Parenting Information in a weekly column published in the Ladysmith News covering topics of interest in raising young children.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Challenging Behavior #1
At the end of 2009 I asked readers what topics they would like to see covered in 2010. One of the requests was to discuss suggestions for managing challenging behaviors. Some behaviors are dangerous—such as when children pull away from an adult and dart out onto a street. Some behaviors are irritating to us -- such as a child dumping out toys when we have just picked everything up. We define some behaviors as naughty -- such as when a child is hurtful toward a pet or another child.
Parents and teacher find challenges in these categories at every age. We call them challenging behaviors because we have difficulty finding ways of teaching a more appropriate behavior. There doesn’t seem to be a simple fix.
Often the challenge is for the adult is to understand that a behavior that may be difficult to manage is actually appropriate behavior for the child’s developmental age. These behaviors are not truly challenging behaviors but rather a result of our own unrealistic expectations. Here are a few examples:
The two year old who pulls away from dad’s hand is on a mission to explore something very compelling to him. His mind cannot understand the dangers of running into the street. The best strategy for managing this challenge is to pick up the child and move him to a safe area where he can explore without getting into a dangerous situation. Sometimes a distraction can be helpful if there is no safe play area with the parent staying fully focused and engaging the child.
A one year old who dumps out the blocks you have just picked up is practicing his skills at dumping. You can help by playing this game and then also showing how the blocks can go back in the bucket. It is worse than useless to let yourself be irritated when your child is practicing a normal developmental skill.
Children under the age of one can imitate our kindness to others in small ways such as petting a puppy. However, they are also exploring cause and effect, again a normal developmental stage. The one year old who pulls the ear of a puppy is not naughty but rather learning that when puppy’s ear is pulled, puppy cries, barks, bites, or runs away. The child is learning cause and effect. Our best strategy is to model being kind to the puppy.
Next week we will explore why behaviors begin to appear in the preschool stage that are truly a challenge and not a result of our unrealistic expectations.