One of the many things I am going to miss from Edmonton is the Family Inclusion Group that was started by five moms at my son’s school. Four of us have kids who have Educational Assistants, and one other mom has typically developing kids, but is interested in inclusion, and creating kind and caring school environments for all children.
That mom’s name is Amy Elliott, and she happens to be a Speech Language Pathologist. Last night, our group co-hosted a presentation from Amy and Registered Psychologist Pamela Barrett called Beyond Temper Tantrums: Uncovering Behaviour.
Behaviour is a hot topic in our world. This talk gave concrete strategies for both parents and teachers when working with children of all kinds. Over 30 folks showed up, including our school trustee and administration. (Our organizing group was very pleased. We have been searching for a topic that wasn’t just a ‘special needs’ topic – one that would appeal to a greater audience).
Amy and Pam gave a professional, practical and passionate presentation. I’ve been a mom for almost 22 years, and I’m still learning every single day about how to be a better parent. Here are some of my own take-aways.
- There is always a reason behind behaviour for all children under 12.
- It is our job as parents and teachers to be curious about what those underlying behaviours are.
- Punishment is only a bandaid solution. Unless we find the root cause of the behaviour, it is going to continue on.
They said that all children need to: feel a sense of belonging, be loved, have a purpose and feel important. (At this point in the presentation, my eyes are welling up. I was thinking YES! And all that must NOT be conditional on a child exhibiting ‘good’ behaviour).
Some great points for educators:
- You can’t teach the mind until you have the heart – Dr. Gordon Neufeld
- Kids won’t respond to people they aren’t attached to
- Encouragement is more effective than punishment
A memorable quote for me was: A misbehaving child is a discouraged child. I’d also add to that – a misbehaving child is also a misunderstood child. My youngest son has flourished in environments where people have taken the time to listen to him, and uncover the reasons behind his behaviour. I truly believe that all his behaviour is communication – and he is always trying to tell us something. It is up to us to figure out what that is, and give him the tools so he can communicate it more effectively himself. This can be done through social stories, visual cues, helping him identify emotions, and simple reminders to breathe.
Amy and Pam stressed that having empathy for the child and what they are going through is absolutely essential. For like the porcupine in the picture above, the more kids push us away, the more we need to demonstrate our love and understanding.
Their message of love and belonging is a powerful one. I hope it gets spread throughout the schools with Edmonton Public School Board. As Amy and Pam said:
The need to belong, to be securely attached, to feel important and worthwhile and to be loved is hard wired into the human body.
When we see behaviour that does not contribute to the fulfilment of these needs in healthy ways, let’s be curious about what’s going on and wonder how we can help the individual get back on track.
Our kids are worth it, don’t you think?
Edited to add: These fabulous resources were also shared:
- Have you filled your bucket today? – series of books, videos & resources for kids about kindness
- Hold On to Your Kids – a classic parenting book by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor MAte
- The Zones of Regulation – resources to help children identify and regulate their emotions