How can my child’s behaviour affect me?

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

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

Feelings about my child's challenging behaviour

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 from other parents can stop them from sharing their challenges. This can lead to feeling isolated. 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 OK to feel like that. Actually, 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 already tiring. When your child’s behaviour is difficult, 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 or give you some emotional support. They might even be struggling themselves, but have been too worried about opening up.
  • 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 or mental health self-care for parents. 
  • You can also speak to one of our parenting coaches for free, non-judgemental advice.
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This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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