Stop Screaming! 5 Ways to Calm Disruptive Behavior in Children

disruptive behavior

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Nearly 1 in 6 children are diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Dealing with disruptive behavior can be difficult. The last thing you want to do is lose your cool and regret it later.

disruptive behavior

Sometimes disruptive behavior in children can catch you off guard and it can be difficult to manage. At times, there may not be a clear reason for the behavior, but it’s best to manage it appropriately to prevent further issues.

Want to learn how to manage disruptive behavior in a more positive manner? Keep reading to learn how to deal with behavior problems.

1. Set the Stage

First, you need to identify what behaviors you want to discourage and encourage. They should be as specific and measurable as possible. For example, avoid things like “being good” or “not appropriate” because these are vague.

You should use clear examples like “don’t touch others,” “sit nicely at the table,” or “don’t disrupt when someone is talking.” Once you’ve defined these behaviors, you can focus on ways to increase positive and decrease negative behavior.

Make sure you set clear expectations, so your child knows what to expect. Set specific guidelines like bedtime, routines, and when you want your child should turn out the lights. Write these expectations down and make sure your child knows and is clear.

You will also need to adjust the environment to set your child up for success. During homework sessions, remove any distractions like tv, toys, and other noises. If your child is hungry, let them eat first.

Give a choice when you can, and present these choices both politely and calmly. This is a good way to empower your child, but still, be calm. For example, do you want to wear this or that?

2. Be Clear

It’s important to prevent disruptive behavior by setting clear expectations and also being consistent. When giving instructions, use a statement instead of a question.

Tell the child what to do instead of what not to do. For example, please walk instead of stop running.

You want to lead by example, so always give instructions respectfully and calmly. This will help your child to be polite when talking to others.

Say your instructions one time. Do not repeat. You want your child to learn to follow your instructions after the first time instead of waiting for you to repeat yourself.

3. Avoid Ineffective Consequences

Children want and value attention from the most important adults in their lives. Positive or negative is better than no attention at all. If you react emotionally to your child’s behavior like saying “Don’t talk to me like that!” can actually increase this behavior.

Too much criticism can actually hurt a child’s self-esteem. If you take over when your child doesn’t do something you want, it may increase the likelihood of him doing it again.

Also, don’t delay the consequences. You need to respond immediately. If you don’t react right away, the child may not link the behavior to the consequence—and it becomes punishing for the sake of punishing.

You should also make sure the consequence is appropriate and not disproportionate. A huge consequence can hurt a child’s self-esteem and they may quit trying to behave because they don’t understand.

You also need to be consistent with your consequences and make sure your child is clear. Depending on the action, it could be a warning or it could be a reward system like losing stars. Make sure you match the consequence with the behavior and not overreact in anger.

4. Use the Right Consequences

Now, it’s time to think about the right way to discipline and reward behaviors. It’s important to reward good behavior as it is to punish bad behavior.


When you see a child doing something positive like “great job eating all your dinner” or “thank you for putting your toys away so neatly.” When you do this, you increase the chances of your child doing it again, and you also show that you are paying attention and your child knows what to expect.

Rewards are a tangible way for children to get feedback for positive behavior. This is not a bribe, but rather something a child earns with doing what you want. Rewards are some of the most effective motivators for children.

A reward can be an activity or privilege—it doesn’t have to be a material thing. Give rewards for specific behaviors and post on a chart so your child can clearly see them.


You can also ignore your child for minor misbehavior, not destructive behavior. You should deliberately withdraw all attention, which means no talking, eye contact, and no verbal interaction.

This means that you are waiting for your child to act the way you want. For example, don’t answer your child while whining. When your child uses the right tone, then you interact.

This is another way to encourage positive behavior because this teaches your child what behaviors will get your attention.


A time-out can be one of the most effective of all consequences depending on your child’s age. It can also be hard to do correctly. You need to put your child in timeout immediately following a negative behavior.

If a time-out happens after you have reached your limits and they happen randomly, your child may not know what to expect or do. During this time-out, do not talk to your child until the set time is over.

Set the time based on your child’s age. After your child is calm and quiet, then ask your child to complete the original task. Make sure your child understands why they were put in timeout or else it wasn’t successful.

5. Get Help

Sometimes if behavior gets out of control, it’s best to talk to a professional. A therapist can find methods that work for your family. A therapist can give you specific examples of how to encourage positive behavior and stop negative behavior.

If your child has other mental issues, this can be addressed. If your child has ADHD, they may ask “how to control my ADHD without medication,” and it is possible with the right treatment and therapy. You do not necessarily need medication for all conditions.

Don’t Let Disruptive Behavior Ruin Your Life

Try these methods to help manage your child’s disruptive behavior. You can manage these behaviors without losing your cool.

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