Activities for Children With Behavioral Problems

by Jennifer Zimmerman, Demand Media

Behavioral problems have many causes. They can stem from neurological disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, emotional issues such as abuse or family issues such as divorce. Regardless of the cause, though, some activities can help children with behavioral problems. Parents and teachers will need to determine which activities are most appropriate for a specific child.


No activities can eliminate behavior problems, but some can reduce the likelihood of them occurring. Exercise is recommended by both Kids Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics for help with behavioral problems. For children whose behavior problems have to do with anger, Kids Health recommends martial arts, wrestling and running as especially helpful forms of exercise.


Lack of self-control is often a cause of behavior problems, so the National Association of School Psychologists has suggested activities to help teach self-control. One idea is to use puppets to role-play wanting something that you can’t have. The organization suggests having your child write or draw something he’d like to do, then discussing it and sharing something you’d like to do, but can’t. Next, you and your child can use puppets to role-play scenarios that are typically frustrating for children such as wanting a toy that another child has or wanting to play with a friend who isn’t available. After acting out the scenarios, you and your child should discuss how he felt and what choices he made during the exercise.

Reading Aloud

Reading to your children is more than just an opportunity to settle down at bedtime and increase literacy skills; it can also be an opportunity to practice identifying feelings. Children who struggle to identify feelings, whether their own or others can have behavior problems. The National Association of School Psychologists suggests parents discuss character’s feelings with their children while they read and encourage children to draw pictures to illustrate those feelings.

Teach Problem-solving

Sometimes children misbehave because they don’t know how to handle a circumstance or a feeling correctly, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The National Association of School Psychologists suggests teaching children to deal with feeling angry. Have them recognize that they are angry by identifying characteristics such as clenched hands, then have them count to 10, then have them think about their choices. Discuss choices such as walking away, taking deep breaths or telling the person how you feel in a calm voice. Finally, children should act on their best choice.


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How to Get Kids To Listen Without Yelling

…When promises, pleading and threats no longer work, yelling can feel like the only option. Especially if time is short, behaviors are out of bounds, and big power struggles break out  yelling becomes the go to way to get kids to start listening.  

The problem is that yelling at kids really doesn’t help them focus on what you want them to do.  Katie Hurley, parenting educator explains why this backfires:








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Emotional child abuse may be just as bad as physical harm

Read more at Reuters

When it comes to psychological and behavioral health, both physical and emotional abuse can be equally damaging to children, a new study suggests.

Even though doctors and parents often believe physical or sexual abuse is more harmful than emotional mistreatment or neglect, the study found children suffered similar problems regardless of the type of maltreatment endured, researchers report in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

“The abused children had all types of problems, from anxiety and depression to rule-breaking and aggression,” lead study author David Vachon, of McGill University in Montreal, said by email.

His team was surprised, he said, that “different types of abuse had similar consequences; physically abused children and emotionally abused children had very similar problems.”

To compare the impact of different forms of child abuse on mental health, Vachon and colleagues studied almost 2,300 kids who attended a summer camp for low-income children between 1986 and 2012.

Roughly 1,200 children – slightly more than half – had experienced maltreatment.

Campers were assigned to groups of children their age, with about half the kids in each group having a history of maltreatment. The kids didn’t know which of their fellow campers had experienced abuse.

Counselors and other campers assessed each child’s behavior during camp, and every kid also completed a self-evaluation.

Overall, children with a history of abuse and neglect had much higher rates of depression, withdrawal, anxiety, and neuroticism than campers who hadn’t been mistreated.

This difference held true for kids who were victims of all types of abuse, including neglect as well as physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment.

The effect was most profound for children who suffered from all four types of abuse, or from the most severe forms of maltreatment.

Results were similar for boys and girls and across racial groups.

Shortcomings of the study include its reliance on official documentation of abuse and the lack of data on psychological disorders children may have had prior to experiencing maltreatment, the authors acknowledge.

Even so, the psychological and behavioral effects of abuse may be similar because both physical and emotional mistreatment – whether it happens within a family or among peers – can have common elements, said Dr. William Copeland, a psychiatry researcher at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

“This study is about righting a longstanding error and prejudice about the differences between these common childhood adversities,” Copeland, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“It suggests that whether we are talking about prevention, screening or treatment, our notions of childhood mistreatment need to be broader and more holistic than they have been,” Copeland added. “There are no hierarchies when it comes to child maltreatment.”
Read more at Reuters

Essential things to know about physical child abuse (Script)

Child abuse is the mistreatment of a child or young person under the age of what is considered to be an adult. In a number of countries a person might be considered a minor if they are under the age of 18. 

Hi, my name is Allick, and I’m The Behaviourist Guy, and today I want to talk about physical child abuse.

 Physical child abuse seems to be all over the news these days.

I want you to imagine this story, and I am telling you this because when you hear of it you can make your own judgment.

 So it goes like this, a boy’s father looks through the window and see his son forcing the face of his pet dog into a puddle of water to drink. His son is about eight years old, the dog is a puppy just a couple months older. In the child’s mind, this seems to be no malice. He simply wants his dog to drink the water, because he thinks it is thirsty.

His father runs out of the house after witnessing what was happening outside.

 Pulls the puppy away from his sons hand and drags the boy by his shirt collar. He shakes him a couple times. Then ask, “What is wrong with you, are you stupid?”

 The boy dropped his chin. The father, not getting an answer pulls his son back to the area where the puddle of water was and pushes his son’s head into the water, as he screams at him, “Why don’t you drink, you want to drink now, don’t you?”

 Do you think the father was being physically abusive to the child?

 Now, some persons may say, the father is simply punishing his son for doing a bad deed. They may even see it as a form of discipline.

So while physical abuse may be seen as hitting, punching, kicking, shaking, not all people will agree with these being physical abuse. A matter of fact, some people accept some of these as normal or acceptable part of child rearing.

“Surveys of parents for example, show that 90% use physical punishment on their children,” states the book Family Violence Across the Lifespan.

Murray Straus, he died in 2016, was a professor of sociology and he said: “Spanking is harmful for two reasons. First, it legitimizes violence… Condoning the use of violence as a way to deal with frustration and settle disputes. Second, the implicit message of acceptance contributes to violence in other aspects of society.” He called this a “cultural spillover”.

 Research supports this perspective that spanking is positively correlated to “forms of family violence, including sibling abuse and spouse assault”.

 While official estimates indicate that child physical abuse is increasing, in a number of countries, there is a lack of definitional consensus.

 Characteristics Of Victims

Age: research findings suggest that a little over 50% of all physical child abuse takes place when the child is between 0 to 5 years old.

 Gender: research findings are mixed with some showing a 50% for both males and 50% for females.

 Consequences Of Physical Child Abuse

Children who experience physical child abuse often present with medical complications such as injuries to the hand and legs, even head and abdomen.

And then there is a number of behavioral problems such as aggression, fighting at schools and on the streets. These behavioral problems might even manifest themselves in noncompliance to authority, oppositional defiance or conduct disorder and in some cases may lead to antisocial personality disorder.

And there might be a number of cognitive difficulties as well, where, because of feeling of inadequacy, the child may not be motivated to engage school task. As such, areas such as mathematics and language skills might be deficit.

 What You Can Do.

Many times a child may come to you and disclose that they are physically abused, other times it will be evident by means of their behaviors. Once they come to you it is important that you believe the child. This is not a time to second-guess whether or not the child was actually physically abused. But in believing the child, you place yourself in a better position to now listen to what the child has to say to you. And that places you in a better position to offer help.

Another thing you want to do is to be as calm as possible. Sometimes a child may role play or draw a picture depicting the physical violence or physical abuse and it may be upsetting, but try to be as calm as possible. The reason is, if you display shock, panic or disbelief, the child may close in and not continue telling you what happened.

Also, do not be afraid to report all cases of physical child abuse as the relevant authority will determine whether or not the child was actually abused. In a number of situations, reporting physical child abuse to the police, health centers and hospitals, may not even require you leaving your name or a telephone contact.

 So let’s protect our children


Childhood experiences: Creating a classroom at home.

Children never stop learning, therefore the experiences we expose them too should be positive educational ones. The home and the classroom should share some vital similarities. In this way, the child can feel safe, have continuity in expectation and be able to use similar positive behaviors in both settings. I truly believe that behavior modification cannot take place in isolation and be successful; as such, both parents and teachers must work collaboratively to assure the best possible teaching and learning experience for the child.

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Do Personality Disorders Change over the Lifetime?

Todd Grande

This video answers the question: “Do personality disorders improve, worsen, or stay the same as people age?” When we talk about personality disorders and how they change over time, it’s important to recognize that the prevalence of personality disorders in the general population is around 10-15%. This prevalence rate is stable across all of the age categories. We conceptualize personality disorders as extreme personality traits and we conceptualize personality traits as being relatively stable over time, so it would make sense to think of personality disorders as being stable over time. If an individual is diagnosed with a personality disorder in early adulthood, it wouldn’t be surprising that they would still have symptoms when they are in middle age and older age. To understand the course of personality disorders, it’s important to understand the onset of personality disorders as they’re conceptualized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). In the DSM there are ten personality disorders and for each of these ten personality disorders the symptoms would have had to been present before or during early adulthood. This means there is no such thing as a late onset personality disorder if we’re going strictly by what’s in the DSM. Then ten personality disorders are divided into three clusters: A, B, and C. Cluster A contains the odd, eccentric personality disorders: paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal. Cluster B contains the dramatic, emotional, and erratic personality disorders: antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, and histrionic personality disorder. Cluster C is the anxious, fearful cluster: avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. When we look at the research that is available and we look at the progression of personality disorders over time, we know that for Cluster A personality disorders the prevalence tends to increase with age and the severity, frequency, and duration of the symptoms also tends to increase by a small amount. With Cluster B personality disorders the prevalence decreases with age and the symptom severity, frequency, and duration also decrease. With cluster C personality disorders, we see an increased prevalence with age and we see an increase and severity, frequency, and duration with age.

Ten Parenting Practices That Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem


After jumping down from a  tree at the park my son stood up, did a little victory dance and then ran off to play on an obstacle course. It’s a pretty tricky course that requires balance, agility and coordination. It looked like it would take him a while to have it mastered.

Sure enough my son struggled for a while. I saw him fall and get stuck many times but eventually he completed the course.Then he came running to tell me about his adventures. He was excited, recalling many details, like a rope that caught his shoe and a scary moment when he struggled to clip the safety.  But one thing he said stood out to me the most.
“I almost fell down like a hundred times mom, and then I finally figured out the whole thing. It was kind of tough. But it was awesome!” 

“I saw you!” I told him smiling. It was nice to see this budding confidence coming through, especially because in the toddler years, he was often very frustrated when things didn’t really go his way.

Self-Esteem: It’s Important For Healthy Development

Children with positive self-esteem tend to recognize their abilities and feel proud about what they are able to. When a child’s self-esteem is positive and well balanced, they aren’t afraid of making mistakes because they recognize within themselves the ability to try again (or to quit because it feels right to do so).  Most of all, they are able to manage worries,  frustrations and the learning process pretty well. Especially when parents are able to encourage and support them along the way.

The way we parent and communicate with our children can certainly have an impact on their self-esteem. There are parenting practices we can strive towards that can help our children maintain (and boost) a positive sense of self.

Here are Ten parenting practices that promote healthy self-esteem:

1. Use Encouraging words: It’s tempting to shout out “You are amazing! You are so smart!” When you notice your child doing something well. But this puts all the focus on outcomes. Self-esteem is actually reinforced when children feel confident in their abilities, even when things are tough. Encouraging words help children stay the course. It might sound like:

  •  “You fell but you kept going.”
  • “You weren’t sure and then I saw you figure it out.”
  • “Not yet, it’s true, you haven’t been able to finish yet.”

2. Welcome boredom into your home: It’s really OK for kids to feel like they have nothing to do, and to feel like they are bored. When boredom shows up, children start to get creative. They tap into their inner resources, discover their interests and learn to rely on their own abilities.  Allow for plenty of (screen free) unstructured time for your child every day. Even better if you can get them outdoors!

3. Validate feelings without eliminating every obstacle: Every child will face struggles and challenges as they grow. It’s tempting to brush these off or to rescue our children to lessen their burden but this isn’t helpful at all. In fact not letting children face obstacles is worse.

Jane Nelsen D.Ed. and Author of the Positive Discipline Series reminds us of how important it is not to rescue our children from their struggles with this anecdote:

A little boy was watching a butterfly try to break out of the chrysalis. As he watched the butterfly struggle, he felt sorry for it. So he decided to help. He broke open the chrysalis and was so delighted to see the butterfly soar into the sky. But then he watched in horror as it fell to the ground, because the butterfly had not developed it’s muscles.

So, when your child is struggling, try to validate and listen. Have faith that your child will be able to feel a full range of emotions and get through their feelings. You can give them space or stay close and listen. If they are open to it, help problem solve. Just avoid rescuing or shutting down feelings.

4. Teach Self-Care skills: Children are very capable,  especially when we allow them to develop skills gradually. Without expectations that are set too high. Show your child how to care for their body, belongings and home. Allow your child to participate in tidying up the house, cleaning their rooms and helping with other life skills such as cooking, writing a shopping list and so on.  Self-esteem really starts with knowing you are able to care for yourself, so allow your child to be an activate participant in their care from the very start.

Related reading: Giant List of Self-Care Skills for Children 

5. Listen: Children need someone to listen to them so they know their voice matters. Strive to make time to be together each day so you can listen to your child talk about accomplishments, fears, worries, ideas and more.  A fun way to do this is to end each day with a game of Highs / Lows where you invite your child to tell you some of her favorite and least favorite moments of the day. You can take it a step forward and ask your child how they might change those least favorite moments if they had a do-over.

6. Acknowledge Worries: It’s pretty normal for children to have worries and anxieties. When a child feels like her worries are being understood she is better able to deal with them and move forward. So, try not to dismiss worries and instead acknowledge them. It might sound like “You aren’ t sure if you can do it? Did I understand you?” Or “This is really worrying you. Want to tell me more?” Talking about worries and feeling acknowledged is an opportunity for a child to find and use her inner resources as well.

7. Have Courage & Be Kind: Our children really are watching us and reflecting on the choices that we make. So face your own obstacles, fears and worries with courage. Be kind to yourself, don’t speak badly about your failures or general abilities. Highlight the good and how you worked things out.  Of course it’s ok to be authentic and admit defeat, but strive to do so with general compassion and kindness towards yourself.  I would encourage you to remember that what you are modeling makes a big impact on your child. You might think you are not good enough, but your child really does look up to you.

8.Welcome mistakes and imperfections: Sometimes we have to try, and try again. Chances are you and your child will both make many mistakes along the way. See these as opportunities to learn, to persevere or to know when to quit and move on. Each mistake can be a chance to learn something new, or at the very least to model what it takes to problem solve.

9. Spend time together: Play, fun and laughter are incredibly powerful ways to connect to your child’s heart and mind. Seize the opportunities that you have to enjoy each other. Children that feel connected to their parents feel good about themselves. (I know parenting is not all sunshine and rainbows  – there are many challenging moments but I cannot stress enough how important it is to make time for play and laughter. This practice has tremendous potential to reduce stress, misbehavior and increase your child’s well-being.

10. Use connected, positive discipline: When your child is having a hard time listening, following rules and not cooperating, skip blame and punishments. Focus on working together, on understanding the root of the problem, setting limits well and being present. A respectful, kind and clear approach to discipline helps your child feel secure, loved and understood. A great mix for growing up with a healthy and with balanced self-esteem.