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Child Behavior Checklists Made Simple

by Erica Loop, studioD

With an array of actions that range from the good and the bad to the just plain ugly, making a child behavior checklist can seem like a daunting task. Instead of stressing over what to add to your list and why, simplify this process and take it back to the basics.


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are three primary types of normal child behaviors. These include approved or wanted behaviors; those that you can tolerate given certain circumstances such as your child's stress level or illness; and completely unacceptable behaviors. Using these three primary categories to start off your checklist can help to simplify your thinking and create an organizational strategy. Without categories, your checklist may end up as a random string of behaviors that doesn't necessarily make sense when it comes to making observations and looking for specific things that your child is, or isn't, doing.

Age-Appropriate Behaviors

Listing off all of expected, or even unwanted, behaviors that kids go through won't do much to simplify your checklist. Rule out some behaviors based on your child's age and developmental level. Toddlers may have trouble with self-control issues and often act out. According to KidsHealth, behaviors such as biting are actually common for a 2- or 3-year-old. Not that you should add this one to your checklist, but instead think of the reverse. Expecting your toddler to maintain perfect self-control and emotional expression is unrealistic. On the other hand, you should expect your 9-year-old to demonstrate self-control.


Create a unified rating system to simplify your child behavior checklists. Instead of simply falling in to the "yes" or "no" category, use a multi-numbered scale that rates your child's behaviors from "not at all" to "sometimes" and "always." While this might seem more complex, it can actually help to simplify your understanding of your child's behaviors. Your child might do her homework without you nagging her sometimes, but not on a daily basis. If one of your checklist items is "does homework on her own" you couldn't give it a definitive yes or no. Adding in a "sometimes" category will help you to rate her behaviors more accurately.


There is little hope of including every possible child behavior on your checklist. Instead of keeping everything in, rank behaviors to include by importance. This will vary depending on your own values and expectations. You might place a high priority on obedience to parents, while another family may think that showing self-control when it comes to emotions is number one. Review your ranked order and list, and consider cutting off the ending behaviors. If a certain behavior ranks at the low end of the spectrum, you might not need to include it.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images