Some years ago I was on a motorcycle ride and found myself having to stop at an intersection where my stop was at the top of a hill.
For those of you who don’t ride a motorcycle, think stopping on the top of a hill with a stick shift. As with a car, it doesn’t always matter how great a driver you are, there are times when your timing is just a bit off and you jolt the take off, sometimes killing the motor. Today was that kind of day for me. Cars coming in all directions in front of me, and cars piling up on the hill behind me, and I’ve killed the motor.
This wasn’t the worst of it though. The worst was when the motor refused to start again, leaving me trying to hold up a very heavy bike on the side of a hill with nowhere to go. Thankfully, some of the people gawking at me from the sidewalk, decided to help and (after backing up a whole line of cars) we got the bike safely to a parking lot nearby. Upon inspection, I discovered a battery cable connection problem.
No matter WHAT I would have done on that hill, the bike was not going to start again until that connection was fixed. Often, challenging behavior with our children works the same way. No matter what we do, nothing changes until we work on the relationship connection.
“The children who deteriorate (behavior) the most badly and the most rapidly, are the children who want the most desperately to connect, and they don’t know how”Dr. Karyn Purvis PhD
We humans are born with the desire to connect, connect to other humans and the environment around us. Sometimes, much like the battery cable, synaptic connections in the brain become altered. These alterations happen when a child has experienced trauma or ACES (adverse childhood experiences). When this happens, the child may have difficulty trusting, building and maintaining relationships. For many of our children, relationships do not come easily or automatically.
The good news is that because the brain makes new synaptic connections throughout the lifespan, relationship connections can be rewired and reconnected. As parents we lead our children in the connection process. There are many benefits of having secure connection with our children. One being effective behavior correction. Secure connection is the catalyst for behavior correction.
If you are struggling with behavior, spend some time working on the relationship connection. Some ideas for building connection:
- give full attention when your child wants to talk to you. Put everything else aside for those moments. (If you have a child that talks ALL THE TIME, try scheduling a specific time for talking where the child gets your full undivided attention… same time every day provides predictability)
- give gentle, loving eye contact when interacting with your child. Show genuine interest. They will know if you are faking it.
- meet the child’s requests with quick, gentle, loving responses (even if the answer must be no).
- schedule time to just be with your child, playing or doing something the child wants to do. Even 15 minutes a day, uninterrupted can build your connection. The key here is to let the child lead in what happens during this time.
When challenging behavior happens (and it will) keep in mind the child is struggling. Approach the situation with relationship connection in mind. While you are stopping and correcting the behavior, try not to lose the relationship connection. It’s not always easy, but you’ll be glad you did. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at Jschork@hopeacademynwa.org.