When To Seek Behaviour Intervention

Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

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Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

When to seek behaviour intervention

When to seek behaviour intervention is a question that’s guaranteed to keep parents up at night. It’s tough being a parent, and even more difficult to understand when a child’s behaviour has gone beyond the normal ebb and flow of family life and needs intervention. It’s quite normal to worry about when to seek behaviour intervention too, and if you are considering it, let me help you understand both how important it is and how easy it is to reach out for help that can bring you peace of mind.

Perhaps this behaviour is something you think you can leave for a bit. Perhaps you’re not sure if it’s a stage. However, whatever way you want to look at it, dealing with challenging behaviour is emotionally wearing. Parents toss and turn over sleepless nights, asking themselves, “Am I the only one dealing with this?” They wonder if it’s normal to be stuck in an endless struggle with their children. They care a lot, and as a result, it takes a toll on their health.

There’s a vacuum for information on this for parents.

There’s no manual that tells parents the red flags to look out for, so people are commonly left nursing a deep-down feeling that something just isn’t right. That’s also very stressful for moms, dads, or caregivers because while a parent’s instinct is telling them one thing, society at large is often telling them something else.

Parents deserve real answers, not platitudes.

So it’s worth asking, “What is society at large saying?” Well, I heard a classic the other day, told to a poor mom dealing with chronic temper tantrum meltdowns from her four-year old. He was having them everywhere: in the car, at home, with friends, at play school, you name it. Flailing arms and legs were just part of her normal day-to-day routine. “Don’t worry, it’s a stage. He’ll grow out of it,” she was told. But that’s not just unhelpful to a stressed-out mom who knows in her heart something is wrong; it’s also likely that if she takes that advice and puts up with it, she’ll wish she’d never listened. That’s because she was told to ignore her instinct, and that’s never a good plan. That’s why it’s so important to listen to that inner voice and reach out for a solution.

Working with me will take the stress off and help you feel in control again.  It will improve your life and the lives of your child or children.

It’s a stage…isn’t it?

The “it’s a stage” argument is the one I hear most often, and of all the crazy ideas in this world, it’s the most unhelpful because it muddies the waters as to when to seek behaviour intervention help. It causes parents to ignore what their little inner voice is telling them, and that can make everyone unhappy. Yes, difficult behaviour is a stage, and left on its own, that behaviour will eventually get better, but here’s where the problem is: while the behaviour goes away, what’s causing it doesn’t.

That means the behaviour simply goes underground for a while and comes back in a different and more sophisticated form with unstable teenagers who engage in behaviours like cutting and other fun things. After all, all children eventually grow up, and no one—or at least not many people—will have kicking and screaming meltdowns in the corridor at a college or university. Behaviour no matter what kind you’re dealing with, will morph; that’s to be expected.

When to seek behaviour intervention: So what about the red flag behaviours?

So let’s look at the “red flag” behaviours that would lead me to encourage parents to have a behaviour intervention.

When you look at the behaviours listed below, first ask yourself, “How often does it happen?” This really comes down to a matter of frequency. You have to look at how often they are displaying these behaviours. All kids turn their noses up at certain foods or hate Brussels sprouts, and most kids will have a defiant moment or two every once in a while. It’s when these behaviours become part of daily life or they display any of the last three that there’s a need to look into them immediately.

When to seek behaviour intervention: Here are the red flag behaviours to look for.

  • temper tantrums that continue as a habit beyond the two-year-old age group
  • a two-year-old that has multiple temper tantrums per day.
  • hitting you or other people routinely
  • biting (more than a few times)
  • constant whining
  • defiance
  • extreme picky eating (will only eat x, y, and z) for which there is no medical explanation.
  • disrupting your sleep with constant demands over a long period of time (when they are no longer babies).
  • vomiting at bedtime.
  • controlling or manipulating behaviour. 
  • ordering you or other people around.
  • not showing much affection to parents or caregivers.
  • hurting people passively and aggressively, i.e., without looking as though it’s intended.
  • acting like they don’t care when they hurt people.

Well, there you have it. So what other factors get in the way of parents acting on the knowledge that they need parenting help? Embarrassment is certainly a cause. People feel they’ll be judged, which, as I can tell you, simply isn’t the case. Working with me is comforting because you are solving the problem. People constantly tell me they feel happier and lighter because all the things that were bothering them have disappeared.

Knowing when to reach out for behaviour intervention is key, and although reaching out for help is difficult, it’s also the most important thing a parent struggling with the issues above can do, and it can save you from so much heartache later on. If there’s one thing you learn as a parent, it’s that once your child is all grown up, there are no do-overs. Give yourself the gift of a happy home.


Behaviour Intervention Service

For more information and my answers to common parenting questions, visit my advice column.

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