Positive discipline and child development

Knowing what to expect from your child and understanding normal child development will aid parents and caregivers in helping children learn self-control.

Understanding developmental stages helps adults have realistic expectations for children's behavior. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Understanding developmental stages helps adults have realistic expectations for children's behavior. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Knowing how and when to discipline children is one thing that can be frustrating for many parents and caregivers.  For many, one of the first examples is an infant’s continuous crying.  It can be frustrating and irritating especially if the caregiver has tried to meet all of the child’s needs.  According to Michigan State University Extension, crying is their form of communication with others; it’s not about trying to “push our buttons.”  Unfortunately, it is just like trying to communicate with someone who speaks any other language than you.  Communication breaks down and frustration grows on both sides because infants are completely dependent on adults, yet unable to meet any of their needs on their own.

Infants become toddlers who are easily distracted, can’t sit still for long, are possessive and describe everything as “mine.”  They are curious and involved in exploring the world around them by touching, tasting, smelling, hearing and seeing everything they can.  They think their job is to work on becoming independent, hence the frequent use of the word “no.”  Understanding the developmental stage of toddlers, leads us to understand that it’s unrealistic to expect them to move through a room, store, restaurant or library without stopping to look and touch things.  Another behavior that adults often reprimand is a child’s unwillingness to share.  However, toddlers and young preschoolers do not have the understanding and capacity for sharing.  When you tell a toddler they need to share their toys with Anna, they think you are taking their toy from them and giving it to another child; and that’s how they respond.  Older preschoolers, ages 4 or older, are beginning to understand how to take turns. This implies they will get the item back and may be more responsive to a statement like, “Anna would like to play with that too.  You play with it for a few more minutes and when you’re done, you can let Anna have a turn.”   Four year-olds are also beginning to expand their vocabulary and may use words that they have heard but don’t understand and they may continue to use them for shock value. Five year-olds are beginning to understand the difference between right and wrong and see thing pretty much as black or white.  As a result, it is not uncommon for them to tell on others and they don’t understand the difference between telling and tattling.

Every age of childhood is different as children grow, develop and gain new knowledge, learning new skills and acquire new abilities.  Understanding basic child development and what to expect at various ages, is helpful in accepting behavior and facilitating your child’s growth and well-being as you help them learn self-control.

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