Child Development: Addressing Common Challenging Behaviours in Children


30 May 2024

Angry Asian Kid

Parenthood is accompanied by giggles and discoveries but also a few challenges along the way. As your little one grows and explores the world, it is not surprising that they sometimes exhibit behaviours that might leave you scratching your head. When that happens, making an effort to understand these challenging behaviours as a normal part of child development stages is crucial.

Continue reading to discover more about the factors influencing your child’s behaviour, along with practical tips for children aged 3 to 6 to effectively address challenging behaviours.

3 Key Factors That Shape Your Child’s Behaviour

Here are three factors that can influence your child’s behaviour to give you a clearer idea of how your little one sees the world and reacts to it:

1. Temperament

Temperament includes aspects like emotional reactivity, adaptability, and activity level. Understanding your child’s temperament provides insights into their natural inclinations and reactions.

2. Family Environment 

The way we connect, relate, and talk within our family impacts how children see themselves and their place in the big world. As such, nurturing a supportive and positive family environment is necessary to foster healthy child development.

3. Learning and Experience

Every interaction, observation, and encounter contributes to a child’s growing perception of what is socially accepted, normal behaviour, and how to solve problems. Furthermore, learning from experiences shapes the way they respond to various situations.

Possible Reasons for Challenging Behaviour

As parents, it is natural to think about the reasons behind your child’s challenging behaviour, which can be a result of various underlying reasons:

1. Forging a Connection

When your child acts out, it might just be his/her way of seeking attention and forging a connection, even if it is through not-so-great behaviour. That is why it is important to sprinkle some positive attention and engagement their way. Making sure they feel seen and valued helps meet their emotional needs. 

2. Temper Tantrums

Likewise, tantrums might be your child’s way of letting out emotions when they feel wronged or hurt. Tantrums are often a response to feelings of being treated unfairly or dealing with unresolved conflicts. Tackling the root cause and nudging them toward expressing themselves in a healthier way can shift their focus to more constructive ways of expressing themselves.

3. Asserting Independence

As children grow, they start craving more independence and control. You might notice your little one trying to push back against authority figures as a way to carve out their own sense of control. To handle this, it is key to set clear boundaries, maintain consistency in enforcing those boundaries, and promote age-appropriate decision-making. Giving children choices within reasonable limits can be a great way to fulfil their need for autonomy.

Sometimes, acting out can be your child’s way of coping, especially when they feel like they are falling short of expectations. Boosting their confidence with positive reinforcement, lots of encouragement, and age-appropriate challenges can really empower them and build their self-confidence.

Effective Approaches to Address Challenging Behaviours

Understanding that challenging behaviours are a normal aspect of your child’s growth is the first step. What you can do next is to consider implementing some of these approaches to address these behaviours:

1. Set Clear and Consistent Boundaries

Children thrive when they know what to expect. Thus, establishing clear and consistent boundaries gives children a sense of security and helps them understand acceptable behaviour.

2. Teach and Model Appropriate Behaviour

Lead by example — teach and model the behaviours you wish to see by using everyday situations as teaching moments to demonstrate kindness, patience, and problem-solving.

3. Celebrate Positive Behaviour

Reinforce positive behaviours by offering praise. This encourages your child to repeat desirable actions, creating a positive cycle of learning and growth. Taking the time to acknowledge and celebrate your child’s positive behaviour also creates a stronger bond between parents and children, sending a message of love, support, and understanding.

4. Emotional Regulation Techniques

Teach your child simple techniques to manage their emotions. This could include deep breathing exercises, counting to ten, or using a designated “calm down” space when emotions run high. Consider adopting the Teach-Model-Practise-Praise framework1, a structured approach to help children self-regulate:

  • Teach: Clearly explain the what, how, and why of the new behaviour, using stories to illustrate its impact on others.
  • Model: Demonstrate both desirable and undesirable examples of the new behaviour, offering visual guidance.
  • Practise: Engage in exercises focused on reinforcing desirable behaviour.
  • Praise: Acknowledge and commend the display of desirable behaviour whenever it occurs.

5. Encourage Independence Within Limits

As your child explores their newfound independence, offer opportunities for them to make choices within appropriate boundaries. For instance, letting children choose between two snacks or picking their bedtime story.

6. Collaborate With Your Child’s Caregiver

Whether it is a childcare centre or a family member, maintaining open communication with those involved in your child’s care is vital. Consistency across different environments helps build positive behaviours and ensures a unified approach.

Growing up is no easy feat and it is totally normal for children to experience behavioural challenges as they figure things out and get used to the world around them. The thing is, if we do not guide our children to learn how to regulate their emotions when challenging behaviours surface, these behaviours might follow them into their teenage and adult years.

Other times, these behavioural hiccups are early warning signs, telling us there might be more going on beneath the surface, with regards to how they are developing, learning, or handling their mental health. If you suspect your child may be facing challenges beyond typical behavioural challenges, it is always a good idea to trust your instincts and seek support.

Unleashing the Best in Every Child

At NTUC First Campus, we recognise that emotional and social well-being is the foundation of understanding behaviours in young children. We strive to perceive these as behaviours that challenge us, instead of challenging behaviours.

That is why we have delved into research and put into action a relationship-based curriculum in our childcare centres here in Singapore. The goal? Enhancing children’s well-being, engagement, and learning outcomes. By fostering positive connections and meaningful interactions, we lay down a solid foundation to help children navigate various challenges, including those tied to behaviour. We want to empower them to express themselves, build positive relationships, and effectively handle those tricky situations life throws at them.

Find out more about our relationships-based curriculum here.

1 Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). (2020). Self Regulation Matters. Self Regulation Matters.


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