Lately, in my practice, I have been seeing families with the concern that one child in their family is “out of control.” It’s a difficult thing to hear that a child’s problem is not just caused by the child, but very often the family system (e.g., how they interact with their parents, what is the reinforcement system in the family like, what their relationships are like with their siblings, school environment, etc.).
When examining behavioral problems, it important for a treating clinician to look at the family system like a function. What purpose do interactions serve? What is the function of the bad behavior? Sometimes “bad” behavior can be a manifestation of anxiety or depression, poor distress tolerance and/or emotion regulation, or is it attention-seeking?
Understanding the function of a behavior is necessary to be able to address it effectively. Once you can understand the function, you can see the “recipe” and the ingredients that will effectively change the behavior.