"Every behaviour is an attempt to fulfill an unmet or unknown need"

Children's behaviour can present challenges for parents and care givers alike at times.   This article addresses some of the reasons that children are apt to behave in ways that challenges us to ask "whats going on?"   If we can try to undersatnd misbehaviour as an attempt to fulfill needs, we are less likely to become emotional or frustrated with it.  That said, it is quite normal for children to present us with these challenges.  Children misbehave for a host of different reasons;

  • To Test Boundaries;     Children need to feel safe, loved and accepted.  Misbehaviour is the perfect vehicle for testing a parent or care-givers devotion and unconditional acceptance of a child and while it's frustrating, it is a normal and healthy part of development.    Setting limits and consistently having very clear and age appropriate rules is important.  It gives a child predictability and structure which builds confidence and self esteem.   
  • For acknowledgement;   For a child any attention is better than no attention.  If a child feels that he is not getting enough of his care-givers or parents time and atttention, or if he feels unloved he may feel it is necessary to up the ante and act out for recognition.  If we learn to pay attention and praise the behavioiur that we want to see more of, most likely, we will see more of it.  
  • Against unrealistic expectations;    Children grow in stages - physically, cognitively and emotionally.  Some-times a parent or care-givers expectations exceed a child's abilities.  e.g. asking a two year old child to tidy away all of his toys at the end of the day - he will most likely need some support to see this through to the end.    Having a clear understanding of developmental abilities can help us to set more reasonable expectation for our children. 
  • Being sick, tired, hungry or bored;    As adults, if we think of times when we are stretched, tired and hungry and are faced with yet another task, we can relate to how a child feels in this situation.  Optimally, children need up to twelve hours sleep nightly, healthy foods, lots of fresh air and plenty of opportunities to release energy through play and exercise.   Changes in behaviour are often indicators that a child is becoming unwell or is hungry or tired. 
  • To learn assertion skills;   Just as adults do, children move through developmental transitions.  Learning to assert oneself appropriately is a very important developmental task and a sign of maturation.  Some-times as parents and care-givers we might set rules and become entrenched, when actually particular rules were set at a time when they were vital to keep a child safe but now it is no longer necessasry.   It is important to listen to the reasons why a child decides to assert himself.  
  • When they are upset or dissappointed;   Much like adults, children react to emotional upheavals - bereavement, trauma, separation,  a lost toy, a fight at school etc.  However, depending on their age may lack the verbal skills and an awareness or understanding of what is happening for them.   As parents and care-givers, it is very important to acknowledge, accept and talk to children about what they are experiencing - give them the language for these emotions so that they can integrate this information and understand themselves better.
  • Because, some-times it works;    If a child has learned that whingeing, crying or throwing a tantrum works for him -gets him results, this behaviour has been re-inforced and is likely to re-occur.    The easiest answer is not to get sucked in.  Outline your expectations without becoming emotionally involved.  Give a warning (age appropriate) and if the behaviour persists, follow through with the consequence.  If you are trying to change challenging behaviour that has been re-inforced, be patient - it may get worse before it gets better.  
  • Mimicking role models;    Children do what children see. Children learn best how to behave by watching their role models - the people who are most consistently in their lives.  They also like to imitate or test out behaviour that they witness outside the home.  As parents or care-givers we cannot control what our children see other people doing.  However, we can be very clear about taking responsibility for our own mistakes around children - e.g.  "It was wrong of me to shout at you today".

The business of growing up is testing for children and keeps adults on their toes.    There is a lot to learn.  Be patient with your child and yourself.  Be genuine and generous with your praise and encouragement and above all - let your child know that even though you may dissaprove of some of his behaviour, you will love him and be there for him.  

The void

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd"  ~ Voltaire 

The only constant in our lives is that it is ever-changing.  When I am standing in the gap between all I know to be true and uncertainty, waiting for answers - the best I can do is to remember that I have stood here before, (maybe not in the same place or shoes) and have the ability to adapt AND I am not bound........   I have choices.

  • Instead of fretting about what I can not control I can choose to focus on aspects that I can control.
  • I can decide to be the Captain of my own ship, rather than a passenger on board at the mercy of another.
  • I can prepare and plan for alternate possibilities opening my mind to all available options.
  • I can become a spectator, as I watch and listen to the negative brigade arriving to fill the vacumn of uncertainy.  Observing my fear and anxiety I can choose to assert positive influence over my thoughts.
  • I can look to my past and times when I have been challenged and have confidence in my coping skills and resiliency.
  • I can pre-empt excessive stress by engaging in stress reduction, practising; gratittude, focusing on my breath, minfulness, yoga, tai-chi etc. 
  • I can choose to appreciate this experience or situation as a period of growth and acceptance of what it means to be human.

I always have choice..............

 

Major Milestones

Like the transition from bottle to solids or crawling to walking, entry and transitions through the educational system are milestones that might induce anxiety but more notably unearth a world rich in possibilities and a wealth of experience.

For those who have children making the transition from play school to "big school", most likely you are tying up all the loose ends and preparing bags, lunch boxes and uniforms. 

Today, a majority of children have attended a play school, Naonra or Montessori setting or have otherwse been exposed to groups. Both parents and children may have attended open days at school.  The groundwork in preparing for big school has already taken place. 

TIPS FOR ENTRY INTO SCHOOL

  • Talk to your child and let them know what thet can expect, answer any questions they might have.
  • Get your child involved in their own daily preparation, you might construct a visual schedule with removable pictures. Demonstrate how to remove the pictures as each task is completed.
  • Move your child's bed time back if necessary to adjust for earlier rises.
  • Have uniforms ready to hand so that he/she can self dress.
  • Allow plenty of time in the mornings, it's easier to manage stress levels in case of mishaps.
  • Begin school with healthy snack and lunch choices, plenty of water and familiarise yor child with opening and closing containers, bottles etc.
  • Review bathroom etiquette, personal hygiene, how to don/doff and hang a coat.
  • Tag all of your child's possessions, so that he/she can locate them
  • Promote confidence and self esteem in your child by displaying their school work where possible at home.
  • ON THE DAY, smile as your child enters the classroom, even if you don't feel like it - 'fake it till you make it', find a ritual that you both can use to say goodbye to each other.
  • Follow the teachers lead, he/she may have a full class of new children and a teacher's prioity is familiarising themselves with the children and establishing a relationship.
  • If its not necessary, don't wait around.  Overcrowing can be overwhelming for some children.  Assure your child you will see them as always in a short while and leave cheerfully.
  • Get a coffee, take a walk or get the newspaper.  Most primary schools begin with half days, pick up time will roll around before you know it. 
  • Lastly, let your positivity about your child's new world and adventure be their guide.

Good luck to all our children and parents.

 

DUTY OR PURPOSE

It's true, there are essential and everyday priorities.  How much time do you spend though, investing in ought to do or should do activities that are not essential to personal well-being?

When you live your life on the treadmill of shoulds and oughts, you live a life of duty versus purpose.  Which do you want to invest your time in?

Living slavishly to duty is apt to evoke feelings of guilt, anger and resentment.  Choosing to live your life investing in activities that are personally mearningful increases self-worth, self esteem, intuition, independence and of course places one high on the happiness richter scale.  The benefits are obvious and bountiful, less stress, more clarity.........

Balance your sense of duty with your personal purpose.  Challenge yourself to invest your energy in activities that give authentic mearning to your precious life. 

Deanah Mc Cormack August 2012

Deanah McCormack Counselling Services in Tralee, Co. Kerry is now offering sand play therapy and art therapy services.