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Learning about Challenging Behavior and its Consequences

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When should a child’s challenging behavior be addressed and what are the consequences of not handling the challenging behavior appropriately? You don’t want to punish children for behaving in a way that is normal for a child in their age group, but you don’t want the challenging behavior to become a future or lifelong issue. For example, a five-year-old may not be able to control her excitement enough to wait her turn in line, which is normal; however, when should this child’s inability to wait her turn be addressed to avoid future issues such as tantrums, noncompliance, or a refusal to cooperate when they have to wait their turn?

William DeMeo, author of When Nothing Else Works: What Early Childhood Professionals Can Do to Reduce Challenging Behaviors, provides information on what challenging behavior is and how to determine when challenging behavior is impacting the child’s ability to learn and develop.

What is Challenging Behavior?

Experts in the field have agreed that when a child shows disruptive behavior it has an effect on the child’s program, the child himself, the other children, or the program staff in the following 7 ways:

  • Interferes with the child’s and/or other children’s learning and development
  • Challenges the day-to-day functioning of the program
  • Challenges the right of staff and children to a safe an orderly environment
  • Goes beyond what the program can handle, in terms of duration, frequency, intensity, or persistence
  • Does not respond to the usual range of interventions used by the program for inappropriate behavior
  • Damages to the physical environment, equipment, or materials
  • Is inappropriate to the child’s age, developmental stage, or background

Consequences of Not Handling Challenging Behaviors in an Appropriate Manner:

Behaviors become challenging when efforts fail to reduce the frequency, duration, or intensity or a behavior. Some signs of behaviors impacting the child’s ability to learn and develop are:

  • Tantrums
  • Noncompliance
  • Inattention
  • Hitting, kicking, spitting, or punching others
  • Refusal to share, wait, or take turns
  • Excluding other children
  • Breaking or misusing toys and equipment
  • Refusal to cooperate
  • Swearing
  • Shouting
  • Running away
  • Teasing or bullying

Other challenging behaviors that may require the services of a licensed mental health professional are:

  • Self-injury, such as head banging, self-biting, or hair pulling
  •  Stereotyped behaviors, such as rocking, spinning, or hand flapping
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior, such as touching others sexually or smearing feces

To learn how to reduce a child’s challenging behavior to avoid the issue from becoming worse as the child matures, check out William DeMeo’s book When Nothing Else Works: What Early Childhood Professionals Can Do to Reduce Challenging Behaviors.

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