Normal Behavior Problems of Children
One of the major preoccupations of many parents focuses on problems in children’s behavior and development. Frequently, conflicts occur between parents and children over socialization tasks, relationship concerns, and gaining compliance from children. Many situations that are termed “normal” behavior problems are actually a problem for the adult and not the child. Similarly, many problems are simply a normal part of development as children strive to accomplish specific tasks but experience difficulties in mastering them. These may relate to the child’s age: What is normal behavior at one stage may be problematic at another and may indicate some type of developmental or emotional disturbance.
Parents need to be aware of the difference between normal behavior problems and problems that are indicative of a serious disorder that calls for professional attention. There are some normal behavior problems that parents can anticipate as a part of the development of children. These range from sleep problems in young children to eating disorders in adolescents. For many individuals, the major sources of information on these common problems are parenting books, articles in popular magazines, and discussions with friends.
Some misbehaviors of children constitute problems that are a normal aspect of their development. A competent parent today gains knowledge about child growth and development to learn what to expect at each stage of development. The competent, effective parent learns a variety of methods for handling problems that present difficulties in interactions with children.
Points to Consider
- Today, a competent parent actively acquires knowledge about child growth and development and gains experience in using a variety of methods and strategies that facilitate healthy parent-child interactions.
- One of the greatest concerns of most parents is how to provide adequate and proper discipline for children. Discipline refers to those methods used to help children learn to behave in appropriate ways, according to the patterns supported by their family system. To be effective, discipline should be positive, moderate, aimed at a child’s particular age and developmental level, and based on an understanding of a particular child’s needs.
- Discipline often is considered to refer to those behaviors and methods that involve punishment used to control children’s misbehaviors. In truth, spanking and other forms of physical punishment are not recommended as part of any discipline program. Effective discipline aims to provide children with structure (self-discipline) and nurturance.
- It is also important for a caregiver to remember that there are a variety of reasons for children’s misbehavior.
- Discipline is facilitated when caregivers: (1) attempt to identify and understand a child’s feelings and motivations; (2) discuss and adopt a consistent plan of discipline methods; (3) attempt to accomplish effective communication with children by listening to their opinions and feelings; (4) allow children to learn to make decisions as well as mistakes and to take responsibility for their actions; and (5) base discipline on the use of rules, some negotiable and others nonnegotiable, as well as assertive and supportive care.
- A variety of methods or strategies is available to contemporary parents for use in establishing disciplinary programs for children.
- The disciplinary strategies discussed in this chapter are derived from modern behavioral science and range from reward and reinforcement to ways that facilitate effective communications between parents and children. Those strategies include behavior modification, the democratic approach, and Parent Effectiveness Training.
- Four characteristics describe these discipline strategies: (1) each seeks to reduce parental power over child behavior and fosters reacting in positive ways that do not damage children’s self-esteem; (2) children are taught to learn self-discipline in controlling their actions; (3) caregivers are provided with proven, effective means of communication that help reduce conflict and facilitate healthy interpersonal interactions; and (4) each seeks to help parents gain a better understanding of child growth and development.
- Behavior modification involves the use of positive rewards and reinforcement of desired child behaviors by parents. Caregivers use these methods to teach children how to behave in an appropriate manner. Reinforcers must immediately follow a desired act to be effective. Caregivers may teach a complex task to children in sequential stages using reinforcement as children master progressively difficult behaviors. In addition, caregivers must be aware of the ability of children to reinforce certain parent behaviors.
- A central tenet of the democratic approach to parenting is based on several assumptions: (1) there are reasons for children’s actions; (2) parents must attempt to understand children’s behavior by determining and analyzing the child’s reasoning for his or her behavior; (3) everyone has a basic need to belong to a social group; and (4) people develop a life plan that guides decisions to behave in certain ways, and that life plan may be based on faulty assumptions. A child’s birth order in a family has a strong influence on the kind of life plan the child develops. Goals of misbehavior may explain reasons underlying most behaviors of children. Parents are encouraged to teach children that there are logical consequences, either positive or negative, to behavior. These consequences teach children to behave in accordance with family rules and policies. Encouragement is suggested as being more appropriate in shaping children’s behavior than rewards. Family councils or regular meetings of the family group are recommended to establish policies and rules, consequences to the rules, and to resolve conflicts. Children should have an equal voice with that of parents at such councils.
- Parent Effectiveness Training focuses on enhancing communication skills between parents and children and on ways to resolve conflicts. Effective communication is thought to occur when: (1) the parent acts as a counselor when a child has a problem; (2) a child’s behavior is causing a problem for the adult and others; and (3) conflicts between parents and children are resolved through compromise.
- There are several ways that parental discipline can be ineffective with children and can be damaging rather than helpful to children.
- Most children will experience problems in their behavior that is an anticipated aspect of normal developmental progress. Parents need to learn to distinguish between such normal behavior problems and those that are serious in requiring professional assistance.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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