Understanding Challenging Behaviour
Updated: May 12
Are you worried about your child's behaviour? Are they pushing all your buttons? If their behaviour is challenging, it’s not necessarily their fault - and it’s not necessarily the fault of your parenting skills. In fact, ‘Fault’ is not a very helpful description of the causes, which may be several.
It may be simply their age, It may be diet or sleep related. It may be to do with what is going in their life - or the world at large. As I write and the Corona virus pandemic is severely impacting our lives, there have been some amusing social media posts from parents who are having to home-school their kids AND observe a curfew: “Now I know what they have to deal with on a daily basis ,teachers deserve a huge pay rise” Challenging behaviour may signal an ability to communicate - even a coded cry for help. Children can struggle to express their fears and can easily go way pass the point of rational thought. The challenge for parents is to work out what is going on - are they in pain, are they exhausted, frustrated, afraid or just plain bored? The British Deaf Association say that 93% of communication is non verbal. Not quite sure how they worked that out but you get the point. Psychologists have a phrase for it: ‘acting out’. My daughter Poppy is pretty much self contained when it comes to schooling (though she can act out in other ways) but my son Spike has to comply to a medical treatment regime that is invasive, painful and disruptive of his daily life. Getting him to cooperate is frustrating, it’s a source of conflict in our family and it is a constant reminder of his condition. When his moods swing we have to do a quick process of elimination - did he have a relatively peaceful night? how is his input / output (has he absorbed his food & could his sodium levels be out), is he coming down with something or are these the symptoms of a normal growing boy? How do you deal with daily battles? What resources do you use? Aren’t you tired? These are just some of the questions I am regularly asked. There is no doubt that it is challenging, for both parents and siblings! So here are my tips as a mother and carer:
Top Tips For Challenging Behaviour:
- Body language communicates a wealth of information - look at facial expressions, body movements & posture.
- Don't try to 'solve' the problem
- Recognise what triggers you and have strategies such as 'Distraction', 'Safe Space' and 'Focused Breathing'.
- Have regular discussions. I have found the 'Worry Tree' a really valuable aid when talking to my children. They both have a printout by their bed and we try to discuss any issues before they go to sleep - you can download a printable pdf from my Free Resources page HERE)
- Develop and sustain a consistent routine - this is super important
- Agree rewards and a reward system (and stick to it) - this can be a good way to ration computer time.
- Allow your child to be actively involved in their care.
- Give your child more responsibility and independence.
- Spend time with each child on their own every week.
- Try to relax and have some time on your own.
- Be conscious of your own tone of voice, and body language - what are YOU trying to communicate? Above all remember you are human - there will be days that you swear and shout and even storm out of the room....or is that just me? Especially at times like this when there is increased pressure on all of us, aim for establishing good habits for the longer term - rather than trying to be perfect (and self criticising for not being able to be so). Here is a YouTube Tip by Yvonne Newbold, the founder of SENDVCB Project and the author of The Special Parent’s Handbook.