Over the last decade, the number of children diagnosed with attentional disorders, behavior disorders and autism spectrum disorders has skyrocketed, leaving many parents feeling afraid, frustrated and alone. In addition to this, the prescription of psychiatric medication to treat these disorder has risen over the last 20 years, and many parents have serious misgivings about using medication to manage behavior. It is true that some children truly benefit from the use of medication, for ADHD in particular, however this cannot be a replacement for a clear and consistent parenting approach. The decision to use medication is a personal one, and I have several friends who wish to forgo the medication in favor of staying the course with behavioral and educational approaches.
As a psychologist and behavior specialist, I am often asked to give parents advice about how to deal with their unruly or troubled kids. Here are some practical tips for assessment and treatment.
Children experience stress from many sources. These include academic performance, friendships, managing expectation from parents and teachers, and peer pressure. Stress, in general, can be a positive thing - it provides the motivation we need to get up when the alarm goes off, to study the spelling list for the quiz, and to play with other children appropriately. When stress becomes overwhelming, it can take its toll, causing hardship, behavioral problems, and emotional distress. Knowing what behavioral clues to look for can be half the battle. As a parent, things to watch for include:
- avoiding things he/she used to enjoy
- fearful reactions
- clingy behavior
- irritability or moodiness
- sleep problems
- eating issues
- complaining about or avoiding school
- your child's behavior is disruptive
- interrupts her interaction with other children
- showing signs of social withdrawal
- has difficulty focusing his attention
- impulsive or aggressive behavior
- behavioral treatment, which would be tailored for your child.
- parent education
- social skills training
- family support services
- in home services