Is your child “acting out” and you’re looking for ways to normalize their behavior?
Kids these days often have challenging behaviors. Regardless of age, managing a child who has socially unacceptable behavior isn’t easy. Most parents look for reasons in their child’s personality characteristics, thinking that they might be disappointed, frustrated, or angry. Considering this, sometimes seeking out child behavior therapists seems like the most reasonable option to overcome this problem.
But what if your child is “acting out” because of problems in the family system instead of their own? What if your family’s communication patterns or your parenting style have had a large impact on your kid’s behavior? According to a 2013 study, families play an important role in the lives of adolescents and have an impact on their well-being.
Believe it or not, often it’s better to explore the problems in the communication style and family system dynamic in the home instead of looking for the flaws and reasons in your child’s personality, peers, or school community. That’s why you should consider family therapy if it’s your kid who’s acting out.
In this blog, we’ll explore the reasons why your child may be acting out and how family therapy can help.
Why Your Child May Be Acting Out?
At a first glance, a child who’s acting out might be perceived as hostile or ill-willed. However, this negative behavior can be caused for various reasons. Maybe behaving in this way is your kid’s way of communicating with you. Or maybe they try to gain your attention in order to achieve the sense of being taken care of.
Let’s take a look at some possible reasons why your child may be acting out.
● Your child is trying to communicate with you
Sometimes expressing anger or performing extreme aggressive behavior is your child’s way of communicating with you. In this case, you should understand that your child isn’t necessarily trying to make you mad. Maybe they have problems communicating with you and just want to tell you something by acting out. That’s why you need to talk to them, work on connecting instead of commanding, and ask them if you can do something for them.
● Your child tries to get your attention
Acting out is a common way for kids to get their parents’ attention. If a child feels unappreciated, neglected, or ignored, they may employ this “strategy” to annoy their parents and gain their attention in this manner. Just think about it. If you haven’t been taking care of your kid’s needs recently, this may be the reason they act out.
● Your child is affected by the external world
Studies show that environmental conditions significantly affect children’s behavior patterns and cognitive functioning (Fishbein et al., 2019). External stressors such as problems at school or difficulty doing lessons might result in maladaptive behaviors. Moreover, your child’s classmates, friends, and peers also impact their communication and behavioral strategies. Sometimes a child imitates others’ behavior or expresses anger because of a negative attitude. This means that your child’s acting out may be related to the way their peers treat them.
● Your child is protesting your parenting style
If you have an authoritarian parenting style and very strict rules, your child may be acting out in order to protest your rules and express dissatisfaction. Or maybe you have a neglectful parenting style and don’t pay attention to your kids’ needs and concerns. So, identifying your parenting style might help you understand why your child is acting out.
● Your family problems negatively affect your child’s behavior
If someone in your family has emotional problems, depression, or mental health disorders, chances are that it will affect your child’s behavior. But other than this, the communication style between family members is directly connected with the child’s emotional and cognitive development. As a result, rather than looking for reasons in your child, you should sometimes look at your family and assess how effectively you’re functioning or how well you’re handling your family roles.
What Can You Do When Your Child is “Acting Out”?
If your child is acting out, you’re probably looking for some ways to help them deal with this problem. Here’s what you can do and when you can seek mental health professionals when your child is the one who’s acting out.
- Listen to your child – One of the reasons why your child is acting out is that they want to know that you’re there for them to support. By listening to your child’s problems, you can let them know that you’re ready to help them overcome their issues and that they can rely on you.
- Understand why they’re acting out – It goes without saying that if you want to help your child overcome behavior problems, you should first identify what the problem is. Try to understand what is the reason behind your kid’s behavior and work on fixing the underlying causes instead of the behavior itself.
- Change your parenting strategy – Even though every parent has a unique strategy to raise their children, sometimes children just can’t adapt to their parent’s rules and demands. If you notice that your kid finds it hard to follow your requirements, try to change your parenting strategy to fit your child’s current needs.
- Try family therapy – The best way to help your kid who’s acting out cope with their behavior is to try family therapy. Why? Because family therapists will help you identify the real reason why your child is acting out and develop a proper plan to improve your communication patterns with your kid.
Don’t forget that children’s issues are almost always related to family dynamics. Therefore, family counselors can help you significantly improve your child’s and your family’s problems.
Why You Should Try Family Therapy
When your child is the one who’s acting out in your family, you might think that you don’t need to be there for counseling. Parents who aren’t aware of the importance of family dynamics for their child’s behavior often prefer to benefit from individual, child-oriented therapy. However, understanding family communication patterns is important for effective therapy even when your child is the only one who’s facing behavioral or emotional problems. Otherwise, counselors may be unable to identify the true cause of your child’s behavior and may plan a less effective treatment for your child.
Another reason why you should try family therapy for your child’s problems is that family members play an important role in shaping a child’s behavior. Therefore, a lot depends on the family members’ parenting skills in order to help your child change their maladaptive habits and acquire efficient coping skills. A therapist needs to make sure that family members have healthy communication with each other and that a child has an environment of trust at home. In this way, their plan to improve your kid’s well-being is likely to be more effective.
Besides, studies prove the effectiveness of family therapy for child behavior problems. In particular, according to a 2005 study, family therapy enhances the treatment of children’s mental health problems. Other studies have also demonstrated that family therapy is effective for child-focused problems (e.g., Carr, 2008). This means that even when your child is the only one who’s acting out among your family members, attending therapy collectively might be the most efficient way to help them cope with their behavioral problems.
All in all, if you notice that your child’s behavior goes beyond social norms or they express their emotions by arguing, fighting, or other extreme forms of behavior, trying family therapy could be a good idea. Just don’t think that you and your family members shouldn’t attend the therapy if your child is the only one who’s acting out. But if you still feel uncertain about the right type of therapy for your child, don’t hesitate to reach out to professional counselors and therapists near you at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids. The therapists at Health for Life Counseling will customize a family therapy plan for you and your family.