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Is My Kid Okay? How to Tell When Your Child's Behavior is Cause for Concern

Updated: Mar 4

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Parenting can be a rollercoaster ride, filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, and moments of sheer joy and immense frustration. As a parent, you want the best for your child and strive to ensure they are safe, happy, and healthy. However, it can be challenging to determine when your child's behavior is typical and when it's a cause for concern. Today we'll explore typical childhood behavior, and how to tell whether your child's behavior is cause for concern and what you can do to help.

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Understanding Typical Child Development

Every child is unique and develops at their own pace. However, there are general milestones that most kids reach at certain ages. Understanding typical child development can help you identify when your child's behavior may be cause for concern.

In the first two years of life, your child will develop at an astonishing rate. They will learn to walk, talk, and explore the world around them. They will also learn to regulate their emotions and develop a sense of self. By age three, most children will have a vocabulary of around 300 words and will have developed basic social skills, such as sharing and taking turns.

Between ages four and six, your child will continue to develop their social and emotional skills. They will learn to distinguish between fantasy and reality and will develop a sense of right and wrong. They will also begin to understand the concept of time and will develop more complex language skills.

Between ages seven and twelve, your child will continue to develop their social and emotional skills. They will become more independent and will have a better understanding of their own thoughts and feelings. They will also develop more complex problem-solving skills and will begin to understand the consequences of their actions.

Signs of Typical Child Behavior

It's important to remember that every child is unique, and what is considered 'normal' or typical behavior for one child may not be for another. However, there are some general signs of typical child behavior that you can look for.

Infants and toddlers may cry, whine, or throw tantrums when they are hungry, tired, or uncomfortable. They may also have difficulty sharing and may become easily frustrated.

Preschoolers may have imaginary friends, may be afraid of the dark or monsters, and may become easily upset when separated from their parents.

School-age children may have difficulty paying attention, may have trouble following rules, and may become easily bored. They may also become more competitive and may have difficulty sharing with others.

Teenagers may become more independent and may have more complex emotional and social needs. They may also become more interested in romantic relationships and may experiment with risky behaviors.

A happy child jumping on the couch with hands in the air

Signs That Your Child's Behavior May be a Cause for Concern

While some challenging behavior is typical for kids, there are some signs that your child's behavior may be a cause for concern. These signs may include:

  • Extreme aggression, such as biting, hitting, or kicking

  • Significant changes in mood or behavior

  • Difficulty sleeping or eating

  • Unusual fears or phobias

  • Difficulty with social interactions, such as making friends or participating in group activities

  • Persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness

  • Difficulty concentrating or paying attention

  • Self-harm or talk of suicide

If you notice any of these signs, it's important to seek professional help.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you're concerned about your child's behavior, it's important to seek professional help. This may include talking to your child's pediatrician, a therapist, or a behavioral specialist. Some signs that you may need to seek professional help include:

  • Your child's behavior is causing significant distress for them or for your family

  • Your child's behavior is interfering with their ability to function at home or at school

  • Your child's behavior is not improving despite your best efforts to manage it

  • Your child's behavior is dangerous or harmful to themselves or others

Common Childhood Disorders

There are several common childhood disorders that may be associated with challenging behavior. These include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

  • Conduct disorder

It's important to remember that a diagnosis is not the end of the road. With the right treatment and support, children with these disorders can thrive and lead happy, fulfilling lives.

Tips for Talking to Your Child About Their Behavior

Talking to your child about their behavior can be challenging, but it's important to do so in a supportive and non-judgmental way. Some tips for talking to your child about their behavior include:

  • Choose a quiet, private place to talk

  • Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements

  • Listen actively and try to understand your child's perspective

  • Avoid blaming or shaming your child

  • Offer support and reassurance

A boy looking at his father who is talking to him while having his hand on his shoulder

Strategies for Managing Challenging Behavior

Managing challenging behavior can be a real struggle for parents. However, there are some strategies that can help. Some of these strategies include:

  • Setting clear boundaries and expectations

  • Using positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior

  • Teaching your child coping skills, such as deep breathing or mindfulness

  • Using time-outs or other consequences for negative behavior

  • Seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy

Resources for Parents Seeking Help

If you're struggling to manage your child's behavior or are concerned about their mental health, there are resources available to help. Some of these resources include:


Parenting is a challenging but rewarding journey. While it can be difficult to determine when your child's behavior is cause for concern, there are signs you can look for that may indicate a problem. If you're concerned about your child's behavior, it's important to seek professional help. With the right support and treatment, kids with challenging behavior can thrive and lead happy, fulfilling lives.

A boy looking through a paper towel roll and smiling at his father

All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.

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