Behaviour Problems

Behaviour Problems

As children and young people grow and develop the way they express their thoughts and feelings can be very different depending on their stage of development, personality, and environmental factors. Expressing emotions particularly through the toddler and teenage years can be delicate.  Children and young people are still learning how to both control and respond to their emotional needs, and their brains are still developing the skills to do this.

Developmental ages and stages illicit challenging, but normal responses to situations as children learn how to get their needs meet.  For example it is normal for toddlers particularly around the age of 2 years to have tantrums. It is normal also for children of this age to begin hitting or biting as they are learning to deal with frustrations of the world and not getting everything they want, or learning to interact with others socially.

It is normal for young primary aged children to be fearful of things, as they are beginning to become more aware of dangers around them and they are sill learning about the difference between what is real, and what is fantasy. Introduction of too many new activities may be overwhelming for children of this age, their behaviour may indicate the stress of this.

Older primary age brings with it the beginnings of puberty.  Along with the more obvious physical changes and coping with this are psychological changes of independence.  Children at this age will challenge rules and begin to begin separation from parents – looking for role-models outside of the family unit.

For teenagers life can become very complex.  Their peer group is extremely important to them and arguments with parents around this common.  Young people again are exploring expressing their feelings and feelings can become overwhelming at this stage.  Making good choices based on thinking about the consequences can be a real challenge for young people also.  Rules need to be consistent and with good reason to help minimise potential friction.

If you are worried about your child’s behaviour or it has changed recently and you are unsure of any good reason why this might be the case – think about the following possibilities:

  • Is this behaviour out of character for your child?
  • Has the change been sudden or have things been gradually changing for a while?
  • Has anyone else noticed or commented about their behaviour? eg teachers, family members, family friend?
  • How is the behaviour impacting on daily life, eg, affecting friendships or family/sibling relationships; school or after school activities; affecting their eating or sleeping?
  • Does your child appear to be worried about anything?
  • Does your child think there is a problem?

The above may help to identify what might be going on and whether the change in behaviour is due to a normal development or something else.   Also consider the impact of the following:

  • Moving house, school or town
  • Loss of a pet, family member or friend
  • Bullying
  • Parental conflict or separation
  • Medical illness
  • Impact of absences from school whether due to illness, or holiday.
  • Busyness
  • Parental anxiety or stress

How to help

Talk to your child.  Children are usually very aware of their own feelings but often not able to express them. Talking with them helps them to identify their feelings.  It can also really help understand the behaviours that are occurring as a result.

Ensure rules and boundaries are fair, clear and consistent, involve older children and young people to participate in setting family rules.

Include your child in decision-making and problem solving.  This will reassure their place in the family and empower them to build healthier relationships at school also.


If you feel your child’s behaviour is getting too much for you to deal with as a family then ask for help for your child and yourself.

Queenstown Lakes Family Center, Plunket, School or Kindergarten Teacher, General Practitioner, Happiness House, Salvation Army.

If you would like further support with any of the issues raised here please call 4414331 to make a referral.

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