Things don’t always go according to plan. That’s certainly true for parents; kids definitely know how to throw you a curveball from time to time! What’s more, kids don’t always know why they act out. Intervening early with behaviors is an approach designed to help you handle some of these problematic behaviors–especially the ones that are the result of frustration.

Many problems start small–like a leaky faucet. If you ignore that problem, the leaky faucet can turn into a major flooding hazard (and a major headache). But if you fix the faucet early, the small problem requires only a small solution. That’s the basic philosophy behind the therapeutic approach called Early Intervention. 

A speech language pathologist can help you determine the cause of speech-language related misbehaviors, especially when they are rooted in challenges such as speech articulation, thought formation, or vocabulary.

What does it mean to intervene early in a child’s behavior?

The idea is that challenges or roadblocks in a child’s development are best addressed early and thoroughly–rather than waiting for more problematic behaviors to develop later on.

Behaviors at Home

There are things you can do to help your child at home. For example, you can try the following:

  • Increase conversation: It’s important to provide your child with a speech-rich environment. Simple, frequent conversations can help your kiddo practice skills and discover new techniques. Conversations can also help bolster your child’s emotional development and confidence by showing concern for their feelings.
  • Increase experiences: Whether it’s taking your child to the zoo, the movies, or to the park–help them get out and do things! (As parents, we can all too often get stuck in the rut of routine). New experiences will provide your kiddo with a broader range of experiences to draw on and, as a result, give them opportunities for developmental growth.
  • Ensure health and safety: This means ensuring your child is eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise. Children that are hungry, for example, similar to an adult,  will have a more challenging experience when it comes to expressing their wants and needs.

How Should You Handle Problem Behaviors?

Problematic behaviors are often your child’s way of communicating something to you. Usually, it’s something that they simply don’t have the words or cognitive development to express. 

When you have coping strategies and methods in your back pocket–when you know how to react–the entire experience may become a little easier for everyone.

Here are some strategies you can use when your child is misbehaving:

  • Ignore behaviors that you do not wish your child to continue doing.
  • Pay attention to and comment on behaviors you would like your child to engage in more often.
  • Choose your words carefully. It’s often helpful to tell your child what to do rather than what NOT to do.
  • Try to remain consistent with how you react to behaviors.
  • Choose your battles–you can’t win every one, so it’s important to prioritize what’s most important to you at any given moment.

All of this is easier said than done. But it’s important to remain firm and in control of situations when your child acts out. For example, if your child is having a tantrum because it’s bedtime, you can offer your kiddo a choice: sleep in bed or sleep on the floor. This provides them with some agency over what happens, but leaves you in control of the main thing (your child going to bed).

If you find that your child is constantly stressed or acting out, it may work best to reduce the overall stress load–rather than insisting that your child somehow exert more self control (especially because that self-control approach might lead to even more stress).

Don’t Forget About Your Own Wellbeing

As your child works through an early intervention plan, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of your own needs. This can be detrimental over the long run, so make sure to take some time to take care of yourself. 

For example:

  • Allow some space for your own interests and activities–this helps you recharge.
  • Don’t be afraid to accept help. No one can do it all alone!
  • Take breaks when you need to; again, it’s important to recharge your batteries.
  • Try to avoid urgency. Raising children is stressful enough! Try to let your kiddo take things at their own pace.
  • Be kind to yourself. Tackling extra developmental needs is a challenge. Make sure to carve out some kindness to yourself.

How to Know if Your Child Needs Early Intervention

Depending on your child’s needs, intervening early in your child’s behaviors may be an appropriate clinic approach to problematic behavior, anger management issues, or other developmental challenges. As the root causes of these misbehaviors and outbursts are addressed, your child’s emotional regulation and behavior should improve. Parents can reinforce this approach by reacting thoughtfully when your kiddo misbehaves at home. 

In general,  intervening early can result in better outcomes–and less friction achieving those outcomes. If you have concerns about your child’s speech development, talk to a speech language pathologist today–and make an appointment!