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When Stress and Anxiety are Behind Bad Behavior


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Kids can be a handful. They're full of joy, love, and laughter. There's nothing like raising a child, watching them grow, and helping them with their journey through life. As a parent of a child with ADHD, anxiety, or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) however, you know that there are certain struggles your child will experience over the course of their development -- and those struggles can become even more pronounced when they are under stress. The key is how to effectively assess and respond to your child’s behavior in situations like these.

To start, always remember that you're responding to  the child's behavior, not the child themselves. Equating a child with a behavior will only make it stick. The goal is to change the behavior, not the child. Read on to learn some tips to best engage and help your struggling child.

Give Positive Attention

Playing with your child is a great way to model appropriate behavior. Set aside time each day to be completely present with your child. Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent, and just play. Depending on the age of your child, this could be playing with kinetic sand to playing a board game at the kitchen table. Activities such as these help children with ADHD focus and those with SPD take in some light sensory play. For kids with anxiety, this is a great way to ease this condition. Playing often leads to laughing, which wipes anxiety away.


Rather than sticking your child into a corner, create a soothing, quiet time-out area where they can calm down. Create this area together and communicate the why, when, and for what it will be used. This activity helps children with ADHD develop a way to focus on calming down. For those with SPD, headphones may offer additional assistance to spend some time alone without any sensory triggers.

Give the Anxious Child Some Space

If you constantly jump in to rescue your child and fix every problem they have, it can have a negative impact on self-esteem and even increase anxiety. They won't get the chance to work out problems on their own if mom or dad intervenes all the time. Instead, pay close attention to when you should give some space to work out a problem, as well as when it is time to intervene. Sometimes natural consequences can be the best tools for teaching proper behavior.

Create a Rewards System

Extrinsic rewards have great potential for motivating certain behaviors and stopping others. Create a rewards system together with your child. Think about the goals they want to achieve, as well as some goals you have in mind. Come to an agreement and choose what will be rewarded with what. For example, a successful outing to the grocery store can be rewarded with an hour of your child's choice activity. This is especially helpful for children with ADHD and behavior problems. Our free behavior chart may help!

Ignore Some Behavior

When your child exhibits a mild behavior, it may be better to ignore it than bring more attention to it. Giving them attention, even when it's negative, encourages those behaviors to continue. Try redirecting them to focus on something else. This technique can be used across all spectrums.

Behavioral issues in children can lead to stress and frustration for the entire family. If your child struggles with difficult behavioral issues or has been diagnosed with a behavioral disorder, contact us online or find a center near you to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help. For over a decade, we’ve helped over 40,000 children improve the critical and behavioral skills needed to create a brighter path for their future. You can also view the research and results of the program on the website.

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