How your child’s challenging behaviour might affect you

Seeing your child’s challenging behaviour can be upsetting and confusing. Many parents have questions about why their child is displaying difficult behaviour. It can feel exhausting to look for answers and solutions.

The most important thing to remember is you are not alone.


challenging behaviour: a child in a blue top hides their face with their hands

Feelings you might be experiencing

It’s natural to feel negative emotions about your child’s behaviour.

  • Some parents feel ashamed to admit the struggles they face with their child. Only hearing positive stories can leave people feeling unable to share their experiences. This can lead to feelings of isolation. It can also stop parents asking for the help they need.
  • Some parents feel hopeless. They feel like they have tried everything they can think of. When nothing seems to be working, it can feel like it will never get easier.
  • Some parents feel guilty. It is common for parents to blame themselves for their child’s behaviour. Difficult behaviour is not as simple as deciding who or what is to blame. Instead, try to focus on understanding the triggers of challenging behaviour.

The impact of challenging behaviour

  • In our 1:1 conversations with parents, many say “I love my child but I don’t like their behaviour.” It’s okay to feel like that. In fact, it is helpful to recognise that it is the behaviour that is difficult, and not your child.
  • Responding to challenging behaviour can have a negative impact on your mental health. If you feel low or exhausted, it might have an effect on the way you respond to your child. You might feel like you have a shorter temper, or like you aren’t parenting in the way you would like to.
  • It can also have an impact on other areas of your life such as your relationships or your job. Being a parent is tiring for every one. When your child’s behaviour is challenging, it can be even more exhausting.

Asking for help

  • Try to be honest with your partner, friends or family about what is going on for you at home. They might have helpful advice. More importantly, they can give you some emotional support.
  • Asking for help might feel scary. But it can also be the first step towards things getting easier for you and your family. Try to speak to your child’s nursery, school or college about what is going on at home. You can also speak to your GP about how you are feeling or what you are dealing with. They may be able to link you to other local services that could help.
  • You can read more advice on responding to challenging behaviour.
  • You can also speak to one of our parenting coaches for free, non-judgemental advice.
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