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How to Manage a Child with Challenging Behaviour

Updated: Jun 13

How to manage a child with challenging behaviours!

Parenting is an incredible and unforgettable time, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. One of the most difficult (and freaking exhausting) parts can be managing a child with challenging behaviour – wtf do we do?! If you’ve ever found yourself at a loss, dealing with tantrums, defiance, or other difficult behaviours, you’re not alone! This is all part of the parenting gig and one that we gotta lean into! In this blog, we’ll chat through some practical strategies and tips to help you navigate the rollercoaster ride. No magic solutions here, just real-world advice from one parent (one Holistic Parenting Consultant that is) to another.

Understanding Challenging Behaviour

Before we dive into the “how-to” of managing challenging behaviour, it’s really important to understand what we mean by this term. Challenging behaviour includes a wide range of actions and emotions, including tantrums, aggression, defiance and oppositional behaviour. The reasons for these are unlimited really.. but most of all, it’s simply expected for this age and stage of development (and I’m talking toddlers here!)

Check out the image below for some examples of what just might be going on underneath the challenging behaviour:

Now, let’s get down to the business of managing challenging behavior.

  1. Keep Calm and Patient

When faced with challenging behaviour, your MAIN responsibility is to keep calm and patiently wait out the emotions that pour out of your kiddo. Your child is likely testing boundaries or expressing their frustrations, if you’re quick to react with anger or frustration you can very much expect it to erupt even further. So take deep breaths, count to ten or excuse yourself for a drink so you can ground yourself before responding. Your calmness will help your child. Be the lighthouse in the storm team!

Effective Communication

One of the keys to managing challenging behaviour is effective communication. If you want your child to listen to you, you also need to listen actively to your child’s concerns and feelings when they’re able to verbally express them. Sometimes, challenging behaviour is how our children express their emotions when they don’t have the words to do so. Communication also comes down to how you give instructions, the rule of 5 is a great one to remember, especially for the toddlers. 5 words with 5 letters – or less! Make sure they’re positive geared… which basically means, tell them what you want them to DO, not stop doing.

Set Clear Boundaries

Consistency is vital when managing challenging behaviour. Set clear and age-appropriate boundaries for your child and stick to them (most of the time, sometimes our kids need a pass – we all have bad days right). When your child knows what to expect, it will help reduce the guesswork and therefore avoid a lot of frustration.

Positive Reinforcement

Use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior. Praise your child with specific feedback (no more “good boy” or “good girl” or “good job”) when they make good choices. When we make it specific our kiddo’s know exactly what to do again next time to receive this connection with you.

Time-Outs and Cooling-Off Periods

In some situations, a reset is needed (for everyone). You’re the leader in the home, if you feel it is best to remove your child from the situation to allow them to calm down and reconnect with you, then do it! It’s not a punishment and we don’t need to be mean about it. Bigger, wiser, stronger and kind – it’s our radical responsibility as parents!

Model Appropriate Behaviour

Children will learn by observing us – sorry not sorry. If we can’t control our own emotions, then why on earth are we expecting our kids to? It seems like adults have higher expectations for children than they do for themselves – yikes! Model patience, empathy and effective problem-solving. Show them how to handle challenging situations in a healthy way, the more they see us do it, the more likely they are to mimic!

Seek Help if Needed

If your child’s challenging behaviour persists or escalates, consider seeking help! This is what we’re here for at We will help you see things clearly because let’s be real, you can never get much perspective when you’re living it day to day. Let us give you proven strategies and the support you need for your family’s specific needs. Check out our packages here.

Consistent Routine

Children thrive on routine, and having consistent daily rhythms can help reduce challenging behaviour (and don’t be afraid to shake it up every now and then, sometimes our kids need a circuit breaker.) All children need predictable routines that includes regular meal times, naps/rest time, and bedtime.

Offer Choices

Give your child choices whenever possible. This helps them feel a sense of control over their environment and decisions, which can reduce frustration and defiance. For example, instead of saying, “Put on your pyjamas,” you can say, “Do you want to wear the blue pyjamas or the red ones tonight?” keep the choices limited to 2-3 options, anything more than this and it can create a whole set of other issues.

Stay Empathetic

Empathy is a powerful tool in managing challenging behaviour – there’s nothing worse than being made to feel alone in your feelings (blame and shame is not the answer, ever). Try to understand your child’s perspective and acknowledge their feelings whether you think it’s logical or not. Saying something like, “I can see that you’re feeling upset right now,” can go a long way in diffusing a tense situation.

Take Care of Yourself

Parenting a child with challenging behavior can be emotionally draining. Don’t forget to prioritise self-care. Seek support from friends, family, or parenting groups. Taking care of your own well-being will help you better manage challenging situations – no duh!

When you feel good parenting, you raise feel-good kids!

And I get it, there’s a ton of noise out there and umpteen-billion different ideas, strategies and opinions. How the heck are you supposed to know what’ll work for your family?

Here’s the thing…

When you feel good about you parenting and the way you support your little one, you give off all the good vibes, you feel connected and in-tune with yourself and your tiny human. Goals right!

Get new solutions, a fresh understanding and a practical approach with our group programs, courses, workshops and private parenting support.

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