Factors that Influence Behavior

There are many factors that influence the behaviors of children. It’s important for teachers to keep these in mind as they observe, interpret, and respond to children’s behaviors.

Developmental Factors by Age

While each child develops at their own rate and in their own time and may not match every listed item, here are some general descriptions of children by age:

1-2 Year Old’s

  • Like to explore their environment
  • Like to open and take things apart
  • Like to dump things over
  • Can play alone for short periods of time
  • Still in oral stage, may use biting, or hitting to express their feelings or ideas

2-3 Year Old’s

  • Need to run, climb, push and pull
  • Are not capable of sharing, waiting or taking turns
  • Want to do things on their own
  • Work well with routine
  • Like to follow adults around
  • Prolong bedtime
  • Say “no”
  • Understand more than he/she can say

3-4 year Old’s

  • Like to run, jump, climb
  • May grow out of naps
  • Want approval from adults
  • Want to be included “me too”
  • Are curious about everything
  • May have new fears and anxieties
  • Have little patience, but can wait their turn
  • Can take some responsibility
  • Can clean up after themselves

4-5 Year Old’s

  • Are very active
  • Start things but don’t necessarily finish them
  • Are bossy and boastful
  • Tell stories, exaggerate
  • Use “toilet” words in a “silly” way
  • Have active imaginations

5-6 Year Old’s

  • Want everything to be fair
  • Able to understand responsibility
  • Able to solve problems on their own
  • Try to negotiate

Environmental Factors

  • Weather
  • Adequate Play Space
  • Room Arrangement
  • Materials Available (not enough)
  • Peers they interact with
  • Parent/child relationship
  • Sibling Relationship
  • Relationships with friends
  • Daily Routine (Rushed, busy, not enough time to play, run or exercise)
  • T.V. Exposure (screen time- amount and quality)
  • Lack of Sleep
  • Nutrition

Individual Factors/Personal Styles

  • Temperament (Easy, Difficult, Slow to Warm)
  • Learning styles/personal uniqueness

Social Emotional Needs

  • To feel loved
  • To be included
  • To feel important
  • To be heard
  • To feel valued
  • To feel safe
  • To have friends

Positive Approaches for Individual Factors, Personal Styles, and Social/Emotional Needs

Young children communicate their needs and wants through behaviors. Educators and parents can observe children’s behavior and look for clues about what it means. Since families know their children best, early childhood educators can ask families about their children’s behaviors and what they notice at home. Sometimes, the behavior’s meaning is clear to adults. Other times, educators and parents need to try different responses and watch the child’s reactions. Over time, adults will likely improve in responding effectively to a particular child’s communications.

Motivation behind Behavior

In order to respond effectively to children’s behaviors and to extend positive relationships with children, it’s important to understand the motivation behind children’s behaviors and then match your approach.