Children’s Behavior Makes Sense

April 7th, 2015

by Katrina Brooke

It’s hard to remember sometimes that children do what children do because it makes sense to them. All behavior makes sense.
And while those behaviors may not make sense to us, understanding that children’s actions and reactions are sensible helps keep us grownups from feeling totally flummoxed all the time…
As we’ve talked about, children’s temperament plays a role in the decisions they make. The Easy child, the Difficult child, and the Slow-to-Warm-Up child have preset worldviews and reactions styles that guide their immediate reaction to any particular situation. What kids do is, to some extent, who they are, and the impact of innate temperament on behavior is greater the younger and less socially-aware children are.
Add to temperament children’s developmental stage and there are even influences on behavior choices. Infants are all reaction, all the time, without much consideration for anyone else at all. Toddlers are reactive too, but can also be intentional instigators, delighting in creating a response, even a sad or angry one, in someone else. In toddlers we have social behavior without social conscience. Preschool children are increasingly aware of social relationships and increasingly able to imagine the reaction of others to them and their actions. They can be empathetic but they’re still limited in experience.
The thing is kids act the way they do for good reason. Some of those reasons are related to temperament or developmental perspectives. And some behaviors are learned. Where do children learn behaviors? From us, of course!
We grownups who are impatient teach our children to do nothing. We teach them that if they hang back, we will do things for them and also if they take initiative we will criticize them and hurry them along. It’s better to do nothing.
We grownups who are rigid and rule-bound teach our children to be afraid. We teach them that if they make a mistake, we will punish or embarrass them. Children learn that it’s possible to be mistaken and be punished for just about anything. It’s better to hide or to lie.
We grownups who are dismissive and sarcastic teach our children they don’t matter. We teach them that we don’t like them very much and think they are unlovely and unimportant. Children treated this way feel hurt and angry.
When we are open and accepting we teach our children to love themselves. Loving themselves isn’t the same as being full of themselves. It just means knowing they matter and knowing they will be supported if they fall, or fail. When we teach our children they are wonderful and have the power to become even more wonderful, we give them hope and  happiness.
We teach children who they are by how we treat them. They respond in ways that make sense, that keep them safe, and that protect them from harm. The biggest harm, the greatest danger a child feels is loss of her self-worth. If self-worth is threatened, children naturally, sensibly react.
If a child’s self-worth is encouraged and recognized, children naturally glow.

©2015, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. Find out more at

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