Children’s behaviour is naturally varied. All children can be on their best behaviour, and all children can be on their worst behaviour at different times. Most parents expect the Terrible Twos but when an older child’s behaviour is lacking, it can be hard to determine if they are is misbehaving or if (s)he is showing warning signs of a behavioural disorder.
A behavioural disorder is a condition that is caused by individuals experiencing changes in their thoughts and emotions that manifest as challenging behaviours. Examples of challenging behaviours in children often include temper tantrums, answering back or arguing, lying, cheating, stealing, hitting, kicking, pinching, biting, yelling, and using bad language.
Though these behaviours can be typical of childhood or childhood stages, it is the consistency of these actions that can indicate a behavioural disorder. Three of the most common behavioural disorders in children include Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Conduct Disorder (CD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
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Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a disorder in which a child’s behaviour is extremely disobedient and/or hostile towards authority figures. While authority figures are usually adults, they may also be teenagers or even older children who have been granted certain aspects of authority in a given situation.
These behaviours last for longer than six months and can include:
- Losing their temper
- Arguing with adults
- Defying the request of an authority figure
- Deliberately attempting to anger or annoy others
- Blaming others for misbehaviour
- Being angry, resentful, spiteful or vengeful towards others and is easily upset, angered or frustrated by others
If a child meets four of these criteria, (s)he may be diagnosed with ODD.
Conduct Disorder (CD)
Conduct Disorder is a disorder in which a child engages in repetitive behaviours that violate societal norms. These behaviours include showing aggression towards others and animals, destroying property, stealing from or deceiving others, and violating rules. In order for CD to be diagnosed, children must show three or more such behaviours in the past year, with at least one of the behaviours occurring in the last six months.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a disorder in which a child shows a consistent inability to pay attention. Hyperactivity, forgetfulness, the inability to control impulses, and the inability to focus and remain free from distractions are other signs of ADHD. If ADHD is diagnosed, some types of medicine may be available to help a child move beyond these behaviours.
Living With a Behavioural Disorder
Families living with a behavioural disorder tend to find themselves under a lot of stress. A child diagnosed with a behavioural disorder will likely have a treatment plan and perhaps an educational plan, but the whole family must remain supportive in order for these plans to be successful. At the moment there are no guaranteed cures for behavioural disorders, but the right treatment plans can help the challenging behaviours to lessen or disappear.
Formal diagnoses of behavioural disorders are made by qualified mental health experts, usually after observation of and speaking with the child in question. For more information about behavioural disorders, parents should speak with medical, mental health or educational professionals.