What do you see first, the behaviour or the child?

What is your first thought and rection to a challenging behaviour in your setting?
I’m going to repeat the question, what is your first thought and reaction to a challenging behaviour?
Why did I ask you twice? Because, for most of us, we would give an expected, often rote, reply. It’s normal to do that too, and for the most part it probably holds some truth.
But, really think, be very honest and replay a scenario in your head. How do you respond to the same child, the same behaviours each and every day, often several times a day. Are you really responding in the same way?
Is your body language, facial expression, inward of breath, outward of breath, your stance, the way you approach, your tone all exactly the same from the first time on a Monday morning, to the last thing of a Friday afternoon?
Let’s be honest, it’ll be hard not to be affected by the relentlessness some behaviours can bring, and you’re human, it’s ok to feel depleted.
Do you begin to associate the child with the behaviour, and consider them to have a behaviour problem? I mean, you’re doing all the things, and nothing makes a difference. right?
What if we change that narrative. Instead, let’s say that it’s not a behaviour problem at all, what if we said that it’s more relational; as in your relationship to the problem. Would that ring true?
When a child is labelled as a “problem child,” there is often an automatic belief that there is something wrong with them. How often is it considered that the child is having difficulty navigating something that is causing them a problem. We give a cursory glance to what we know about the child that maybe of influence, but how much of that do we truly take on board when deciding the best way to support them?
With the best of intentions, and sadly, often with a lack of understanding, the consequences often given in response to the child’s behaviour are more damaging that reparative.
Which brings us full circle to how we react to certain children and the behaviours they present.
Young children who act out the most are the ones who need us to step up and get invested. They need their primary adults to recognise that the behaviour is a symptom not the cause. When you look for why, you find the reason. You see the child is neither bad or manipulative, rather a result of the skills gleaned from formative relationships and/or developmental needs.
Giving both yourself and your child the gift of time to work this out, offers a new perspective and influences a more proactive and positive response to those daily challenges.
Will the behaviours go away overnight? Of course not, but you will certainly, slowly, change the way the child views their interactions with those around them.
Children seek connection, they’ll do that through whichever means they have developed the skills for.
You have the power to make sure those connections offer safety, support and compassion.
Together we can bring the change.

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