Normal Childhood Behavior or Signs of a Bigger Problem?


Help in understanding problematic childhood behavior and tips for reducing problematic behavior.

Does my child have an attention or behavioral problem?


Parents, teachers, and many health professionals are often at a loss when it comes to identifying and modifying problematic childhood behavior. The nuances of child behavior are just like those of adult behavior.  How does one define what is genuinely problematic and indicative of a larger problem?  When parents and their children are referred to my practice for attention, concentration, behavioral, or underachievement problems, a thorough assessment ensues.  Many parents have tried a multitude of behavioral interventions with little success.  Others have not.  Before labeling and treating a “true problem”, we must first eliminate other causes. 

If you have noticed your child having difficulties at home or school, there are some basic behavioral interventions you can do that will aid improvement in behavior and achievement.  If done consistently, you should see improvement in as little as 2-3 weeks.  If there is still a significant problem, it may be time to visit a professional who can complete a thorough evaluation, including psychological testing, to determine the true cause and recommend appropriate treatment.


Tips for parents before seeking help:

1) Ensure your child maintains a consistent bedtime and has the opportunity to achieve 9-11 hours of sleep per night

2) Eliminate any foods and beverages with caffeine or high sugar content

3) Increase physical exercise to no less than 20 minutes, 4 days per week

4) Allow your child some “down time” from school prior to attempting homework (excellent time to do that exercise)

5) Ensure proper nutrition, which includes breakfast prior to going to school (or breakfast at school if so desired)

6) Eliminate video gaming during the week and allow only 1-2 hours per day on weekends

7) Set clear, consistent goals for behavior.  Always follow through with reinforcements and punishments


Too little sleep, exercise, food, and follow through with behavioral expectations fosters behavioral acting out and difficulty with attention and focus.  Video gaming in school age children is correlated with poor performance in school.  Sugar and caffeine also increase behavioral problems. 

Problems such as depression, anxiety, or learning disability often look like ADHD.  It is important that an assessment rule out these problems as well.  A psychologist will meet with your family, gather background information, developmental history, and current symptoms.  Psychological testing will ensure proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations.