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A Child’s Behavior Communicates – Are We Listening?
May 17, 2022
Traditional behavior-based methods, such as time-outs, token economies, or behavior and reward charts, while still very popular, are not exactly supported by brain-based science.
-Jamie Chaves, Occupational Therapist

In the May/June issue of Exchange magazine, Editor-in-Chief Sara Gilliam’s Dear Reader column introduces several articles on understanding and addressing behavior by talking openly of her younger son’s very challenging first years. “He did not enjoy being fussy (a word I would love to banish from the early childhood vocabulary!) and did not want to cause trouble. He wanted love, nurturing, and connection, just as we all do. He was communicating his needs in the ways his body was able to. When he was ‘clingy’ (another word worth banishing,) he was telling me he needed to be held, snuggled, and spoken to gently. When he was screaming, he needed to release all of his big feelings and did not yet possess the language to do so.” Gilliam shows us how seeing a child’s behaviors as clues to their development and communication frees us from the rigid confines of compliance or morality and opens the door to co-regulation, part of what author Mike Huber simply refers to as being on the same team with the child. This approach is further supported by Mona Delahooke, in her book, Brain-Body Parenting, where she notes, “Instead of trying to correct or eliminate a concerning behavior, try to understand the clues it offers about your child’s inner experiences.” She asks, “If the ability to control emotions and behaviors isn’t fully developed until early adulthood, why are we requiring preschoolers to do this and then punishing them when they can’t?”

On May 26, Nature Explore is offering a 2-hour live online workshop on Addressing Challenging Behaviors by tapping into the power of nature.

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Comments (3)

Displaying All 3 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · May 25, 2022
Eugene, OR, United States

Linda, good point about shaping expectations - so important! In this EED, we quoted Delahooke stating, "the ability to control emotions and behaviors *isn’t fully developed* until early adulthood," I don't believe Delahooke meant it's not there at all in childhood; rather, the way I read it, she's in part asking for greater understanding of the demands we place on children and also that we dig deeper to look beyond the behavior as we respond to challenging behaviors and support children in growing self-awareness and self-regulation, which includes addressing the consequences of their behavior. Does that make sense?

Linda caldwell · May 17, 2022
Erie, Pa, United States

“The ability to regulate self emotion begins at early adulthood?” I totally disagree with this. The ability can begin to be learned as a child in the form of behavior shaping. You can shape a child’s behavior and self regulation can be taught for a child to “wait” or “share” or “aggression” that these elements are not acceptable and therefore a child can be taught more acceptable behaviors. If a child is allowed to continue with these behaviors and not offered or “taught” self regulatory skills, we may be grooming young adults that have never fostered self regulation. They will discover in life that it does not work that way and they are in for a rude awakening. Consequences for behaviors are no longer practiced in todays parenting skills which I find quite alarming. Once a child is given consequences for actions (which have not been given before). Extinction bursts occur which the child displays because they know their negative behaviors achieve results for them. It usually gets worst before it gets better, but it will get better eventually with the child developing the self regulation they will be needing in life.

Sarker Javed Iqbal · May 17, 2022
Dhaka, Bangladesh

A always cautioned preschool teachers not to mark 'dushtu' (means naughty) a child. Rather, I told them to think that being 'dushtu' is a skill for a child.

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