What is Your Behavior Saying?
Picture this: You are sitting in an airport waiting for your family member, when you see a young woman emerge from the gateway. She stops, looks around uncertainly, and then a huge smile spreads across her face as she begins running toward a small group of people waiting a short distance away. She embraces each of the people, and they head toward baggage claim talking excitedly. We don’t know what the actual story is; but we can assume, based one behavior, that this group of people has not seen the young woman in a while and are happy to be together again.
Behavior can say so much. In the scenario above, I didn’t need to tell you what was being said in order for you to envision what was happening or understand the emotional undertone. Often times we get caught up in the words that are being said or the context of what is happening, and we miss the true meaning of what is being communicated through behavior. I work with lots of parents on behavior, helping them to understand what their child’s actions are really saying.
It is difficult to take a step back and think about what a behavior is communicating when your child is kicking, hitting, screaming, crying, or any number of other behaviors. If the adults can learn to take that step back, it can make a big difference in how the situation gets resolved. When parents realize that their child is behaving a certain way because s/he is feeling overwhelmed or has misunderstood, is in pain or tired, it is much easier to remain calm and react in a helpful manner. I am also aware that there are times when kids are exhibiting behavior because they are mad or upset, and this needs to be dealt with as well.
If a child is acting out because of reasons other than being mad, it is important to try and determine the cause of the behavior. Once you have determined what the behavior is saying, you can then take steps to improve the situation. Often times, children need time to return to a calm state before they are ready to have help with solving the initial problem. The way in which your child returns to calm can be different, but one important factor is that parents learn to stay as calm as possible in these situations. When parents are calm, the child is able to reach a level of calm more quickly. Most children do well when they are given time, space, and quiet. Other children need an adult to hold them or be near them. Finding what works for your child can take some experimentation, but being quiet is key whether your child needs you near or a little distance away.
When the child is calm, it is time to work on correcting the problem. There are times when adults realize that the problem lies with them. They have used too many words, given too many steps to follow, failed to provide enough time to process, or have not gained the child’s attention before communicating. At other times the child may be hurting, tired, hungry, or has some other physical need. The behavior may also stem from other needs unique to your child. If the behavior was a result of something you did, then wait until your child is calm and try again in another way to communicate what needs to happen. When a behavior is the result of a need, do your best to meet that need and then move on to the next thing in your day. Don’t spend time discussing your child’s behavior; s/he knows that the behavior is not preferred, but in the moment it is the only way s/he has to communicate.
As you practice staying calm, viewing the behavior in a new way and solving the problem together, your child’s behavior will also change. More specific intervention may be necessary, but this is a good starting point. If you have a child that is struggling with this type of behavior and you find yourself struggling with how to manage, seeking outside support may be helpful. We see children and families with these types of challenges on a daily basis. Behavior is a challenge, but it can be overcome when you know how to “listen.” For more information or help in this area, visit our website at www.Horizonsdrc.com.
Written by: Erin Roon, MA CCC-SLP
#HorizonsDRC #BehaviorIssues #Behaviors #ChildTherapyGrandRapids #BehavioralTherapyGrandRapids
Horizons Development Resource Center serves the following areas in and around Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Caledonia, Kentwood, Middleville, Lowell, Forest Hills, Hudsonville, Walker, Holland, Zeeland, Rockford, Byron Center, Allendale, Grandville, East Grand Rapids, Wayland, Jenison, Ada, Ionia, Newaygo, Grant, Sparta, Cedar Springs, Kent City, Hamilton, Hastings in the state of Michigan and all surrounding areas. If you are not located in or around these cities, we still may be able to help you, please contact us here http://www.horizonsdrc.com/contact-us with your specific need.