Struggling with your child’s behavior? Learn the importance of child development and behavior and how it can help you stay calm when the kids misbehave.
I sometimes imagine what a day would look like if my kids behaved like adults.
They’d share toys all the time. They’d know better than to run with a plate full of crumbs and instead place it slowly in the sink. Or they might understand it’s the end of the day, and I don’t have the mental energy to listen to endless stories.
Of course, that isn’t what happens—the opposite, in many cases. And I’d find myself feeling exasperated, wondering, Who’d think it’s a good idea to run with a plate full of crumbs?
But then I’d glance at my shelf and see the handful of books I bought when I first learned I was going to be a mom.
Books about what to expect, down to the week or month of their childhood. Others about how much sleep kids need, and every ailment you can find (plus the remedies to fix them).
And I remembered reading books on child development to understand why kids behave the way they do.
Those topics had been so easy to understand back then, before I had kids. Of course it made sense for kids to throw a tantrum, in public no less. And yes, kids will keep doing the same thing over and over even after you’d told them not to.
But once you become a mom, it’s easier to forget those common sense reminders, especially when all three kids are talking at the same time while you’re trying to run their bath.
Child development and behavior
As frustrating as kids can be, I tell myself this important reminder when they drive me crazy:
This is normal.
The way your child behaves, no matter how strange or infuriating, is all part of how he’s growing. Certain parts of his brain haven’t even developed yet—in fact, his brain won’t be complete until he turns 25.
And so this impacts how he behaves. Everything from making impulsive decisions like jumping off the coffee table to throwing a fit because he doesn’t want to take a bath.
As kids mature, their brains begin to make sense of things. They’re also learning and becoming more capable. They won’t cry because you turned off the lights at night, fidget at the grocery line or smack the other kid because she took his toy.
And that’s just with their mental growth. Child development also affects their physical capabilities and limitations as well.
Kids will become self-sufficient as they learn to be more independent. They’ll also be less clumsy and have less falls and cuts.
But this all happens gradually, sometimes painfully too slow. Especially when you’re about to lose it at the end of the day, exhausted from the day’s nonstop challenges.
And so, it’s during these moments we have to remember that this is all normal. The newborn sleep deprivation, the defiance, the clumsiness. The stories with no end, the sibling fighting, and even the regressions.
Kids are supposed to behave this way. Newborns aren’t meant to sleep 12 hours straight, as much as we’d like them to. Kids shouldn’t obey every request we give even though the day would go much faster if they did. And they should take risks, even crazy ones like jumping off the coffee table.
As frustrating as it is, it’s actually more abnormal if they don’t behave this way. Knowing all this is one thing, but how can we put it into practice?
Learn about child development
Don’t get intimidated by the fancy name. Research your child’s age and stage. The range for “normal” is wide and flexible, but milestones and stages help you identify common issues and behaviors.
We do a good job of this when our kids are in the infant stages. But once they reach toddlerhood and beyond, we stop looking. And it’s easy to forget they’re still going through their own milestones and changes.
Another option is to learn not about your child’s age but any issues he may be having. Whether through books, online or with people, you’ll find ways others have dealt with the same issues such as potty training troubles, picky eating or teething.
Speaking of other people…
Even if you know all this is normal, it still helps to rely on the support of others. Ask friends with kids how they handle their children’s behavior. Talk about issues driving you crazy, even if just to get it off your chest.
You can also find support online, like member forums or Facebook groups for moms. You’re not alone, even if it sometimes feels like it.
Don’t take it personal
Learning about how your child grows means you’re less likely to take things personally. Sure, we’re parents and we’ll always feel an emotional connection, both good and bad. But seeing their behavior objectively will help you think and respond instead of react.
When you’re ready to pull your hair out, separate yourself from your child’s behavior. He’s not crying because he wants to get a rise out of you. Your kids aren’t fighting because they’re purposefully trying to give you a headache.
They’re behaving this way many times because it’s all part of how kids behave.
In the thick of the madness, we wish it would just stop. And who wouldn’t? These moments can feel stressful, frustrating and overwhelming. By the end of the day, especially when I’m on solo duty, I’m willing the clock to move faster so I can have time to myself.
But sometimes the solution isn’t so much wishing it away, but being where we need to be. This is all normal. We’re not alone.
The more we understand how children develop and grow, the more patient we can be. We’ll take things less personally and understand that these are stages we—both kids and adults—all experience.
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Get more tips:
- How Teaching Kids about Emotions Reduces Misbehavior
- How to Set Limits with Your Baby (And Almost Toddler)
- 4 Things You Shouldn’t Say about Other People’s Children
- Funeral Etiquette: Should You Take Your Child to a Funeral?
- Why Time Outs Don’t Work (And What to Do Instead)
Tell me in the comments: How has understanding your child’s development helped you become a better parent?
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