Sometimes, children and young people show concerning behaviour when they are trying to communicate something important about the way they are feeling, but cannot find the words. Over time, behaviour can become 'learnt' because of the preditable reactions of others. At the most simple and common level, for example, if a parent gives in to a young child crying for a toy, the child will soon learn that the behaviour of crying will get the result they want and they will transfer the behaviour to other situations.
At a more challenging level, a child or young person may show self-injury or violence to express what they cannot with words. It is usually fear or anger that causes this behaviour. It is important to understand what feeling is driving the behaviour. The behaviour can be made worse by other factors, such as the level of demand, hunger, pain, personal loss or trauma, for example.
We have put together a download of top tips that you might find helpful as well as video of a workshop on how to manage concerning behaviour.
There are a number of resources that may also be helpful to you and your child in better understanding the function of the behaviour and how to support them to find better alternatives.
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Video description: Activity Scheduling - Dr Nick White
Video description: Setting Goals - Dr Nick White
Video description: ABC Diaries - Dr Nick White
Video description: Boundary Setting - Dr Nick White
Video description: De-escalation
All behaviour has meaning. Children and young people communicate through their behaviour, especially those who have not acquired language and vocabulary skills to tell the adult what the problem is. A young person’s behaviour can be made stronger and more likely by how it is responded to. Here’s a guide to help you know how best to support your young person if they are behaving in a way that is concerning. This is not an exhaustive list; there may be other behaviour and responses to this which have not been included:
Coping / needs support; These are experiences that most young people will have from time to time.
Type and nature of situation that may impact on a young person’s behaviour
It is common for children and young people to behave in ways that concern adults from time to time. Examples of situations which might provoke these feelings include:
Factors such as tiredness, hunger, not feeling physically or being in pain well can impact on how young people cope, respond and behave.
Some young people with physical disabilities and conditions, learning disabilities or those with neurodevelopmental difficulties (such as Autistic Spectrum Condition or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) may have additional difficulty in being able to identify, express and communicate their emotions, thoughts, needs or preferences. This struggle may result in strong emotional responses and behaviour of concern.
What you might see or a young person might report
Things to try, support and Next Steps
An A-Z of coping strategies: https://youtu.be/5EXpkVw3fh0
How and when to use a coping box: https://youtu.be/OyfgodSSdV4
Needs help; These are challenges that some young people experience and may need some support with.
More concerning behaviour may (or may not) be in response to events such as:
In some cases behaviour of concern may be in response to a mental health difficulty or crisis.
What you might see or what a young person might report
As well as the features in Green, the following might also be present:
As well as the steps in Green the following might be helpful:
Depending on the context and/ or the triggers and contributing factors for the emotional responses and behaviour of concern, other services may be helpful e.g., family guidance if there is family breakdown or conflict.
Needs Specialist Treatment or a Crisis Response; These are difficulties that cause a significant impact and a young person may need specialist support.
Despite trying advice in the Green and Amber stages, the young person still experiences behaviour of concern.
More extreme or concerning behaviour may (or may not) be in response to events such as:
The features in Green and Amber may be more frequent and intense plus, the following might also be present:
As well as the steps in Green and Amber the following might be helpful:
Please note, that CAMHS may only provide an assessment and offer an intervention if the behaviour or concern is in relation to a mental health difficulty or crisis.