NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Three Steps for Understanding and Responding to Challenging Behavior

Three Steps for Understanding and Responding to Challenging Behavior 6/22/18Babies and young children can present challenging behaviors.  For example:
-   tantrums
-    strong reactions
-    inconsolable crying
-    separation anxiety
-    social withdrawal
-    biting

Parents and caregivers may become frustrated with the challenging behaviors of babies and young children, especially when they feel like they’ve “tried everything” and the behaviors don’t change or stop.

Zero to Three is a reputable organization whose mission is “to ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life.” They propose that children’s behavior has meaning.  Based on that belief, they recommend a three-step approach for parents and caregivers to use in figuring out what children might be communicating through their behaviors, and how best to respond.

The three step process is simply:  Observe -   Learn -  Respond

For example, if the challenging behavior is biting, the good people at Zero to Three tell us that the “observe” step could be to pay attention and see what is happening before the child bites. 

According to Zero to Three, the “learn” step would be to problem-solve by asking yourself what might be causing the child to bite.  That means questions like:  Is he teething or meeting a need for oral stimulation?  Was he trying to engage someone or get their attention?  Was he frustrated or angry?  Was he defending a toy or protecting his space?

Depending on the identified cause, the third step, “respond,” would include solutions that Zero to Three suggests such as:  
  -   offering objects to the child that he can safely bite and chew,
  -   offering crunchy, age-appropriate foods,
  -   modeling the use of simple words (“No” or “I want”) to defend or protect his toys or his space,
  -   saying firmly, “No biting. Biting hurts.”
  -   offering an escape to a place where he can calm down and regroup amid books or quiet toys

Additional reliable information on this topic and related topics such as early development and well-being, early learning, and parenting is available from the NDSU Extension office in Sargent County, and at the Zero to Three website online at https://www.zerotothree.org/.

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/teddy-bear-nurture-needs-childhood-487277/ (downloaded 6/26/18)

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