Red Flag Behaviors are essentially actions exhibited by a child that warrant deeper consideration of assistance needed in helping a child grow and/or master conflict resolution. But in thinking of red flag behaviors in children, let’s first focus on the process of being mindful of the whole child and wanting to maximize the best opportunities for that child. What does that process look like?
Consider the Child. Let’s remember that each child is different…as are their needs. When we come face to face with behavior to pay attention to, be aware of the child and how to best help them. This will vary but understanding the child as an individual as well as in the context of what is developmentally appropriate for their age will certainly help in identifying red flag behavior.
Consider the Circumstances. What is happening in the life of that child and in their environment both at home and at school? Might these things have an effect on the child?
Consider Yourself. Are you fully capable of being honest with red flag behavior and making an active and compassionate effort in working through that behavior to create a better outcome? Are you patient, mindful and resourceful?
These are just a few of the components needed for a strong foundation in helping with red flag behaviors. And now, here are some examples of red flag behaviors that would call for consideration.
Biting- This can be a tricky topic as biting is a very common occurrence with young children. An important thing to consider in the case of biting, however, is age and development of the child. Toddlers often exhibit this behavior as they test their boundaries and work through ways of communicating. As children grow older, though (so long as they have been given the correct tools and mechanisms to help resolve conflict and use their words), children beyond the toddler years with a consistent habit of biting may need further attention.
Standards of Cleanliness- Young children tend to need help with keeping tidy. Part of their learning process in the early years includes everything from potty training to maintaining their toys. But a red flag in the area of cleanliness might be the consistent soiling of oneself beyond the potty training stage. Sometimes an unawareness of soiling remnants on the body (excessive mud, sticky hands or wet clothes) might be red flag behavior.
Exhibiting Empathy- Children are learning about friends, family and feelings as they grow. Identifying emotions in themselves and in other people is a skill set that has to be honed. But in the case of an older child who is in constant disconnect with the feelings of other children upon wrongdoing, this may be a red flag for something much deeper.
Inappropriate Body Talk- Let’s face it: children are very curious about the body and when new words come into play that sound silly or get a reaction out of their peers (such as “poop” or “peepee”), odds are that the child will say it. This behavior is common. But when a child begins to explicitly detail body talk and adult behavior with other children often, it may be cause for concern with their exposure level.
Physical Harm- As with the previous red flags, it is important to put things into context with the age and developmental level of the child. Young children are learning how to make sense of and manage their emotions. Extreme emotions, such as anger in the heat of the moment, may result in physical harm to another person. But repeated extreme behavior with little resolve after procedural help from caregivers may be cause for concern.
As these are only some examples of red flags, it’s important to refer back to our first list of things to consider. If you yourself are noticing behavior with which you have concerns, it might be worth it to address it with an open line of communication. As teachers, parents and caregivers, maximizing a child’s potential in working through red flag behaviors is the priority. Use discretion and compassion in helping the child, the family and the classroom.
Ashley Jefferson is the early childhood enthusiast and play advocate originally from Boston, Massachusetts. She currently serves as a family and early childhood consultant through her work in the classroom, play groups and local Atlanta events. For more information, please visit www.playenthusiasm.com.