Understanding why your child may be behaving badly is one of the minefields all parents face. But when it happens continually, could there be a problem there that may require medical help? Martina Mason reports on how to spot the signs, and what to do about them.
Parenting in today’s world is a whole new ball game from the one my parents enjoyed (or endured).
But one of the bugbears our own parents have, and are not slow to share with us, is how what they see as their grandchild’s bad behaviour is now being spun as some kind of ‘syndrome’.
For instance, it’s not behaving badly now; it’s called ‘hyperactivity’. It’s not being cheeky; it’s ‘creative expression’. And, their favourite, it’s not a tantrum but Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The problem is how do we tell the difference? There’s nothing more irritating for a mother than to be informed by a playgroup leader that your little one has been hurling plastic bricks at his or her peers and perhaps there might be an issue.
Your effectiveness as a mother has taken a hit, and you’re being told this by a 22-year-old single woman who think she’s a child psychologist.
Take a deep breath, smile sweetly, and go and check it out. What matters is your child’s health and well-being, right?
Healthline, a US-based provider of health information, has defined ADHD as a mental health disorder that can cause above-average levels of hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour.
Both children and adults can suffer from the condition, but one in ten children aged between five and 17 in the United States are diagnosed with it. Before making an appointment to see your doctor, make a note of some of the behaviour patterns your child might be showing.
These can include being unable to sit still, talking and making noises continually and being constantly on the move.
Sounds like a day in the life of any parent of a toddler, I hear you mutter. But actually, if this kind of behaviour continues for more than six months, you should look into it. If your doctor thinks there’s a problem, he may refer your child to a behavioural therapist or paediatrician.
According to the US-based National Institute of Mental Health, the signs to look for in your child include: difficulty paying attention, being overly fidgety, refusing to wait their turn when playing with other children, and being prone to outbursts. But the Institute stresses in its literature: “These behaviours can be normal in toddlers.
They would only be concerning if they’re extreme when compared to those of similarly-aged children”.
There is no cure for ADHD, but medication and lifestyle changes can help your children manage the condition better and lessen the chances of it inhibiting their future success.
And as a parent, here’s how to do your bit:
Your child’s brain is wired slightly differently from those of other children. Therefore, while your child can still learn what acceptable behaviour is and what isn’t, it’s going to take some management on your part and a commitment to understanding their needs.
You have to set boundaries and ensure your child knows what they are. That’s going to take a lot of patience, empathy, and love. Set up a program for punishing bad behaviour and rewarding for good. When your child acts up, address it calmly but decisively.
Your child might have some pent-up aggression and energy, so try to ignore the displays that are simply loud but not destructive. You shouldn’t discourage their quirks simply because they’re unusual. However, abusive or disruptive behaviour is never acceptable, in public or private.
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please seek the advice of a medical expert if you have any questions regarding a health issue.
(Sources: Health Line, The Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Mental Health)