I think that when it comes to solving behavior problems in children we have been going about this in a totally misguided way. With diagnostic labels like ADHD, ASD, ODD, depression (to mention just a few of so many), parents have a rationalization or so-called medical explanation for the child’s behavior. Then they seek coaching to ‘manage’ this behavior that they perceive to be caused by this diagnosed condition.
Now imagine a life without diagnostic labels. Imagine if the use of all the diagnostic labels we currently give children is no longer common practice. Without a diagnostic justification for the difficult behavior, parents would probably have a mindset of ‘let’s fix-it’ rather than ‘let’s manage it’. Without the fallback of the label, parents would, most likely, look for a way to find, and correct what it is that triggers the behavior.
I’m sure that it is no surprise to you to hear that most of the time the trigger for the troublesome behavior lies in something that is happening in the parent-child relationship. There is something that the parent is doing – totally unintentionally – that is not working for the child. This is the reason I call my practice Parents Take Charge. When parents find and fix what is happening in their relationship with their child, the problematic behavior goes away.
Why Children Behave badly
Children, like every one of us, do not like to feel emotionally ill at ease, uncomfortable, insecure or unsafe. And, like every one of us, different things can cause children to have these feelings. The moment a child feels ill at ease about something, this sets up a cascade of physiological events in the body and the brain, the end result of which is known as fight or flight. So when your child is angry, defiant or aggressive you will know that his body-brain chemistry is in the fight mode; when your child is withdrawn this tells you she is in flight mode.
Although this is not your intention, something in your behavior towards the child can cause the child to feel ill at ease, which then triggers this change in the child’s physiology, which then creates the behavior you are seeing. So when I say that we have been going about solving behavior problems in a misguided way, what I mean is that instead of changing the child’s behavior, parents need to change their behavior – and then the child’s behavior will magically change too. Instead of taking the child for counselling, parents should consider first going for their own counselling. If you do that, I can guarantee that your child will not need counselling now – or ever.
I get it that parents are behaving this way with only good intentions. I hope that these good intentions include the will to explore how changes in your behavior can change your child’s life for the better.