This important topic deals with Guiding Children’s Behaviour and will have various parts to it.

This first part gives parents information about what is called a guidance approach, what to expect from children in broad age groups and then deals specifically with what temper tantrums are and why they occur.

As parents we are concerned about the well-being of our children, their happiness but sometimes challenges related to their behaviour occur.

Part II of this topic to be released on the parent portal will deal with how to prevent temper tantrums and strategies to use when they do occur.

For parents, this topic will be very helpful as it presents a perspective that children want to be cooperative, to learn and to get on with members of their family.  However, as they grow and learn their emotions sometimes get in the way.

The guidance approach taken is one for parents to consider:

  • This approach does not harshly discipline children but tries to identify what their needs are and guides their behaviour so that it is appropriate and acceptable.
  • It draws on the work of many respected educators, particularly, Dr Louise Porter’s work (2006, 2016).

A guidance approach aims to help children to act thoughtfully, to consider the effect of their behaviour on others.  However, for this to happen children need to:

  • Develop a sense of right from wrong
  • Learn to regulate their emotions
  • Learn to cooperate with others

This learning takes time.

Parents need to set some reasonable limits in relation to children’s behaviour and they need to keep children safe from harming themselves and others.

Parents need to help children develop over time, considerate behaviour.

What is considerate behaviour?

It is understanding that we need to respect one another, to be kind and get on with other people.  To understand the feelings of other people.

At what age can children develop considerate behaviour?

This can begin from 2-3 years of age and increases as children grow and learn. By the time children are 5 or 6 many will have developed self-regulation skills and be considerate in their behaviour of others.

However, infants and toddlers do not know right from wrong as toddlers are beginning to learn to control their emotions.

Over time, a two year old learns to:

  • Not hit or bite other children
  • Not snatch or grab toys from other children
  • Avoid shouting or screaming in anger at others
  • Put toys away
  • Respond to requests from other people

Please come to the table now and have your snack 

Please put your rubbish in the bin.

By the time a child is about three years of age they should have some idea of what right from wrong is and some understanding of the feelings of other people. Children are individuals so vary in the development of these traits. 

We aim to help children, over time, develop self-regulation.

What is self-regulation?

Understanding of and being responsible for their actions.

This only comes when children are capable of thinking what their actions mean and do.

For very young children, infants and toddlers, there are some behaviours that are challenging for parents to cope with and these include:

Temper Tantrums

These are emotional outbursts usually “thrown” by toddlers between the ages of 1 to 3. They can take different forms including crying, screaming, and shouting, hitting, throwing, kicking, stomping or even holding breath.

When these tantrums occur it is often a shock to parents as their likeable, happy child suddenly displays behaviours, you, as a parent do not like.

When words do occur, their favourite word is often “No”.

Why does this situation happen?

  • Children this age are still learning right from wrong.
  • They are beginning to learn to regulate their emotions.
  • They cannot cooperate fully with others. They play on their own and can be very self-absorbed.
  • Independence reaches a peak at about 2 years of age. Toddlers think the world is a safe place and they can head off on their own in a shopping centre, run away from Mum, and take things off shelves when they are in a shopping centre.
  • With their growing need for independence, toddlers’ insist on doing things on their own and in their own way.
  • Toddlers’ curiosity to try out new things sometimes ends up in frustration as they are not yet aware of their limits.
  • Over time toddlers learn limits and as the language skills develop, temper tantrums also decrease.
  • Though tantrums are a normal part of growing up, it is a cause for distress and concern for parents. 

Why children throw tantrums

  • A child’s temperament plays a major role in how children behave. Some children are more prone to throwing tantrums than others.
  • Some children are born with an easy temperament; others, from birth, have what is called a difficult temperament. These traits have been shown to last and for children who are “difficult” it may take longer to develop considerate behaviour.
  • With their limited language skills, tantrums are a way for the child to express their feelings, wants and needs.
  • Some families may never have said “no” to their toddler. If they are used to getting their own way with everything then what happens when this does not occur?
  • Children love routines and often a change in the routine can cause them to feel uncomfortable and restless. Abrupt change in routine or activity can also cause tantrums.
  • As said earlier, children at this age group are curious and want to do a lot of things by themselves unaware of their own physical limits which lead to frustration and tantrums.
  • Sharing is difficult for 2 year olds. Why should they let someone else take their precious teddy bear? Will they ever get it back? Their thinking skills are limited and they cannot predict how events will be resolved.

Strategies to deal with temper tantrums will be discussed in Part II

References

Porter, L. (2006). Children are people too: a parent's guide to young children's behaviour (4th ed.). Adelaide: East Street Publications.

Porter, L. (2016). Guiding Children’s Behaviour. In M. Ebbeck & M. Waniganayake (Eds.), Play in Early Childhood Education: Learning in Diverse Contexts (2nd ed. pp. 161-182). Sydney, NSW: Oxford University Press.