5 tips to manage your child’s challenging behaviors

What do you do when your child hits, throws tantrums or refuses to share? Where should you turn for a child dealing with anxiety or depression?

Available services

Tuesday’s Child early childhood behavioral intervention

Parent and child training for challenging kids, ages 6 and younger.

Learn effective discipline, reasonable expectations, and how to create a safe and engaging environment.


Lurie Children’s Hospital outpatient treatment groups

Groups for children of similar age and cognitive functioning to address related issues.

Work through challenges in a helpful group setting.


Lurie Children’s Hospital partial hospitalization program

Intensive, five-day treatment program for children ages 4-14.

Increase mastery of skills through intense repetition.

A panel of four experts–JoAnne Loper from Tuesday’s Child, Gene Lieber from Lurie Children’s Hospital, Kylie Kosmacek from Chicago Public Schools, and Clinical Psychologist Rich Arend–convened at this year’s Neighborhood Parents Network Developmental Differences Fair to discuss behavioral interventions for children ages 2-14.

Here is their advice for the most common questions they hear.

What should I do when my child misbehaves?

Focus on positive parenting, not punishment. Show the child how to replace inappropriate behavior with an appropriate alternative.

For example, if the child is fighting over a toy, show her how to share. Instead of yelling, “Stop!,” validate her feelings. Say, “I see you want that toy. Ask for a turn.” Facilitate a back-and-forth reciprocal process where using words pays off. She will learn she gets the toy back in two minutes and will make asking for a turn part of her behavior repertoire.

How do I redirect a child with speech delays from hitting?

Teach him safe, powerful ways to get his intense feelings out. He can slap and squeeze his hands, grunt or stomp his feet. Then help him label the emotion, “You’re mad.”

Closely observe what is causing the anger. Determine the goal of the child’s behavior and facilitate a positive way for the child to get what he needs.

What should I do when my child is being physically aggressive?

It’s best to intervene before the child gets to that point. Once she’s gone over the cliff’s edge, it’s hard to pull her back. Often, problems are predictable–you can see the situation escalating. Try to get ahead of difficult times, like transitions or fights with siblings.

However, if the child has already started to tantrum, take her to her room or another safe place. Help her calm down with sensory strategies like punching bags for older kids or ripping paper.

After the storm, help her find ways to express her needs and wants. Giving her a “do over,” or chance to repair what she messed up, also repairs her self-esteem.

What should I do when my child has learned a dangerous behavior in his classroom?

Talk to the teacher about ramping up reinforcement for children who are meeting expectations. Help offset the focus from the ones displaying inappropriate behavior.

What support is available over the summer?

Ask if the extended school year is an option for your child. The decision is typically made in the spring.

If your child isn’t eligible for ESY, Loper recommends Easter Seals summer camps for children with autism.

Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.
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