Kids Corner - Your Carolina -

Kids Corner

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So what is "normal behavior?"  Sometimes this is not so clear.  Some parents seem to ignore serious danger signals while others are worried about behaviors that really are within the range of typical behaviors for their child's age and development.  If your child is the problem, that is, if your child is bullying or mean spirited or has a serious emotional problem, it is really important that you figure this out early to ensure the best chance that the behaviors are corrected.  If not, your child will struggle and suffer unnecessarily and so will their peers.  The first thing I do when I work with children is work with the parents.  Sometimes, well meaning parents are modeling the behaviors that are problems in their children.  Parents who have insight often accept responsibility for their own behaviors, work to change them and their children improve.  When the parents behavior and modeling is not the issue, I look for other triggers for their child's behavior (environmental stressor - nurture or internal mechanisms - nature).

Rest assured, your child will get in trouble, break the rules, push your buttons and probably the buttons of other adults from time to time.  If your child never does any of these things then WOW you are really lucky, or they are a true outlier.  Kids are not designed for perfect.  Perfect is impossible in case you did not already know that.  Some of the "best" kids a work with are terribly anxious and follow the rules out of outright fear of failure.  They hide this pretty successfully in certain situations (like school), but at home they may be panicking, refusing to eat, picking their nails until they bleed, etc.  
For normal rule breaking, an unpleasant consequence or two or three depending on their tenacity, should help shape their behavior back into the normal range. Figuring out what is normal behavior and what requires a more serious consequence from you requires that you learn about child development for different ages.  Normal behaviors for a preschooler's behaviors aren't normal for a teenager.  You need to be aware of normal social, emotional and sexual development in each age group.
Warning Signs of serious behavior problems
·         Trouble with emotional outbursts - if your child has difficulty controlling their anger, frustration, or disappointment in socially and age-appropriate means may have a serious problem.  It is normal for preschoolers to have occasional temper tantrums, older children should have better control over their emotions.
·         Impulse Control problems - Impulse control is a learned behavior so younger kids are more impulsive and this is normal while older kids should really begin to have good impulse control
·         If your child struggles with using physical aggression and / or he or she can't gain control over verbal impulses, they may have a more serious behavior problem.
·         If yours child has behaviors that do not respond to discipline, they may have a more serious problem.  It's normal for kids to misbehavior from time to time and to do it in spite of your best efforts at discipline, but it's not normal for kids to continue to misbehave even when typically effective discipline is given.
·         School is affected by your child's behavior.  If grades fall due to behaviors there is a more serious problem.   
·         Behaviors that affect your child's social life.  It is really normal for children to argue and struggle with peer relationships, however it is not normal for a child to have no friendships.  Children should be able to maintain age appropriate behavior in social settings like church and the grocery store.  
·         Children who talk about suicide or who self harms should be taken seriously and their behavior evaluated by a professional.  Kids who head bang, cut themselves or burn themselves are struggling with serious emotional issues and need therapy to deal with their emotions effectively.  
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