Guiding Children’s Behaviour

Chapter 3, Section 2:

Guiding Children’s Behaviour

A Natural Parent

One question you were asked last day was to describe a “natural parent”, ie: someone who just seems to naturally know how to be a good parent. The interesting thing about this question in your (older) textbook vs what you’ll find when you look on-line is that a “natural parent” in the google-verse (as opposed to universe) is a parent who leans towards feeding natural foods, choosing “natural” toys (ie: playing outside with leaves/dirt/gardens, playing with wooden toys inside), selecting natural fibres for clothing. There’s quite the difference between the two definitions… we’re not even comparing apples to apples; it’s more like apples to chocolate.

The fact is, there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and so someone can argue that there is no such thing as a “natural parent” as implied by your textbook The Developing Child. All parents are influenced by their own experiences. Perhaps they were parented in a way that they’d like to replicate with their own children. Maybe they disagree with many of the choices their parents made and want to do differently.

There may have been a relative, other than their mom/dad, who is the greatest influence on their parenting. Perhaps they read a lot, asking a lot of questions, have worked with other people’s children and these experiences are what influence their parenting. Regardless, the pressure to be a good parent is strong, and we should realize that we’re all influenced by different factors. There is no one right way to parent, and we’ll all make some mistakes. As a well-known parenting program knows, and has named itself, “Nobody’s Perfect”. And that’s okay too.

Discipline vs Punishment

Discipline is what occurs before the behaviour. Discipline is all about teaching expectations, how-tos, the steps, and follow through. Discipline is a teaching and learning process. It should be positive, and respectful of the child. The goal of discipline is to help the child learn what is expected (and those expectations should be age appropriate and reasonable) with the goal of avoiding punishment.

Punishment is what occurs after the behaviour. Punishment can be very negative, or (theoretically) it can be considerate. You can find articles on how “bad” punishment is, just as you can find articles on how “effective” punishment is. Regardless of one’s point of view, punishment should not be abusive.

These three photos illustrate how different people’s definition of “punishment” can be. Some people will disagree that they are all ‘punishment’, others will completely agree.

What do you think?


(Image 1:

punishment 2

(Image 2:

punishment 3

Image 3:

Please keep in mind that there is a lot of debate about what exactly punishment is and parents greatly differ on its definition (some parents may read the definition above and scream “NO! NO! NO! What is she saying?!”).

We could spend an entire term on discipline vs punishment, but we just don’t have the time, so we’re going to avoid that debate and stick with the most simple: punishment is what occurs after the behaviour. Our goal is to discipline (teach) instead of punish.

Assignment: The Developing Child, Chapter 3-2

Check Your Understanding # 1 – 7

Discuss & Discover: select one of the two.


What is Parenting?

Chapter 3, Section 1: What is Parenting?

Parenting is a Learning Process

Children don’t come with a manual, and in spite of all the child development experts (and “experts”), all the advice that you will get from friends and family (whether you want it or not) and everything you see on tv, movies, etc., you will stumble through some aspects of parenting. It’s a process of growth and development not just for the children, but for the parents.

The other day my son was watching me hold a 4 week old baby. He made a cute comment: “Mom, you’re really good with babies. You must have learnt everything you know from me.” Very cute, no? Yes, but also very much correct. Being his mom has taught me a lot about caring for an infant, and a toddler, and a preschooler.

My son is just about to enter the stage known as “middle childhood” and I’ve got to tell you, I know very little about parenting a 7 year old, 8 year old, 9 year old or older child. But I’ll learn, and I’ll learn from parenting my son. And at the end of it, I will know how to parent a child like my son and have a bit of insight into how to parent other children, but we need to remember that all children are different.

Understanding Children

One way that we can improve our learning curve is to reflect upon what it was like to be a child. Remind yourself of your childhood years. What did you like? What did you not like? Think of how different people communicated and interacted with you. Who did you like? Who did you feel most comfortable around? Think about why this is so.

A small piece of advice, come down to the level of a child. Generally speaking, they are not as physically tall as you are. They don’t yet have an adult vocabulary. As the adult hovering over a young child, using big words, you are a pretty intimidating person. As the adult physically coming down to their level and verbally coming down to what they can understand and how they communicate, you are much more approachable.

While the goal is not to be your child’s best friend, you do need to be able to relate and communicate with your child. If you are working with children, again, you need to instill confidence, and this cannot be done if you remain physically and communicatively above them.

Assignment: The Developing Child, p. 66

Check Your Understanding # 1 – 7

Discuss & Discover # 1

Considerations of Parenthood

Chapter 2, Section 2:

Considerations of Parenthood

Many prospective parents must decide whether to give up and outside of the home job to stay at home with their children. This decision is just one example of the need to balance various roles as a parent.

Anyone who has a career really has two jobs: the work done for their employer and the work of managing a home/family. Successful people find ways to prioritize what is most important to them – balancing needs and wants that are specific to their family. At the same time, they will also realize the other aspects of their lives that are important: health & well-being, relationships with friends and family, and personal growth (ie: learning, hobbies, play, etc.)

Trying to balance so many different roles and needs can be stressful. New parents soon realize that their lives have changed forever with the decision to have a child. Many parents learn that their ideals about parenting prior to having children change – sometimes drastically, sometimes minimally. While children become part of your life and part of your new normal, it’s unreasonable to believe that your life won’t change “just because you have children”.

skiing 1

Perhaps this was your favourite winter pass-time before having children.


skiing 2

Your new winter pass-time may be introducing your kids to those winter sports you enjoy.  It may not be what most people think of when one says “extreme skiing”, but it’s a new way to enjoy a favourite if you’re a skier.


Think about how a parent’s hobbies can stay the same and how they might change when children enter into the equation.

Assignment: The Developing Child, p. 55

Check Your Understanding # 1 – 6

View the movie “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (Netflix – in class) and follow the emotional plot line of one of the expecting couples. Summarize your observations instead of doing a Discuss & Discover question today.

Understanding Families

Chapter 2, Section 1: Understanding Families

Today, we started by taking a look at the various types of families. Your textbook The Developing Child identifies 4 different types: nuclear, extended, single-parent and blended families. But today’s society really has so many different types of families.

No one type of family is more “correct” than another. So long as people are in a mentally/emotionally healthy/supportive, caring family, they are likely in a family that is good for them. Instead of sticking with the 4 categories in the textbook we explored the web and found the following:

Different Types of Families: A Portrait Gallery

  • Nuclear Families: Approximately half of all families with youngsters under age 18 are composed of two biological parents and their children.
  • Single-Parent Families: Single-parent families make up 27 percent of households with children under age 18.
  • Cross-Generational Families: Approximately 670,000 families with children under age 18 have a family member age 65 or older living with them. Roughly 2.5 million children under age 18 live with one or both parents in their grandparents’ home.
  • Adoptive/Foster Families: Approximately 120,000 children are adopted each year. 3 children per 1,000 live in out-of-home foster care.
  • Never-Married Families: About 1.5 million unmarried couples have at least one child under age 15.
  • Blended Families: About 20 percent of children in two-parent households live in blended families.
  • Grandparents as Parents: Approximately 1.3 million children under age 18 live with their grandparents.
  • Same-Sex Parent Families: Some 2 million children have parents who are gay, lesbian or bisexual.


Research Note: When checking at the bottom of the web page we can see that this information is adapted from Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics). Remember when you are doing research online to scroll to the bottom of your webpage source to see if they’ve identified other sources you should explore.

When talking about families, it’s also important to honour how each family defines itself. For example, if a couple in a long-term, committed relationship but not married yet refer to themselves as “husband and wife” you should too. Likewise, another couple might also be in a similar relationship and want to refer to one another as “girlfriend and boyfriend”, again, you should too.

The Family Life Cycle is nicely explained in the text The Developing Child, but we also took a look at it in a visual sense. Families may be in more than one stage at a time, but for the sake of your assignments in this chapter, you will be selecting the stage in the textbook which best matches the question/descriptor.

family lifecycle

Image source:

For more information, you can refer to the HealthLinkBC website. As an overview they say:

What is a family life cycle?

The emotional and intellectual stages you pass through from childhood to your retirement years as a member of a family are called the family life cycle. In each stage, you face challenges in your family life that allow you to build or gain new skills. Gaining these skills helps you work through the changes that nearly every family goes through.

Not everyone passes through these stages smoothly. Situations such as severe illness, financial problems, or the death of a loved one can have an effect on how well you pass through the stages. Fortunately, if you miss skills in one stage, you can learn them in later stages.

The stages of the family life cycle [according to HealthLinkBC] are:

  • Independence.
  • Coupling or marriage.
  • Parenting: babies through adolescents.
  • Launching adult children.
  • Retirement or senior years.


Guidelines for Observing Children

Chapter 1 Handouts: Guidelines for Observing Children

The observation of children allows us the chance to better understand children and ourselves. The first example we took a look at was The Marshmallow Test.

“In this popular test, several kids wrestle with waiting to eat a marshmallow in hopes of a bigger prize. This video is a good illustration of temptation and the hope in future rewards. This experiment is based on many previous and similar scientific tests.” (YouTube description; Oct 6th, 2014)

This test shows us not only the behaviours of children when faced with a tempting treat but is also an observation piece that can look at delayed vs instant gratification.

The second video we viewed was The Mature Marshmallow Test.

This video is performed by actors; each assigned one of the children-characters from the first video. It is meant to be funny, but is also us the opportunity to observe (subjectively) how adults interpret childhood behaviours. This gives us an insight into adults and their relationship with children, but also reminds us that when we are working with young children, we need to stay current on what is important to them. [Example: as a parent I’ve watched more Max and Ruby episodes than I ever care to, but my son loved them, so I watched them too.]

Today, we also took a look at subjective versus objective observations. “Subjective information or writing is based on personal opinions, interpretations, points of view, emotions and judgment. It is often considered ill-suited for scenarios like news reporting or decision making in business or politics. Objective information or analysis is fact-based, measurable and observable.” While both are useful, it is important to know the difference because there are times when one is more appropriate than the other.


Overall, you need to consider what is the purpose of your observation and what is your role as the observer. If you are conducting research, for example, you’ll probably need to make objective observations. If you are evaluating learning outcomes as a teacher does, subjective may be more appropriate (but not always). Know your purpose before you begin your observation, and you’ll be more likely to choose the correct method. If in doubt, make objective observations.

The final video we took a look at was of children playing on a slide (1 minute long):

Think about how you can make observations that are objective vs subjective.

Childhood: A Time for Development

Chapter 1: Section 2: (Childhood) A Time for Development

Childhood is not a new concept, but the childhood experience has changed greatly over the past 125-ish years. One way we can see this is by their clothing.

  • In the 1900s, children dressed in what we would now call a “Sunday-best” or “Going to Dinner” sort of outfit.
  • In the 1800s, and earlier, children were dressed like tiny adults. A study in the history of fashion will actually tell you a lot about how people lived.
  • Today, clothing is bright, colourful, comfortable, and easy to clean. And what you see children wearing typically is not what you’d see on an adult, or even an older child.

Children in 2000s: Notice how the girls are wearing outfits that would allow them to run, jump and play. The legwarmers, which have been the fashion in children’s clothing for the last 10-ish years, can be added on a cool morning, removed as the day warms, and then added again in the evening; they also work as a cute accessory. Bright colours that children are naturally attracted to seem to make up the bulk of children’s fashion these days. Boys clothing is equally fun and functional.


Children in 1900: (Flicker image) In this photo, notice how the clothing is not as considerate of children playing. In this era, children did run and jump, climb trees and sit on the ground. But there were also social restrictions around being seen and not heard when around adults. The technology didn’t exist to make clothing that was easy care and comfortable. And children would have had only a handful of outfits at most.

1900 children (flicker)

Children in 1700s: (source: Notice how the children in this painting are dress like little adults. There is very little difference between the mother’s outfit (blue) and the toddler’s outfit. Due to this being a painting instead of a photo, we are unable to accurately determine the age of the middle children. In today’s society, clothing would give a hint as to whether they are teenaged or pre-teens. In the 1700s fashions were nearly the same for all ages, and the differences in styles, colours and fabrics were due to class distinction.

1700s children

Children and You

Chapter 1, Section 1: Children and You

Think about the children in your life. Perhaps you have younger siblings, cousins or are an aunt/uncle. Maybe you’re a youth leader, or do volunteer work, and let’s not forget babysitting little ones. Part of this course will require you to think like a child. Remember some of those things you did as a child that were wonderful, as well as those that were challenging. What stands out most? Also think about how you used to see the world differently.

There are many different reasons why people study children. Students in Human Services 11 are often interested in taking the course for the “Baby Think It Over” Program (BTIO/Babies/Dolls). In addition to that, most students are thinking of working with children some day in fields such as child care, education, social services, pediatrics, or law. Certainly studying child development can help you better understand any of these careers. But this course will also help prepare you for one day becoming a parent yourself.

One of the most important things to do when you are working with, or parenting, children is to come down to their level. This is both physical and emotional.

You should physically bring yourself down to a level that allows you to look them in the eye. That may mean that you are kneeling on the floor, sitting on small chairs in a classroom or daycare, crouching down, or whatever else you need to do to physically meet them where they are. This helps children feel less intimidated, and more like they can relate to you (though they won’t put it in these terms).

Emotionally, you should remind yourself what it was like to be a child that age. What did you like? Fear? Understand? People working with children do not need to baby-talk, but they may need to bring their vocabulary down a level or two. Adults should also be considerate of big emotions and little attention spans, young children are still learning how to manage emotions, and their bodies and minds are designed for short bursts of activity.

Additional Assignment: Sometime during this week, play like a child. This could be going to a play-ground, jumping in puddles or a pile of leaves. Think of some activity that children do with complete abandon and give yourself a chance to not only do it, but (hopefully) enjoy it. We’ll have a class discussion around this at the beginning of next week.

Textbook Assignment: The Developing Child

Chapter 1, Section 1, page 23

  • Check Your Understanding # 1-6
  • Discuss and Discover #1.