Behaviour challenges in children: understanding their needs

Behaviour challenges in children: understanding their Behaviour challenges in children: understanding their needs needs

Sometimes children may act out with tantrums, outbursts or defiance. There is always a reason behind a child’s behaviour. The key to dealing with behaviour challenges in children is understanding what is driving the behaviour in the first place. 

The cause of a problem behaviour may not always be obvious. Onebright explores some of the reasons children may act out and provides insights into how parents can support them. 

Reasons that influence child behaviour

Escape or Delay

Fight / flight is a natural survival response for all humans. Children often have to do a lot of things they don’t want to do or are afraid to do. Escape or delay is one of the key coping strategies children use to get away from or avoid situations they are afraid of or don’t like.

Supporting your child to face their fears

  • Break the task down into achievable steps to reduce anxiety and increase the child’s confidence in tackling the task.
  • Reward efforts towards achieving the task.
  • Pay attention to the smallest efforts and praise the child’s attempt. Positive attention for even small, simple tasks will encourage more effort.

Need for Attention

Attention is key to processing information. All children need attention and will seek any attention, even getting into trouble, as long as the reward is receiving attention. Paying attention to troubled behaviour only strengthens the behaviour.

Encouraging positive attention seeking

  • Planned activities – to occupy your child’s attention and help to build their developmental skills.
  • Planned ignoring – the most powerful way to change a behaviour that is motivated by attention is not to reward the behaviour with attention, You should only use planned ignoring when you have the time, safe space and patience to get over the difficult episode.
  • Give regular and specific attention for positive behaviour.  Whenever you can, use labelled praise and reward for behaviours you want to see.
  • Model and support your child to practice patience. Start practice with small and predictable tasks and gradually increase. 

Emotional Expression

Just like adults, children do experience overwhelming emotions. Children often lack the vocabulary and emotional maturity to express their emotions verbally. Displaying certain behaviour can be their way of communicating emotions such as stress, fear, anger and sadness.

Supporting emotional expression

An important step in dealing with behaviour challenges in children is to acknowledge and validate their feelings. Creating a safe space for them to express their worries and concerns will make it easier for them to stay calm and open up.

During calmer moments, together you can practice healthy coping skills like mindful breathing and help to note the triggers.

If the anxiety persists, seeking professional help could be highly beneficial. Early intervention is key in supporting children’s mental health. Learning practical Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) techniques can enable your child to regulate their emotions for the rest of their lives. CBT can help with a range of problems, including,

  • Separation anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Low self-esteem
  • Panic attacks
  • Social anxiety
  • Phobias


Onebright offers online CBT for children and young people. Our therapists are highly experienced and compassionate. They support children and parents to look beyond the obvious, exploring what happens before and after the overwhelming emotions, to understand what is actually driving the behaviour. 

If you are struggling and need help understanding your child’s mental health and behaviour, remember that seeking professional guidance can provide valuable insights and support. For support with your child’s mental health, contact Onebright for an assessment and to discuss treatment options.

More information on Children & Young People Therapy

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