Learning to Address Behaviours as Communication

Posted: May 2, 2022

The Parent-Child relationship is very important. Children learn they are safe, secure, and loved when they have positive interactions with their parents or caregivers. “Calm and kind acceptance encourages them to express their feelings. Over time, they will find healthier forms of expression, but they will not be scared to share their feelings with us because they will know that we are capable of being kind and calm even when they have feelings that are big and scary.” (Davis, 2019, p. 127). As an Early Childhood Educator, I often notice families coping with challenging behaviour, and parents are sometimes at a loss for strategies. I address challenging behaviours by reflecting on feelings. Consider when you turn on the news, are running late, or forced to change plans. These bring feelings of fear, insecurity, and loss. As adults, we have established learned experience which helps us deal with challenging situations. Your child has yet to develop these coping skills and is looking to you as their caregiver for guidance.

As RECE and parent, I use reflective practices to help address behaviours in a calm manner. Here are some suggestions of reflective questions to ask yourself when dealing with challenges. What am I feeling and how am I handling my emotions in this situation? Am I using empathy and compassion? Am I modelling any negative behaviours? It is vital to remember that as a parent you are constantly role modelling behaviour that can greatly influence your child. “Children tend to be terrible at doing what we say but great at doing what we do.” (Clarke-Fields, 2019). A question many parents have is how do we encourage children to express all their behaviours, while we remain calm and not react? A great start is to view behaviours as communication.

Behaviours as communication?

Keeping calm and not reacting to a child who is throwing a tantrum, yelling, or hitting is a challenge. We may feel frustrated when children use items in different ways then adults intend them or scold children for putting things in their mouths and not being able to keep still. A child whining and clinging can be overwhelming. However, it is important to ask yourself if any of these behaviours are dangerous to the child or if they are a normal development of children’s growth. “Too often we forget that discipline really means to teach, not to punish. A disciple is a student, not a recipient of behavioural consequences.” (Seigal, 2016).

We have all experienced or witnessed these types of behaviours. Let us look at this behaviour as communication. What if we asked ourselves what children are trying to communicate? What if we took a deep breath and remembered they are children and still developing? Children are learning to self-regulate, they want to play, learn, and explore their curiosity. They do not always know how to verbalize wants and needs. Children use their bodies to communicate. Children might put their hands in their mouths when they are hungry or when they need to use the washroom. Whining or clinging can be a sign of tiredness or a need to connect. Being more empathetic or compassionate about behaviour helps our children learn they are safe and secure to communicate.

To explore Behaviours in detail, refer to the link below.

Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2021). No-drama discipline: The whole-brain way to calm the chaos and nurture your child’s developing Mind. Bantam Publishing.

Clarke-Fields, H. (2020). Raising good humans: A mindful guide to breaking the cycle of reactive parenting and raising kind, confident kids. New Harbinger Publications. From https://www.happinessseries.com/less-reactive-parenting/.

Davies, S., & Imai, H. (2019). The Montessori Toddler: A parent’s guide to raising a curious and responsible human being. Workman Publishing.