Variables Associated with Appropriate Behavior in Young Children
Several variables are associated with appropriate behavior in young children, including the level of adult supervision, consistency of consequences, readiness for academic achievement, and environmental considerations. The absence of these variables has been found to place children at risk for antisocial behaviors.
The strongest predictor of appropriate behavior in children is the quantity and quality of caregiver supervision (Kauffman, 2001; Lewis, Colvin, & Sugai, 2000). When caregivers monitor children's behavior-where the children play and with whom their children play-they are showing children that they care about their well-being, that there are specific physical and behavioral boundaries, and that there are caregivers who will monitor their safety.
Caregivers must strive for a healthy balance between restrictiveness and permissiveness. When caregivers are overly restrictive, children tend to be submissive, dependent, and unable to take risks. When caregivers are overly permissive, children tend to be noncompliant, delinquent, and careless. A lack of caregiver supervision is also related to children's association with property destruction (e.g., breaking toys) and student misbehavior during school transition periods (Colvin, Sugai, Good, & Lee, 1997). Hetherington and Martin (1986) state that children will have positive outcomes when parental discipline is firm and consistent, yet loving and responsive.
Perhaps the most significant variable in managing young children's behavior is consistency. "Consistency helps make an environment predictable" (Bailey & Wolery, 1984, p. 242). Consistency builds understanding and trust between caregivers and children. Children learn what to expect and what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior when caregivers are consistent in what they say and how they respond. Children learn the likely consequences for their behaviors when caregivers consistently follow through.
In the absence of consistency, children are likely to be rebellious when caregivers finally do try to respond to inappropriate behaviors. Children tend to be noncompliant with caregivers who are inconsistent because they have learned that the caregiver doesn't always mean what they say or say what they mean. Caregivers who are inconsistent when disciplining children tend to be harsh and hostile because they are frustrated by their children's lack of compliance. In fact, they have taught their children not to listen to them by not following through in a consistent manner. This inconsistent and hostile relationship is associated with children's aggressive, noncompliant, and delinquent behavior.
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