What is ‘Normal’ Child Behaviour?

Let me start with an apology, this blog post has been brewing in my mind all week so far and this is the first time I have had a chance to sit down and put pen to paper – or should I say fingers to keyboard? – I use this blog as a cathartic release of pent up parenting frustration as much as any other reason and I have a lot of it pent up this week, if you read on you have been warned!

So, this week I am volunteering as a helper at a week long summer bible school for around 600 children aged from 4 to 16. The camp also has a creche for the helper’s children who range from 3mths to 4. The helpers come from all walks of life and all ages, however many are 60 plus church goers giving back to society and helping with the children – lovely to see.

Now onto my pent up frustration – the older generation’s vision of  ”a good child”, let’s just say it doesn’t tally with mine! for instance today – two small babies who I have never seen out of their buggy who sit (scrunched up) and stare quietly into space for too long a time than is good  for babies.  I wonder why they don’t cry? I have never heard a peep from either of them, why they don’t protest their boredom? or need to move? or be held? why do they just sit and stare? I have wondered all this and more – but my older contempories coo over them “aren’t they good?” “have you seen these two Beryl, aren’t they angels, sitting there so quietly”……..me on the other hand, my heart is screaming “NO – that’s not good – that’s worrying, pick them up, play with them, talk to them, stimulate them – they  are two young to have switched off from life!”………….

We are on such different pages when it comes to discipline and expectations of “manners” of 4year old we might as well be in different bookstores. Of course you understand the camp is neither the time or the place for that discussion – that I suspect will fall on deaf ears of the “a quick smack round the head never did our Johnny any harm” brigade – so I am ranting here (sorry!).

So Beryl and Meryl – I would like to tell you a little bit about normal child behaviour:

  • Normal 4 year olds get bored quickly, this is good, they are inquisitive, their agile minds think quickly – they are not being rude when they do not listen avidly to your wistful stories for 20 minutes, perhaps you need to think of better ways to keep their attention?
  • Normal small children find it hard to sit still (heck even I have done this week!) – fiddling with the grass beneath them and learning about the texture of different grasses and plants on their hands is not naughty – it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not listening to you, sometimes it helps them to concentrate more by keeping their fingers busy.
  • 18 month olds do not understand the concept of sharing, it doesn’t matter how long you explain right and wrong and naughty and good and rude and polite to them or make them say sorry – it will not make a jot of difference. They don’t get it and they won’t for a good few years yet because their brain is different to yours.
  • Sitting cross legged with your hands in your lap is not easy for a 3 year old, it is an unnatural way for them to sit, squatting is not “uncivilised” – it feels good to them, we are the abnormal ones!
  • A young child is not being awkward when they desperately need a wee, even though 30 minutes earlier they said they didn’t need one.
  • The little boy who pulls faces during assembly is not  “a horror” – I find him quite funny, I have the same thoughts as him sometimes,  it’s tough going paying attention!
  • A toddler who touches everything, puts it in his mouth, throws it across the room and stamps on it is not being naughty, he is learning about the world.
  • A young boy who talks all the time, even over you, is not rude – maybe you should stop and listen to him more?
  • Making a young child stand up in front of all his peers to embarrass him (for the above) is not an appropriate way to discipline.
  • A baby carried in a sling is not “clingy” and yes – she will walk by herself one day, it won’t make her lazy.
  • Listening to a todder’s needs and responding to them is not “pandering to them”
  • A 1 yr old is not “too old for that sort of thing” (aka breastfeeding).
  • Pushing a crying baby  around in a buggy is not the best way to comfort them.
  • Babies don’t always cry just because “they’re tired”.
  • Unrolling a whole  roll of tinfoil and rolling on it is not naughty  – it sounds rather fun to me!
  • Children do not learn best by “a quick slap round the ears”.
  • The best  way to deal with a toddler  who hits is not “punching it back”.

A child is not “careless” if he gets paint all over himself, he’s just a child – and have you ever experienced the joy of getting messy just for the sake of it? look how chuffed my 7yr old was at Camp Bestival last week when he was let loose with poster paints and a free reign to get as messy as he wanted:

  • and lastly my 7yr old, the paint monster from above,  is not “a mummy’s boy” because he likes to spend his breaktimes cuddling me.

Phew – that’s better!


Published by SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.

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