How we work with Children with Challenging Behaviour:
We frequently work with children who have challenging behaviour. Out of all the children who come and see us at Developing Minds, around a third of them would frequently have “challenging behaviour”.
What is challenging behaviour?
It can include many different things, depending on the age of the child, but typically it might include children who - more than typically expected for their age:
- Have trouble following instructions
- Have a tendency to be impulsive
- Find it hard to notice, make sense of or communicate feelings and needs
- Have trouble managing feelings of frustration and disappointment
- Find it difficult to maintain concentration or attention
- Find it hard to notice the needs of others
- Get extremely upset, angry and distressed easily (“meltdowns” - aggression, tantrums, hurting selves, demanding voice or "shutdowns" - crying, withdrawing, hiding, curling up on the floor)
- Find school or friend relationships difficult
- Very sensitive to or over-react to noises, sights and sensations
- Find it hard to motivate themselves to do things they aren’t interested in
- Find it difficult to deal with changes in routine
Why do some children act in challenging ways more often than others?
It’s important to remember that these are not “bad kids”. Challenging behaviour is NOT about being “lazy’ or “naughty”. We believe that if children have the skills, support and resources to act in positive, sociable, cooperative ways they generally will.
Instead, challenging behaviour is caused by a range of different factors. Kids with challenging behaviour have extra life challenges or difficulties with certain skills. They often need help learning to act in different ways and feeling more secure with others. They often don't understand important ideas. They sometimes are in environments or routines which accidentally encourage challenging behaviour.
This is not their fault, and this is not the fault of a parent.
How do we work with children with challenging behaviour?
We know kids want to get along with others, to learn, grow and thrive. We know that kids need to feel safe.
We therefore work with children to help them identify how learning to act in more positive ways can get them what they really want and need more often. We help them know how to act in positive ways more often, why it matters and help them practise doing this.
We also work directly with the parents/guardians themselves.
As well as having some sessions with the child, we will usually need to have both sessions with the child and parents in the room together AND sessions with the parents/guardians by themselves ("parent only sessions").
We will usually need to have a minimum of 3-5 sessions with parents – without the child present - to help coach parents in how to manage difficult behaviour in their child. Research shows that support, coach and help for a parent to know how to respond to their child's challenging behaviour themselves has much more positive long term effect than just a psychologist working with the child directly.
What do we do in parent only sessions?
In parent only sessions, we cover a range of topics including: How to give instructions to kids with challenging behaviour, how to figure out the need of a child showing challenging behaviour, using effective praise with kids with challenging behaviour, connecting with and helping kids with challenging behaviour feel secure, understanding the causes of challenging behaviour – among many other topics. What work is done depends on the needs of your child.
During these sessions we will use examples of the particular kind of behaviour you have told us your child struggles with. We will ask you to complete a small homework assignment each week and also ask you to record examples of challenging behaviour at home.
Please note, that Medicare Better Access funding does not usually cover parent only sessions. This means these parent only sessions need to either be paid for with private health cover, or sometimes other funding schemes will cover them. Please ask for more information about payment options.
Finally - our central philosophy:
This is what lies underneath our approach: compassion. We know how hard it is to live with and support a child with challenging behaviour. It’s tough for parents, and tough for children too. It takes a long time to change behaviour patterns (in both adults and kids!) and for some children this is an ongoing process. We want to support parents as they manage this.
Please ask us if you have any questions.