What's Wrong With My Kid?
by Nancy Monson
When behaviors we don’t like start being daily occurrences for our children, what can we do? In our recent parent group, we were discussing aggressive behaviors in children such as talking back or hitting. Instead of just focusing on what we could do to STOP the behavior, we began making a list of all the possible sources of the aggression. What could be causing the child to be angry, defiant, and decidedly in charge? A significant awareness the parents came to, was that quite often a child’s behavior is a reflection of something the parent is doing or something that’s going on at home. It could be parents arguing, having problems or not understanding what the child might be needing at a particular stage of development. If we begin to look at ourselves first when our child is having problems, it may help us find a solution to help our child move through a difficult period.
A three year-old was acting aggressively towards friends and teachers and nothing seemed to make any difference. They giving him special attention, time outs or taking away privileges to play with certain children or certain toys. The aggression was actually increasing.
We met with the mom and talked in great depth about the boy and his daily schedule. Mom said she was just so busy it was hard to find one-on-one time with her son. When they did have time together it was always with his baby sister too. We figured out he was angry because he wanted more time with his mom.
So, we brain-stormed and she was able to come up with a quality (all focused on him) half hour on weekdays to spend with him. The change in his behavior was immediate. When he got what he was needing, the anger went away. Young kids can’t talk about what they need or what is going on inside of them. It is up to us to figure it out, and that often requires an honest evaluation of ourselves.
Older children are dealing with more external input and pressures that can result in difficult behaviors. They may be having problems with peers or trouble learning. When we have conferences with parents we again explore a bigger picture than just what is going on at school. We don’t only try to change the situation, but look for behavior patterns. We also look to the parents to find clues.
There was one girl who was extremely anxious in working out problems with friends. She got so overwhelmed she would cry, shake, was unable to express herself, and sometimes would lash out physically. After meeting with the parents we found out that mom tried very hard to make everything perfect for her. This pressure, although it came from a loving place and wanting the best for her daughter was overwhelming. Once mom started to relax more, let imperfections and mistakes go and not be right on top of her, the girl began to relax and her relationships began to improve.
We need to realize that we not only pass on traits to our children, that come down through many generations, but that our children also “inherit” other tendencies that they learn from us directly or though modeling how we are. These can be gifts, talents and strengths as well as weaknesses and issues we wish we didn’t have. I can give countless examples of how our children reflect our behaviors and if we can have the courage to look honestly at ourselves, we will learn a great deal about how deeply we affect our children in everything we do. This can be painful sometimes, but as we grow, our children grow.
I believe that children need consequences and have to take responsibility for their actions. However, if this other piece, the piece of finding the root of the behavior is considered, children would not get stuck in behaviors they can’t change. Teachers have to commit themselves to helping parents find ways of promoting the development of their children not just intellectually, but emotionally and physically. Mutual trust, when it is there between parents and teachers, can be invaluable in helping children move through difficult periods, that are a natural part of growing up.
John Bennett said, “Whether we have to deal with children as parents or as teachers, our task begins with ourselves; and there is very much more benefit to be derived by children from what those in contact do to put their OWN house in order than what they attempt to do to put the child’s house in order. As I have said, the child’s house is still in a much better condition than our own.” (From the book “The Spiritual Hunger of the Modern Child.”)
© Nancy Monson, 2005. All rights reserved.
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