How to Handle Your Child's Disruptive Behavior

sad girl talking to parents - child discipline
Altrendo Images/Getty Images

Though many children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder are found to have neurologically related symptoms over time, the primary problem is behavior. Parents need an arsenal of coping strategies to reduce behavioral problems at home.

The first step is effective diagnosis and treatment by a practitioner with experience in mental disorders of childhood. Nearly all of the behaviors associated with Disruptive Behavior Disorders may be seen in normal children from time to time.

The Disruptive Behavior Disorder diagnosis is made when the frequency and persistence of symptoms result in clinical impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

Ongoing supervision by a competent mental health practitioner is crucial because the disruptive behavior disorders are frequently accompanied by other disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, and mood disorders.

Advice for Parents in Dealing with Disruptive Behavior Disorders at Home

  • Children with DBD's need a higher level of supervision than other children of the same age. However, supervision does not always have to be with the parent. In fact, because the defiant behavior is often directed primarily at parents and teachers, parents may find that alternative caregivers, such as competent babysitters or aides, are able to develop good relationships with the child that provide social learning for the child and valuable respite for parents.
  • Respite and parent support are important because parents need to be in control of their own emotions during difficult episodes with the child. These kids enjoy making you mad, and they are good at it. Parents need to maintain an emotionally neutral stance when giving instructions or consequences to the disruptive child. This skill doesn't come naturally and must be practiced and perfected over time. If parents don't learn to control their own emotions when disciplining the child, the result is often violence and escalation of the disorder.
  • Find ways to maintain a positive relationship with your child. Pay attention to his good qualities and find joy in the moments of closeness. We naturally avoid people who cause us anxiety and are angered when they hurt us. But, we love our children and that drives us forward to seek to heal for them and for us. You need an outlet for your own feelings, so seek out support to help you cope. Many parents also find that they need support to maintain a healthy, supportive marriage in difficult situations.
  • Get a plan and stick with it. Learn all you can about how to effectively manage your child's behavior; find what works for you, and then use those strategies in a consistent and structured way. Routines and clear expectations for behavior benefit all children. They are vital to the healthy development of the disruptive child.
Was this page helpful?