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A Child’s Behavior can Signal a Family Problem
Every parent wants children who are happy, cooperative, achieving in school, and social. There are times, though, when children become troublesome. It's at these times when parents often conclude a particular child in the family has a problem, that something must be wrong with this child. Maybe he has allergies. Maybe he's not getting enough sleep. Maybe he was just born with a difficult temperament. Maybe he is hyperactive. Parents look for the source of the problem within the child. This often may be the case, but let me introduce you to another possibility: maybe your child's troublesome behaviour is resulting from something that is not going right within the family. In other words, your child's difficulties can, at times, have its roots within the family system. Now normally, parents don't think in these terms…if a child has a fever, he probably has an infection; the fever is the symptom of something going on inside the child. This is a logical conclusion when you are dealing with physical symptoms. behavioural symptoms, however, are not all that straightforward. Yes, a behavioural symptom can reflect a problem within a child, but it can also be a reaction to something going on within the family.

The next time you are experiencing some troublesome behaviour with one of your children and it doesn't clear up, consider the possibility that the behaviour could be a signal of something happening with the family. Your child's behaviour, in a sense, can be a valuable and helpful clue that mum and dad have some work to do within the family. Here are some questions to ask yourself the next time you are feeling frustrated with one of your children:
  • What is the mood within our family these days?
  • How well are we teaming up as parents with our children?
  • How happy and satisfied do I feel as a single parent?

  • Or,
  • How are we getting along as a couple?
  • How much fun are we having as a family?
Honest answers to these questions may give you ideas about where your family life needs attention. And often, an adjustment within the family structure results in an improvement in a child's troublesome behaviour. The following is a sample of adjustments families have reported through my practice that have brought about improvements—remember, everyone's situation is different, and some obviously require more extreme measures than others:
  • Time in day care has been reduced by relying on relatives who are closer to the child and give more loving, focused attention.
  • Parents have stopped arguing in front of the children.
  • Father has become more involved in caring for the children.
  • Mother is spending more one-on-one time with the child who is having a behavioural problem.
  • Parents have made an adjustment to the temperament of the problem child.
  • Parents have agreed on a set of rules and consequence for their children's behaviour.
  • More fun time has been scheduled into the family calendar.
  • Older siblings have been told to stop tormenting the child with the behaviour problem or face being grounded.
  • Mother or father is treated for depression.
  • One of parents has threatened divorce unless their spouse gets help for addiction problems and/or abusive behaviour.
Remember, every parent wants well-behaved children, but sometimes your child's poor behaviour may be a clue, telling you to focus on the family and not specifically on the frustrating behaviour of one child
Kenneth N. Condrell Ph.D Child Psychologist