Behavioural problems in children

Behavioural problems range from mild, short-lived periods of unacceptable behaviour, which are common in most children, to more severe problems such as conduct disorders and refusal to go to school. Behavioural problems may occasionally occur in any child; specialist management is called for when the problems become frequent and disrupt school and/or family life. Some behavioural problems can occur whatever the family or home situation. In some cases, however, stressful external events, such as moving home or divorce, may produce periods of problem behaviour. Behavioural problems that are common in babies and young children include feeding difficulties (see feeding, infant) and sleeping problems, such as waking repeatedly in the night. In toddlers, breath-holding attacks, tantrums, separation anxiety, and head-banging are problems best dealt with by a consistent and appropriate approach. Problems with toilet-training are usually avoided if the training is delayed until the child is physically and emotionally ready. Between the ages of 4 and 8, behavioural problems such as nail-biting and thumb-sucking, clinginess, nightmares, and bed-wetting (see enuresis) are so common as to be almost normal. They are best dealt with by a positive approach that concentrates on rewarding good behaviour. In most cases, the child grows out of the problem, but sometimes medical help may be needed.


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