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Positive Discipline, Part 1 – Is Your Child’s Behavior Normal?

Positive Discipline, Part 1 – Is Your Child’s Behavior Normal?
Posted on February 1, 2016 by CHS

We’ve all been there before – your child throws a tantrum at the store when you won’t let her out of her stroller; she bites another child at school; she pulls out more toys after you’ve told her three times to put them away.

These frustrating behaviors may seem impossible to control, and you’ve accepted that your child is just difficult. But many of these scenarios are preventable when you understand what behaviors are acceptable at certain ages, why they happen, and how to work with your child for better outcomes.

What is Positive Discipline?

Positive discipline helps create more positive behaviors for a happier child, and a happier YOU!

The goal of positive discipline is to teach children safe, socially responsible behavior that promotes self-respect and respect for the feelings and property of others. Positive discipline is not punishment.

Punishment – a penalty imposed in reaction to unacceptable behavior.

Discipline – guidance and teaching that promote positive behavior.

Expectations for “Normal” Behavior

Part of effective discipline is understanding that children think differently than adults, and what to realistically expect at each stage of development.

For example, if an infant cries, they are not misbehaving, as this is an acceptable form of communicating a need. Your caring attention helps them know their needs will be met and keeps them calm. Whereas, if a five-year-old cries rather than uses the words they’ve learned to express needs, it is more likely an instance when positive discipline is needed to change their response.

Similarly, a two-year-old who isn’t sharing a toy is not necessarily misbehaving; rather, they may not yet comprehend that sharing is an expected behavior. This will take time for them to learn. By using positive discipline, you can help a child understand why sharing is important for them and other children.

Understanding age-appropriate expectations for your child can prevent many frustrating moments like these, and help guide them into the more consistent, desired behaviors.

Other Factors to Consider

Behavioral problems may occur for additional reasons, such as the following:

  • Entering a new developmental stage
  • Biological factors – visual impairments, tactile sensitivities, speech disorders, and developmental delays
  • Temperaments – a child’s adaptability and modes of expressing emotion, such as shyness, energy level, ability to focus, level of comfort with new people and places,  moodiness, etc.
  • Circumstance/Unmet Need – difficult behavior could be because a child is hungry, tired, bored, or sick

The chart below helps explain some age-appropriate typical behaviors for young children. In Part 2 [HAP1] of this blog, we will address how to use positive discipline to help guide children through these behaviors into their next stage of development.

Infants: Ages 0-11 Months
  • Cries, whimpers or squirms when under stress, expressing a need, or trying to communicate; may continue to cry after all needs have been met
  • Grabs items and puts things in his mouth constantly
  • Flails or arches her back to indicate she is upset or does not want to be held
  • Cries when dropped off due to separation anxiety
  • Becomes bored if he doesn’t receive adequate attention/stimulation
Toddlers: Ages 12-24 Months
  • Does inappropriate things to test limits like draw on the wall with a marker, eat the lotion they find in a purse, take toys from other kids, or throw a tantrum when his favorite shirt is too dirty to wear
  • Doesn’t obey rules or exert self-control
  • Can’t sit still, constantly fidgeting, running or climbing on things
  • Won’t share with others and frequently uses the word “mine”
  • Hits or bites
  • Withdraws or acts clingy
  • Learns to assert their independence by saying, “No!”
  • Exhibits mood swings and unable to manage their emotions
Preschoolers: 3-5-Year-Olds
  • Has outbursts of emotion
  • Can become easily frustrated or discouraged when encountering problems or conflicts
  • Asks questions constantly
  • Has difficulty waiting a long time
  • Often tells on others to prove he or she know the rules
  • Hits or kicks
  • Wants to please adults and responds well to positive attention
School-Age Children
  • Wants to feel competent and capable, and may struggle or misbehave when encounter obstacles
  • Doesn’t intuitively know the expectations of an unfamiliar environment, like how to behave in a kindergarten class.
  • May stretch the truth to meet social needs
  • Becomes increasingly aware of their appearance

*adapted from Behavioral Expectations & Discipline of Children

Click Here to Read Positive Discipline, Part 2: Practical Tips to Improve a Child’s Challenging Behaviors

For more information on positive discipline, download our Positive Discipline brochure or podcast, or visit these helpful resources:

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