It will be a couple of years before she actually likes cruising the mall.

Realistic Expectations In Children's Behavior

by Sandra King

So you planned for two hours of special mommy and daughter bonding time at the mall -- a new blouse for you, a special toy for that little darling you waited nine months to pop out and then ice cream at the food court after shopping. What more could a girl want? Now you're left wondering why your nearly 3-year-old little gem spent most of the time whining to go home. Her behavior is probably more normal than you think, and understanding what to expect next may keep you sane.

1. It’s All About Me

If your toddler is developing as expected, he is thinking mostly about himself during his waking hours, and his dreams likely revolve around himself as well. He'll not hesitate to take the last piece of candy you were planning to savor after dinner or insist on playing a game his way rather than following the rules. Relax. He's not turning into one of those rude punks you dreaded in high school. He's just not pre-wired to put others first or wait for what he wants, and that often shapes his behavior. The candy was there for the taking -- so he did.

2. Age Matters

Your young toddler may have a blood curdling scream to express her outrage over a playmate touching the truck she thought was all hers. Additionally, by the time your baby girl turns 3, her larger vocabulary means she can use words rather than screams to get her point across. She'll typically start enjoying pretend play about then as well and want to have a fellow princess in her castle, which means she'll start to share -- at least a little. Sometimes you just need to wait a bit before her behavior matches your expectations. When she's a bit older, she'll probably have the energy to pick out a toy and have an ice cream at the mall before having a meltdown.

3. It’s Not a Done Deal Yet

Kids are magical but need assistance to grow into well-behaved people. One of your "mom" jobs is to teach him new skills, such as sharing, and praise him for positive behavior. Provided you explain your reasons, making him wait his turn during a board game, cutting the last cookie in half so little brother gets some too or placing him in a time out for throwing a book at the dog helps him learn. He'll need practice, but if you remain consistent with your discipline and encouragement, you'll help his behavior mature right along with his physical, social and emotional self.

4. When to Check With the Experts

If you're not sure what normal is these days, comparing your child's behavior to other children her age is one way determine if she's just acting like a kid. Observe how her peers act on the playground or discuss your worries with grandparents and experienced friends. It could be that all the preschoolers in your city like purple right now and cry if they have to wear blue. Talk with her preschool teacher or visit your pediatrician if you notice behavior that seems off, such as your 4 year old becoming overly aggressive with other children or preferring to play alone more often than not.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images