Many times I am asked by parents about their children’s behaviour, what’s ‘normal?’
Often they wonder if behaviour will ever change, ever improve. Perhaps its just a stage??
He’s going through a phase, is a common excuse for all sorts of anti social and unpleasant behaviour. Is it a reasonable excuse?
I understand that having an imaginary friend is a stage that kids will grow out of, so is wanting to be called ‘Lightning McQueen’ or ‘Elsa ’.
Childish behaviour is a part of childhood.
It is healthy for kids to explore all sorts of creative ways of looking at life, as they discover what’s real and what’s not or what works and what doesn’t, or what’s acceptable in your family and what’s not. We also recognise that stages of physical development have different attributes, waking up at night, bed wetting, using a dummy or comforter, and we have probably worked out that none of these things go on for ever, they are stages.
What I see that often gets mixed up with this thinking is that certain forms of unacceptable or anti-social behaviour are also just ‘stages’ that have to be endured. There is a difference between childishness, and unacceptable behaviour. One is healthy and will disappear all too quickly’ leaving us with only fond memories of those vivid imaginations, the other is something that should be addressed and trained out of a child before it becomes a part of their normal way of responding.
What sort of things are not stages, but just bad behaviour waiting for me the Parent to kindly challenge and train out of my child, lying, name calling, hitting, kicking, bad language etc.
Although all children will misbehave, it is the parents’ role to help them recognise the consequences of bad behaviour, the right way to behave, and the fact that this is unacceptable.
It has often been said that ‘in a democracy people get the government they deserve’, and perhaps we should consider as parents’ that we end up with the behaviour we tolerate. Bad behaviour starts small, but will end up big without guidance, explanation, encouragement, and modelling. Sound like hard work, yes, it is, but the rewards are enormous. So just a little bit of advice, separate the childish, ‘going through a stage behaviour’, from the ‘if this is left unchecked we’ll have a monster behaviour’, and be brave enough to challenge your little angel, with ‘even though you are incredibly cute, this behaviour is unacceptable and we are going to work together to help you choose acceptable and appropriate behaviour’, not fall into the trap of saying ’it’s just a phase’.