Unhealthy behavior in a child is worrisome. It can be difficult to determine whether the actions are a result of poor discipline or something more serious. That's where behavior checklists come in handy. They help you to round up all the attitudes and behaviors that have bothered you so you can examine them. Though checklists vary depending on which organization created them, they all cover general aspects of unhealthy behavior. Negative behavior could be a sign of bullying, abuse or neglect at home or in school.
When a normally well-behaved child suddenly resorts to bursts of temper, it may be a sign something's wrong. If you notice a child yelling, lashing out, trying to hurt others with no sign of remorse or attempting to hurt animals, make a note of it. These aren't normal attitudes. Sacramento Psychology also cautions against behaviors that include rudeness to elders, defensiveness, lying and refusing to accept blame for wrongdoings.
A child suffering from bullying or abuse often shows signs of doubting his own self-worth. You may hear him criticizing himself, comparing himself to others, trying to hurt himself or complaining that he doesn't have any friends. The Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment warns that a child may seem withdrawn and shy away from social events or even from former playmates. He may say he feels lonely and alone even though he doesn't seem to want to accept friendship. He may also express fear of doing something wrong or bad and show nervousness in normal situations.
Canadian psychologist Dr. Dianne O'Connor points out that regressive behaviors are another troubling sign of possible child abuse. These actions include returning to babyish behaviors long past such as bed-wetting, begging to not be left alone, clinginess and thumb-sucking. A thoroughly potty-trained child may wet and soil herself during waking hours. She may no longer reach her milestones as expected and find it difficult to catch up with her peers in even simple accomplishments.
You should be concerned if a child is using cruel and profane language to express himself, warns the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Age-inappropriate sexual behavior is also a serious cause for worry. Displays of sexual knowledge, touching sexual parts in public and seductiveness in a child are signs of possible sexual abuse, according to HelpGuide.org, as are attempts to avoid a particular person without apparent cause, difficulty sitting or walking and resisting changing clothes in front of others.
A decline in performance at school could be another reason for worry, according to Sacramento Psychology. A child could be striving for perfection and still not be able to keep up with his peers or he may lose interest altogether. He may resist going to school or even skip school after being dropped off.
What to Do
HelpGuide.org stresses the importance of reporting suspected child abuse or neglect to your local child protection services. It's true you may not have the whole picture and nothing may be wrong; however, it's better to be safe than sorry. If a child's well-being is at risk, it's better to protect them than do nothing. If nothing is wrong, the investigation will bring it to light, and the child won't be removed from the home so no harm done. If something is wrong, you've taken the step to improve the life of an abused child.
- Solutions for Child Problems: Behavioral Problem Children
- Sacramento Psychology: Child's Behavior Checklist
- Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment: Child Behavior Checklist for Ages 6-18
- Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research: Child Behavior Checklist
- HelpGuide.org: Child Abuse and Neglect
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