Dealing With Disruptive Behavior Disorders In Children

Updated July 8, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Most children are restless and full of energy. When they are not playing tag or trying to wrestle their friends, they almost certainly wish they were. This kind of behavior is to be expected, even cherished. Everyone remembers how simple things were when they were children, and their carefree attitude is something to be celebrated while it still exists.

Gain The Tools To Help Your Child Manage Disruptive Behaviors

Many people are inclined to believe that behavioral disorders, such as ADHD are common to all children. It is easy to see why - they are usually unwilling to focus on homework, seem to have limitless energy, and sometimes do not listen to their parents. In certain doses (which are not necessarily small) this is to be expected. This begs the question, "When do these behaviors constitute a disorder?" And more importantly, what happens to children with behavioral disorders?

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, several maladies and their symptoms are identified. Anyone may find that they identify with one or more of them and start to believe that they may have that disorder. Often, this is not the case. When it comes to diagnosing psychological disorders, one of the most important factors is the degree to which the symptoms are impacting one's life.

Someone might have days where they feel very happy and energized, and others when they do not feel like getting out of bed in the morning. Does this necessarily mean they have Bipolar Disorder? If, during their "up" days, a person spends disproportionately large amounts of money and engages in life-threatening behavior, maybe so. If they find that they are more sociable and positive, however, it is more likely that they are just experiencing "good" and "bad" days like everyone else.

This holds for disruptive behavior disorders, too. Children that do not enjoy school because they would rather be playing outside do not necessarily have ADHD or any other disruptive behavior disorder. However, if a child constantly misbehaves in a class by talking out of turn or saying things they should not, there may be cause for concern. If these symptoms are observed over a long period and are resistant to discipline, there may be more going on than meets the eye.

Here are a few ways to deal with disruptive behavior disorders.

Soothing Agents

The most obvious way to treat a disruptive behavior disorder is to administer medication. Whether or not this is a viable option depends on several factors. These include age, medical history, and severity. For ADHD, which is probably the most well-known of these disorders, prescriptions such as Adderall, Ritalin, or Vyvanse may help to manage symptoms. Only a licensed physician can prescribe them, so they must be obtained from either a family physician or a psychiatrist.

Some parents may (understandably) be opposed to the idea of giving these pills to their children. They are still developing and their brains are extremely susceptible to influence. As such, parents may not know what to expect regarding long-term consequences.

Most see disruptive behavior disorders as a weakness and nothing more, namely because of the word "disorder" at the end. There is, however, a silver lining. ADHD patients can experience a phenomenon called "hyperfocus," where their ability to concentrate on something suddenly spikes. This usually applies to things the person is genuinely interested in, such as sports or video games.

One way to make a bad situation good, then, is to encourage children with disruptive behavior disorders to seek these passions and spend time practicing them. The progress they stand to make could be vastly superior to that of someone else who is unable to hyperfocus. While they may not perform as well in school, they may excel at certain other endeavors in which they are more invested. Praise them for their successes wherever they occur.

Some environments seem to cater to these disorders than others. Many famous scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs are known to live and work with them. While some of them almost certainly employ hyper focus in their work, sometimes these activities are better suited for people with racing minds. A person with ADHD that quickly changes gears from one interest to the next may make for a very talented CEO, which will inevitably accrue experience in several areas of business.

Gain The Tools To Help Your Child Manage Disruptive Behaviors

People with ADHD and the like are thought to have an impairment in the reward system of their brains. Their levels of dopamine tend to be insufficient, hence why stimulants like those listed above tend to help. It follows, then, that many people with ADHD are "adrenaline junkies," and thrilling experiences tend to be very rewarding for them. This may be why many gravitate towards being performers and businessmen - both are laced with opportunities to earn rewards.

This has enormous implications for the institutions in which disruptive behavior disorders are problematic. A child that can hyper-focus on matters about stage performance may flourish in an arts-based school. Even if this is not an option, most schools have some kind of drama program, whether it consists of classes or a club. Whatever their interest may be, an ADHD child that is allowed to chase their passions will be successful.

Establish Routines

One of the most popular coping mechanisms for those with ADHD is keeping to-do lists. Keeping a list to check throughout the day helps with constant reminders. This is indispensable since one of the hallmark features of a disruptive disorder is habitual forgetfulness.

A checklist for each day will be helpful, but they can be used on a more macroscopic level, as well. Lists for the week, month, and year can help kids achieve both their short and long-term goals. This results in better grades and improved time management, allowing for more stress-free time to pursue those passions mentioned earlier. As such, not only does this result in increased productivity, it also results in increased levels of happiness.

If they become accustomed to the order of things, even disruptive children may be more inclined to comply with directions. This might apply to assigned seating arrangements, restroom breaks, or meal times. Each of those events, if not slated for a specific time, serve to cause chaos in a classroom. A child with a conduct disorder who is hungry or needs to use the bathroom will be more inclined to let you know (possibly in a negative way) if they are not sure when their feelings will be soothed.

After a certain amount of time, routines become automatic. As a result, less effort is required on the part of the teacher or parent, as the child does what they are supposed to do on their own. While this does not eliminate the possibility of disruption, it will significantly reduce the frequency with which it happens.

In Conclusion

Some or all of these options may be viable, and some or all of them may not be. Whatever the case, it is essential that behavioral disorders be controlled. Without regulation, disruptive children exert a negative effect on their peers, corrupting the learning environment. If this is occurring too frequently, and the symptoms are not naturally controllable, seeing a licensed therapist may be the best course of action.

With several years of psychology-based training, licensed therapists have earned a specialized education in disorders of the mind. Some have further specialized into disorders such as these and are better equipped than most to deal with the symptoms they present. If you or someone you know has a child suffering from a disruptive behavior disorder, consider enlisting the help of a therapist.

Remember, these are only a few options. Several other methods exist for treating and managing disruptive behavior, and if they seem to be more effective than the methods listed here, it is best to use them. Every child is different and responds to certain treatments differently. This is why several medications for ADHD exist - while Adderall works for one person, Vyvanse works for the other. There is no "one-size-fits-all."

Regardless of which method is most effective, there is no question that disruptive behavior cannot be left untreated. Try these steps today and make a difference in your child's life, as well as those around them.

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