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Child's Behavior

Making Sense of Your Child’s Behavior

A child’s behavior can often seem impulsive or illogical. What does it mean when a three year-old suddenly pushes his little sister off the couch? Why does a preschooler refuse to eat lunch even though she hasn’t eaten since breakfast? We often try to rationalize children’s behaviors based on our adult view of the world, but a child’s reasoning is often much different than an adult’s.

What You Can Do

Take a deep breath. Resist a quick emotional response. You will understand your child’s behavior better after you:

Watch: What are you seeing?
Wait: Watch long enough to get a full picture of the situation.
Wonder: What might your child be feeling? What other factors might be contributing to the behavior?

Think Like Your Child

What I Did: I pushed my sister off the couch.
Possible Reasons: I was angry because she took my special spot. I had to stand up for myself.
What S/He Needs from You: Teach me how to ask her to pick another seat.

What I Did: I wouldn’t eat the lunch you served me.
Possible Reasons: I need to control something in my life. I need to feel like I belong.
What S/He Needs from You: Give me choices between two foods. Serve family style and help me to take a serving. Eat with me and talk to me.

Ways to Encourage Positive Behaviors in Your Child

• Give clear rules and review them often

• Support and praise good behaviors

• Provide opportunities for choices (make them ones you can live with)

• Be consistent and predictable

• Help your child feel safe; “It is okay to make a mistake, I still love you.”

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