Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

How to understand your child's actions better

Why you need to know what your child is capable of doing, as well as understanding. And how to better understand your child's personality.

A while back, I was browsing the news, when a headline grabbed my attention. It was about a fear that I think most parents have:

"Michigan man says son, 6, ordered $1K in food from Grubhub"

The kid took his dad's phone, went to the basement, and ordered about $1000 worth of take-away food.

"Stonehouse said it took the arrival of a few orders of food for him to realize what was going on. By that time, there was nothing he could do to stop the orders from coming."

I cringed while reading the article, because I could vividly imagine it happening to me.

My kids often surprise me with how capable they are at using technology. They borrow my phone to watch a video, and the next thing I know they are playing a new game they found and installed.

But, here's what makes parenting so hard: while kids are often more capable than you think, they are also often less capable than you think.

They might know how to order $1000 worth of take-aways, but they can't understand why doing it is wrong.

And knowing what your child is capable of understanding, and doing, is critical to building a better relationship with them.

That's something that Dr. Heather Wittenberg reminded me about when I interviewed her for our book How To Get Kids To Listen.

Dr. Heather is a practicing psychologist, specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, and is a nationally known parenting writer, speaker, television guest expert, and social media presence.

When I spoke to her, she shared why understanding your child is so important if you want to connect with them, and get them to cooperate with you.

And according to her, a big part of understanding your child is to be knowledgeable about what you can expect from your child at their current age.

It's also very important to be knowledgeable about what we can reasonably expect from a child at a particular age. If we understand that for a five-year-old or a six-year-old, in their brain, they really haven't progressed yet to the point where they can consistently remember enough. But they need to be reminded.

If we know that, and then we understand where they're coming from. They want to be with us in the kitchen, or they're hungry or whatever it is, and we say, "You know what? I'm going to put the gate up because I want you to be safe, but here's a snack or whatever it is. And then when you get older, you'll remember, but now I want to keep you safe."

Dr Heather Wittenberg

During our discussion, Dr Heather also shared her model for the five most common Personalities of Young Children, and how you can use this to help understand your child better. By understand your child's personality, you can have more empathy for them, and also have a better idea of what to expect from them.

She also shared some useful techniques for changing your parenting approach to fit your child's unique temperament.