#17 – Behavior speaks

May 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Adoptive parenting do's | Leave a comment
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Yesterday I went to a seminar on reactive attachment disorder (RAD) given by Heather Forbes.  Neither of our adopted sons had RAD, but I went to educate myself on the issue and found there were many principles I wish I had known years ago.  These issues apply to all behavior, not just RAD cases.  I would recommend her book,  “Beyond Consequences” as a good read for all adoptive parents because it could open eyes and make you aware that there is always a cause that needs to be met behind all behavior.  I think we know that intellectually, but at the moment our child is having a temper tantrum, it’s hard to consider that.  However, it is often hard for children to put their feelings into words, so instead they let us know how they feel by acting out.

Heather discussed the three parts of the brain and when we use each of them.  When we (or our children) are upset, we revert to using our basic survival methods, rather primitive thinking.  Logic doesn’t work on us at the moment because we’re busy trying to survive what we think is a bad situation (even if it’s not getting that second piece of cake).

I think it is all too natural for a parent to react to a child’s inappropriate behavior such as shouting, kicking, having temper tantrums, etc.  We almost instinctively react to the behavior instead of reacting to the cause of such behavior.  Yes, we know it’s because the child is frustrated because he can’t have a second piece of cake or has to go to bed NOW, or some other actually small incident.  But, is it really about that, or is it an accumulation of feelings about something larger in life?

Bottom line – do we ask our children what is bothering them?  This question should come when they are calm and able to use the logical part of their brain.  My guess is we often neglect to do this.  A few hours after the incident, a simple “You seemed to react quite strongly a couple hours ago about X, is something going on I can help you with?”  You won’t always get an answer because often the child doesn’t know exactly or can’t express it in words, but at least your child knows you care and asked.  As Heather Forbes said yesterday, your answer is in your child’s behavior, now you as a parent need to look for the problem (real or imaged).

Heather went on to say we often work on changing our child’s behavior rather than looking for the clue as to what is driving that behavior.  Most inappropriate behavior is caused by fear or stress which a child can’t handle.  As parents we can help calm the child by listening and being calm ourselves.  Not always easy, but this goes a long way in resolving issues, and this process can improve your overall relationship with your child.

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