Troubling Behaviors| Is It Just a Phase?

Have you ever wondered if your kids behaviors are “normal”? Do people tell you “It’s just a phase”,  yet something in your gut just doesn’t feel right?

You are not alone!

Is It Really Just A Phase


As part of our launch of Project Sensory (our new site dedicated to spreading awareness of sensory needs in ALL kids), we are hosting a series on Decoding Everyday Kid Behaviors. For over 40 days, we are digging into “typical” behaviors and unveiling sensory needs behind each one.  Today I’d like to address the atypical behaviors.

As you read through the post in this series, or as you observe your children around others you might start to ask yourself some questions:

  • How can I tell when its not “just a phase”?
  • At what point do I need to seek help for these behaviors?
  • When will I know there is something serious going on?
  • Where do I even begin to help my child?
  • What have I done wrong?

Do these sound familiar? Believe me, you are not alone! In fact, there are parents, educators, and caregivers out there looking for the exact same answers you are! I know! I know, because I am one of those moms! I know, because I was one of those educators. Today, I would like to do my best to help you sort through those questions and get started in the right direction.

As always, I do not intend to diagnose or prescribe for your child, as I am not a physician. Instead, I want to share my story, our journey and hopefully give you some support along the way! So let’s get started.

Signs Your Kid’s Behaviors Aren’t “Just a Phase”

In our case, I spent the first 7 years of my son’s life blaming myself. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I called my best friend crying, asking her what I was doing wrong. Oh man, if I could just go back in time and tell myself it wasn’t me. It wasn’t my parenting. It wasn’t my teaching. It was so much more.

Looking back over the 7 years of his life, I now see the signs. I see what I wish I had seen earlier and what I hope to share with you!

Sign #1: Your Child’s Behaviors Impact, Impede, or Greatly Change Their Daily Life

This is KEY!!!! All children will have some troubling behaviors, some sensory needs, and some concerns that need to be addressed. The problem occurs when these behaviors greatly affect your child’s life. In our case, our son was unable to make friends, he was impulsive to the point of sending his dad to the hospital and running over his aunt with a golf cart. He was struggling to regulate his emotions to the point that he would bite his nails and eventually bite his brother’s nails off to the nail bed.

Then, there was school….

Sign #2: Other’s Constantly Comment on Your Parenting, Your Child’s Behavior, or a Combination of the Two

We have heard it all! ALL OF IT, I tell you!

From the time he was an itty bitty and we never imagined anything was “different” about him, to the time he was in school and we were told “if you just put him over your knee”… yep, we heard it all! As a baby and toddler, he needed a strict routine and others balked at our parenting choices. Once he entered school, the comments and concerns didn’t end there. We were told his behavior stemmed from us letting him “run all over us” and from us “not setting limits.” The problem about all of those statements is that we were listening whole-heartedly to anything people said, trying to find advice. We were looking for answers.

Unfortunately, even their suggestions of our bad parenting weren’t the answer.

Sign #3: No Interventions, Tricks, or Books Seems to be the Answer

We tried it all! Yep, all of it.

As much I didn’t believe in spanking… we tried it. We tried time outs. We tried reward chart (and Oh, how I despise reward charts). We tried teacher tricks. We tried parenting tricks. We read articles. We read books. We did it all. Nothing worked.  Our son still struggled. Unfortunately, for those 7 years, I just blamed myself. I never trusted myself enough to look for help. We kept thinking he would grow out of it. We thought one day he would “mature”.

But he never did.

Help I think My Child Needs Help

Moving Beyond “Just a Phase” and Getting Help

If you read the signs above and felt your head nodding along, saying “yep, that’s my kid” or “uh huh, I’ve been there” then you are on your way to moving beyond “just a phase” and you are one step closer to getting help. Let’s see if we can get you a little closer!

Step One: Trust your gut

You are the parent. You are the grandparent. You are the educator. If you feel something isn’t quite right, speak up. If you feel like there is more you or someone else could be doing to help your child succeed, speak up. Over the last few years in our journey, there has been one recurring theme amongst parents. They all wish they had just trusted their instincts. Often times, if they think back (like I did above) they can see so many signs that were staring them in the face.

Maybe it wasn’t even you that noticed the first signs of something different. Maybe a teacher, another parent or even a doctor put the seed in your head. Whatever the case is, you know your child. You know if this is more than “just a phase” and you have to trust that!

I want to be very clear! I am not advocating for over diagnosing, over medicating, or over-anything for children. What I am suggesting is that you have a gut feeling about your child or you wouldn’t be reading this post! Follow that feeling and go looking for answers. 

Step Two: Find Answers

This is probably the most difficult part of the process. You might be wondering where to even start. I’d like to share what we did to find answers, but I want to share that we are constantly looking for answers. We are constantly perplexed and trying new things, because the truth is.. this is not a pretty ride. It will have open doors, shut doors and entire buildings that are locked up tight. I urge you to keep searching and you will find the answers you need.

  • Talk with other parents, educators, and child specialists. Get recommendations for great books, great websites and resources to get you started.
  • Talk to your child’s teachers, caregivers, and anyone that is around them frequently. What behaviors concern them and why? Write these down somewhere so you have them later down the road when you have to fill out gobs of surveys.
  • Read, Read and Read some more. In our case, we needed to read about sensory processing disorder, as many of the behaviors we were seeing pointed right out SPD.
  • Reference checklists and common red flag behaviors that could help you determine the significance of your child’s needs.
  • Speak to your child’s pediatrician and get a referral for an OT (occupational therapy) or a neuropsychological evaluation. *This part can get sticky, hairy and downright yucky with insurance involved
  • Discuss your child’s evaluations, needs and accommodations with the school (start the process for an IEP or 504 plan if accommodations are needed)

While this post is mainly referring to sensory processing disorder and sensory needs, there are many diagnosis and special circumstances your child might have. This could include many disorders such as  ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), SPD (sensory Processing Disorder), ADHD (attention deficit / Hyperactive Disorder) and many more. This is not meant to diagnose your child, instead, it is meant as a place to encourage you to look for the answers you need to help your child be successful.

sensory processing evaluations

Step 3: Find Support

Seriously, this is not an easy process. You are going to meet plenty of people (and even professionals) who do not understand your child’s needs. It will get frustrating and some days you might even want to throw in the towel. You might not feel like fighting any more. That is where you need help! You need be able to have a group of people, a friend or a therapist that understands what you are going through and can lift you up when you are down.

When we started this process a year ago, I knew I wanted a place where I could find support. I was tired of crying by myself and I was tired of feeling alone. That is why I started the Support for Sensory Needs Facebook Group. It is a place where parents, educators and caregivers can come to find support, so they don’t feel so alone. This is of course, not the only support group out there.

Some of the groups and Facebook pages I really love for sensory support are:

Through these groups, you can ask questions, find answers, and feel comforted that you are not alone. Having an army of people behind you will be essential if you ever go down the crazy winding road of IEPs and 504 accommodations. They will help you with resources and even advocates that can help you learn the laws in your state.

Step 4 : Trust Your Gut

Finally, and most importantly… trust your gut! There will be times along the road to help that you will feel lost, confused and downright defeated. I urge you to trust your gut. You started on this journey for a reason. You went down this path to learn more about your child because you needed answers. I want you to remember that feeling of urgency and I want you to believe in yourself. I want you to stop blaming your self.

You are doing the best job you know how to do right now!

That is what counts! And remember…. you are not alone!

Right now, you can download this free Sensory Issues poster pack, and discover tips for understanding and helping your child with their biggest sensory struggles.

overcome sensory issues

Sensory Processing Resources Celebrate Sensory Awareness Variations of Sensory Processing

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