By Mrs. Charlotte Fudge, MSN,RN,CCM,BCBA
Determining what is and is not “age appropriate behavior” can be very helpful to parents when it comes to understanding what they should and should not expect of their children. It helps parents address whether or not their child is developing normally as well as what behaviors require discipline and which ones require a good laugh. Age appropriate guidelines assist parents in striking a balance between sanity and insanity, but most importantly between teaching and tolerating.
Most people associate “age appropriate behavior” with children under 5. They forget that adolescents and teenagers may also go through developmental stages. Thus, many problematic behaviors may in fact be a normal part of development and need to be treated as such. However, nothing can be determined without thorough assessment.
Simply using a checklist of age appropriate behaviors will NOT answer the question of whether or not a problem exists. The bad news is that if you are reading this, there probably is an issue that needs to be addressed. However, the good news is the fact that your reading this means that you will probably find help quickly you take things into your own hands.
The preschool years are formative in a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. These are the years in which the groundwork for future learning is laid and, thus, a time when determining if abnormal development is taking place is critical. Genetics do play a significant part, but it is the parent-child relationship and the environment surrounding the child that are his/her main influence in development.
Gross motor milestones are easy enough for parents to identify delays in, but language, emotional, and social development are much, much more challenging. In addition, parents do not understand what early learner skills – imitation, following directions, attending, etc. – are crucial to a successful transition into school.
“I knew something was wrong in our gut, but our family and even doctor said it was normal for her age. If I only had acted then.” There is no stupid question, especially one that involves your child’s wellbeing. You must have faith in yourself that you do know best and will search out the right answer for your child even when everyone else says you are crazy.
Remember that just because a behavior is age appropriate does not mean it is okay. The best advice we can give is that instead of focusing on whether something is “age appropriate” shift your focus on what can be done to either support your child’s growth through and/or modify it if necessary.