April 27, 2015


I recently attended a workshop on challenging behaviors. While I didn't find the golden key to unlock that one magical answer, I did find some fairly universal truths for all challenging behaviors. I went with my buddy specifically in mind (because he has the most challenging behaviors) but the points that stuck with me really work for all my kids.

Behavior is a way of communication. All challenging behaviors have a function and purpose from the child's perspective. Challenging behaviors result from unmet needs. We all have behavior that other's might think is insane, but they work for us. That is why we continue to do them. And we all know that changing your own behavior is a really hard thing to do. I'm working on listening from my heart and really trying to hear what my kids are telling me.

Having a voice is so important. My buddy lacks a voice that comes quickly and easily therefore his challenging behaviors are more extreme. I need to hear what his actions are telling me and then try to teach him to engage in a behavior that will serve the same function but in a more acceptable manner.

One point the presenter made really hit home for me. She said that instead of doing things to the person or for the person we should be doing it with the person.

I am so guilty of this. Sometimes it's easier for me to just do everything myself. It takes time and patience to let little people help. My buddy loves letting others do the hard work. I can now see how this could really limit him later in life. I want him to be independent.

Each person is capable of learning. You have to assume competence and have high expectations. Don't close doors that don't need to be closed yet. My buddy might never drive a car. But then again, he might. There is no need for me to close that door when he is only 6. I have learned in the past 6 years that there will be great disappointments when he can't do something but there are also amazing moments where he blows my expectations out of the water.

Another point the presenter made that resonated in me was when she talked about how easy it is to stop going places and how quickly and easily our child's world can shrink. When we go somewhere and challenging behaviors arise, it can be frustrating and embarrassing. It can take a LOT of extra effort just to complete a simple errand. It's so easy just to never bring your child out. I don't want that. I want my kids to experience a wide variety of places and people.

Now it's up to me to really listen to what the behavior is telling me and come up with ways to answer their needs by changing how we do things. Then keep trying. Eventually we will have many successful outings with minimal challenging behaviors. If I keep my buddy away from the grocery store because he runs off and throws food out of the cart, he will never learn how to navigate the grocery store. And let's face it, the grocery store is a big part of life. So maybe for now, he only comes when we have a few items to get and he gets to actively participate - stopping the boredom and creating the fun next to me so he won't want to run off.

It's not easy. I don't think it will ever be easy. But I am confident that I can do better. I want all my kids to fly.

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