Kids are Talking… not misbehaving!
ADULTS – STOP YELLING, START LISTENING…
If one thing can raise our blood pressure or make steam come out of our ears as parents and/or teachers, it’s unwanted and unexpected behaviors. We’ve all got that in common, as kids come prewired with a lot of behaviors. The thing is, there’s a key piece of information that we have not been given… but it’s the most important thing you need to know as a parent and/or teacher. That is this: Behavior is NOT a discipline problem, it’s actually communication. Yes, the kids around you are speaking! They are scared, upset, worried, anxious, insecure, tired, sad, angry, happy, blood sugar is off, etc… First thing is to realize that behavior is a means of communication, not a lack of obedience. Let go of the power struggles and LISTEN!
DECODING BEHAVIOR 101
Don’t get mad for behavior… acknowledge it and talk to your kids. “Hey, I can see you’re really upset, what’s going on?” Remember, it’s okay that your kids get upset. It’s actually very normal and all people do. Now is the time to teach them it’s okay to talk about what is making them upset, and show them they can trust the people in their life to help.
QUICK BEHAVIOR STORY
My 5 year old son was acting out after school, and it got worse as the week went on. He was irritable, angry, short, and almost impossible when we got home. I finally talked to him. He has some expressive language deficits among other needs, so it was not easy…. but I finally understood from him that he was upset that all the other kids got to eat a treat for a birthday, but he didn’t. See, I had asked the teachers to not feed him outside food with a list of ingredients I wanted him to avoid, like food coloring, sugar, etc. My hope was to help control some of his ongoing struggles. When I realized how much pain the restricted diet was causing and even potential emotional damage, I let it go. He immediately shifted, and I was shocked at this new happier kid. We eat very healthy at home, and he still makes healthy choices, but for my family, lifting the diet restrictions in the classroom was the right choice. My son didn’t want to feel even more different and was so happy to just fit in. He has no allergies, so this was an option for us. Other ways to modify this if your child does have allergies would be to find a sweet treat that is acceptable to you and your child. Both of you agree ahead of time that this will be the treat in the classroom and your child will be better prepared when they don’t get what the other kids get.
CHANGE ANY BEHAVIOR
The difficulty of changing any behavior will vary for every kid and every situation. Some kids and/or situations will require just a conversation or some observation to understand what they were trying to say with their behavior. And, other kids and/or situations may need to be taught specifically what the desired behavior is. In fact, research says, if you want to change any behavior, you’ve got to TEACH A REPLACEMENT BEHAVIOR. You can really change any behavior; yes it’s possible! You can’t just say, “No, don’t do this/that”… you’ve got to actually teach what the “expected” and/or appropriate behavior is and give positive reinforcement. With my kid, when I really want to put an inappropriate behavior on extinction, I will create a social story about the expected behavior, walk him through every step of the right behavior, then use some repetition to practice it, rewarding him with every step (we use stars). We do this over and over and over until it’s muscle memory to do the “expected” behavior. Read more about it here…
What are some behaviors you would like to change with your kids? Have you tried talking to them? Have you taught a replacement behavior? Let’s talk about it.
Lots of Light, Candice.