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All Behavior Is Communication

by Robin Goldstein-Lincoln

Over the years, I have come to realize that the purpose of most human behavior is to manage our emotions and connect with other humans. This is especially true for young children whose brains are less developed and thus reliant on primitive

ways to manage their big feelings.

So when a child is “misbehaving” we can ask ourselves:

What is my child trying to communicate?

Is she anxious? Is he feeling lonely? Is she overstimulated? Is he warm, cold or tired? Is she thirsty or hungry? Did he have a tough day at school? Did she have a conflict with a friend?

We can involve our child in the inquiry process. And in so doing, we train our child to be curious too. We begin to see challenging moments as problem solving opportunities during which we can work together to find sustainable solutions. We come along side our child. We work as a team.

By asking these types of questions, we are better able to identify the root cause. Being curious also engages the thinking part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, critical to problem solving and self-calming.

This process of inquiry introduces a pause, a chance to slow down, and be reflective rather than reactive. When we allow ourselves a moment to be reflective and curious, we are generally more open, available, creative and responsive.

Together, we notice feelings and needs, and find solutions collaboratively. With repetition, children become their own problem solver and active emotional regulator.

Of course this process of inquiry takes practice. We will not be reflective, collaborative and responsive all the time. We are human. However, at any moment we can try again.

The beauty of parenting is that we get lots of opportunities to practice.


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