Managing Challenging Behavior

Parents often blame each other for children’s challenging behavior – thinking that a child is reacting to something the other parent is not doing or is doing wrong. This assumption can make conflict between parents worse. But a child’s reactions may not be the fault of the other parent. Children’s behavior is often an effort to have some control over their world. For most children, transitions get easier over time.

Parents often need to adjust their own reactions when they clash with their children’s responses to them or the situation. For example, taking deep breaths, pausing before reacting, and using other skills taught through programs likeChildren in Betweencourse (e.g., reframing, self-talk, etc.) can be helpful to reduce arguments or worsening of the child’s reactions.

For a printable and easy to use checklist for infants and tips on how to help: check out “Problem Checklist For Infants and Toddlers”

Managing Transitions

Helping children manage transitions to changing or new situations is important – through calming them, talking about skills they can use to help themselves (deep breathing, holding on to soothingobjects, etc.), and other tools. Further, it is important to remain patient as the child works out how he or she feels (rather than putting down their feelings – “quit your crying” or “get over it!”). Or for over-active children, seeking creative or high-energy activities for children to express or occupy themselves could be helpful. These parental tacticsare important, but may not be natural for parents. When parents become more aware of their own temperament as well as the children’s, they can be more effective.

It is the parents’ job to actively help with changes in children’s lives. Using communication skills and activities that consider the children’s general style will be most helpful. As children become school age and older, they learn how to better adapt their own styles to fit with the needs of a situation; but this will be most fruitfulif parents have helped them do so along the way.

Tips for Parenting Preschoolers Through Separation or Divorce

For further reading see Parents can take further training on how to reduce conflict and minimize damage to their children during a divorce through the Center for Divorce Education’s Children In Between program.

*Sources: Paraphrased from Kline and Deutsch (2014), which was adapted from Alicia Lieberman’s Flexible, Fearful or Feisty DVD, developed for the California Department of Education and WestEd (1990).

For more information Domestic Violence Classes please visit at


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