Factors and Influences
Young children use behavior as a way of communicating their needs. This is how they let us know whether they want something or want to avoid something. The reason children sometimes use such challenging behaviors is because it works in gaining your attention. By understanding what a child is trying to express, you can better respond to their needs and help children learn more positive ways to communicate.
As you work through this course:
Reflect on your reactions to different children that you have known. Record some of the behaviors that please you, annoy you or cause frustration. Think about how your reactions to children may impact your relationships with them.
Factors that Affect Young Children’s Behavior
Each child is a unique individual. Children’s individual development and behavior is shaped by a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. Working with young children requires an understanding of the factors that may affect a child’s behavior. A child's personality and behavior are made up of a combination of natural inclinations and personality combined with external influence that can affect the way that they behave. All children misbehave at times, this is normal. The educator’s response to inappropriate behaviors may determine the future course for both the misbehavior and the child.
- Complications of pregnancy and birth - Recent research has found that pregnant mothers who experience high stress during pregnancy are more likely to experience complications that may create language and intellectual difficulties that are associated with behavioral issues.
- Malnutrition before birth and the child’s first two years may cause the inability to focus or handle stress.
- Substance abuse during pregnancy including alcohol, nicotine, and various drugs can cause damage to the unborn child’s nervous system.
The rate at which a child develops physically affects their behavior. For instance, a toddler often resorts to physical aggression against other children because they have not yet developed the ability to use words. As that ability develops, you may see a change in how they approach conflict in the future. Younger children are immature and behave one way, while older children are more mature, thanks to their physical and mental development.
Children who exhibit challenging behaviors may have an issue with their executive functions, which influences their ability to complete goal directed behaviors. Executive functions include:
- Planning and organizing behavior
- Anticipating problems and strategies to handle them
- Maintaining attention and concentration
- Flexible attitudes that allow changing from one mind-set to another
- Considering or taking the perspective of another person
Temperament describes the way a child tends to react to people, places, and experiences. Children who are easygoing usually are quick to adapt to new situations and are comfortable with new experiences. Children who are intense tend to react dramatically, take longer to adapt, and can be easily frustrated. Children who are fearful are cautious, slower to adapt, and may take longer to be comfortable with new experiences. For example, if a child is intense, moving immediately from one activity to another might trigger an outburst. Careful planning on how to transition a child slowly from one activity to another will be key to fostering positive behavior.
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