why do our children behave in certain ways?
My name is Caz, I’m an emotional coach for children, teenagers and adults, I’ve written a book called Donkey on a Waffle and I also teach baby massage. This blog follows on from my blog about feelings, because what we think and how we feel have a direct effect on our behaviour. E.g. if we are feeling sad, we may behave in a sluggish way, or if we’re thinking angry thoughts, we may act more abruptly or aggressively.
Behaviour is a signal or an expression. Challenging behaviour is a child telling us “There are expectations I’m having difficulty meeting.” When I say expectations, I mean these in a good way; they set boundaries that children need to know, and children feel safe when they have boundaries in place. We want our children to be happy and do well, but it’s easy to be over controlling in their behaviour. This is often when we’re making sure that our own values, experience and wisdom is shown in our children. For example, if we value politeness, work ethic and kindness, then we may have higher expectations on these aspects and get more frustrated when our children don’t reflect them.
When they don’t meet certain expectations, we try to modify their behaviour. However, if instead we try to solve the issue, then the behaviour subsides. As an emotional coach, I try to get to the root of any presenting problems, as changing an outward behaviour is great but it’s usually short term or another unwanted behaviour replaces it. We can’t change an event that’s happened or other people’s actions, but we can change the way we react and feel about it.
Children do well if they can as they are wired to please. This is because they want to feel they belong and are significant.
If they don’t meet an expectation, research says it’s due to lack of skills, which could be language, social or emotional.
There are three main skills that children may lack:
1. Grey skills. The world is grey thinking and flexible but children can be black and white. They can think they’ve either won or lost. Sometimes they may think “I’m loved” or “I’m not”. They live in the moment, so angry words may mean to them they’re not loved in that moment. These grey skills begin to change around 8yrs and up. The processing becomes more complex but this happens gradually.
2. Hindsight. Learning from past experiences lets us alter our present behaviour so we’re acting or reacting in a better way. Adults rely on past experiences to guide us in the present. We like to think we’re original, creative problem solvers but in reality we mostly rely on past experiences.
3. Separation of Effect. This is the brain’s ability to separate the emotions we’re feeling in response to a problem, from the thinking we do to resolve it. With children, emotions often get in the way. For example, in a heightened state of anger or anxiety, rational thinking (or listening to an adult) doesn’t happen. They have a lack of, or less, emotional regulation, so from the outside, it’s all raw feelings that we see. The anxiety or frustration can literally shut down the thinking process.