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Child behaviour

FDP woman and childrenChildren 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 exercise, or too much screen time can have a bigger effect on our children's behaviour than we realise.

More than anything, children and young people simply want positive time and attention from their parents. Usually difficult behaviours get parents' attention, while kids who are entertaining themselves just get left to get on with it.

If your children learn that misbehaving or acting out is an effective way to get the attention they need, they may do so more often. Try spending more one-on-one time with your child doing things they really enjoy. If possible, do so every day. The Parenting websites page has links to pages with ideas about spending quality time with children of different ages.

Focus on and praise your children for their good behaviour, using non-food rewards.

Consistent rules and boundaries are also important, as all children need a clear idea of what's expected of them.

Sometimes children and teenagers behave badly because something happening in their life is too much to deal with. Maybe they are trying to deal with bullying, grief, conflict between their parents, or another very distressing situation. Their behaviour may be a cry for help.

Try exploring with them what area of their life may be breaking down.

These leaflets for school-age children and preschoolers outline some of the strategies you can use to improve your child's behaviour. You might also like to try some of the tools and resources available to help you to improve your parenting skills.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2016.

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Behaviour problems

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Review key: HICHB-49668