Behavioral Challenges in Young Children

Behavior in Young Children

Many children struggle with learning to adapt in social situations. Why? Have children always had behavior issues or are we as a society recognizing and making behavior challenges a social matter? I believe it is the latter. Society’s children are a growing concern.  The young child that is left unattended by adult supervision for periods of time or he or she is attended by an older sibling often lacks the quality attention necessary for proper emotional development, thus behavior challenges are greater among these children.  What techniques are successful in helping manage challenging behaviors?


Children thrive on attention whether it be positive or negative attention. I taught at a daycare where behavior was quite often chaotic. Many children were dropped off  when the daycare opened at 6:30 am and not picked up until 6:00 pm when it closed. These children craved attention. Sometimes it was due to work schedules and drive times to and from work. But inevitably whatever the cause of the lengthy stay, the children suffer from lack of attention in their home life due to the daily caregivers being someone paid to care for the child instead of a parent of guardian. 

Children from my daycare were lucky to see their parents for an 60 to 90 minutes a day. When picked up, it was often a trip through a drive through window for fast food then home for bathes and bed only to start the process over the next day. 

One child in particular screamed for her daddy off and on all day. Anytime a conflict arose the child would begin screaming for her daddy. Her daddy worked irregular hours and in a variety of places each day. Biological mom was not in the picture. This child was often cared for a host of dad’s girlfriends, friends, or grandparents during the time she wasn’t with us. This child’s insecurities exhibited themselves in behavior problems from blood curdling screams, to dangerous practices of throwing toys, climbing on furniture, or deliberately pinching, shoving, and hitting other children. 

What techniques are successful in managing challenging behaviors?

You can make your classroom and school safer and more manageable by mastering a simple but effective intervention technique that can be used in as very quickly to diffuse behavior.

These suggestions can help you:

  • Have productive conversations with angry/frustrated students at the point of crisis.
  • Send a carefully planned, clear, and effective message before a situation escalates.
  • Make your experiences with children more predictable, stable, and productive.

Seek out a cause for challenging behavior

Finding out the root cause of a behavior is vital to managing it. Consider questions such as:

Physical reasons 

Is the child hungry, sleepy, or have there been family issues which may be causing the child some confusion?

Is the child sick, does he or she have a fever, or aches and/or pain? Young children do not always know how to interpret and appropriately express pain or illness.

Is there a neurological reason for the behavior such as ADHD, learning disability, or other mental health issue that contributes to the behavior? 

High Expectations

Are the expectations for the child age appropriate? Children are often pressured to perform academically at earlier and earlier ages. Sometimes the child are just not emotionally ready. This can cause frustration and anxiety in children and cause children to act out.

New Social Situations

Is there an issue of distrust or unfamiliarity with caregivers?

Children who defiantly refuse to listen to their parents or the rules of authority run the risk of continuing defiance into adulthood. Unfortunately, defiance and disrespect are two of the most common forms of behavior problems. Children inevitably want to follow their own desires and may not understand the necessity of adhering to a particular set of rules. 


Is the child being bullied or is the child the bully. Children can be very hurtful to one another. When a child picks on another child for being smaller the child may be bullied or taken advantage of by another child. Some of the things that make individuals different  but some, like being smart, focused, athletic, or creative can represent attributes that the bully wishes they shared with their victim. By seeking to undermine someone else’s skills, bullies try to discredit others.

The bully may share the characteristics for which they are bullying the other child and may be embarrassed by their own deficits.
Often the causes of bullying can be attributed to a lack of empathy.
In some cases a person may bully because there is an aspect of a person’s personality that they don’t understand.

Imitation is the best flattery, but….

Is the child copying behavior that he or she is seeing on a regular basis?  Television and computer games often exhibit inappropriate behaviors that can be mimicked by children. When a child reenacts certain behaviors it may be seen by the child as a way to get attention whether it be positive or negative. With young children ignoring bad or challenging behavior whenever possible and offering immediate praise or rewards for positive behavior will often get the child in a habit or routine of recognizing the difference in good and bad behavior. Limiting your child exposure to aggressive behavior.

Testing limits

As children develop and grow they often test boundaries and limits by doing things “their own way”. Setting clear boundaries and appropriate consequences for crossing boundaries is essential to teaching children right from wrong.

Does your child have social skills?

Many challenging behaviors in young children arise from a lack of skills. A child who have a deficit in social skills may hit another child because he wants to play with a toy.  

Children want independence

As preschoolers learn to do more things on their own, they often want to show off their new skills. “I can do it myself”! is a common phrase in young children.

Learning new skills can be an exciting time for young children and opportunities should be created to allow them to share what they can do. Done properly will help the child develop self-confidence. 

Children often have difficulty with controlling emotions

Quite often children have no idea what to do about their feelings. They may become easily overwhelmed when they feel angry, and as a result, they may become quarrelsome and even aggressive toward others.  They may even act out when they feel excited, stressed, or bored.

Kids need to learn healthy ways to deal with feelings such as sadness, disappointment, frustration, and anxiety. 

Addressing Challenging Behaviors

Addressing challenging behaviors in young children can be “challenging” to handle. The strategies above explain the symptoms, causes, descriptions, and options for helping cope with the many situations and personality traits of children. Many children suffer with adapting appropriately in social situation. Awareness of reasons for behavior can assist with managing various behaviors. Behavioral modifications can help with children who suffer from neurological issues that affect children. Making sure that young children have appropriate attention, explanation of boundaries, consequences, and rewards will help a child learn to grow into healthy adults.  

I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts and views about why children behave the way they do and reasons for challenging behavior. If you have questions or comments feel free to contact me below or at

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