WHY is my child doing the things they are doing?

Our brains deal with many things every second of the day.  Not only our thoughts as we internalise and consider new information, but also how hot or cold we are feeling, are we hungry, was that the baby we heard crying?  Even controlling every part of our body so that we can remain upright in the chair!  We could never actively manage all of this if certain systems did not just run themselves in the background.

And this is no different for your growing, developing child

To do this with our behaviours, the brain takes information it has gained from previous similar experiences, and swings into action.  Often before we know what we have done, especially when the behaviours are more emotionally driven.  So, if your child is used to throwing their toys on the floor and crying when they are told it is time for bed, this is probably what they are going to do tonight too.

This doesn’t mean they are this upset.  Or even consciously considering their actions

In an emotional moment, hormones flood our bodies, informing us of how we feel.  Our response to them is then conditioned by all our previous experiences and expectations.  And while the behaviour we respond with is of our choosing, our pre-conditioning is strong.  Meaning that we will often respond before we actively think about what we will do.  It does then take a conscious intervention for us to behave differently. 

If you shower every morning before you brush your teeth, the odds are this is what you will do tomorrow morning.  It doesn’t mean you can’t reach for the tooth paste first.  But without active thought – and maybe a reminder – you will be soaping up in the shower before you even realise you had planned to do something different. 

To change emotionally driven behaviours takes active thought.  But they can be re-trained and re-conditioned

You can change an emotionally driven behaviour in your child.  But firstly you need to manage all the other things their body is dealing with at the time.  Make sure they are not over tired, hungry or trying to manage within a hectic environment.  If you can ease all these other issues their brain is dealing with, it will be more open to learning something new. 

Our behaviours are also influenced by the positive and negative outcomes we got last time we tried them

It is also important to remember that the behaviours you are trying to change may be deeply engrained within your child.  Changing this will take time, lots of repetition and patience.  And mistakes will be made as they slip back into old habits. 

So, try to remain positive when this happens, it is instinctual, rather than designed to push your buttons!   There are powerful motivations at play here that you are trying to overcome.  But with every experience, you are taking a step closer to the new behaviours you would like to see. So, remain positive and enjoy watching as your child blossoms through the support you are offering them.

This article is taken from our course: The Secure Child

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.   www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk


Don’t miss:

Have you conditioned your child to feel certain ways?

How to help your child establish greater emotional intelligence.

Managing emotions in a social world: Because they rarely happen in a vacuum.