Observation: The Key to Understanding Your Child

Young children sometimes behave in challenging or confusing ways. You may occasionally have thoughts like:

“Why does she keep pinching her brother’s nose?" “Why does he put his snack in his hair?” “Why does she cry when it’s time to put shoes on?”

At first glance, young children’s behaviors can be downright baffling!

Preschool teachers are taught that all behavior is communication and we are trained to observe, document, and analyze children’s behavior to understand what they are “telling” us. With a few tips, you too can start observing your child’s behavior like a pro.

Looking for patterns

Any behavior that occurs over and over is happening for a reason. If you can find the pattern in the behavior, you can figure out how to stop it.

The first step is simply to write down what happens. At first it feels weird, right after your child puts a gummi bear up his nose, to pull out a pad of paper and write it down. The problem is, our memories are terrible. Simply making a note of what happened can help you see patterns you may not notice otherwise.

The ABCs of behavior

To up your game from simple note taking, try what teachers call the “Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence” model—or simply ABC for short. Don’t let the big words put you off. Antecedent just means “what happened right before,” behavior means “what happened,” and consequence means “what happened right after.” Basically, ABC means don’t just write down what happened—write down what happened right before and after too.

Write it down!

Some teachers seek graduate degrees just to refine their observational skills, but you’ve got the bones of it right here. When you’re stuck with your child’s challenging behavior, write it down, along with what happened right before and what happened right after. When you see a pattern, you can work on changing.



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