Signs, symptoms, and treatment options for parents

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I have raised three children, two of whom had behavioral disorders diagnosed by a medical doctor. Child-rearing is difficult, even in the midst of being the most rewarding experience. When a child has behavioral issues, and when those issues can be attributed to a behavioral disorder, parents can often find themselves mentally, emotionally, and sometimes educationally challenged. It can be isolating and frustrating, but the key is knowledge. The key is to develop a deep understanding for the disorders and how they can affect your child, so that you can modify your parenting strategy to be more effective and empathetic.

This article will discuss some of the most common behavioral disorders your child may face and how it affects your parenting methods. We’ll also touch on some of the treatment strategies commonly used to treat those disorders, and how you can stay sane through it all.

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What are behavioral disorders, in general?

What are some of the most common behavioral disorders in children?


What is it?

Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are the most common behavioral disorders affecting children with an estimated 5% of adults having ADD or ADHD.

ADD / ADHD is a brain function disorder and neuro-behavioral condition that is not limited to children It cannot be outgrown or cured.

ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors. — ADD/ADHD The Facts

ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral condition that makes focusing on everyday requests and routines challenging.

People with ADHD typically have trouble getting organized, staying focused, making realistic plans and thinking before acting. — American Psychological Association

These conditions affect both males and females, but the presentation of symptoms can be very different by gender.

Signs and symptoms


The symptoms for both ADD and ADHD are similar and may involve all or most of the following (with ADD often lacking the hyperactivity and impulsivity)

ADD / ADHD presents in 3 forms: Combined presentation, predominantly inattentive presentation, and predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Forgetful
  • Disorganization
  • “Spacey” or seems in their own world
  • Easily distracted
  • Avoids activities they don’t like or that require sustained mental attention
  • Mood swings and frustration
  • Talkative and / fidgety
  • Bursts of energy
  • Interrupts other people and blurts out

How to get a diagnosis

A medical doctor can evaluate your child. You will often have to fill out a very thorough questionnaire, along with other adults in your child’s life such as their school teachers or daycare workers.

How does ADD / ADHD affect my child?

Children with ADD / ADHD often develop difficulties with social skills and have a hard time making and maintaining friendships. They may get in trouble at school or act out in other social environments. They may develop depression and/or anxiety. Counseling and medical treatment can be helpful to treat your child’s symptoms while social training can help them to interact with other people and improve their relationships.

Common treatment plans for these disorders

  • Medication
  • Behavior therapy
  • Training for parents

Parenting strategies that work

Parenting children with ADD / ADHD can be a very frustrating experience, but learning all you can about the disorder and how it works, how your child’s symptoms present, how their mind works, and what triggers then to have the most difficulty can all help you to manage their behavior better and to help them learn to cope.

  • Create a structured environment for them. Simplify and organize for them so that they are not bombarded with decisions to make and have an environment that makes them feel safe and comfortable.
  • Pick your battles–if you hold firm on every single behavior, you are likely to have a never-ending battle. Work on the most important aspects. Have rules and expectations that are clear and enforced, but make sure the expectations are flexible enough to allow your child to have successes as well.
  • Be consistent.
  • Manage aggressions with Time-Out and by giving your child downtime when they are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Limit distractions when you need them to concentrate on something.
  • Encourage exercise and make sure they have a regular sleep pattern
  • Encourage delayed decisions and help them think out loud to process their decisions and consider consequences.
  • Find counseling for them.
  • Consider medications if the behavior is unmanageable, if their grades are suffering, or if their disorder is affecting their quality of life.


What is it?

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is believed to be caused by a combination of factors including social, genetic, and physical ones. The disorder causes children to be overly defiant to authority, aggressive, and temperamental.It tends to occur in families that have a prevalence of ADHD, substance abuse, or other disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Though some children do outgrow ODD, oftentimes they develop other conduct disorders that carry over into adulthood.

ODD can be defined as: A Disruptive, Impulsive-Control, and Conduct Disorder marked by a negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior toward authority figures persisting for at least six months. — Frequently Asked Questions

Signs and symptoms

  • Aggression, losing their temper often
  • Being angry and irritable or easily annoyed
  • Rejecting authority and arguing with authority figures
  • Refusing to follow rules
  • Blaming others for their own mistakes
  • Being manipulative and vindictive
  • Deliberately bothering or annoying people

How to get a diagnosis

ODD often manifests around preschool age and can cause great dysfunction within the family. It needs to be diagnosed by a mental health professional who will analyze your child’s behavior, academic and social functioning.

How does ODD affect my child?

Children with ODD often have high comorbidity with ADHD, depression, anxiety and it can also lead to conduct disorder or even substance abuse. ODD can be treated and should be treated with the earliest diagnosis possible to avoid further complications.

Parenting strategies that work

Treatment options for ODD include parenting training, teaching behavioral strategies and coping skills to your child, and by implementing very patient yet consistent behavior management strategies.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy and anger management can also be helpful.

There is no cure for ODD and no medications to treat it specifically but some stimulant medications can possibly be helpful. Your child’s medical doctor can discuss medications with you to treat other conditions such as ADHD or depression.

  • Be very patient and consistent with your child. They need to know that you love them and that you are there for them to support them. Reassure them that you are trying to help them.
  • Help your child understand that behaviors result from thinking patterns and actions that add up to a pattern. Working with your child to help them to make better decisions and think things through.
  • Try counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Teach new behaviors and encourage your child to practice these new behaviors to try to make them easier to exhibit.
  • Parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) with a mental health care professional.
  • Cognitive problem-solving training with a mental health care professional.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

What is it?

Autism spectrum disorder, ASD, refers to a group of conditions characterized by A combination of stereotypical interests, social difficulties, and repetitive behaviors. This disorder is considered a spectrum disorder which means that individuals that have it can fall anywhere along a spectrum of intensity or variability of symptoms. Many different disorders are included under the umbrella of ASD including Asperger’s syndrome, Pervasive developmental disorder otherwise not specified, Childhood disintegrative disorder, And some may have intellectual disabilities while others do not. The symptoms are widely variable and treatment plans need to be specific to your own child’s diagnosis and needs.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms for autism spectrum disorder can be widely variable but typically fall into four categories: social, stereotyped, communication, and other.

Some of the symptoms you may see in your child (typically manifesting at toddler age) are:

  • Having obsessive interests
  • Not responding to their name by age 1
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Delayed speech or language skills
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Having trouble understanding the emotions of other people
  • Having trouble communicating with other people without getting frustrated
  • Getting very upset over even minor changes to their routine or activities
  • Having unusual and extreme sensory sensitivities: Certain smells bother them, certain textures bother them or they refuse to eat certain foods because they don’t like the way they feel, etc

How to get a diagnosis

There is no specific test for ASD but your child’s doctor will look at their history and their behavior in order to construct a diagnosis.Sometimes a diagnosis can be made as young as 12 to 18 months.

Parenting a child with ASD

Positive and attentive parenting are necessary when dealing with a child with ASD. Sometimes the symptoms can be so prevalent that it becomes a central focus of your parenting.

  • Find a support community
  • Work with your child’s doctor and mental health professionals
  • Work with your child’s school to provide the best learning experience you can for your child
  • Read this article on positive parenting for children with ASD
  • Work on teaching empathy and social skills
  • Maintain a structured environment for your child while teaching coping skills for when things change and it bothers them
  • Educate your family and friends on how best to deal with your child
  • Be consistent and patient with your child

Resources for parents of kids with ASD:

Autism Society
The Nora Project

anxiety disorder

What is it?

Anxiety is that flash of “nerves” that make you feel nervous, anxious or panicked. For children that live with an anxiety disorder (there are many kinds), normal, everyday life events and occurrences can be daunting.

Signs and symptoms

You child may:

  • Break out in sweat
  • Exhibit avoidance behaviors
  • Complaints of tummy aches or headaches
  • Appear fearful
  • Exhibits fear over certain situations, events, or animals or objects.
  • Expresses fear over going out in public or other situations such as getting in the water
  • Is afraid to go to school working on the school bus
  • Is afraid to go to bed at night or has trouble being alone
  • sleep disturbance
  • Restlessness
  • muscle tension
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • difficulty concentrating

How to get a diagnosis

Anxiety disorder is diagnosed by Your child’s medical doctor or a mental health care professional.

Parenting strategies that work

The biggest things parents need to do when dealing with a child with anxiety is to not force them to do something that scares them. It takes an incredible amount of patience and understanding to work with them and help them to feel safe in their surroundings. Mental health care can help to treat the anxiety but also to teach you and your child some coping mechanisms that help them to deal with their everyday life and treat the physical symptoms.

Treatments include psychotherapy or medications or both. Make sure that your child has an appointment with their doctor and gets started with mental health care treatment.


What is it?

If your child feels sad for long periods of time or has difficulty coping with being alone, or has persistent negative feelings toward oneself or their environments it is possible they may be suffering from a depressive illness. A medical doctor can give a diagnosis and confirmation. Your child’s medical doctor would also need to help work with you and develop a treatment plan for your child. The good news is that depression is treatable.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms your child may be experiencing or that you may witness in your child include:

  • Moodiness, irritability, bouts of anger
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness that does not seem to go away
  • Sensitivity to rejection or criticism
  • Withdrawing socially or being less interested in activities they normally enjoy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes or disruptions to their sleep patterns
  • Fatigue or low-energy
  • Emotional outbursts and crying
  • Excessive complaints of stomach aches headaches or other physical ailments that do not seem to respond to normal treatments
  • Difficulty concentrating or impaired and slowed thinking
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, a preoccupation with death or thoughts of suicide

Parenting strategies that work

First of all, if you think your child may be suffering from depression it is important to get them mental health care as soon as possible. There are some medications as well that your doctor may be able to prescribe for your child that could help relieve the symptoms.

  • Keep lines of communication open. It is important to ask your child if they are having thoughts of suicide. It is important to talk to your child about what they are feeling on the inside and reassure them that it is okay for them to share their thoughts with you. Being there for them and showing empathy will help them to feel safe coming to you and talking to you. Try not to overreact to what they are telling you.
  • Get your child the mental healthcare they need and stick with it. Periodic evaluations are helpful as sometimes mental illnesses can develop into other illnesses and they can change over time.
  • Teach your child not to be ashamed of their diagnosis.
  • Do periodic mental health check-ins with your child to find out how they are doing.
  • Help your child learn how to pay attention to their mental health care and reach out for help.

Bipolar Disorder

What is it?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder related to depression and anxiety but it is a bit different and how it functions in the brain. It is signified by mood swings that vary between two extremes of manic behavior and depressive episodes. These may be rapid cycling or your child may experience more of one than the other but a mental health care professional can properly diagnose what type of bipolar disorder your child has and what the best treatment plan is for that particular condition.

Signs and symptoms

Bipolar disorder cycles between two extremes. One being a heightened sense of self combined with excessive energy, talkativeness, or reckless behavior. Possibly depressive symptoms and overwhelming negative inset emotions. The extent of these two extremes can be complicated based on the different types of bipolar disorder that can manifest. Here is an article from smarter that details the symptoms and the different types of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar I and II; The Behavioral Episodes

How to get a diagnosis

Your medical doctor and mental health professional can diagnose bipolar disorder in your child but it does take some time in working with you, and your child, to accurately diagnose your child’s bipolar disorder, what type, and what treatment plans will be the most effective. You may have to keep a journal for a period of time of your child’s mood swings to help determine what cycle can be identified.

There are two types of treatment including mental health care treatment and medication treatment.

Parenting strategies that work

  • Get treatment:
    • Behavioral therapy
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
    • Interpersonal Therapy
    • Social Rhythm Therapy
  • Consider medication for your child.
  • Try other treatments such asThe ABC method and preventative teaching
  • Get some support for yourself as it is rather difficult in isolating sometimes to deal with the child whose bipolar disorder can often be very disruptive in the home. Make sure to look after the health care needs scratch that mental health care needs of all members of the family.
  • Practice positive parenting

Thank you for reading.

This article is brought to you by the blogging contributors at Babienet Parenting Community, a community of caring parents just like you! We welcome you to share your journey with us.

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to take the place of advice or diagnoses from a medical professional or mental health care professional.


The Most Common Behavior Disorders in Children

ADHD and ADD Symptoms: Inattention, Hyperactivity, and Impulsivity


Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Anxiety Crisis Text Line

Understanding a Child With Anxiety

National Helpline

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Christina M. Ward,

Babienet blog contributor

Mother and grandmother

Meta description:  What are Common Behavior Disorders in Kids? provides information for parents about some common behavioral health disorders in children, how to recognize, diagnose, find treatment, and parent children with behavioral disorders such as ADHD, ODD, ASD, depression, and more.