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Counseling for Children with Behavioral Issues

Children act out for different reasons. Childhood.org describes the first step to dealing with tantrums, meltdowns, and defiance as understanding what’s bothering a child. There are so many possible reasons behind disruptive behavior, including anxiety, learning issues, and trauma. Some children need assistance in learning how to manage powerful emotions while others may display behavior that requires additional professional attention.

behavioral issues

What Does Emotional Dysregulation Look Like?

Problems with self-regulation manifest in different ways depending on the child. Some children have a huge, strong reaction, and there is minimal build up to this reaction. Other kids can have a very short time to manage distress and it is during that window of time that intervention can take place. Many studies recognize a child’s temperament, personality, and environment, as being the primary factors in the regulation of emotion.

Children with ADHD or anxiety may find emotional management to be difficult and need more help to develop necessary emotional regulation skills.

What Is Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is the ability to manage your emotions and behavior in accordance with the demands of the situation. Understood. org continues to describe self-regulation as including the ability to resist highly emotional reactions to upsetting stimuli, to calm yourself down when you get upset, to adjust to a change in expectations and to handle frustration without an outburst. It is a set of skills that enables children, as they mature, to direct their own behavior towards a goal, despite the unpredictability of the world and our own feelings.

How Can Counseling Help?

Counseling can help with teaching the child and parents self-regulation skills to assist the child with managing big emotions more effectively.  By educating both children and parents about these skills, a therapist can give step by step instructions to minimize behavioral outbursts in specific situations. These skills can help the child slow down and more carefully choose an effective response instead of being impulsive. The key to learning self-regulation skills is not to avoid situations that are difficult for kids to handle, but to coach kids through them with various coping skills until they can handle these challenges on their own.

For example, if a child tends to melt-down when asked to stop playing a video game, a scaffolding technique might be practicing transitioning away from the game. Using a game that the child isn’t overly involved in is a good place to start. After three minutes of playing, have the child hand the parent the controller. Every time the child engages positively, the child gets points towards something they want – such as extra time outside or staying awake a set time later on a weekend night!

Behavioral Issue Strategies


Practice breaking down difficult tasks for children. Parents often get discouraged when things don’t go as planned when they try skill-building, but consistency and starting at an appropriate level for the child is the key.

  • If you’ve had trouble with a child reacting impulsively or having a difficulty/tantrum in a store, make a short visit when you do not need to do serious shopping. Have him/her practice walking with you, keeping hands to themselves. They get points towards some goal every time they are successful.
  • If brushing teeth is a problem for your child, start by focusing just on putting toothpaste on the brush, and respond with positive feedback and rewards when she does it. Once she’s practiced that a few times, add the next step to the routine.
  • If getting out of the house on time for school is causing tantrums, break the morning down into manageable steps. Perhaps getting dressed by 7:30. Once that is mastered, a target time can be made for breakfast and allow for the child to be successful at two of the morning tasks. All the while rewarding for accomplishments. Breaking the overwhelming task of “the whole morning” into manageable parts helps build self-regulation skills with the knowledge that each individual part is attainable for the child.
 

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