Understanding Kids' Behaviour: How Behavioural Psychology Can Help

7 min read
04 September 2023

Welcome to our blog post on understanding kids' behaviour and how behavioural psychology can provide valuable insights into their actions. As parents and caregivers, it is essential to gain a deeper understanding of why children behave the way they do. By understanding the underlying factors and influences on their behaviour, we can effectively support and guide our children towards positive growth and development.

In this blog post, we will explore the basics of behavioural kids psychology Adelaide, discuss the various factors that influence children's behaviour, delve into the power of positive reinforcement, address challenging behaviours, present strategies for promoting positive behaviour, and discuss when seeking professional help might be necessary. So, let's dive in!

What is Behavioural Psychology?

Behavioural psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on observing and understanding behaviour. It seeks to explain why individuals, including children, behave in certain ways and how their actions are influenced by the environment and other factors. Unlike other branches of psychology that delve into thoughts and emotions, behavioural psychology emphasises observable behaviours and their underlying causes. By studying behaviour patterns, behavioural psychologists aim to identify the antecedents and consequences that shape behaviour.

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The Basics of Child Behaviour

Children exhibit a wide range of behaviours at different stages of development. Understanding these behaviours is crucial for parents and caregivers as it helps set appropriate expectations and provide guidance. Let's take a closer look at some typical behaviours exhibited by children at different stages:

  1. Infancy: During infancy, babies rely on crying as a form of communication. They have basic needs for food, sleep, and comfort, which they express through crying. As they develop, they start to engage in simple motor movements like reaching, grabbing, and rolling.
  1. Toddlerhood: Toddlers experience rapid physical, cognitive, and emotional development. They begin to explore their environment, which may lead to behaviours such as touching, grabbing, and climbing. They also start to assert their independence, leading to the emergence of tantrums and defiance 
  1. Preschool: Pre-schoolers are curious and eager to learn. They engage in imaginative play, ask numerous questions, and may exhibit challenging behaviours as they test boundaries and explore their independence.
  1. School-age: School-aged children develop more complex social and cognitive skills. They may engage in peer interactions, develop friendships, and show increased independence. However, they may also experience stressors such as academic pressure, which can impact their behaviour.

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Factors Influencing Children's Behaviour

Children's behaviour is influenced by various factors, including genetics, environment, and social interactions. Let's explore each of these factors in more detail:

  1. Genetics: Children inherit certain traits and predispositions from their parents. These genetic factors can influence temperament, personality traits, and susceptibility to certain conditions. For example, some children may have a genetically higher predisposition towards anxiety or impulsivity.
  1. Environment: The environment in which children grow up plays a significant role in shaping their behaviour. Factors such as family dynamics, socioeconomic status, and access to resources all have an impact. For example, a child growing up in a nurturing and supportive environment is more likely to exhibit positive behaviours compared to a child in a chaotic or neglectful environment.
  1. Social Interactions: Children learn how to behave by observing and imitating those around them. Social interactions with parents, siblings, peers, and teachers influence their behaviour. For instance, a child who witnesses aggression at home may be more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour themselves.

Understanding these factors helps us gain insights into why children behave the way they do and highlights the importance of creating a supportive and nurturing environment.

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in shaping and promoting positive behaviour in children. It involves providing rewards or praise for desired behaviours, which increases the likelihood of those behaviours recurring. Here are some practical strategies the kids psychology Adelaide services and implementing positive reinforcement techniques with children:

  1. Specific and Immediate Feedback: Provide specific feedback immediately after a desired behaviour is displayed. For example, instead of saying, "Good job," say, "Great job sharing your toys with your friend. That was very kind of you."
  1. Rewards and Incentives: Offer rewards or incentives to reinforce positive behaviour. This can be as simple as stickers, tokens, or privileges like extra playtime or choosing a favourite activity.
  1. Consistency: Be consistent in applying positive reinforcement. Consistency helps children understand what behaviours are expected and reinforces the connection between their actions and the rewards they receive.

Understanding Challenging Behaviours

Children may exhibit challenging behaviours at times, such as temper tantrums, aggression, or defiance. From a behavioural psychology perspective, these behaviours often serve a purpose or fulfil a need for the child. Here are some insights on why these behaviours occur and how to manage them effectively:

  1. Temper Tantrums: Tantrums are a common behaviour displayed by young children. They often occur due to frustration, a desire for independence, or the inability to communicate effectively. To manage tantrums, it is important to remain calm, provide comfort, and set clear expectations and boundaries.
  1. Aggression: Aggressive behaviour in children can stem from various factors, including frustration, a lack of problem-solving skills, or modelling of aggression. To address aggressive behaviours, it is essential to teach children alternative ways to express their emotions and provide positive outlets for their energy, such as engaging in physical activities or practising relaxation techniques.

Seeking Professional Help: When to Consider Therapy or Intervention

While most children exhibit typical behaviours, there may be instances where seeking professional help from a behavioural psychologist is necessary. Some situations that warrant professional intervention include:

  1. Persistent Challenging Behaviours: If a child consistently displays challenging behaviours that significantly interfere with their daily functioning or impact their well-being, seeking professional help can provide guidance and support.
  1. Developmental Delays: If a child shows significant delays in their development, such as language or social skills, a behavioural psychologist can assess their needs and provide appropriate interventions.


Understanding kids' behaviour is vital for parents and caregivers. By applying the principles of behavioural kids psychology Adelaide, we can gain valuable insights into the reasons behind their actions and effectively support their growth and development. By incorporating these principles into your parenting approach, you can create a nurturing environment that promotes positive behaviour and fosters the healthy development of your child.

Source - https://makingmilestonessa.blogspot.com/2023/09/understanding-kids-behaviour-how.html

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