Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coping with Behavior

Tools for Coping with Behavior

Note, the title of this post: Tools for Coping with Behavior. Not, troubling behaviors, problem behaviors, or disturbing behaviors. Simply, behavior.

What is behavior?

Kauffman and Landrum[1] place great emphasis on the fact that “children and youth arouse negative feelings and induce negative behavior in others”. How others respond, react and treat these children and youth often leads to isolation and prevents children and youth from learning how to behave ACCEPTABLY. 

I wanted to highlight this because behaviors are a “range of actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with their environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment. It is the response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary”[2].

Behaviors are not inherently good or bad, right or wrong. We as people and a society place judgments on behaviors and determine what we consider to be acceptable or “appropriate”. As a parent and professional this bugs me. So many children are labeled and isolated for responding to stimuli in a way that is instinctual to them. Instead of isolating them or labeling them, why don’t we teach them behaviors that we consider acceptable for the given situation. And that’s another thing, rules for behavior change in different settings and that is CONFUSING for adults and children. Let’s be patient, supportive, and provide children and youth with the skills needed to regulate their emotions so they may think about how they are going to respond to stimuli in socially acceptable ways.

How do we do this?

One way, is to determine why a child is demonstrating a behavior. Behavior often serves a function or purpose. For example, a child might tantrum before dinner to avoid eating vegetables, or yell at peers when he or she feels embarrassed, or say “bad” words during a writing lesson to avoid the trouble they have with handwriting, etc. After the function of the behavior is indentified replace it with a socially acceptable behavior that serves the same function. For example, having a special bear to hug when feeling embarrassed to diminish the uncomfortable feelings or allowing the child to help prepare the vegetables to make them seem less frightening or “gross”. 

Another way is to teach children and youth strategies for coping with behaviors that may be out of their control due to a variety of reasons. Some common coping strategies are breathing techniques, taking a cool-down break, squeezing stress balls, bouncing on a ball or trampoline to release tension, manipulating play-doh or clay, painting, drawing a picture, and utilizing children’s literature.

Where can I find more ideas and information about coping strategies?
I have created a board on pinterest (CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE BOARD) that showcases many more coping strategies and I will continually add more resources to the board. I have not tried all of these strategies but feel that readers of the blog can access the information and determine what you feel might work for you. 

Feel free to share favorite coping strategies or methods that did not work for you in the comments bellow.

[1] Kauffman, J. M. & Landrum, T.J. (2009). Characteristics of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders of Children and Youth (Ninth Edition). Columbus, Ohio: Merrill (Pearson).
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavior
*Picture citation: https://www.google.com/search?q=behavior&client=firefox-a&hs=jWE&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=ds2bUc6tO8GyrgGlwIDwBg&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAQ&biw=1366&bih=638#imgrc=0oHbsWWhI-dOdM%3A%3Bddd7D8Mh7TYhzM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252F4.bp.blogspot.com%252F-WXAbCjk4-hw%252FTfbWpDLGAKI%252FAAAAAAAAAA8%252FLTXkthaFs2A%252Fs320%252Fdiscipline.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fnicadez.blogspot.com%252F2012%252F09%252Ffree-behavior-slip.html%3B320%3B265

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