The Myth of the Bad Kid

Source: SAMHSA

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to attend a conference where the main focus was the behavior of children and adolescents. In this conference, I heard the story of little John:

John is 6 years old and has problems in school. He has a reputation among teachers as being a “bad kid.” He spends most of the day sitting in a corner or in the principal’s office. He is not learning in class and has problems establishing friendships. With 30 children in the classroom, his teacher has no time for him.

We can all remember having a “bad kid” in the classroom when we were in school. He was always in trouble and alone. We tend to attribute this behavior to a lack of discipline or a bad home environment. We say he is a spoiled child or is just drawing attention to himself. However, such observations are often incorrect: Many of these children have serious emotional problems, and neither they nor their caregivers are at fault.

The myths about children’s behavior can turn our focus from helping children such as John to making accusations, which could result in isolating those who need assistance. However, many troubled children can improve if we provide them with understanding, attention, and appropriate mental health services. They will be able to make friends, participate in social activities, and lead productive lives. To help children with emotional problems achieve their goals and reach their potential, we must first know the facts about the so-called bad kid.

It is possible that John has an emotional disturbance as experienced by millions of children and adolescents in the United States. Children do not misbehave or fail in school just to get attention; studies show that their behavior problems may be tied to a combination of factors such as genetics, trauma, or even stress. Although these problems sometimes escalate due to the lack of parental knowledge on how to deal with them, it is important to note that the parents and the family are usually the only source of emotional support these children have.

Source: SAMHSA

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