Understanding and Managing Challenging Behavior in Children and Adolescents


Challenging behavior in children and adolescents can manifest in various forms, including shouting, threatening, breaking objects, self-harm, aggression towards others, and disrespect towards parents. Guillermo Blanco Bailac, a clinical psychologist, emphasizes that adults often talk about setting limits but overlook the fact that children may not understand or know how to establish them. This behavior, he explains, is partly due to the immaturity of their brains, leading to impulsivity and a lack of clear expression. In this article, we will explore strategies for addressing and managing challenging behavior in children and adolescents.

Understanding the Root Causes:

Blanco Bailac explains that the prefrontal cortex, responsible for reflexivity, does not fully mature until around the age of 21. Until then, young people may struggle to express themselves clearly and may not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions. Additionally, children often seek to assert their independence and opinions, sometimes resorting to inappropriate behavior. As adults, it is crucial to understand these developmental challenges and provide guidance and support rather than simply reacting with punishment.

Effective Strategies for Parents:

When faced with disrespectful behavior from their children, parents must remain calm and composed. According to Germán Felpeto, a psychologist and youth educator, children respond positively to a calm and attentive approach from their parents. By modeling calm behavior, parents can help their children regulate their emotions and responses. Felpeto also emphasizes the importance of consistency and cooperation between parents in addressing behavioral issues.

Adolescence and Its Challenges:

During adolescence, young people experience heightened emotions and may struggle to navigate their relationships and surroundings. Felpeto highlights the importance of providing a secure environment for adolescents to express themselves and explore their identities. Parents should engage in open communication with their teenagers, showing genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings. Establishing clear boundaries and expectations through collaborative agreements can help adolescents feel empowered and responsible for their actions.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of children and adolescents. Studies have shown increased levels of anxiety and stress among young people, leading to behavioral challenges such as irritability and self-harm. Blanco Bailac emphasizes the importance of providing emotional support to children and adolescents during these challenging times and being aware of the potential signs of distress.


Understanding and managing challenging behavior in children and adolescents requires patience, empathy, and effective communication. By recognizing the underlying causes of such behavior and implementing appropriate strategies, parents can help their children develop positive coping mechanisms and navigate the complexities of adolescence. It is essential to create a supportive and nurturing environment where children feel valued, understood, and respected.