Behavioural issues can include aggression, argumentativeness, defiance, or regularly occurring meltdowns. Often they stem from extreme emotional upset or serious communication difficulties, but can also occur alongside ADHD or Anxiety. Not surprisingly, these behaviours can create high levels of stress for parents and can often lead to social problems and stress in the parent-child relationship.
Stress in the Parent-Child Relationship
It is normal for parents to become frustrated by their child's argumentativeness or repeated meltdowns. The meltdown may seem to come out of nowhere or there may be arguments about something as small as what socks to wear. Parents may find themselves walking on eggshells just to avoid an outburst. Going out in public with their child may become anxiety-provoking. Joyful times with their child may decrease in number, replaced instead by tension and conflict. And when repeated attempts to help their child have failed, parents might become exasperated and find themselves distancing from their child.
In order to prevent this disconnection, it's important for parents to seek support when needed. I can help by assisting the child in developing awareness of his or her emotional state, learning an emotional vocabulary, and building comfort and safety in communicating those states to another person can sometimes help to reduce the frequency and intensity of behavioural concerns. Working together to identify triggers to the behaviour and using effective strategies for managing can help the relationship begin to recover.
Behaviours can occur in the presence of peers as well. Classmates who witness regular meltdowns may be less inclined to pursue a friendship or may actively ostracize a child who is aggressive or hostile. Existing friends may lose patience or stop coming over to the house. Feeling left out at school or losing a friend can compound the emotional distress that likely underlies the behaviour. Giving the child some tools for managing big emotions like frustration, hurt, or disappointment and helping the child practice methods of controlling the behaviour can help offset some of these negative social outcomes while at the same time making possible supportive peer relationships.
The important thing to remember is that behaviours can be managed. Often, there are identifiable triggers that, when managed, significantly curb big behaviours and lessen any negative impact on relationships.