Early Childhood Development: Challenging Behaviors
Every parent is vying for a rule-book or set of guidelines instructing him or her how to perfectly raise a child. Unfortunately, no such rule-book exists, but here are some suggestions.
Thanks to advances in scientific research, developments have been made on early childhood development that has allowed scientists to advise parents on how to address their child’s behavioral developments. Such scientific research is incredibly useful in the sense that it allows parents, particularly new parents, to base their parenting methods on reputable sources. It’s important to note, however, that every child is different and unique, so not every set of rules or advice will apply to them.
Keeping that in mind, here is a list of common behavioral problems (as provided by Zero to Three) parents come across with young children, and positive ways to address them:
At first sight, it may appear alarming that your child is behaving in an aggressive manner, but it’s important to realize that often times, especially for children aged birth to 18 months, they are only acting on impulse and are not aware of their actions. Children at this age have not yet developed enough to communicate their feelings and emotions effectively, so although it may be alarming to see your child lashing out, it’s a common feature of development, and as they learn more about discipline and setting apart right from wrong, period of aggressive behavior will slowly wane.
One of the best ways to address aggression in children, especially in toddlers, is to redirect the child’s attention to something positive, such as playing or learning, essentially provide them with a distraction. In doing so, the child will have learned to fuel the energy they would have wasted on something productive and beneficial. It’s important to note that the calmer you address your child, the quicker they will calm down, but maintain a firm and strong voice, to teach them discipline while simultaneously teaching them that a calm and maintained demeanor is best in challenging situations.
Cooperation may be a difficult concept for a child to learn to understand, especially in their early stages of life. In order to allow the child to experience the positive aspects of cooperation, by placing them in situations in which there is clear benefits for the child, they will subconsciously begin to develop a sense of understanding and appreciation for cooperation. By experiencing the benefits of cooperation, for example, while sharing the work while doing chores, children will learn the symbiotic relationship involved with cooperation. Praise is also important in these types of situations, as the child will learn to develop a positive attitude towards actions if praised and encouraged to continue doing them. It’s also important to give your child some autonomy while still enforcing the rules and a sense of discipline. Allowing the child to develop some extent of independence will further aid in their development and be beneficial in cooperating in groups as well.
Each child grows differently, and as they grow up and experience different social situations, they develop different mechanisms in interacting with other children. Some children are quick to adapt to new situations and are comfortable interacting with new people. Other children are more hesitant and would rather be around people they are comfortable with. There is no reason why one of these behaviors should be determined as ‘better’ or more ‘normal’ than the other, as both are completely acceptable ways that children approach new social situations.
If you are concerned that your child is overly hesitant on interacting with other children, here are some tips that may help your child step out of their comfort zone:
- Help your child boost their confidence by showing/telling them that you love and accept them for who they are. This includes refraining from using negative labels to characterize your child and their actions (i.e. calling them shy or reclusive), but rather helping them feel more comfortable with themselves.
- Slowly help them integrate into larger groups, starting off with inviting over some close friends who your child is comfortable with, then moving on to larger groups where your child has an opportunity to meet new children and further develop his social skills. However, if your child is uncomfortable with the idea of being put in a place surrounded by new faces, respect their wishes. It’s also important to give your child notice if a large event is forthcoming, as giving them a chance to mentally prepare will make them feel as though they have more control over the situation, hence making them more comfortable.
- Set an example for your child by demonstrating outgoing and friendly behavior in social situations. Children are incredibly susceptible to their parents’ actions, and often will pick up on their parents’ tendencies and behaviors, so be a good role model for your child!
Although it’s very important to try and find ways to best aid and support your children in their development, it’s equally important to rely on your parental instinct and judgement when it comes to making decisions about your child’s life. Help ensure that your child has a safe and comfortable environment to grow and develop, while keeping in mind that the best way to protect your children is to help them and support them in a positive manner.