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EARLY CHILDHOOD FAMILY INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

When Parents Should Be Concerned About Their Child's Behavior

The following is not meant to be comprehensive but presents some of the most common behaviors of concern in young children. It is designed to assist parents in understanding some of the markers for normal behavior and when to be concerned. Of course, any time you are concerned about your child for a period of time, you should contact a medical or other professional.

Infancy (Birth to 1 year)

Normal Behavior Behavior of Concern
Cries in response to frustration, hunger, or fatigue Excessive crying that continues even when needs are met
Has regular sleep habits; sleeps soundly Not sleeping; restless sleeper
Recognizes familiar faces; may be scared by strangers Shows random affection with familiar faces; may show irrational fear without cause
Tracks movement with eyes by 2 to 3 months Does not track movement with eyes by 2 to 3 months
Snuggles and relaxes when held Muscles become rigid when held; doesn’t want to be held
Smiles responsively by 2 to 3 months Seldom smiles

List of Suggestions for Parent Action

  • Babies should not be disciplined; they are too little to know right from wrong
  • Document and describe the behavior of concern
  • If you are still concerned, all your pediatrician or a medical hotline
  • Document all interactions with medical or help personnel

Toddler (1 to 3 years)

Normal Behavior Behavior of Concern
Constant exploration, walking, running, and climbing Fearful of exploration
Can be left with minimal anxiety Severe separation anxiety
Interested in toilet training by 18 months to 2 years, but may not be sucessful Attempts to toilet train are diffcult and creates excessive anxiety and behaviors
Uses the word “no” Consistently screams instead of using language
Responds with curiosity to stimulus; comfortable with touch and noise Easily overwhelmed by stimulus; overreacts to touch or noise
May hit and bite, but an be redirected and stopped Severe temper tantrums that cannot be redirected or stopped

List of Suggestions for Parent Action

  • Beconsistent and set time limits for behavioral interventions
  • Keep track of frequency and intensity of behaviors to see if there is a pattern
  • If you are still concerned, all your pediatrician or a medical hotline
  • Document all interactions with medical or help personnel

Early Childhood (3 to 5 years)

Normal Behavior Behavior of Concern
More engaged in positive intera tion with peers Has diffculty playing or taking turns with peers
Imaginary companions Seems unusually cruel to animals
Likes one-on-one attention from caregivers, but can share attention as well Responds aggressively to shared attention
Curious; asks “why” questions Belligerent behavior in response to change in schedule or unexpected or unknown situation
Has fears; shows off and uses bad language to get attention Excessive fears; uses bad language to get control
Aggressive behavior to family members or peers that an be redirected Intentionally harmful behavior to self or others
Is actively exploring environment, but an take direction in safety Excessively hyperactive; does not respond to or remember safety instructions
Exhibits dangerous behavior; starts fires

List of Suggestions for Parent Action

  • Reinforce appropriate behavior by affrming the behavior you want
  • Develop a way to rewarding appropriate behavior and consistently implement it for several weeks to see if the behavior of concern is hanging
  • Reassure your child that you love him or her despite the challenging behaviors
  • Inform or remind hild of a schedule and what is going to happen next
  • Keep track of frequency and intensity of behaviors to see if there is a pattern
  • Call your school district to ask for the telephone number of the early childhood oordinator; ask this person to give you suggestions for responding to the behaviors of concern
  • Call your pediatrician to schedule an appointment