"The Myth of the Bad Kid"
> 1/29/2006 10:28:00 AM

Six-year-old Jimmy is having trouble in school. As a first grader,he already has a reputation among the teachers as a "bad kid." Hespends most of his school day sitting in the corner or the principal'soffice. With 30 other children in his class, the teacher has littletime for Jimmy. He isn't learning anything in the classroom, and he hastrouble making friends.

We all have memories of the "bad kid" in our class - the child whowas always in trouble and often alone. We tend to blame this kind ofbehavior on a lack of discipline or a bad home. We say the child wasspoiled, abused, or "just trying to get attention." But these labelsare often misguided. Many of these children suffer from seriousemotional problems that are not the fault of their caregivers orthemselves.

Myths about children's behavior make it easy to play the "blamegame" instead of trying to help children like Jimmy. Often, in makingassumptions, we "write off" some children. However, with understanding,attention and appropriate mental health services, many children cansucceed - they can have friends, join in activities and grow up to leadproductive lives. To help children with emotional problems realizetheir potential, we must first learn the facts about the "bad kid."

  • Children do not misbehave or fail in school just to get attention.Behavior problems can be symptoms of emotional, behavioral or mentaldisorders, rather than merely attention-seeking devices. These childrencan succeed in school with understanding, attention and appropriatemental health services.

  • Behavioral problems in children can be due to a combination of factors.Research shows that many factors contribute to children's emotionalproblems including genetics, trauma and stress. While these problemsare sometimes due to poor parenting or abuse, parents and family aremore often a child's greatest source of emotional support.

  • Children's emotional, behavioral and mental disorders affect millions of American families. Anestimated 14-20 percent of all children have some type of mental healthproblem. Jimmy and the many others mislabeled as "bad kids" can use thesupport of their communities.

From the Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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