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Goals to Set for Kids With Behavioral Problems

by Erica Loop, studioD

It is common for parents to have some degree of difficulty deciphering normal child behavior from troubling types of behavior, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Whether your child has mild behavioral issues or a diagnosed behavioral problem, setting goals can help your child help herself to stop acting out.

Positive Goals

When creating goals for kids with behavioral problems, set positive goals that reinforce what the child should or is supposed to do. According to educational experts at the Tucson Unified School District, behavioral goals should focus on the specific behavior that you can accept, not on what the child shouldn't do. The objectives should center on new and positive ways of acting. For example, instead of saying that your child shouldn't hit other kids when she feels angry, rework the objective into a positive statement such as, "Please use your words to communicate your feelings to your friends."

Oppositional Behaviors

Children who are oppositional or have a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder typically have problems obeying parents and teachers. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes that children with ODD have a consistent pattern of arguing with adults, active defiance, mean speech, a spiteful attitude and not following rules. If your child has an ODD diagnosis, it is likely you will have him in some form of psychological or professional treatment. Setting rules at home can help to reinforce his treatment and is also helpful for kids who have oppositional behavior problems that aren't severe enough to warrant a diagnosis of ODD. Set reasonable goals for your child's age that have clear consequences with a priority on what you most want your child to do. For example, if your child refuses to follow your chore rules, tell him that you expect him to take out the trash and clean his room or he will not have any computer privileges for the week.

Understanding Cues

Children with behavior problems can use their own cues to start coping or treatment techniques, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. This includes helping the child recognize her own problem behaviors, look for the cues or signals that she is starting this unwanted behavior and take the time to stop it or turn it around. As the parent, you can set a goal for your child to look inside of herself and recognize these cues such as anger or frustration. When she begins to recognize the cues that signal her behavior issues, she can employ the treatment strategies that she is working on with you or a professional expert.

Social Goals

If your child is having problems relating to his peers in a positive way, setting social goals can help her during school and play times. Like other goal-setting strategies, social goals should include positive statements that help your child to understand what you, and everyone else, expects from him in terms of appropriate and acceptable behaviors. Instead of simply saying that you want him to act nice or stop being mean, focus the goals on specific actions or behaviors that you want him to take, including using polite words, sharing toys or taking turns using the swing set.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Ezra Shaw/Digital Vision/Getty Images