Behavior Issues

  • How can I encourage my child to display more appropriate behavior?Oftentimes, adults pay attention to children when they exhibit behaviors that require adult intervention and/or correction. Children learn that the best/easiest/surest way to get adult attention is to behave badly, and the adults reinforce the very behaviors they are trying to get the child to stop or give up. Many adults do not engage these children when they are demonstrating appropriate behavior. Remember to praise, recognize, or reward the behaviors you want your child to exhibit. Adult attention is a powerful motivator for most children. Catch them being good!
  • My child has a hard time keeping still. Do you have any suggestions?Some children have real difficulties staying seated, and end up fidgeting throughout the day. Give these children something to hold, such as Silly Putty, a Nerf ball, Koosh ball, or other soft, malleable object. This approach “channels” the fidgeting, and helps the child focus.
  • What is the most common mistake made by parents?Inconsistency. Parents often are not consistent with behavior interventions. Giving in to a child’s demands or manipulation when he or she is sick, flashing a big smile, or giving puppy eyes, teaches the child that if they persist in bugging you, once in a while they will succeed.
  • What do I do when my child is aggressive (hitting, kicking, biting, etc.) towards peers, siblings, or adults?

    There should be an immediate response, such as moving the child away from the target of the aggression. Next, give the message that you will not allow your child to hurt others. Get on the child’s level, look them in the eye, put on an angry face and say “No, you can’t hit/kick/hurt Joey, wrong.” A consistent consequence such as a time-out can be effective. Visual timers can be effective in allowing the child to know how much time is remaining. It is important for parents to give the message that they won’t let the child hurt himself or others, and this message should be both spoken and demonstrated very clearly or else the child feels insecure. Many parents don’t do this because they lack confidence in their communication skills, but it should be a priority. Also, praise non-aggressive behaviors often – three times more often than mistakes! If your child’s aggressive behavior is caused by a need for attention (peer or adult), give your child more attention when he or she isn’t seeking it. If your child’s aggressive behavior seems to be caused by a desire to escape something you’ve asked him to do, give your child two or three alternative choices (activities, clothes, etc.), or give the child permission to do part of the task now and finish it later.
  • My child is demonstrating self-aggressive behaviors, what should I do?If your child’s self-aggressive behavior seems to be caused by a need for attention, give your child more attention when he or she isn’t seeking it – just as you would do when their behavior is aggressive towards others. If your child’s self-aggressive behavior seems to be caused by a desire to escape something you’ve ask them to do, acknowledge that the feelings are legitimate, but that the child’s actions are not appropriate. Encourage activities that allow your child to communicate about their feelings. Counseling is recommended for children with self-injurious behaviors. Praise non-aggressive behaviors (e.g. talking to others, writing down feelings, exercise, etc.)
  • My child often displays disrespectful behaviors (eye rolling, back-talk, rude language, etc.) to peers and adults. What should I do?Teach the child how to disagree respectfully by demonstrating, then practicing with siblings and peers. Praise appropriate behavior, which often goes unnoticed!
  • My child demonstrates energetic behaviors (nervous behavior, compulsive behaviors, teeth grinding, nail biting, etc.) What should I do?Give your child options (e.g. journaling, talking to school counselor or nurse, talking to friend, lying down, etc). Praise appropriate anxiety-reducing behaviors such as exercise, relaxation, writing, talking about it, sleeping, crying, counting to ten in your head, requesting assistance, etc. Demonstrate and practice appropriate anxiety-reducing behaviors often. In some situations, these behaviors may require medical intervention. Always discuss any concerns you have with your child’s doctor.
  • How can I help my child with language development? One of the fundamental interactions in early childhood is joint attention. This is when the parent and the child are attending to the same thing and sharing communication around it. It can be playing with a toy, reading a book, looking outside at a dog, sharing a meal, etc. The important component is that it always follows the child’s lead, and that it is interesting and pleasurable. When you see your child show an interest in something by eye gaze or pointing, respond with some communication about it. “Oh, you see the dog? What is the dog doing? See the dog playing?…” This simple everyday interchange is often interrupted in deaf children because the child either misses the input or the parent doesn’t know how to communicate it to the child, and so doesn’t. Joint attention is a building block for both emotional and language development.
  • My child refuses to look at me when I sign to him. Do you have any ideas? For parents who have limited communication with their child, that communication generally takes place when there is some demand placed on the child. “Come here” ‘Stop that” “Put this away”, “No”. When communication is used only to make demands and control a child’s behavior, and the pleasures of communication through joint attention (following the child’s lead) are missing, then it is common for a child not to look when someone is talking/signing. The positive effect of communication (connecting with another human being) is lost and the controlling and directive aspects (most negative to a child) have taken over. If this is happening with your child, he has learned to avoid looking at you because you are just going to tell him to do something (which he likely doesn’t want to do!). The recommendation is to create opportunities for joint attention at home and at school. The goal is to follow your child’s interest and talk to him about what he is doing, without asking a lot of questions. Short activities, one-on-one, face to face, that are pleasurable and communicative (and not directive) will help him learn that communication can be rewarding. Of course, you still need to be able to tell him to do things and to stop things, but try to get some balance with positive joint attention throughout the day.
  • Who can I contact for assistance with my child’s behaviors? The Illinois Service Resource Center is a statewide organization serving children with a hearing loss and emotional/behavioral challenges. They are funded by the Illinois State Board of Education, so there is no fee for parents who use their services. They can be reached at 800-550-4772 or

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