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Managing disturbing (& worrying) behaviours

Blog Post Teaser Image “I’m going to hold my breath and it’s all your fault.”

Four year old Timothy found a really great way to worry the heck out of his parents and get his own way as well.

It was bed-time and Timothy was a serial bed-time resister. Holding his breath until he turned blue was his latest trick and it worked a treat.

His mum and dad would usually cave in and give him some extra time in the adult world. Anything to see him exhale!

Kids’ holding their breath is just one of many weird and way-out children’s behaviours that can be disturbing for parents.

It’s difficult to know how to respond particularly when it appears kids are harming themselves.

As a rule of thumb, children don’t generally harm themselves. They may threaten, they may bluff and they may even experiment a little but more often than not they will not deliberately hurt themselves.

If you buy the notion that kids don’t act in a vacuum and that their behaviour needs a pay-off then it is easy to understand what’s behind some seemingly harmful behaviours such breath-holding, vomiting and head-banging. These can be great ways for kids to get their own way or pay back their parents for making them do something they didn’t want to do.

Let’s look at some common disturbing behaviours and work out some possible responses:


This can be a most disturbing behaviour, that belongs in the autism spectrum. If your child bangs his or herhead on a hard surface such as a cot continuously and purposelessly causing real harm then there is cause for concern. Get him or her checked out professionally. Some kids will hit their heads as a type of experiment and stop when it really does hurt. Some kids hit their heads as part of a tantrum. It is best in these cases to calm kids with a hug and back rub.


Kids can throw such a big tantrum that they end up gagging and throwing up. Don’t be too concerned if this is the case. Kids have also been known to throw up at will particularly when their parents want them to eat certain foods or do something they don’t want.

Out-of-control tantrum

Yelling, door slamming and throwing food or other objects fit this category. These behaviours are not confined to young children- they can be common among moody teenagers. Like most tantrums they have the purpose of getting control or diverting parental attention away from another issue. They are effective because they are so noisy and disturbing. Don’t try to talk to kids when they are in tantrum mode. Let tantrums run their course before talking with kids. You may need to calm young children down as tantrums can get a life of their own and they spin out of control.

Soiling pants

It is not uncommon for young boys to be so involved in a game that they just forget to go to the toilet and they end up soiling themselves. Fun is on their minds. The key here is to make sure the kids, not just parents, are involved in the clean-up process so next time they won’t be so preoccupied to go to the toilet.


This is a common behaviour among toddlers, usually boys as they are very oral by nature. Get them to bite on a chilled orange (I kid you not) if biting persists. Otherwise, swift removal from the scene with a brief explanation to assist their understanding is your best bet.

If these types of disturbing behaviours are continuous and not aimed at parents then it maybe wise to seek professional assistance. The key to ask is: “Would my child behave this way if I was not around?” If the answer is yes then it maybe necessary to get some help.

You’ll find more ideas about all things managing all types of behaviours, including ensuring management strategies are developmentally-matched to your child’s age in Parentingideas Club.

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