In an interesting twist, the training this week we did on behaviour management applied more to us than to the kids we are raising.

In the midst of all the regular stuff on behaviours was a little throw away point about pesky behaviours.

Most of the stuff we talk about in our training deals with the big things… we learn about how to deal with self-harming behaviour, violent behaviour, destructive behaviour and anti-social behaviour.

But this time they mentioned pesky behaviour.

The revelation was that pesky behaviour is not the child’s problem…it is what triggers you!

A child chewing with their mouth open is not dangerous or destructive… it just annoys you. Someone clicking their pen over and over is not bad behaviour… it’s just irritating. We all have something different that we can’t tolerate! But it isn’t necessarily a “bad” behaviour! When we are triggered or annoyed by something it is an opportunity for US to learn self-regulation. Assuming that the world around us most always be exactly to our standards is arrogant at best.

Now I know there are rules about table manners and being considerate of others. I’m not saying that we have to let people chew their food however suits them or be inconsiderate of others. What I am saying is that pesky behaviour, something that may annoy you but is not dangerous or harmful, should involve more restraint and self regulation on your part than discipline aimed at others.

We spent a fair amount of energy about a year ago trying to change how food was consumed at our table. My hubby was frustrated to the point of leaving the table a few times because of the continuous noise of chewing. It seemed like a “bad” behaviour that should be easily changed by a bit of consideration for others. But reminders and examples and continually pointing it out almost turned into world war three!

It changes things completely when you realize that we could have been learning to regulate our own response to it instead of expecting a child to change their action. How many things do we ask children to adapt to and behave appropriately doing everyday? Our exasperation is simply an adult version of a temper tantrum! When we don’t get the response we want we behave badly in the name of parenting? How does your self control look when you are behind the wheel of your car? If you struggle with that… how can you expect kids to be self-controlled all the time?

One of the things that has been pounded into our heads as we have continued learning on our Foster Parent journey is that behaviour is a symptom. We have heard it over and over again in various forms. What we SEE happening comes from a feeling, emotion or reaction to something that is going on internally that we can’t see.

This has been a great way for us to reframe how we look at what is in front of us.

As we raised our kids our outlook was simple; there is the good and desirable behaviours that we want our kids to exhibit, and there are bad behaviours that we don’t want to see. Our job as parents was to train our kids to exhibit good behaviour.

Or so we thought.

As we have continued to learn about behaviour our perspective has changed. I look back and see so many times that I would have acted differently if I saw their actions as the outworking of what was happening inside instead of as an annoying behaviour that I wanted to stop. Immediately!

When we label this behaviour BAD and that behaviour GOOD we are placing value judgments on them that are transferred to the child. We see the child as GOOD or Bad. Hmmm. Can you see where this is problematic? I can now…

Children need our compassion the most when they appear to deserve it the least

Dr. Louise Porter

Pesky behaviour is often looking for attention. How do we adjust to that instead of being annoyed! There are lots of emotions that children don’t know how to express. Some kids feel really big feelings and have no idea how to deal with them. They act it out the only way they know how. Our job as parents is to help them feel safe and loved and teach them how to express their emotions in a safe and healthy way.

Self regulation is a term we hear a lot about! Helping kids learn how to manage themselves! There are so many resources available now to support this learning!

Self regulation is how you keep your own responses and emotions in check.

How do you regulate yourself?

In the midst of the mess


One thought on “Behaviour

  1. So much of what you said it’s what Stu and I teach in Family Connections. These skills have changed us in so many ways! Parenting would have looked so different if we had learned these 20 years ago!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.