Does your child ever engage in challenging behavior and you are at your wits end trying to solve it?
It can be so frustrating trying to figure out what is causing the yelling, screaming, throwing, and so on while at the same time trying so hard to stop it from happening.
What do you do? How do you figure this out?
The first thing is always to Find the WHY. I wrote a few months ago about finding the why to behavior, and how all behavior falls into 4 categories (escape, attention, tangible, sensory) and knowing the why, or the function, will help you figure out how to help stop the behavior from happening.
But finding the why can be very challenging. Trying to figure out what’s setting off the behavior when it seemingly comes out of nowhere can feel like such an impossible task.
So here’s a simple question to ask yourself next time a challenging behavior occurs: “What’s the GOOD?” What good is your child trying to produce for himself?
Here’s the thing: everything we do, every behavior we engage in, is to produce some ‘good’ for ourselves. We call our friend on the phone because we want their attention. We eat a snack because we’d like to satisfy our hunger. We sit down in a chair because we’d like to relax.
Even behaviors that are socially unacceptable, even considered bad or evil, are done to produce some ‘good’ for the person engaging in them.
Next time your little one is throwing a tantrum, or crying uncontrollably, or hitting, ask yourself what good he is trying to do for himself. Is he trying to get you to do or say something (gain your attention)? Did you just ask him to clean his toys and now he’s throwing them and yelling (escape from demand)? OR: Did he ask for a package of cookies, was denied, and is now collapsed on the floor of the store aisle (attempt to obtain a tangible)?
Asking yourself, “What’s the good?” is not only a great way to help you figure out the why, it’s a really fantastic way to de-personalize the behavior, too! As parents, we often feel that our child’s behavior is a direct reflection of us. While sometimes this may be true, it’s important to remember that your child is his own person, with his own thoughts, desires, and experiences. It’s especially difficult when a behavior with such intense emotion (like anger) is directed at us. It’s easy to become angry in return, and to lash out at our child for hitting us, or yelling at us. By understanding the good your child is trying to do for himself, it becomes easier to separate ourselves from the situation, and allow ourselves to respond more calmly and supportively.
**A special thank you to Joe Clem, a Marriage & Family Therapist, Nurtured Heart Trainer, BCBA, and good friend for introducing me to this concept.