Wilma's Social Workshops - Building skills to support families

Piece of the Puzzle

Challenging Behaviour and Hope


Behaviour is a complex thing. Behaviour is a response to what happens in interaction with our environment; with family, school, peers,community. Our physical and sensory environment etc. We cannot NOT be influenced by each other. Dan Hughes calls this intersubjectivity.

Behaviour is a response to events and circumstances, which happen around us and to us and influence how we feel about ourselves and the people we are dependent on for care, safety and connections.Thus behaviour in children and adolescents is also an expression of their needs, feelings, experiences. It can be a coping mechanism, a survival response; new or long time ingrained behaviour, which has become our default response.

Survival behaviours and coping strategies are often the best way a child or young person knows how to respond. If we are able to look beyond what annoys us about a certain behaviour,chances are we discover strength and resilience.

A child who regularly runs out of the classroom, may be overwhelmed by the level of noise, or triggered by strong feelings of being unable to complete a certain task. They may feel agitated and ready to explode or feeling deep shame, because they think they are not good enough or even plain stupid. By removing themselves from the class room they are trying to calm the agitated feeling or they feel a strong need to run or hide to avoid seeing their perceived failure reflected in their teachers eyes or in the comments of their peers.
A 14 year old girl with promiscuous behaviour may be looking for love and acceptance for who she is and thus trying to avoid becoming overwhelmed by not feeling 'good enough' and sinking into depression.
Our goal in 'managing behaviour' is not to make every person picture perfect. Rather engaging with a child/teenager and their family is an opportunity:

To connect; to communicate they are not alone or the only one
To experience help is out there, if only you can reach out or ask
To feel safe, accepted and understood, rather than judged
To be actively involved in finding alternatives that work for you and your family
To practice alternatives together, make mistakes and learn from them
To develop resilience by overcoming difficulties together
It can be very helpful to realise this for ourselves, when confronted with another child. teenager and family, who are at their wits end about what to do about 'the behaviour'.
It is only human to stuff up, to not see a way forward, to be unable to respond to a complex situation on our own.
It takes courage to acknowledge you are stuck. To step over or around your sense of pride, shame, feelings of being inadequate to reach out for and accept help.

It is also natural that once we feel the need to change our behaviours, there may be times when we fall back in old habits We all do it and if we are honest with ourselves I think we can all think of examples of behaviour and responses we have been trying to change for years, even decades. Sometimes we are successful, sometimes we fall back.
But we can always get back up again and have another go.
So why would we expect the people we work with to achieve all the change in one go and be judgemental and even punitive when they fall back into old behaviour? This may be a time where they need us the most, so we better hope that our previous time and patience to build respectful connections, will help a person to 'let us back in', during a time where they may experience shame about a set back.

Person Centred and Trauma Informed Practice means we need to think about support as an interactive experience, rather than something we do to others to 'fix of what is broken' and act accordingly.
It is not about fixing 'them' and having all the answers. It is about taking one step at a time and finding a way together;, as human beings. About celebrating success, no matter how small and about acknowledging that it takes time to achieve lasting change.

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Piece of the Puzzle

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