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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Child (tamaiti) behaviour

Tamariki (children) and teenagers can behave in ways that their parents find very difficult to deal with. Many of these behaviours are simply part of kids learning how to be independent.

Sometimes difficult behaviour happens just because the basics are out of kilter. Not enough sleep or physical activity, or too much screen time can have a bigger effect on our tamariki's behaviour than we realise.

More than anything, tamariki and young people simply want positive time and attention from their parents. Difficult behaviour usually gets parents' attention, while kids who are entertaining themselves just get left to get on with it.

If your tamaiti (child) learns that misbehaving or acting out is an effective way to get the attention they need, they may do so more often.

A good way of changing behaviour is to spend time each day doing something with your tamariki that they want to do. It will help to join in with their choice of activity, even for a short time.

It's also important to find ways to be positive, such as praising good behaviour.

Tips for Improving behaviour in tamariki (children) has more details and ideas.

Sometimes tamariki and teenagers behave badly because something happening in their life is too much to deal with. Maybe they're trying to deal with bullying, grief, conflict between their parents or another very distressing situation. Acknowledging their distress and getting help with the issue can improve their behaviour.

Parenting children with difficult behaviour can be challenging, so take time to look after yourself as well. Getting enough sleep, physical activity and reducing your stress can help you control your reactions to bad behaviour.

It can be helpful to let tamariki know you're aware you do not always get things right. You could work together on change. “Do you know what, I can get really angry sometimes and I know that can be hard for you. I reckon we should look to find some ways to be better at staying calm.”

Getting help with tamaiti behaviour

If difficult behaviour continues, there are several groups and programmes that can offer support for you and your whānau (family).

It can be a real worry if your tamaiti's behaviour starts affecting their schooling, as it's likely to affect their learning and social adjustment.

Schools have access to free behaviour support teachers, behaviour management teachers, special education advisers and educational psychologists.

For the most challenging children and teens, they can offer an intensive wrap-around service. The wrap-around service addresses social, educational and intellectual issues that are affecting your tamaiti's learning. If your tamaiti needs support, talk to their school or preschool about how they can help.

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On the next page: Tips for Improving behaviour in tamariki (children)

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2021.

Page reference: 49668

Review key: HIPPR-71581