Parents want their children to behave like normal kids based on their personality, age, emotional development and physical growth. If a young child’s behavior is not meeting the family’s expectation, life can be chaotic.
People tend to look at "normal" behavior when a child is acting "good" based on their developmental age as defined by society and culture. When parents have an understanding of what is appropriate and good conduct for a child at each age, it is easier to determine if they are behaving "normally" and when they can relax.
The Importance of Consistency
Parents are often baffled how to change the conduct of their child when they act disruptively or not as they would like the child to behave. Young children will often continue disruptive conduct when rewarded and will typically stop acting up when their behavior is ignored. How parents react to the undesired conduct is crucial in determining how fast the behavior will change.
When each parent consistently reacts to the situation in the same manner, the child will often respond appropriately. Alternatively, if one parent rewards the behavior and the other punishes the conduct at the same time or different times, the child is often confused. I cannot express enough the importance of both parents being on the same page about their child’s discipline.
Parents can determine if their child’s behavior is appropriate or problematic by:
- Deciding that the child’s behavior is age-appropriate at the child’s current stage of development
- Making an effort to stop the inappropriate behavior immediately when it occurs
- Redirecting the young child to a new behavior that is preferred and continually reinforcing the new conduct through praise
Unwanted behavior is best stopped by addressing it head on with a firm, "That is not how we act." Parents must remember that change will take time. Stopping behavior immediately typically requires a "timeout" session where if the child doesn't respect the parent’s requests after 3 times to stop the inappropriate behavior the child gets a time out to reset his attitude.
Encouraging New Behavior
Typically, most kids want to gain the attention of their parents whether it is a good or bad response. To a child, even negative attention from a parent can be rewarding. Sometimes, bad behavior generates enough attention for a child that there is no need to alter their actions to do better.
However, kids learn by example and often work hard to please their parents because they want to make them proud. Instead of becoming upset, angry or verbally abusive over undesired conduct, parents can encourage a new behavior by showing the child what to do.
Avoid Physical Punishment
Unfortunately, many parents see the benefits of physical punishment, like spanking, as a way to stop any undesirable conduct. However, even though physical punishment can stop bad behavior, it only lasts a short while. This is because spanking or other corporal punishment offers nothing to teach the child than to be aggressive and does not assist in providing a method for changing behavioral patterns.
Alternatively, disciplining the child by using positive reinforcement and parental participation serves as an effective tool to teach good behavior. When children cannot comprehend what good behavior is, they often return to behaving badly. In addition, physical punishment teaches the child how to behave aggressively.
Many parents are challenged with understanding the difference between behavioral problems and normal conduct. However, as a mom and dad, it is important for you to learn about the social development of children to determine what actions are age-appropriate and which behaviors are not.