From the time your baby is born until they graduate from college, they are developing and growing not only physically, but also verbally, cognitively, socially, and emotionally. For many kids, these skills develop in predictable ways and are often described by healthcare professionals as reaching developmental milestones.
Some kids will reach these milestones early and some will hit them a little later and for the most part, that is all OK. Each child is unique and develops and grows at their own pace. Still, monitoring your child's development and behavior patterns is useful because it can help you determine when something is amiss—or atypical.
Below you will learn to recognize the differences between typical and atypical behavior in kids at each age. With this information, you can identify potential issues and discuss them with your pediatrician or the appropriate school personnel so that your child can receive early intervention, therapy, or even medications if needed.
Overview of Learning Disabilities
Typical vs. Atypical Behavior
Kids develop cognitive, motor, social, emotional, and speech and language skills from the time they are born through their late adolescent years. When this process is typical, that means they are progressing at a rate that is expected for their age range.
Generally, experts will track development in five categories: social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and language, explains Lena Suarez-Angelino, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker. "[Experts] summarize behaviors into three categories [which include] the early years (0-8), the school-age years (8-12), and the teen years (13-18)," she continues.
Atypical progression, on the other hand, occurs when the child develops behind their peers, or displays behaviors that are not considered typical for their age. Even kids that progress rapidly are considered atypical. Atypical simply means that the child's development or behavior is outside of what is common for their particular age or developmental stage, says Suarez-Angelino.
Typical Baby Behavior
In general, we expect that babies will cry to communicate their needs (like being held or fed) and sleep a lot (though not necessarily through the night), says Jessica Madden, MD, a board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist, international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and medical director at Aeroflow Breastpumps. They also will be social and interact with others by cooing, laughing, smiling, babbling, and making good eye contact.
"Babies like to put their fingers and other objects into their mouth, and show interest in their outside environment (such as playing with toys and having books read to them)," she says. "They will also have some degree of 'stranger anxiety' that develops around 8 or 9 months of age."
When it comes to atypical behavior in babies, look for excessive crying and irritability, as well as not wanting to eat or drink, Dr. Madden says. It is also worth noting if your baby does not develop a social smile or does not start to verbalize. Missing these milestones could signal a delay in development.
"Parents should discuss any concerns about development or behavior with their child's pediatrician in a timely manner so that appropriate referrals can be made for evaluations with therapists and early intervention," Dr. Madden suggests.
Your 6-Month-Old Baby’s Development and Milestones
Typical Toddler Behavior
Toddlers learn through exploration, says Kristen Souza, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor, which may mean everything from eating dirt and climbing dangerous things to making a mess. You also will notice power struggles and big feelings at this age—especially during times of transition like leaving the park or getting ready for bed.
"Toddlers are learning that their little voices matter and are certainly not afraid to showcase their knowledge about it," says Souza. "Toddlers are not capable of regularly displaying impulse control or regulating emotions on their own; therefore, it is developmentally appropriate for toddlers to have tantrums. It’s also important to note that biting, hitting, and pushing are age-appropriate behaviors."
Although typical toddler behavior varies from one child to the next, Souza indicates that atypical toddler behavior might include not playing with toys, being consistently quiet (not from shyness), and having the inability to play alongside other children. Kids displaying atypical behavior also might have limited motor skills.
"If you notice your toddler isn’t doing a specific behavior that you think [they] should be doing, ask your child's pediatrician for guidance and go from there," suggests Souza. "Some children might need a little more assistance such as occupational or speech therapy and some might need more of a challenging learning environment."
How to Handle Out-of-Control Kids
Typical Preschooler Behavior
By the time a child reaches preschool age, they are likely becoming more independent and in doing so, may develop an affinity for saying "no." They also may occasionally have a tantrum, but they should be developing better control over their emotions and impulses.
"It is also typical for preschoolers to feel more comfortable venturing out further from parents and caregivers," says Sandra Calzadilla, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor. "They are widening their social circles and learning to play with other children. Children at this age also are learning social norms such as sharing and taking turns."
You may see children cry at drop-off or feel anxious about staying in school for a prolonged period of time at this age, Calzadilla adds. But, as they settle into school, make friends, and get to know their teachers, the anxiety or resistance to school should subside.
"Atypical behavior for a preschooler would be if the child is struggling with settling into their new environment; the child cannot be coaxed into engaging one-on-one with a caregiver or teacher in an activity; or if they are not engaging other children in play," she says.
If your child does not make eye contact with other kids and makes no attempts to communicate, talk to your child's healthcare provider, especially if they are ignoring other children who try to engage with them, says Calzadilla
"The most important thing children learn in preschool is how to socialize," Calzadilla explains. "If that is not happening it needs to be addressed immediately."
A Guide to the Moral Development of Preschoolers
Typical School-Age Behavior
Grade school kids are learning to take on more responsibility, so it is only natural that they want more freedom than they can handle. And while it is important to encourage their independence, they will likely still need your guidance when it comes to doing chores and completing their homework. They also need a little help in dealing with uncomfortable emotions.
"School-aged children also are now forming friendships and social circles," says Calzadilla. "Typical behavior includes exploring other interests that may seem to arise out of nowhere. Children at this age are also starting to get a sense of their own identity but can often engage in 'following' behaviors and may do or say things that their friends are doing or saying."
School-aged kids are also learning the more intricate rules of social norms like becoming aware of cultural and family differences and the struggles of friendships. They may even experiment with lying, Calzadilla adds.
Atypical behaviors in school-age children may include playing best with younger children (rather than their peers), not drawing pictures, being easily distracted, displaying frequent aggressiveness with no provocation, or being unable to follow single-step instructions, says Helen Egger, MD, the co-founder and chief medical and scientific officer for Little Otter. It also would be considered atypical if a child has withdrawn from peers.
"Get a healthcare professional involved if a child has an intense dislike for school or if they seem disinterested in material and cannot concentrate in school," Calzadilla says. "Also, if they are not making academic or social gains in terms of making even one friend it is best to address the issue before it becomes pervasive."
Sudden Behavioral Changes and Warning Signs in Children
Typical Preteen and Teen Behavior
When your child reaches the tween and teen years, their growing independence and desire for freedom often come out in an attitude—particularly with you as their parent or caregiver. In fact, it is typical for adolescents to be argumentative as they begin to separate from you.
"Preteens and teens also [tend] to push limits and boundaries," says Suarez-Angelino. "They may experience changes in their friendship circles, desire more privacy or freedom, as well as make some poor decisions that have natural consequences."
That said, if your preteen or teen is having trouble keeping friends or seems to be getting in trouble at school a lot, you may want to investigate. According to Eileen Anderson, EdD, associate professor of bioethics and director of education, bioethics and medical humanities, School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve, it is not uncommon for executive function problemsor attentional problems like ADHD to manifest in middle school and high school.
"You don’t see these issues until middle school because the workload was not heavy enough until then," Dr. Anderson says.
Other atypical behaviors you may notice in your teen include needing help with self-care activities, reaching a plateau in skill development, being unable to speak in long sentences, and doing work that is significantly below grade-level expectations, says Dr. Egger. You also may notice that they are experiencing problems with memory and comprehension.
"They may struggle with how to sort out what is most important or how to organize their tasks in the day including the tasks of self-care," says Dr. Anderson. "An example might be a teen who cannotremember their lunch or is consistently late to class because they are digging for something in their locker."
Most mental health issues also emerge during adolescence, she adds. So if your child is displaying signs of hopelessness, changes in their eating or sleeping habits, unexplained cuts or bruises, or talks frequently about death and dying, you should have them evaluated by a mental health professional.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Self-Harm at Every Age
How to Handle Atypical Behavior
It can be challenging to know what to do about atypical behavior in your child. But, the first step is acknowledging that an issue might exist and then reaching out for help.
"One of the biggest challenges parents face is the question: 'When should I worry about my child’s emotions, behaviors, and development?'" says Dr. Egger. "It can be difficult to know what your child’s behaviors or emotions are typical or atypical."
In general, Dr. Egger recommends that you look for an emotion or behavior change that persists, is intense, is pervasive across settings and most of the day, and is not markedly improved through your interventions. Here are some other things to consider when determining if your child's behavior is atypical.
Look at the Impact
When you are trying to determine whether to be concerned, Dr. Egger suggests looking at the impact your child's behaviors have on their life and their ability to do age-appropriate activities like going to school, doing homework, and maintaining friendships.
"We are not surprised that preschoolers have tantrums when they are frustrated and tired," she says. "They are beginners in learning these skills. But, when an older child has fits of rage, we are more concerned because their behavior does not reflect our developmental expectations at that age."
If your child's behaviors are impacting their day-to-day life or the lives of others, it is important to acknowledge this and ask for help because it could be a sign of something deeper. For Instance, getting in trouble at school or fighting at recess may indicate an underlying behavior disorder or even a learning disability, Dr. Anderson says.
Consider the Context
According to Dr. Egger, the context of the situation matters, too. Think about the short-term events that might explain your child’s changes in emotions and/or behavior as well as the larger context in which it occurred.
"Perhaps, your child has been sick, there is a new baby in the house, you have recently moved, or are returning from a family vacation," she says. "It is expected that children will experience short disruptions when there is a new expectation or a change in routine. What is important is to see if your child is adapting to the change and returning to their typical behavior and emotions."
Andrea Werner, OTD-R, an occupational therapist suggests writing down the behavior and the context in which it occurs. The most well-known and easy-to-use framework for documenting the behavior are the "ABCs of Behavior," she says.
According to Werner, A stands for antecedent—note what was happening before the behavior. B stands for behavior—list in detail the behavior which concerns you. C stands for consequence—document what happens after the behavior occurs. This way, you have a record to share with mental health professionals or healthcare providers.
Remember Their Age
Some behaviors are typical at certain ages and atypical at others. When trying to determine if your child's troubling behavior is an issue or not, make sure you also consider their age.
"[For instance,] defiance is a behavior that is normal under some circumstances and at certain ages but atypical and problematic in others," says Faye Walkenfeld, PhD, the chair for the department of behavioral science and associate professor of psychology at Touro University's School of Health Sciences. "A 3- or 4-year-old who is trying to establish independence and does not yet fully understand other’s perspectives might throw a tantrum when told they cannot play with a game until they put away their toys. However, the same reaction by a 10-year-old would be considered problematic."
Ask for Help Early
Most experts recommend expressing your concerns to your child's pediatrician, teacher, or counselor if you are concerned about their behavior. They can offer testing, referrals, and advice.
"I recommend that parents have the courage to acknowledge that they have a concern," says Dr. Anderson. "Pay attention to and honor that gut feeling that something is not right. Too many parents gloss over and then problems get worse."
Keep in mind that some kids may occasionally display atypical behavior, but then it seems to pass. For this reason, Dr. Walkenfeld recommends that parents recognize that behavior runs on a spectrum and not all atypical behaviors are cause for concern. Additionally, she says that diagnoses should not be made based on one or two behaviors, but rather on a pattern of behaviors.
"A parent who notices atypical behaviors should monitor the behaviors and try to work on improving them," she says. "If [they] are concerned, they should speak with a mental health professional. Generally, most atypical behaviors resolve themselves either with maturity or consistent responsiveness, warmth, and discipline."
That said, if there are extreme issues in preschool or grade school or issues that appear out of nowhere in middle school or high school, you may want to have the child evaluated by a mental health professional.
Understanding the Major Types of Therapy Used With Kids
Age appropriateness refers to people behaving as predicted by their perspective timetable of development. The perspective timetable is embedded throughout people's social life, primarily based on socially-agreed age expectations and age norms.What are age inappropriate behaviors? ›
Age-inappropriate sexual behaviors can include a child kissing with tongue, masturbating with the hand at a young age, rubbing his or her genitals against others, mimicking adult sexual acts, disrupting others with sexual behaviors, inserting objects into genitals, touching an animal's genitals, consistent sexual ...What are typical behaviors for children? ›
Behaviors that are expected and approved: This might include doing homework regularly, being polite, and doing chores without any hustle. Their actions receive compliments freely and easily.What are typical behaviors in early childhood? ›
Preschoolers are curious, easily distracted, keen on independence and still developing self-regulation. Preschool helps your child learn about getting along with others and following rules. Common preschooler behaviour concerns are tantrums, habits, lying and anxiety.What is normal behaviour for a 7 year old? ›
By this time, children can dress themselves, catch a ball more easily using only their hands, and tie their shoes. Having independence from family becomes more important now. Events such as starting school bring children this age into regular contact with the larger world. Friendships become more and more important.What are typical Behaviours? ›
The definition of typical behavior according to the Webster Dictionary is a characteristic or behavior that is normal and expected for a given person or thing or in a given situation.What is atypical behavior? ›
atypical: describes behaviors or feelings that deviate from the norm. etiology: cause or causes of a psychological disorder. psychological disorder: condition characterized by abnormal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.What are socially inappropriate behaviors? ›
Behaviours that are considered to be inappropriate, concerning or threatening include: angry, aggressive communications (verbal or written) unwanted attention. written material (assignments, exams, emails or letters) that suggest a student may be unstable or have mental health issues.What is an example of socially inappropriate behavior? ›
Examples of inappropriate behaviour:
saying things that are tactless and socially inappropriate (swearing) overly friendly and affectionate to strangers. making inappropriate sexual advances or engaging in other sexualised behaviour inappropriately (eg. masturbating in the lounge room)
- Conduct disorder. ...
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) ...
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) ...
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) ...
- Behavioral addiction.
A study on human behavior has revealed that 90% of the population can be classified into four basic personality types: Optimistic, Pessimistic, Trusting and Envious.What are 5 examples of behaviors? ›
Examples of human behavior include conflict, communication, cooperation, creativity, play, social interaction, tradition, and work.What are the most common childhood behavioral problems? ›
The most common disruptive behaviour disorders include oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These three behavioural disorders share some common symptoms, so diagnosis can be difficult and time consuming.What are inappropriate behaviours early childhood? ›
Disruptive and Inappropriate Behaviors
Some examples of these behaviors include stealing things, destroying things, ignoring rules or laws, threatening other people, picking arguments for no reason, choosing not to cooperate on purpose, or lying without any remorse.
Their curiosity is likely growing, and they might ask a lot of questions about the world around them. They may start to show more creativity in things like writing, designing, or performing arts. They might also start to develop hobbies or collect things.What is typical behavior for a 6 year old? ›
At 6-8 years, you can expect sophisticated play, stronger friendships, tricky emotions, improved thinking and physical skills, and more. Support development by encouraging children to explore ideas, focusing on children's strengths, reading together, and talking about tough topics.Why is 8 the hardest age to parent? ›
Eight-year-olds can be stubborn, slamming doors and rolling their eyes, in their attempts to establish their independence and individuality. Acting like doing their chores is an act of torture is common, and straight-up ignoring their parents is an 8-year-old hallmark.What is a normal behavior for a 5 year old? ›
Your child understands and usually enjoys jokes and riddles – jokes about poos and wees are particularly funny. Your child also enjoys the opportunity to do 'show and tell' at school. Your child understands more words than they can say, and they're learning as many as 5-10 new words each day.What is the Behavioural development of a 5 7 year old? ›
At this age your child will be developing a strong sense of independence. They will be socialising mainly with children around their same age and building new relationships and friendships independent of their family.What is normal behavior for a kindergartener? ›
He can listen attentively for an appropriate amount of time. She knows how to take turns, share, and work in a cooperative environment. He takes on self-responsibility with toileting and mealtime needs.
During this period, children are advancing toward adolescence, and peer friendships start to become very important in their social and emotional development. They have a growing sense of independence, and with it, a growing confidence to solve problems and perhaps take risks.What are examples of atypical behaviors? ›
Unusual eating habits, abnormal sleep patterns, temper tantrums, and aggression to self and to others are among the most common of these abnormal behaviors.What is the difference between typical and atypical behavior? ›
“Typical development in children gives a generic picture of progress compared to same-age peers. Atypical development appears when a child either lags behind or jumps ahead of typical peer progress, in any regard -- physical, cognitive, social or in adaptive life skills.” (Anita Holms, 2000).What behavior is not socially acceptable? ›
Unacceptable behaviour (including bullying, harassment and victimisation), may involve actions, words or physical gestures that could reasonably be perceived to be the cause of another person's distress or discomfort. Bullying or harassment may be by an individual against an individual or involve groups of people.What are signs of behavioral problems? ›
- Drastic changes in behavior or personality.
- Easily getting annoyed or nervous.
- Often appearing angry.
- Blaming others.
- Having difficulty in handling frustration.
- Frequent tantrums and outbursts.
- Feelings of sadness.
- Social withdrawal and isolation.
Abstract. Social behavior characterizes the interactions that occur among individuals. These can be aggressive, mutualistic, cooperative, altruistic, and parental.What are inappropriate social skills? ›
Sharing information in inappropriate ways. Taking metaphorical things literally, like “I'm so mad I could scream” Not recognizing when people look or sound annoyed. Being a poor listener.What is a likely cause of inappropriate behavior? ›
Causes of problem behavior can be a life event or family situation. A person might have a family conflict, struggle with poverty, feel anxious, or have had a death in the family. Aging can also lead to dementia, which affects a person's behavior.What is an example of an inappropriate act or behaviour? ›
Examples of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace include: harassment - offensive, belittling or threatening behaviour that is unsolicited, and may be repeated. bullying - repeated abusive and offensive behaviour, which in some circumstances may involve inappropriate physical behaviour. aggression and violence.What are bad mental health behaviours? ›
Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt. Extreme mood changes of highs and lows. Withdrawal from friends and activities. Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
Symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- frequently demonstrating an angry attitude.
- speaking harshly or unkindly to others.
- behavior designed to seek revenge.
ODD usually starts before 8 years of age, but no later than by about 12 years of age. Children with ODD are more likely to act oppositional or defiant around people they know well, such as family members, a regular care provider, or a teacher.What are the 5 behaviors in psychology? ›
The traits that constitute the five-factor model are extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Extraversion, sometimes referred to as surgency, is indicated by assertive, energetic, and gregarious behaviours.What are the six characteristics of human behavior? ›
This post explains, in very basic terms, these six key drivers: altruism, hedonism, homophily, memetics, narcissism and tribalism.What are the behavioral styles of personality? ›
D i S C is an acronym for the four behavioral styles of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness. The science behind DISC Behavioral Styles suggests that all people possess these four basic behavioral tendencies to differing degrees.What are the 10 types of human behavior? ›
The ten “types” are the Perceiver of Pain, the Ostraciser, the Tamer of Terror, the Beholder, the Aggressor, the Tribalist, the Nurturer, the Romancer, the Rescuer and the Kinsman.What are the three main types of behaviors? ›
Three fundamental types of behaviour can be distinguished: the purely practical, the theoretical-practical, and the purely theoretical.What are 5 Behavioural disorders in children? ›
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
- anxiety disorder.
- bipolar disorder.
- learning disorders.
- conduct disorders.
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a type of behavior disorder. Children with ODD are uncooperative, defiant, and hostile toward peers, parents, teachers, and other authority figures. Developmental problems may cause ODD. Or the behaviors may be learned.Do kids grow out of behavioral issues? ›
Young children with serious behavior problems don't usually grow out of them on their own. The earlier they get treatment. Evidence shows that children are most responsive to therapy before the age of 7. Treatment for behavior problems in little kids is mostly focused on the parents.
Children with disruptive behavior disorders show ongoing patterns of uncooperative and defiant behavior. Their responses to authority figures range from indifference to hostility. Their behavior frequently impacts those around them, including teachers, peers, and family members.What are childhood disruptive behaviours? ›
Examples of disruptive behaviours include temper tantrums, interrupting others, impulsiveness with little regard for safety or consequences, aggressiveness, or other socially inappropriate acts. In younger children, some disruptive behaviours are considered developmentally normal if they occur some of the time.What is an example of rude behavior children? ›
Disrespect from children and teens can be shown in a variety of ways - the most common being backtalk, complaining, arguing, attitude, or just plain ignoring.How do you discipline a rude 10 year old? ›
- Do not become angry. ...
- Make sure everyone is safe. ...
- Do not punish. ...
- Acknowledge your child's anger. ...
- Ask questions to understand the source of anger. ...
- Offer help. ...
- Teach emotional regulation skills. ...
- Teach how to express objections respectfully.
Children in this age group might: Start to form stronger, more complex friendships and peer relationships. It becomes more emotionally important to have friends, especially of the same sex. Experience more peer pressure.How do you discipline a 10 year old with attitude? ›
- Show and tell. Teach children right from wrong with calm words and actions. ...
- Set limits. ...
- Give consequences. ...
- Hear them out. ...
- Give them your attention. ...
- Catch them being good. ...
- Know when not to respond. ...
- Be prepared for trouble.
- Walk at all times.
- Keep hands/feet to yourself.
- Be kind to others.
- Use manners.
- Be a good listener.
- Allow others to learn.
- Respect others/property.
- Complete assigned.
- Develop Eye-Hand Coordination and Motor Skills - stacking toys, shape sorter, activity links gym, pounding toys, lacing toys and pull toys.
- Thinking and Creative Skills - Legos, building blocks, art materials, play dough, gears, puppets and dress ups or props.
Age-appropriate behaviors, even if they are challenging, help children learn and progress in their social development. It is normal and necessary for children to test limits in order to learn about relationships and how the world works.What is appropriate behaviour in childcare? ›
From a child carer's perspective acceptable behaviour is engaging with the child, promoting a safe environment and actively working to foster the child's development.
Social norms are unwritten rules of behavior shared by members of a given group or society. Examples from western culture include: forming a line at store counters, saying 'bless you' when someone sneezes, or holding the door to someone entering a building right after you.What is an example of appropriate behavior and inappropriate behavior? ›
Example: A teacher says sit down to a kid and he does what she said with no attitude, that is appropriate attitude. When the teacher says sit down and they say no that is inappropriate attitude.What is age appropriate learning? ›
Age-appropriate learning is all about adapting to a child's level of understanding, identifying the readiness of a child to learn, and then following the best-suited method of teaching.What are 5 reasons children misbehave? ›
- Your child is trying to get a real need met: ...
- Your child is misbehaving as a way of asking for your attention: ...
- Your child wants more independence: ...
- Your child is too young to be able to reliably follow the rules: ...
- Your child is stressed or has strong emotions:
Age has a remarkable impact on an individual's attitude. Psychological research has demonstrated that younger individuals are more open to new ideas. They are also more likely to accept people who are acting in different ways than they do. As people grow older, they become less open to new ideas.What are the unacceptable behaviors? ›
Unacceptable behaviour (including bullying, harassment and victimisation), may involve actions, words or physical gestures that could reasonably be perceived to be the cause of another person's distress or discomfort. Bullying or harassment may be by an individual against an individual or involve groups of people.What is inappropriate behaviour around children? ›
behaviour using force, aggression or pressuring others. engaging in behaviour that upsets other children involved. sexual interest in adults or children of very different ages to their own.What are the 4 types of redirecting behaviors? ›
In this module, we looked at four ways to use redirection: Verbally, physically, with a cue, or with proximal attention.