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Mark Hutten, M.A.
Re: “Normal” Child Behavior Defined (Ages 6-11)

How do I know if my child's behavior is normal?

Moms and dads often have difficulty telling the difference between variations in normal behavior and true behavioral
problems. In reality, the difference between normal and abnormal behavior is not always clear; usually it is a matter of
degree or expectation. A fine line often divides normal from abnormal behavior, in part because what is "normal"
depends upon the youngster's level of development, which can vary greatly among kids of the same age.
Development can be uneven, too, with a youngster's social development lagging behind his intellectual growth, or vice
versa. In addition, "normal" behavior is in part determined by the context in which it occurs - that is, by the particular
situation and time, as well as by the youngster's own particular family values and expectations, and cultural and social
background.
Understanding your youngster's unique developmental
progress is necessary in order to interpret, accept or
adapt his behavior (as well as your own). Remember,
kids have great individual variation of temperament,
development and behavior.

Three Types of Behavior—

Some moms and dads find it helpful to consider three
general kinds of behavior:

1.   Other behavior is not sanctioned but is tolerated
under certain conditions, such as during times of illness
(of a parent or a youngster) or stress (a move, for
instance, or the birth of a new sibling). These kinds of
behavior might include not doing chores, regressive
behavior (such as baby talk), or being excessively self-
centered.
2.   Some kinds of behavior are wanted and approved. They might include doing homework, being polite, and doing
chores. These actions receive compliments freely and easily.

3.   Still other kinds of behavior cannot and should not be tolerated or reinforced. They include actions that are
harmful to the physical, emotional, or social well-being of the youngster, the family members, and others. They may
interfere with the youngster's intellectual development. They may be forbidden by law, ethics, religion, or social mores.
They might include very aggressive or destructive behavior, overt racism or prejudice, stealing, truancy, smoking or
substance abuse, school failure, or an intense sibling rivalry.

Your Response Plays a Role—

Your own parental responses are guided by whether you see the behavior as a problem. Frequently, moms and dads
over-interpret or overreact to a minor, normal short-term change in behavior. At the other extreme, they may ignore or
downplay a serious problem. They also may seek quick, simple answers to what are, in fact, complex problems. All of
these responses may create difficulties or prolong the time for a resolution.

Behavior that moms and dads tolerate, disregard or consider reasonable differs from one family to the next. Some of
these differences come from the parents' own upbringing; they may have had very strict or very permissive parents
themselves, and their expectations of their kids follow accordingly. Other behavior is considered a problem when moms
and dads feel that people are judging them for their youngster's behavior; this leads to an inconsistent response from
the parents, who may tolerate behavior at home that they are embarrassed by in public.
The parents' own temperament, usual mood, and
daily pressures will also influence how they interpret
the youngster's behavior. Easygoing moms and dads
may accept a wider range of behavior as normal and
be slower to label something a problem, while parents
who are by nature more stern move more quickly to
discipline their kids.

Depressed parents, or parents having marital or
financial difficulties, are less likely to tolerate much
latitude in their offspring's behavior. Moms and dads
usually differ from one another in their own
back-grounds and personal preferences, resulting in
differing parenting styles that will influence a child's
behavior and development.
When There Is No Response—

When kid's behavior is complex and challenging, some moms and dads find reasons not to respond. For instance,
parents often rationalize ("It's not my fault"), despair ("Why me?"), wish it would go away ("Kids outgrow these problems
anyway"), deny ("There's really no problem"), hesitate to take action ("It may hurt his feelings"), avoid ("I didn't want to
face his anger") or fear rejection ("He won't love me").

Being normal isn't always all it is chalked up to be, but sometimes moms and dads wonder if the emotional outbursts,
flights of fancy and mood swings their kids experience are par for the course or something to worry about.   

Below are some general developmental milestones for elementary school to help you understand your youngster's
progress over the school year.  Keep in mind that every youngster is different and may not fit perfectly into this
framework.


First Grade (Age 6)

Where They Are—

The average six-year old is extremely egocentric and wants to be the center of attention.  She:

•        Cries easily; shows a variety of tension-releasing behavior.
•        Has boundless energy.
•        Has difficulty being flexible.
•        Is attached to the teacher.
•        May be oppositional, silly, brash, and critical.
•        Often considers fantasy real.
•        Wants to be the "best" and "first."

Where They Are Going—

School isn't just about academics. Your youngster's teachers are also helping him grow socially. At six-years-old, your
youngster is learning to understand himself. You can help by encouraging him as he:

•        Begins to learn from his mistakes.
•        Begins to understand his own uniqueness.
•        Develops a positive, realistic self-concept.
•        Gains awareness of his feelings.
•        Learns how to participate in groups.
•        Learns to express feelings.
•        Learns to respect himself.


Second Grade (Age 7)

Where They Are—

At seven, kids begin to calm down a bit. They:

•        Begin to reason and concentrate.
•        Demand more of their teacher's time.
•        Dislike being singled out, even for praise.
•        Worry, are self-critical, and may express a lack of confidence.

Where They Are Going—

School isn't just academics. Your youngster's teachers are also helping her grow socially. At seven-years-old, your
youngster is continuing to learn about herself and others. You can help by encouraging her as she:

•        Begins to understand others.
•        Builds relationships with others.
•        Develops a concept of herself.
•        Develops a sense of responsibility.
•        Gains respect for others.


Grade Three (Age 8)

Where They Are—

The average eight-year-old is explosive, excitable, dramatic, and inquisitive. She:

•        Actively seeks praise.
•        Is able to assume some responsibility for her actions.
•        Is self-critical.
•        May undertake more than she can handle successfully.
•        Possesses a "know-it-all" attitude.
•        Recognizes the needs of others.

Where They Are Going—

School isn't just academics. Your youngster's teachers are also helping him grow socially. At eight-years-old, your
youngster is learning how to set goals and understand the consequences of his behavior. You can help by
encouraging him as he:

•        Becomes more responsible.
•        Begins setting goals.
•        Explores the relationship of feelings, goals, and behavior.
•        Learns about choices and consequences.
•        Learns how to work with others.


Grade Four (Age 9)

Where They Are—

Nine is a time of general confusion for kids. Nine-year-olds:

•        Are typically not self-confident.
•        Begin to increase their sense of truthfulness.
•        Can empathize.
•        Can express a wide range of emotions and verbalize easily.
•        Can think independently and critically, but are tied to peer standards.
•        Need to be part of a group.
•        Possess a high activity level.
•        Seek independence.
•        Want to put some distance between themselves and adults, and may rebel against authority.

Where They Are Going—

School isn't just academics. Your youngster's teachers are also helping her grow socially. At nine-years-old, your
youngster is learning how to make decisions and set standards. You can help by encouraging your youngster as she:

•        Begins making decisions.
•        Develops personal interests and abilities.
•        Develops social skills.
•        Gains a greater sense of responsibility.
•        Learns to engage in group decision-making.
•        Sets personal standards.


Grade Five (Age 10)

Where They Are—

The average ten-year-old has a positive approach to life. She:

•        Finds TV very important and identifies with TV characters.
•        Forms good personal relationships with teachers and counselors.
•        Is becoming more truthful and dependable.
•        Is capable of increasing independence.
•        Possesses a surprising scope of interests.
•        Tends to be improving her self-concept and acceptance of others.
•        Tends to be obedient, good natured, and fun.

Where They Are Going—

School isn't just academics. Your youngster's teachers are also helping him grow socially. At ten-years-old, your
youngster is developing communication skills and becoming more mature. You can help by encouraging him as he:

•        Begins to undergo maturational changes.
•        Gains awareness of peer and adult expectations.
•        Improves his listen and responding skills.
•        Increases his problem-solving abilities.


Grade Six (Age 11)

Where They Are—

The average eleven-year-old is heading towards adolescence. He:

•        Can relate feelings.
•        Exhibits "off-color" humor and silliness.
•        Has a range and intensity of emotions.
•        Is competitive, wants to excel, and may put down "out group".
•        Is moody and easily frustrated.
•        Is physically exuberant, restless, wiggly, and talks a lot.
•        Is socially expansive and aware.
•        Shows more self-assertion and curiosity.
•        Teases and tussles.

Where They Are Going—

School isn't just academics. At eleven-years-old, your youngster is making the transition to adolescence. You can help
by encouraging her as she:

•        Copes with changes.
•        Develops personal interests and abilities.
•        Handles peer groups/pressure.
•        Takes on greater responsibility for her behavior and decisions.
•        Transitions to adolescence.
•        Works on her interpersonal skills.