Age-Appropriate Behavioral Expectations & Age-Appropriate Responsibilities

Experts in the fields of parenting and child conduct often state parents have unrealistic expectations for their child’s behavior. Inconsistent behavior in young children – while completely normal – makes it hard to determine what can actually be expected at each age.

What can be expected:
Age 3 years

May confuse real and pretend
Will often show spontaneous kindness
May have tantrums when they do not get their way or when routines change
Want increased control
Will flip between wanting independence and wanting to still be a baby
Will continue behaviors that get them what they want
Need lots of praise for good choices, but gentle correction for poor choices
Need freedom to play and pretend
Need as many chances for decision-making as possible, but with limited choices

What can be expected:
Age 4 years

Will begin to play with others rather than just alongside
Very literal; people or things are either good or bad, nice or mean, right or wrong
Will begin to use words to get their way or control the situation
Still confuse real and pretend
May still throw tantrums occasionally
Need consistence – are aware enough to recognize inconsistency and old enough to use that to their advantage
Need acknowledgement of good behavior