What is 'Challenging Behaviour'?


Understandably, people are often confused when they first hear the term ‘challenging behaviour’ used to describe a child or young person’s actions. 

It is true that all children have their moments of being challenging - episodes like having a tantrum about bed time, or refusing to do maths homework spring to mind! However, there is a difference between the usual tantrums associated with children growing up and learning about rules and boundaries, and what is classed as ‘challenging behaviour’. 

So, what is ‘challenging behaviour’?

A person with challenging behaviour is not a ‘problem’ to be fixed and is not doing something ‘wrong’. But behaviour is a sign that something isn’t working. It shows that there is some unfulfilled need or a problem with communication. A child or young person displaying challenging behaviour may have bahavioural, emotional or social difficulties. 

Examples of a child or young person displaying challenging behaviour are:

  • putting themselves or someone around them at risk

  • behaving in a way that causes them to have a worse quality of life than they would otherwise


Some examples of this would be:

  • Aggression towards others or self-harming

  • Being disruptive

  • Being destructive

  • Being unable to join in everyday activities


What can I do to help?

It is important to remember that there is always a reason for challenging behaviour - children and young people are never being difficult intentionally for the fun of it. Nobody finds challenging behaviour fun - particularly not the child! 

Think of challenging behaviour as a symptom, rather than a condition, and try to understand what might be causing the behaviour. It can be helpful to do a behaviour audit to see if there are any common triggers for the challenging behaviour. That way, changes could be made to avoid those triggers or reduce their impact. 

Find out more about managing challenging behaviour in children and young people on our training course