Salt Lake City, Utah – Do you find yourself often confused by your child’s behavior? You’re probably not alone – many parents can feel confused by the behavior of their young children. So how can we understand what our children are trying to tell us, especially when they haven’t developed their verbal skills yet?
Child care workers are trained to understand that young children communicate through their behavior. That means that while you might find your daughter’s decision to dump her entire bowl of spaghetti on the floor infuriating, she might actually be trying to tell you something. So how can you learn to stop the frustration and instead ramp up the understanding?
“Parents should spend more time simply observing their children,” says Bethany Hosking, co-owner of Learning Tree Schools, a Millcreek child care center. “We can usually find some patterns to behavior that can lead us to solving why children are acting a certain way. That can then help us stop the behavior we find the most frustrating.”
Observation is the key to understanding because it allows you to sit back and look at your child as a whole. It also allows you to not just observe a particular behavior, but to also see what happened leading up to that behavior, and what occurred immediately following it.
Being able to understand what happens right before your child acts can help you understand the root of their behavior. For instance, if you have had what seems like a continual problem with your child spilling their drink while eating, observe what else is going on. Is your child distracted by a television that is on and has forgotten where they set their drink?
If you notice a pattern such as this, you can remove the distraction, and watch to see if the behavior changes.
You should also take note of what happens right after the behavior as well. If you don’t notice right away something that leads to the behavior, perhaps it is the reaction after that causes the behavior.
“We see this in our young children a lot,” says Amy Moyes, Hosking’s co-owner of the preschool. “If a child spills his drink, a teacher might rush to his side to help him. Maybe the child really likes that extra attention he is getting, so he continues the behavior. Once we recognize that, we can come up with alternate solutions and encourage the behavior to stop.”
But observing your children shouldn’t only be relegated to helping them change challenging behaviors. It can also be used as a child development tool.
Do you know your child’s learning style? Observation may help you discover how your child learns best, which means you’ll have the knowledge to share with his teachers and to best help him learn and develop at home. If you are constantly frustrated with getting your children to focus while doing homework, this might be your trick to ending those homework battles.
Children learn in so many different ways, and parents and teachers should be equipped to help our children learn in the way that is best for them. But we can’t do that unless we spend time observing what works for our children.
Begin by noting your child’s disposition. Adventurous children may need more time to move while they learn. Is your child more of an inventor? She may need to ask what seems like a million questions to understand a concept.
“Children aren’t all the same, so we can’t expect them to all learn the same,” says Hosking. “Different children need different tools to process the same information, and if we can understand how our children learn best, we can set them up for future success.”
There are three basic learning styles – auditory, kinesthetic and visual. Knowing which your child fits into can save a lot of time and headaches as your child grows.
An auditory learner will prefer to listen, rather than read. Recitation may be a valuable learning tool. Music may help this type of learner while studying, but loud noises can be a distraction.
A kinesthetic learner needs to do and touch. They may be more fidgety and will need hands on activities to absorb the information.
Visual learners pick up information through reading or watching demonstrations. They prefer reading rather than listening to explanations.
While many will use some combination of these three, most children will show a leaning towards one more than the others. Understanding which of these categories your child falls in can help you in learning how to best help your child learn and develop.
In addition to you knowing how to best help your child at home, you can also use this knowledge to better help your child at school. Rather than allowing your child to get frustrated in school, have a conversation with his teacher about approaches that may help him learn. Most teachers and caregivers will be more than willing to assist your child and offer ways for your child to learn in the way that best suits him.
Observing your children can provide valuable learning tools for you as the parent. You can help resolve challenging behavior by watching causes and effects of that behavior. And you can help your child discover how they can best learn, setting them up for future success in school.
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