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How to manage behavior problems in young kids

By Gretchen Vierstra, MA

It’s not uncommon for young kids to lose control of their behavior. That doesn’t make it any easier to deal with it, though. Frequent outbursts can be overwhelming and upsetting — both for the adults around them and for kids themselves. 

Kids develop self-control over time, and some take longer than others. In the meantime, there are ways to teach and encourage self-control. 

It starts with managing your own emotions and behavior when kids act out. Staying calm helps you think about the best way to handle the situation. And it gives kids the chance to collect themselves so you can talk about what happened.

Kids can learn from your example — both in the moment and over time. Talk about other situations where you’ve been frustrated or angry and what you did to stay calm and solve the problem. 

It’s also important to find out what’s causing the behavior. Kids act out for all kinds of reasons. Knowing why it’s happening lets you give them the support they need.

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More ways to help

When young kids lose control of themselves, they’re not doing it on purpose. They can feel terrible afterwards and think they’re “bad” for treating people that way. They may also feel like there’s something wrong with them that can’t be fixed.

Help kids build self-esteem. Praise hard work, and celebrate successes big and small. Say that they’ll get better at controlling their behavior. That helps kids stay motivated to work on their challenges.

Also, try to focus on positives. Kids who often lose control of their actions get a lot of negative feedback because of their behavior. Point out their strengths and help them get involved in activities they’re passionate about. 

Find out how to give praise that builds self-esteem .

For parents and caregivers: What to do next

One of the best ways to support kids with behavior challenges is to partner with your child’s teacher. Share information about what you’ve been seeing at home, and find out what’s happening during school. 

The more insight you have to share, the better. Take notes on when and where the behavior happens, and what else is going on at the time. You can use a frustration log to keep track and to look for patterns.

Pediatricians can also be key partners in getting answers. One thing they (or an educator) might suggest is getting an evaluation to uncover kids’ challenges and strengths. Learn about free school evaluations .

For educators: What to do next

When young kids lose control of their behavior, the first step is to remember that behavior is a form of communication . Keeping this in mind can help you respond to the reasons for student behavior and not simply react to or correct the behavior itself.

Figuring out the reasons helps you pick an appropriate response or support. It also allows you to be proactive in identifying ways to prevent behavior issues in the future.

Learn more about using positive behavior strategies in the classroom .

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom