Defining Challenging Behavior
Challenging behaviors are unacceptable or inappropriate behaviors that individuals exhibit to get what they want. In children, this could be in the form of tantrums, biting, picking fights, and talking back. The definition goes beyond the actions of people who misbehave once in a while. These behaviors are relied on and done repeatedly (to the point of becoming a habit for some).
The concept of “challenging behavior” can be quite vague and ambiguous because what is acceptable behavior to one teacher might not be acceptable to another, and what is acceptable behavior at one home might be unacceptable to another.
Types of Challenging Behavior
There are various types of challenging behavior. The three most common are aggressive, disruptive, and withdrawn. Below are some examples:
· Aggressive – tantrums, talking back, picking fights
· Disruptive – standing up, running around in the classroom
· Withdrawn – not participating in-class activities, not joining group works, self-isolating
What these behaviors have in common is that it interferes with the child’s learning, development, and could potentially inhibit success. These behaviors may also affect the child’s classmates, peers, teachers, and parents. Challenging behaviors can threaten the safety of the child and others. In some cases, it might even prevent a teacher from teaching. A teacher might spend 15 minutes out of a 40-minute class just managing one child’s challenging behavior!
Children that exhibit aggressive and disruptive behavior at a young age are at high risk for not graduating high school. These students are typically sent to the principal’s office or might even be suspended a couple of times. If it happens often enough, they may fall behind on the academic requirements and might develop low self-esteem. Deep down, they might feel embarrassed to “try” because they might fail again. In some cases, they may even attempt to act out again so that no one will know that they have fallen behind in academics.
Those who are withdrawn usually fly under the radar because they do not create any disturbance in class. Keep an eye out for these students because even if they’re not technically doing anything that is punishable by disciplinary action, they are not engaged. They might not even be learning anything. Some behaviors to look out for include lack of class participation, isolating, sleeping in class, and truancy.
Challenging behaviors are a set of unacceptable behaviors that people rely on to get what they want. Keep in mind that the term “challenging behavior” is not a diagnostic term. When talking to parents and writing reports, be careful of the language used to describe behaviors. Do not make a diagnosis because only clinicians can do that.
When writing a report of any sort (incident reports, progress reports, etc.), make sure to label the behavior, but never the child. Challenging behaviors are difficult to deal with, but with the right approach and the joint effort of parents and teachers, these behaviors can be corrected.
Challenging behaviors are usually a symptom of something else. There might be trouble at home, they might have difficulty adjusting to a new environment, or it could be a symptom of a learning or developmental disorder. Always approach these cases with empathy and care.