Thursday, June 11, 2015

Determining the Reason

Something I have noticed in parenting, is something I learned while teaching.....all behavior communicates. It's our job as the parent, babysitter, teacher, etc. to figure out what the child is communicating with their behavior.

Sometimes it's "My sensory system is overloaded (or not being stimulated enough)" (More on this topic in the coming months!)

Sometimes it's "I'm bored." or "I'm hungry."

Sometimes it's "I just need some attention."

And while sometimes, especially in the case of willful disobedience, I believe that there is a place for consequences or punishment (age appropriate & administered in love); generally, a child's wrong or inappropriate behaviors should also cause us as the adult to pause and think about the situation. We need to pause, see the situation from their perspective, and try to determine the reason. It's very possible that their behavior is communicating that they need instruction or a change in their environment, not punishment.

For example, a child who runs into the street needs instruction in safety rules more than a consequence. (Though this is a safety risk and that needs to be thoroughly understood by the child and limits with careful, constant observation by the parent is necessary!)

A child who whines while out shopping may just be bored (seriously, think did you like 3 hours of errands). Consider planning for games such as "I Spy" while in the store and see if you can help your child make his own fun.

A recent example in our own lives....We have a 5 shelf bookcase in our living room. I stored Meghan's books on the second one from the bottom and the bottom shelf was empty. She would come through several times a day and pull ALL of the books off the shelf before starting to look at them. This isn't a "wrong" behavior, but having to pick all of the books up several times a day was annoying and honestly, unnecessary. So I thought about the situation while watching Meghan engage in the behavior....I noticed that she would stand up and "read" the books she was interested in while the book was sitting on the second shelf. I wondered if she was removing all of the books to make space for her to stand and read.

That afternoon, when I (once again) picked up all of the books, I put them on the bottom shelf and left the other shelf empty. Guess what happened? She never cleared all of the books again!!

She gets out a few books, looks at them while standing on the second shelf or sitting on the floor and then leaves the area. I only ever have to pick up the books she actually looked at!

Thinking through the situation from her perspective and determining the reason for her behavior changed the behavior! It took a little bit of extra thinking and "work" up front, but completely eliminated the need to be vigilant in administering any consequence for clearing the books later when she would just do it out of habit rather than perceived "need" (because these things become habits long after the behavior is simply communication).

Yes, I agree with what you may be thinking....we can't always change the world to accommodate our children's wishes. Sometimes they have to give in to the way the world is. And I agree. But, I think that we, as the adults, have to remember that children are not mini-adults. They are not able to reason as adults, to think of ways to entertain themselves, to meet all of their needs, to verbalize all of their needs, and they do not see the world as wholly as we do. Especially when it's often so simple to do, helping them enjoy participating in the adult world is often the best choice.

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