Why Does My Child Act This Way?

Clinical Expertise

Feb 3, 2016

As a parent, we’ve all been there. Your child sees that toy in the store and asks you for it. You say no. He or she asks again loudly. Still no. Then your normally sweet child erupts into a full-blown screaming, kicking tantrum in the middle of the store. Why do they do this?

The simple answer is, because it works. If the child has trouble communicating, they may act out even more to get what they want. How you respond is crucial.

Sandy Brown, occupational therapist with Brooks Rehabilitation, says that there are four basic causes of behavior:

  • Attention – When a child does things to get you to pay attention
  • Sensory – When something internal is making them to behave a certain way. For example if the child is hungry or tired.
  • Tangible – when a child wants something physical, like a toy.
  • Escape – when a child is feeling confined or uncomfortable and wants to get out or get away.

“As a parent, we need to identify the causes and provide the appropriate response before the situation escalates,” said Brown.

In the situation with the toy, it starts out as a reasonable request for a tangible object that quickly escalates to attention-seeking behavior. One strategy to deal with this situation is to anticipate the request and have your child’s favorite toy on hand to offer instead. Or you may just avoid the toy aisle in the first place. If it escalates, be firm and don’t give in to the demands. If you do, the next time your child wants something, he or she will go directly to bad behavior because that’s what worked before.

If you are interested in learning more, join us on Saturday, February 6th for an informative workshop. Sandy Brown, MS, OTR/L, BCP, BCBA and Karen Cooper, PhD are providing an educational session that can help parents define these problem behaviors, identify common causes, and learn how to change behavior. This session is part of Celebrate Children, a free event devoted to children and families with special needs.

In addition to Brown and Cooper’s session, there are other educational sessions, a resource fair and a yoga class. Children are welcome to attend. Brooks will be providing a KidzKorner with activities for all ages and abilities. And there will be appearances by Jaxson Deville and the Jacksonville Jaguars ROAR cheerleaders.

Attendance is free but we ask that you RSVP here for planning purposes.


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