One of the certainties of life is that all children are, at times, badly behaved or incredibly impulsive. Generally speaking the implementation of routine and firm discipline is sufficient to deal with most incidents of misbehaviour. However, occasionally, bad behaviour in children becomes more extreme and may cause disruption and stress to those people close to the child – whether at home or at school. It is this kind of excessive, socially unacceptable naughtiness which is often labelled as a behavioural disorder. Parents may find that the punishments used previously, probably successfully, no longer work. It may well be that child psychology should be seen as a useful tool in diagnosing and managing bad behaviour.
Children with behavioural disorders commonly cause harm to those around them, or to their pets, they may damage property, steal, skip school, engage in frequent arguments and lie persistently. As the child grows older the disorder may continue to manifest as inappropriate sexual activities, smoking, substance abuse, mental health issues, rebellion against parents and authority in general.
By using child psychology a psychotherapist may well be able to get to the root of the behavioural disorder and thereby prevent the child or teenager growing up into a dysfunctional adult.
The therapy involved in child psychology aims to provide emotional support to the patient and help them to discover appropriate solutions to the various conflicts they experience in their lives. This process should also result in improvements to the childs self esteem and a lessening of any anxieties they may be experiencing.
A good psychotherapist will not only use child psychology to help the child but will also offer support to the parents. Behavioural disorders can have a negative effect on the overall health of the child and cause considerable emotional distress to the parents, a course of therapy should address these issues as well as the issues of bad behaviour. Various behavioural disorders have been identified all of which may be alleviated with the intervention of child psychology.
It is a sad fact that many children with learning difficulties are often accused of simply not paying attention or not trying enough or perhaps they are told they lack motivation. Once a learning difficulty has been diagnosed there is often a great improvement in the childs abilities.
- Autism– Autism is a developmental disorder often seen in early childhood. An autistic child struggles with social interaction, with communication – both verbal and non-verbal and exhibits little or no interest in the world, and people, around them.
- Eating disorders– the rise of eating disorders amongst children and teenagers is well documented and, at worst, can be life threatening. Eating disorders are generally rooted in emotional problems or social anxieties and are often successfully treated with specialist therapy. The three most common eating disorders are –
- Anorexia – the sufferer mistakenly believes they are vastly overweight and refuse to eat; they may also use extreme exercise routines in order to burn off what they perceive to be excessive calorie intake.
- Bulimia – not dissimilar to anorexia, the child has a wrong view of their body image and will eat vast amounts of food and will then force themselves to vomit all of the food back out. Bulimics often use excessive amounts of laxatives.
- Binge eating – rapid, uncontrolled eating.
Depression and anxiety
Whilst most children and teenagers are moody they are not all sad. Persistent sadness, with no apparent cause, may well be a symptom of depression which, in children, often goes hand in hand with extreme anxiety.
Recognising behavioural disorders in children is not always easy, parents should not be afraid of seeking professional help in order to provide their child with the best possible support during this phase of their life.