General Information about Behavior and Attention Problems

Although most children are distractible, inattentive, angry, oppositional, and defiant some of the time, these behaviors may be problematic if they are causing distress for your child and interfering with his or her ability to function at school, maintain friendships, and relate well with family members. Please click on the problems listed above to read a brief description of the symptoms specific to each.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has become somewhat of a household term, but not all children who are occasionally inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive have ADHD. If your child’s distractibility and/or hyperactivity are interfering with his or her school and social functioning, ADHD may be a cause of this difficulty. ADHD includes symptoms of inattention as well as symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, and a child may show signs mostly of inattentiveness, mostly of hyperactivity-impulsivity, or a combination of both. Children with ADHD may exhibit several of the following behaviors:

· trouble paying attention and focusing on one task or activity
· difficulty following through on instructions
· avoidance or dislike of tasks that require sustained attention such as homework or chores
· distractibility
· organizational difficulties
· frequent loss of toys and schoolwork
· overall forgetfulness
· fidgeting or squirming
· interruption of others or blurting out of answers
· excessive talking
· difficulty playing quietly or staying in one place
· impatience
· troubled peer relations

Cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD focuses on helping your child to improve his or her organizational, time management, and social and problem-solving skills, all of which can lead to improved self-esteem and efficacy. Parent education and collaboration with your child’s school are important components of treatment as well. Please visit the Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder website for additional information on ADHD and its treatment.

Child Behavior Management

There are different parenting styles and methods, and parents often need assistance learning how to best manage their children’s behavior when their children frequently misbehave, argue, break rules, tantrum, and are generally oppositional. These behaviors can disrupt the family dynamics and cause distress for you and other family members. It is not unusual for parents to disagree on how to discipline their children given that their own upbringing and experiences may have differed. Overall, it is important for caretakers to talk openly with one another and to set rules and limits appropriate to their child’s age and development. In treatment, you can learn different parenting techniques and learn how to balance reinforcement of positive behaviors with the implementation of fair and suitable consequences. Treatment can also help your child to use different methods to problem-solve more effectively, increase frustration tolerance, improve communication skills, and better control his or her anger.

Substance Use and Abuse

It is common for teenagers to experiment with alcohol and drugs, but although some adolescents may experiment and then stop, others may develop more serious substance use problems. Because it can be difficult for parents to know whether their child has a problem or is at risk for developing one, they should monitor whether their child has school problems, family difficulties, irritability, problems with the law, mood changes, and impaired judgment. Though these behaviors may be signs of a substance problem, they may also indicate other difficulties. A therapist can provide a comprehensive evaluation, facilitate an open dialogue with your child, and address substance use and other problems if indicated.