The Child Behavioral Problem: Cathy was extremely worried about the behavior problems her son, David, exhibited at school. He had difficulty with impulse control and experienced problems sitting still, focussing on his work and solving conflicts with other children in a non-aggressive manner. Teachers complained that he would call out in class, rather than putting his hand up and waiting his turn, he would also disrupt other children and hit them. He could also be argumentative and defiant and would sometimes refuse to comply with his teachers' requests. He was a follower rather than a leader and many of his most difficult behaviors occurred with children who exhibited more severe behavior problems then he did. His mother was extremely upset and the school called her regularly to express their concern about her son’s behavior. She couldn’t understand why her son was behaving this way, and she reported that she did not experience any problems with him at home.
The Assessment: The psychological assessment indicated that David did better at home because, as an only child, he received his mother’s undivided attention and support. She also coddled him and did everything for him. She had not yet encouraged him to meet age appropriate expectations and responsibilities. He was used to being the center of attention and having everything done for him. Consequently, he lacked age appropriate skills to cope successfully with the academic, social and behavioral demands of the school setting. He had not yet learned to control his impulses, delay gratification and wait to have his needs met. He expected to be the center of attention and to have his needs gratified immediately.
Solutions and Outcome: We helped Cathy understand how her own behaviors and parenting style had contributed to the child behavioral problem that David was experiencing at school. We developed a parenting program to help her encourage increased maturity, responsibility, and independence David at home. We also helped her set up a partnership with David’s teacher so that she was aware, on a daily basis, of how he was behaving at school. She could then intervene to help him practice more appropriate behavior skills at home and assist with the transfer of these skills to the school setting. Cathy was also encouraged to focus on the positive behaviors he exhibited and to reinforce and encourage these, as was his teacher. I also developed a plan to help the school address and encourage more appropriate behaviors.
Our intervention strategies provided the support and structure David needed to improve his behavioral skills. He is now doing much better and his classroom behaviors have improved considerably. His mother is no longer the worried, stressed mom she once was. She now finds easier to concentrate on her work without constant worries about her David or interruptions from his teacher.
Dr. O'Connor runs her practice, in Toronto (Yonge & St.Clair.)
She can be reached at 416-592-0838.
You can also contact Dr. O'Connor by email.
Dr. O'Connor is the author of I Can Be Me-A Helping Book for Children of Alcoholic Parents.