Common Child Behavior Problems and Their Solutions

Discipline Strategies to Change Your Child's Behavior

Here's how to address the most common behavior problems.
KidStock/Blend Images/Getty Images

Whether you're raising an energetic daughter or you're dealing with a strong-willed son, there are certain behavior problems that most children exhibit at one time or another. The way you respond to these behavior problems will play a role in how likely your child is to repeat them in the future. 

1. Lying

There are three main reasons kids lie; to get attention, to avoid getting in trouble, and to feel better about themselves.

Distinguishing the reason for the lie can help you determine the best course of action.

When you catch your child in a lie, ask, "Is that what really happened or what you wish would have happened?" Give your child an extra consequence for lying.

Emphasize the importance of honesty by creating a household rule that says, "Tell the truth." Praise your child for being honest, especially when the truth doesn't make your child look favorable.

2. Defiance

Whether your child ignores you or says, "No!" when you tell her to do something, defiance can be frustrating--if not downright infuriating. But, it’s normal for kids to test limits at one time or another.

Offer a single if...then warning. If your child still doesn't comply, follow through with a consequence. With consistency, your child will learn to listen the first time you speak. 

3. Too Much Screen Time

Many children would use their digital devices all day if they could.

However, too much screen isn't healthy

Establish clear rules for screen time. If your child becomes too dependent on electronics for entertainment, dial back the screen time even more. Take away electronics when your child breaks the rules and be a healthy role model

4. Food-Related Problems

Whether you’ve got a picky eater or a child who claims to be hungry every 10 minutes, food-related issues can lead to power struggles if you’re not careful.

Proactively work to help your children develop a healthy attitude about food. Make it clear that food is meant to fuel your child's body and don't tell kids, "vegetables are healthy." Instead, serve one meal for everyone and set limits on snacking. 

5. Disrespectful Behavior

Disrespectful behavior can frustrate even the calmest of parents. If it’s not addressed appropriately, disrespect can get worse through the years.

So while there may be times you can ignore attention-seeking behavior, at other times it's important to hand out consequences for talking back or name calling. Take away privileges or send your child to his room for a time-out. 

6. Whining

Whining can be a bad habit—especially if it helps your child get what he wants. But it's important to curb whining before it begins to impact your child's social life. 

Ignore whining and don't ever cave in when your child whines. Additionally, teach your child more appropriate ways to deal with uncomfortable emotions, like disappointment.

7. Impulsive Behavior

While young children tend to be more physically impulsive, older children are more likely to be verbally impulsive. But there are many things you can do to teach your child impulse control skills.

Point out good behavior and praise your child when she thinks before she acts. Teach anger management skills and self-discipline skills

8. Bedtime Behavior Problems

Whether your child refuses to stay in bed or he insists on sleeping with you, bedtime behavior problems are common. Without appropriate intervention, your child may become sleep-deprived, which could lead to even more behavior problems. 

Establish some clear bedtime rules and create a healthy bedtime routine. Consistency is key to helping kids establish healthy sleep habits. So even if you have to return your child to his room a dozen times in an hour, keep doing it.

Eventually, your child's bedtime behavior will improve. 

9. Aggression

Aggression can range from a child throwing his math book when he doesn’t want to do his homework to outright punching his brother when he’s mad. Give your child an immediate consequence for any act of aggression.

Take away a privilege and use restitution to help your child make amends if he's hurt someone. If his aggression doesn't get better over time, seek professional help.

10. Temper Tantrums

Temper tantrums are most common in toddlers and preschoolers but they can extend into grade school if they aren't addressed swiftly.

Ignoring can be one of the best ways to handle tantrums. Teach your child that stomping, screaming, or throwing herself to the floor won't get her what she wants. It's also important to show her better and more effective ways to get her needs met.