The misconceptions about behavior in youth often leave parents confused and paralyzed with regard to seeking and providing useful intervention strategies that function to modify and permanently eliminate persistent, maladaptive conduct. One side of the pendulum justifies inappropriate behavior in youth, labeling it “normal” or age-appropriate, while the other demands a diagnosis with each misstep of a child. The truth is that both ends of the ideological spectrum are, at best, only secondary explanations for enduring antisocial demonstrations.
When children are continually unhappy, struggle to fit in with peer groups, are either the victim or perpetrator of bullying, experts refer to a commonly accepted list of causes for these atypical displays. Poverty, low academic achievement, dysfunctional family households, diagnosed disability, over exposure to inappropriate content on the Internet and television are a few examples utilized to explain the underlying origin of a range of unwanted behavior in youth. However, while there is no doubt that the above listed factors function to intensify already existing behavior, they are most definitely not at the root of the problem.
All human beings are made up of four unique, yet interconnected domains; intellectual, physical, social and emotional; and it is the latter area that predicts and dictates all behavior. When a child of any age suffers a developmental deficit in one or more of the following areas; trust, self-esteem, self-awareness, boundaries, autonomy and self-control; there is a 100% probability that a behavior problem will exist and persist. For example, a child who doesn’t trust himself or others will have behavior problems, so too will the child with low self-esteem, as well as the child who lacks respect for boundaries, both person and property. Conversely, not all youth who live in poor communities, survive an abusive upbringing or play violent video games display ongoing inappropriate behavior. Further, it is impossible for emotionally satisfied youth to also act out in destructive ways as emotional well-being and antisocial conduct cannot coexist.
Teaching a child to value progress as opposed to grades on a report card will promote academic success and an intrinsic love of learning. Nurturing a child’s physical, intellectual and social self-esteem is the most effective way to reduce and completely eradicate bullying, just as encouraging a child’s autonomy or independent skills will promote strong work ethics in the pursuit of achieving established goals that will ultimately work to reduce the spread of apathy plaguing young adults across the country.
Building a stable emotional foundation is key to providing children with the necessary tools and resources to overcome life’s challenges. A caregiver’s ability to nurture primary emotional needs will allow a child to overcome inherent obstacles such as living in impoverished communities or coping with the complexities of Asperger’s, ADD or ADHD. Seeking professional help is always advisable when at a crossroads, but parents would be well advised to also look within a child before or in addition to seeking outside support and services.