Because all children are different, they exhibit different types of behavior. Parents often worry about whether their child's behavior is normal. It can be difficult to define normal or abnormal, since several factors such as a child's age, developmental stage and personality must be taken into consideration.
Two children of the same age may act drastically different in behavior. The same is true of two children raised by the same parents in the same environment. One child may be rambunctious and outgoing, while the other is shy and withdrawn. It doesn't mean that one behavior is more normal than the other. Certain behaviors such as temper tantrums are typical, especially for particular age groups. Toddlers are often known for throwing tantrums during the Terrible Twos. Although most toddlers throw an occasional tantrum, not all 2-year-olds behave this way. Some toddlers experience the Terrible Twos phase when they are 3 or 4 years old instead.
Stages of Development
Knowing what to expect during each stage of a child's development can help parents understand their child's behavior. Babies who are teething may bite their parents or other children. The child is trying to cope with the development of teeth rather than trying to be mean or hurt anyone. Toddlers are beginning to understand that they are separate from their parents and start to express their independence. However, they still have limited communication skills and may become frustrated when they cannot adequately express their wants and needs. A toddler may hit or throw a tantrum because she is frustrated, rather than showing true aggression. Knowing your child and the stages of development can help you know what type of behavior to expect.
Parents may become concerned over aggressive behavior if they view their child hitting another. However, some behavior that is considered aggressive is actually normal. It is important to consider the circumstances. Very young children typically express themselves with their hands. Although hitting should always be discouraged, it doesn't necessarily mean that the child is acting aggressively or with malice. Young children typically act impulsively and such behavior may include hitting. A young child who is also an only child may refuse to share his toys or may grab a toy from another child during a play date. The child may hit another child if that child takes his toy from him. He may act aggressively as a means of defending his belongings. Tweens and teens go through awkward stages in their lives and may act or speak aggressively as a coping mechanism. Not all aggressive behavior indicates a behavior disorder. However, parents should consult their pediatrician if they suspect intentional or repeated acts of aggression.
All children misbehave at times, and it is perfectly normal for a child to have an occasional outburst. However, repeated disruptive behaviors may signal a behavioral problem. Disruptive behaviors may include repeated tantrums, arguments, hostility toward parents or authority figures, and bullying behavior such as picking on small or younger children. Disruptive behavior also includes causing or threatening harm to pets, other people or themselves. In older children and teens, signs of a problem may include early sexual activity, smoking, alcohol and drug use. Skipping school and lying may also indicate a behavioral problem. According to MedlinePlus, if a child or teen has a pattern of hostility, aggression or disruptive behaviors lasting six months or longer, the child may have a behavior disorder. Consult a physician or mental health professional if you have concerns about your child's behavior.
- HealthyChildren: Family Life: Normal Child Behavior
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Understanding Your Child's Behavior
- MedlinePlus: Child Behavior Disorders
- Zero to Three: Aggressive Behavior in Toddlers
- HealthyChildren: Disruptive Behavior Disorders
- HealthyChildren: Family Life: Changing Your Child's Behavior
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