As parents, we often find ourselves wondering whether our child’s challenging behavior is just a passing phase or something more significant. The common belief is that children will grow out of biting, defiance, tantrums, destructive, aggressive, hyperactive, or anxious fearful behavior. While it’s common to hope for the best, the reality is that not all children will outgrow these behavioral issues and without intervention they can persist and worsen into late childhood and adolescence. Without early intervention, these challenges can have long-lasting effects on a child’s emotional, social, and academic development.
Children younger than two years old can benefit from therapy. Parent-child interaction therapy, also known as PCIT, is an evidenced-based therapy to address behavioral issues for children between the ages of 2-7. PCIT was developed in 1980 and has been extensively tested since that time. It is considered the gold standard of treatment for children with behavioral challenges.
Between the ages of 2-7 years old is a critical period for brain development in children. There are many critical aspects of a child’s understanding of the world that take place during this time. For example, this period is when children begin to form attachments, develop empathy, and learn to regulate their emotions. Positive social interactions during this period contribute to the formation of healthy relationships later in life. Addressing problematic behavior before the age of 7 is likely to produce more effective change in a child’s ability reframe how they approach learning, cooperation, problem solving, and tolerating distress.
Many parents begin to seek therapy when their children are older, and they are no longer able to manage their child’s behaviors. Due to the child getting bigger and the growing consequences at school. Parents with children over the age of 8, should not lose hope. There are interventions for older children and teens such as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy adapted for older children up to the age of 10, Parent Management Training, Attachment-Based therapy, and Emotion-Focused Family Therapy, to name a few. Seek therapy as soon as you realize the need for help.
Development is a continuous process, and children continue to learn and grow well beyond the age of 7. However, the experiences and skills acquired during the early years lay the groundwork for future cognitive, emotional, and social development. Certain of 7 is of often seen as a critical juncture when certain foundational elements of a child’s development have been established.