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What is normal behavior in children?

Posted by Be Well

What is normal behavior in children?
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Every child is different. They develop physically, mentally and emotionally at their own rate, and although there are milestones of child development, these are really only guidelines.

You should not worry if your child develops at a slightly different pace from his or her siblings (brothers and sisters), or other children of the same age.

Since every child is different, it's perhaps easier to say what behavior is not normal.


Most children go through an aggressive stage, usually when they are toddlers. However, if they continue to display excessively aggressive and violent behavior, appear to have a lack of social skills, or they do not respond to attempts to calm them, these may be signs of a disorder. For example, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

It might also be a reflection of how other people have behaved towards them (bullying or abuse). Talk to your doctor if you are concerned.

Periods of looking vague or not responding when spoken to

Children daydream, but you should be concerned if you regularly have problems rousing your child, as they may have a mild form of epilepsy or narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a condition which causes you to fall asleep at any time of the day, without warning. Not responding when spoken to may also be a sign that they have a hearing impairment.


Children often seem to have boundless energy, but sometimes this behavior can become more extreme.

Difficulty concentrating or sitting still, impulsive behavior and learning difficulties are some of the symptoms of ADHD. Your doctor or your child's school can help arrange for you to see a specialist if you suspect your child may have ADHD.

Learning difficulties

Children's abilities develop at different rates. However, when a child is very slow to learn to recognize objects, or to learn to talk, read or write, this may be due to dyslexia, hearing or sight problems, or possibly autism. Autism is a condition which affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people.

Teachers and nursery staff are trained to spot these types of problems, and your child should have regular hearing and sight checks at school. However, if you're worried you can talk to your doctor, who should be able to assess your child to see if they have any condition which may be causing their behavior.

Tantrums, crying and screaming

Babies learn to cry to get their parents' attention when they need feeding or a diaper change, but it's important that children grow out of this. Most children have tantrums between the ages of 1 and 3, but can be trained out of attention-seeking behavior, and will learn that they should only cry or scream if there is something seriously wrong.

If the child can't be trained out of these behaviors, or if they continue up to school age, it may be a sign of a syndrome such as ADHD or autism.

Fussy eating

Most children go through a period of being fussy about where, what and how they eat. In most cases, you only need to be concerned if their health or growth seems to be affected, or if their behavior becomes obsessive.

Socialising problems and shyness

Some people are naturally less outgoing than others, so not every child will socialize easily and have lots of friends.

It's normal for children to go through periods of shyness, so it's only really a matter of concern if your attempts to help your child get over their shyness do not work. Or if their shyness is happening in almost all social situations or is seriously affecting their daily life.

Reluctance to go to particular places or to meet particular people may be a sign of bullying or abuse. Trying to avoid physical contact and an extreme reluctance to mix with other people on a social level can be a symptom of autism.


Parents teach their children from a young age to avoid the things that can hurt them, such as heat and electricity. Some children may experiment with things that hurt - grabbing a handful of stinging nettles for example - but anything more than a passing curiosity may be a sign of self-harm.

If the child is simply very slow to learn which things are dangerous, it may be a sign that they have a learning difficulty or ADHD.

Sleep problems

It's normal for children to have some problems with insomnia, particularly getting to sleep, and nightmares. However, you should speak to your doctor if they continue and affecting your child's health.

Occasional bedwetting is common, particularly in boys, but it's worth seeking help if it's frequent or persists beyond the age of around seven.

If you have any concerns about your child's behavior, or the way your child is developing, talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner. If appropriate, you could also talk to your child's teachers or nursery staff, or your social worker if you have one.

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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