For Families

Guidelines to help with challenging behaviors 

May 22, 2020

Wow, what a topic… We don’t really like the words “challenging behaviors” as we don’t want to teach our children that they are not allowed to act the way they feel.  We used to say “seemingly challenging behaviors”, but then parents might think we don’t truly understand what they mean with the severity of some of the behaviors exhibited.  We do and we also believe that there is a reason for any and all behaviors.  

When we were trained in ABA, we were told that “all behaviors have a function” and if you have a child that is “looking for attention”, you should ignore this behavior.  We do not agree with this blanket statement at all.  Similarly to the shoes that don’t fit you, but promised to fit “all”, our kids and their behaviors are unique.  One size or one behavioral plan definitely doesn’t suit kids with different needs, interests, reasons and ways to connect.  

That sounds lovely, but what does it actually mean?  

Honestly, it is extremely difficult to provide specific guidelines of various behaviors without getting to know your child, his or her interests and what they find extremely important in their lives.  

This is the best advice that I can give in a blog: before you react to “challenging behaviors”, try some of the calming techniques that we (at AIMS) love to teach our children to do.  Take a few breaths, think about how your reaction might elicit a snowball effect of more behaviors and what the goal is with this whole exercise.  The one piece of advice that I do carry with me from my ABA days, is to “choose your battles”.  Again, I would probably not use the word “battles”, but hey – it’s the thought that counts.  We need to understand that we can let things slide and that our neuro-typical kids (or siblings) are not monitored and observed 24/7, which is probably a good thing 🙂 

There are behaviors that need serious and immediate attention – such as running into a street or getting on a bus, which we totally agree that your first instinct is correct – get your child to safety.  The other behaviors might easily be diffused with a calmer mind, one that has taken a few breaths, put some relaxing music on and then attended to.  

We always say “consistency is key” and it is, but when a child is engaged in challenging behaviors they need you to show them that you can help them through it. So, please try and take a step back (I know this is easier said than done), figure out what happened that upset your child.  It might not be the obvious reason of “he is trying to play more video games”, but rather the fact that without a warning or a transition cue, you took his video games away – not explaining to him the reasons.  It is extremely important to learn that our kids have special interests – some call these “obsessions”, but these interests are more important to them than eating or sleeping sometimes.  We have to respect the fact that they might become upset to the point where we think it’s an overreaction.  I can promise you, they are still trying to “keep it together”.  

The best piece of advice that I can give is to approach the situation in a calm and collected manner.  It will make more sense that way.

Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all”, so I need to keep this blog a bit vague, but feel free (as always) to send us an email to ask for some specific strategies.  We have an excellent and extremely practical “behaviors guide for parents” that we can send through to you, if needed.  

I would love to hear your questions and if you have any specific blog topics that you want us to write about.  Send us an email to connect: hello@aimsglobal.info 

Chat soon, 

Karla