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When should I begin to worry about my child's behavior



Not nearly as much as you probably think

When to worry about child behavior


For a decade, child psychologist Francyne Zeltser, Psy.D, has counseled lots of parents who are worried about developmental and behavioral issues in their children. As a mother of two toddlers herself, she’s even shared some of the same concerns. 

She writes, “Mostly my clients aren't sure what behaviors should raise a red flag for them—‘Should I worry when my child does this’ or ‘Is it weird that my child said that...’ I've heard it all.”

Dr. Zeltser has mostly good news. “I witness first hand how parenting can affect kids,” she writes. “Parents have a whirlwind of things to worry about, but we just can’t worry about everything. As long as we love our children and try our hardest to give them a happy childhood, we are doing the best we can.”

For instance, Dr. Zeltser doesn’t worry if she’s being a good role model.

As a working mom, she knows she won’t be able to spend nearly as much time with her kids as she’d like, but for her quality is more important than quantity. “During the work day, my children are with experienced caregivers who help teach them how to be resilient and adaptable to change. Even if you don’t go to work, time apart from you and your partner can help teach your child autonomy and independence.”

READ MORE: The power of good touch

Regarding “developmental milestones,” Dr. Zeltser wants parents to relax on this issue, and more than anything, to stop comparing their kids to other kids. 

“Children meet developmental milestones when they are ready,” she writes. “There are ranges of what is considered appropriate and what may be considered delayed.”

As for screen time, she echoes what many experts say: engage with your kids, monitor their use, and employ parental controls. The iPad need not be the devil. These days, it’s actually crucial.

What to worry about? 

If your child is unkind, if your child is unhappy, what educational decisions you are making, and who your child’s friends are. That last one in particular. Dr. Zeltser writes: “Focus your energy toward getting to know your children’s friends and educating your children on how to make good friends. Set up play dates or enroll them in extra-curricular activities and talk to your child after the event about how he thinks it went.”

Especially in such an anxious age, Dr. Zeltser urges parents to realize it’s okay for a child to be anxious, say, the night before a test. If anxiety about unspecified issues is prolonged, however, with persistent physical symptoms, she suggests seeking professional help. Otherwise, ease up – on both your child and yourself.



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