Managing challenging behaviors in children

Kelli Didomenico of The Children’s Workshop shared the following tips to managing challenging behaviors in children:

What does challenging behavior look like?

If you don’t already know, here are some common characteristics of challenging behaviors: (taken from Workshop Ways Teacher Tool Kit)

  • Tantrums/Disruptions – Emotional and physical “meltdowns” common among children in the 2- to 4-year-old age range.
    Common behaviors may include: screaming, crying, kicking, lying on the floor, and occasionally holding breath
  • Non-compliance – refusing to follow a reasonable request or direction or the established routine that occurs after multiple attempts and a reasonable amount of time
  • Inappropriate Language – repeated use of language that is unexpected at the child’s developmental age or stage (ex. Swearing, racial slurs)
  • Aggression – forceful physical actions directed towards adults or peers that may result in physical injury or contact
  • Self- injurious behavior – physical actions directed toward oneself that may result in visible injury (ex. hitting, biting, scratching)
  • Destruction of Property – damage to items or property that are purposeful (knocking of chairs, tipping over shelves

What are some tips and strategies you can implement at home? (adapted from

  • Teach a new skill – the best to combat an undesirable behavior is to teach a new one. Children learn thorough offering multiple opportunities to them.

Behavior Non-compliance:

  • Behavior looks like- displaying a negative attitude, temper, uncooperative or angry.
  • Child’s perspective – child is unable to process what is expected of them or have poor social skills.

Strategies to implement while behavior is occurring:

  • Don’t argue with the child – that never works
  • Set Goals – Instead involve the child in setting realistic goals
  • Redirection – the child to a preferred activity
  • Be a Good Role Model – Always remember to remain calm, keep in mind your own body language when speaking with the child.

Implement Supports for Prevention:

  • Consistency – Key is to have consistent classroom routines (offer visuals as supports – such as picture schedules)
  • Set limits and Boundaries
  • Offer Choices – give them two choices instead of 5 or 6 which can be overwhelming
  • Quiet Area – Always have a quiet area for your child to have easy access to in your home.

Behavior – Impulsivity:

  • Behavior looks like – physical and/or verbal outburst, tantrums, emotional overload – child is unable to be brought back but is often “blindfolded” by his/her emotions
  • Child’s perspective – expressing frustration and annoyance, as well as the child have social and emotional needs that need to be addressed

Strategies to implement while behavior is occurring:

  • Choices
  • Redirection
  • Emotional techniques – feelings board
  • Workshop Ways
  • Social Stories

Implement Supports for Prevention:

  • Family History – Note underlying issues through conversations with the child’s families
  • Communicate and collaborate