Identifying The Root Cause Of Behavior

by | May 30, 2023 | Family, Mental Health, Tips

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We have all been there, when your child is acting up and you don’t know what to do. Or the school calls AGAIN to tell you about an incident that your child was a part of. Or they have a complete meltdown in the middle of the store. You’ve talked with your child how many times about their behavior, but you are just frustrated. Behavior is a form of communication and identifying the root cause of the behavior is one of the most important pieces in helping your child.

Why Identifying the Root Cause of Behavior is Important

Identifying the root cause of behavior is important because it helps you understand what is driving your child’s behavior. Rather than just treating the behavior itself, understanding the root cause allows you to address the underlying issue and prevent behavior from occurring in the first place. Additionally, it can help you respond in a more compassionate and effective way, reducing stress for both you and your children.

Dad sitting in background boy holding chin in hands at a desk.

Identifying the Root Cause of Behavior

Identifying the root cause of behaviors involves understanding what is driving the behavior.  Here are some common causes of challenging behaviors in children:


  • Stress or Anxiety – Children often act out when they are feeling stressed or anxious. This can be due to changes in their routine, feeling overwhelmed at school, or problems in the family.
  • Lack of Attention or Stimulation – Children may exhibit behaviors to get attention or because they are bored and need stimulation.
  • Sensory Processing Issues – Children may struggle with processing sensory information, leading to behaviors like covering their ears, avoiding certain textures or sounds, or seeking sensory input.
  • Communication Issues – Children may have difficulty communicating their needs or feelings, leading to behaviors like tantrums or acting out.
  • Trauma – Children who have experienced trauma may exhibit behaviors as a result of their experiences.

Practical Tips of Identifying the Root Cause of Behavior

Identifying the root cause of behavior is challenging, but there are several strategies you can use to help. Here are some practical tips for identifying the root cause:

  • Observe Your Child – Spend time observing your child’s behavior and try to identify patterns. Note when the behavior occurs, what seems to trigger it, and what your child’s response is.
  • Talk to Your Child – Talk to your child about their behavior and try to understand what they are feeling. Ask questions like, “What made you feel upset?” or “Do you feel overwhelmed right now?”
  • Consult with Professionals – If you are having difficulty identifying the root cause of your child’s behavior, consult with a professional, such as a pediatrician, therapist, or counselor.
  • Use Visual Aids – Use visual aids, such as charts or diagrams, to help your child understand their behavior and the consequences of their actions.
  • Keep a Routine – Children often feel more secure and less stressed when they have a routine. Establish a routine for your child and stick to it as much as possible.
  • Be Patient – Identifying the root cause of behaviors takes time and patience. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t immediately identify the cause of your child’s behavior.

What To Do After Identifying the Root Cause of the Behavior

Once you have identified the root cause of your child’s challenging behaviors, it’s important to take action to address them. 

Create a Plan

Creating a plan is an important step in addressing behaviors once you have identified the root cause. Sit down with your child and come up with a plan to address their challenging behaviors. The plan should include specific goals, strategies for achieving those goals, and a timeline for implementation. Make sure to involve your child in the planning process, so they feel invested in the plan and motivated to achieve their goals.

Mom talking to young daughter who is sitting on couch. The root cause of behavior

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is an effective tool for addressing behaviors once you have identified the root cause. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding good behavior to encourage your child to continue to exhibit positive behaviors. Be specific with your praise and rewards, and make sure they are meaningful to your child. This can help your child feel more confident and motivated to continue their positive behavior.

Establish Clear Boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries is another important step in addressing behaviors once you have identified the root cause. Clearly define the consequences for negative behavior and make sure your child understands them. Consistency is key when it comes to enforcing boundaries. Make sure to follow through on consequences when necessary.

Use Redirection

Redirection is a strategy that involves diverting your child’s attention away from negative behaviors and towards more positive activities. When you notice your child engaging in negative behaviors, redirect their attention towards something positive. This can help break the cycle of negative behavior and prevent further escalation.

Provide Positive Role Models

Providing positive role models is another effective strategy for addressing behaviors once you have identified the root cause. Encourage your child to spend time with positive role models such as family members, friends, or community members who exhibit positive behaviors. This can help your child develop positive behaviors and attitudes.

Dad on couch holding daughter talking to a woman

Encourage Communication

Encouraging communication is critical in addressing behaviors once you have identified the root cause. Encourage your child to express their feelings and emotions. Listen to your child without judgment, and provide them with support and encouragement. This can help your child feel more confident and motivated to continue their positive behavior.

Seek Professional Help

If your child’s challenging behaviors persist despite your efforts, seeking professional help may be necessary. A mental health professional such as a therapist or counselor can help you develop a more comprehensive plan for addressing your child’s behavior. They can also provide you with tools and strategies to help your child overcome their challenges.


Addressing behaviors once you have identified the root cause takes time and effort, but with the right tools and strategies, you’ll help your child overcome their challenges. Remember that each child is unique, and it may take time to find the right strategies that work for your child. Be patient and consistent, and celebrate your child’s successes along the way.


Identifying The Root Cause Of Behavior

By Lisa Edwards, M. Ed., Parent Coach


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