Keysoe International


At what point do I seek help?

When challenging behaviour becomes frequent and difficult to deal with it can start to affect daily life. The occasional tantrum or emotional outburst is normal, but if it starts to affect family dynamics, work at school or mental health, then perhaps it’s time to seek guidance. Examples of challenging behaviour can include:

  • Frequent tantrums or outbursts
  • Regular shouting, biting, hitting, kicking or swearing
  • Regularly refusing boundaries or routines
  • Being impulsive and taking physical risks
  • Bullying behaviour
  • Repeatedly getting into trouble at school
  • Refusal to engage in conversations or discuss what’s going on


Why are they doing this?

The way your child behaves is a communication about how they’re feeling.

When your child is acting out, it can be helpful to think about the image of an iceberg. We only see the top of an iceberg because most of it is underwater. Similarly, when your child is behaving in challenging ways, there will be feelings going on under the surface that you cannot see. Your child may not be aware of these feelings and may need your help to talk about them.

Underneath their behaviour, a child or young person may be feeling angry, tired, stressed, anxious, confused, hurt, jealous, bored or something else. Whatever’s going on, try to remember that the behaviour you see on the surface is not the whole story.


Who can I turn to?

 1.Counselling or TherapySpeaking to your GP is usually the first step to accessing counselling or therapy through the NHS. Your GP can help by:

  • talking through your concerns
  • referring your child to a local counselling service, or letting you know what’s available locally
  • referring your child to an NHS counselling service, for example through your local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)team, which is the NHS service for young people

You can speak to your GP to ask for advice with or without your child.

2.Get Support from School

Follow these steps to start a conversation with the school:

  • Ask for a meeting with the class teacher or tutor group lead, the pastoral lead or the school’s SENCO.
  • Make notes of what you want to say beforehand, and during the meeting go through the specific things your child is finding difficult. You can also ask the teacher whether they have noticed any situations that seem particularly challenging for your child.
  • If you and your child have already identified some things that might help, ask for specific changes. If you’re not sure where to start, you can ask them what changes the school can offer – or have a look at our ideas below.
  • Take notes during the meeting, agree any changes you’re going to try, and follow up with them afterwards by email. You could also ask for the changes to be formalised in an Individual Education Plan. This is a plan schools can use to make sure your child is given consistent adjustments across all of their lessons.
  • Arrange a time when you will check-in again to see if things have improved, allowing some time for your child to try out the new change or routine.
  • If the person you’re speaking to isn’t helping, find someone else who will – such as their head of year or the deputy head. If you need to, you can also escalate the problem to the head teacher
  1. Identify any Additional Needs

Sometimes, children and young people behave in challenging ways when they have an additional need, neurodiverse condition, learning disability or developmental difficulty that has not been recognised. This can include dyslexia, dyspraxia, autismADHD, or difficulties hearing or speaking. In this situation, they may be acting out because their needs are not understood at home or school.

If you think your child might have an additional need, speak to your GP, or to your child’s teacher, pastoral lead or SENCO. They can make a referral for an assessment. It’s helpful to make a log of the behaviour you have noticed so that you can provide evidence when communicating with professionals.

If your child is diagnosed with an additional need, you can ask the professionals supporting them about parenting strategies that will best suit them.