Skip Navigation

Behavior Problems

What do I need to know about my child's behavior?
When you want to change an unwanted behavior, it helps to first understand why your child is doing it. See Understanding Behavior: a Key to Discipline for some things to think about when your child's behavior becomes a problem. Your child's developmental stage, their developmental readiness to learn new things, their temperament, their emotional needs and environmental factors should all help guide how you respond to your child's behavior.

What should I know about temper tantrums?
Temper tantrums are a normal part of growing up. They are part of a child learning self-control. Usually, they are starting to phase out by age four. To help you learn why kids have tantrums and for tips on how to avoid them, see the American Academy of Pediatrics page on temper tantrums.  

Call your child’s doctor if:

Find out more:  Listen to a YourChild podcast interview with UMHS pediatrician Dr. Julie Lumeng about how to prevent and handle temper tantrums

What can I do to help my angry or aggressive child?
Anger is an emotion that is caused by frustration. Aggression means trying to hurt a person or to destroy property. It is normal to have some anger and aggression, and actually healthy. These feelings help us to get things done, when used in a positive way. But excessive amounts of anger and aggression used negatively and destructively may point toward an emotional problem.

Call your child's doctor if:

Find out more:

What about biting?
Biting is a normal behavior for young kids, but it is also very upsetting for parents, and can be harmful to the person who is bitten.

How can I teach my child to stop bullying, or to deal with bullies?
Even toddlers can be "bullies" or “bullied.”  In fact, aggressive behavior toward other kids may even peak around age two.  Start early to teach your children how to be assertive in acceptable ways, and they will not fall victim to bullies, nor will they become bullies themselves. 

How can I change my child's problem behaviors?

When should I get help with my child’s behavior problems?
You should talk to your pediatrician about a referral to a professional if your child is doing things that are dangerous, harmful, or disrespectful to people or property.  If you see changes in your child’s behavior or physical symptoms, like headaches or trouble with eating or sleeping, get help.  Your child may have an attention, behavior or disruptive disorder, and need help.  Problems such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder require treatment by a health care professional.       

Where can I get more information?

Here are some Web sites that can help you find out more:

Check out these related topics on YourChild: 

Compiled by Kyla Boyse, RN.  Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan

Updated November 2012

Back to top