Behaviour in children aged three to five years old
Imagine your child playing outside with her peers. There might be a group of friends in the cubby giggling and sharing secrets, and another child contentedly alone. Someone is shouting and waving a stick around; someone else is singing. They’re all different.
The keys to helping your child learn to manage her behaviour are understanding her temperament, and using simple, positive strategies that encourage good behaviour.
Talk to your GP or child and family health nurse if you’re finding it hard to manage your child’s behaviour or her behaviour seems very different from other children’s. Sometimes it can help just to hear someone saying you’re doing a good job! But if there really is a problem, this is the first step to getting help.
Common behaviour concerns
Is your child affectionate and a bit of a worrier? Or is she confident and excitable? Most of the time, you probably celebrate her special personality and the way she behaves. But sometimes, perhaps when you’re both tired, the tricky behaviour might be all you can see. Rest assured, you aren’t alone. All children of this age show similar tricky behaviours from time to time.
Your child’s ability to control her behaviour will depend on the strength and intensity of her emotions. Children who typically feel things strongly and intensely can find it harder to learn to do what other people expect.
Try these top tips for top troubles
- Tantrums: these are such hard work. You might see crying, screaming, kicking, even breath-holding and vomiting. Hang in there – tantrums tend to lessen after children turn four, as your child gets better at handling big feelings. In the meantime, try to stay calm, wait it out and make sure you don’t accidentally reward the tantrum by giving in.
- Fighting: temperament, environment, age and skills all affect fighting. If natural rough-and-tumble play tends to turn into fights, involve children in setting rules in advance. For fights that aren’t fun, keep your cool, separate the children, then discuss the issue and decide on consequences when things have calmed down.
- Lying: this is part of a child’s development, and it often starts around three years of age. It’s often better to teach children the value of honesty than to punish them for small lies.
- Anxiety: preschoolers often fear things like being on their own or being in the dark. Support your child by acknowledging her fear, gently encouraging her to do things she’s anxious about and praising her when she does.
- Shyness: shyness is one type of temperament, but labelling a child as ‘shy’ can make her feel there’s something wrong with her. Instead, try describing your child as ‘slow to warm up’. Give her the chance to be around others, and praise and encourage ‘brave’ social behaviour. Be supportive, but not overly comforting, in social situations.
- Food fussiness: you’re responsible for making healthy food available regularly; your child can be responsible for deciding how much she eats. It’s best not to bribe your child to eat healthy food by rewarding her with unhealthy treats.
For part two of the series, click here
This article was published courtesy of the Raising Children Network.