Developmental Psychology is devoted to studying and understanding children’s psychological growth and the many behavioral changes as a natural part of growth. While it is considered developmentally appropriate for a 3-year-old to throw a tantrum because she does not want to leave the park, we likely would not say the same for a 10-year-old. That’s why it’s important to understand children’s behavior in the context of normal growth processes.
As much as we may dislike certain behaviors, such as tantrums and not wanting to share, these are normal behaviors for very young children. However, challenges start to arise when behaviors interfere with a child’s day to day performance and become incongruent with their developmental stage.
What behavioral signs should you look out for in your child?
- Behaviors that do not respond to your usual parenting strategies. Sometimes children do not comply with rules and that may be normal aspect of their developing independent self. Re-evaluate your regular parenting strategies. Are they developmentally appropriate? Is your child still not responding as you intended?
- Behaviors that interfere with your child’s academic progress. Is your child struggling with school? Is there anything that has changed his/her usual school performance? Is she/he being removed from class and denied participation in activities because of their behavior?
- Behaviors that interfere with your child’s socialization and peer relationships. Some children are naturally more social than others. However, social avoidance and isolation may be a sign that something maybe bothering your child or they may be having developmental concern. Is your child positively interacting with his/her peers? Does he/she have friends?
- Behavioral regressions. Children process life changes different ways. Some children may show signs of regression when a new sibling is welcomed in the family or when a beloved family member passes away. However, behaviors such as bedwetting after your child had been successfully toilet trained or sudden separation anxiety issues that seem to persist and have no apparent cause, maybe an indication that treatment is indicated.
- Destructive behaviors. Intentional destructive behaviors to the self and /or others are likely a warning sign. Is your child harming themselves? Has /she/he mentioned harming other people or animals? If so, seek consultation, in a timely manner.
Something just doesn’t seem right? Consult a professional.
Parents and caregivers are usually the first to notice children’s behavioral changes. Do not underestimate your observations, and most of all, that feeling that something is not quite right. The sooner a problem is detected and treated the better for the child’s long term emotional, social and educational well being.
All children are different and no one knows your child better than you. Maybe you are hesitant to take your child to a therapist because of social stigma or to frankly to have your fears confirmed, that there is indeed an issue.
Take the time to find the right therapist for your child and make sure it’s a good fit for you and your family. Once you have found the right professional, make an appointment to consult and let the therapist expertise guide you, therapy is a collaborative process. Ultimately you will be glad you took the initiative.