s behavior patterns are normal. While every child can act out at times, most of the time children should be polite and courteous to others. As a general rule, a child should try to get along well with siblings, family and friends. Children should do their homework, complete chores when asked and follow instructions. If your child persistently lacks in one of these areas, he could have a behavior problem.
Different Types of Behavior
Be familiar with the different types of behavior. Some behavior is desired and approved. Other behavior is less than ideal but can be tolerated in certain circumstances. For example, a child might be difficult to get along with or might not do her chores when she is feeling sick. Severe bad behavior is when a child presents a danger to herself or someone else. A child may also be extremely disruptive or break major rules or perhaps even societal laws.
Take Temperament into Account
Get to know your child’s temperament. The American Academy of Pediatrics points out those children who have more difficult temperaments often have more behavioral problems. If your child finds it difficult to adjust to new situations or handle emotional experiences, it can affect his interactions with other people. As a result, dealing with your child’s personality may be more of a challenge.
The Root of the Problem
Identify when your child’s disruptive behavior started. If she has been acting out for just a short time, the behavior could be situational. It’s not unusual for a child to act out a bit when a major change occurs in her life. Often a child might misbehave for a while following divorce or a move to a new school. However, there could be a problem if the behavior continues for several months afterward.
How Long Does it Last?
Make a note of how long your child has been acting out. If he is acting out by being aggressive, hostile or disruptive, there could be a problem. A child might have a behavioral disorder if the unruly behavior continues for six months or longer.
Think about how much your child’s behavior strays from what you expect. If your child only acts out occasionally, there is probably no problem. On the other hand, there may be reason for concern if your child constantly misbehaves in ways that go against your expectations and those of the rest of the family. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if she frequently causes disruptions at home or in school.
Social and Cultural Expectations
Take into account social and cultural expectations. If your child is constantly going against what is considered acceptable by your culture and society, there could be a problem. It will be obvious that there is a problem if your child goes against society in major ways, such as by engaging in dangerous behaviors or breaking the law.