Seeing the Need Behind the Behavior

Oct 20, 2020

by Ashley Bennett, Director of Trauma-Informed Care

The routine was off this morning. I knew that it was. M and I usually have some time alone together in the mornings but this morning a sibling was already up. While I usually sit down with him at breakfast time, this morning instead I was running around the house getting things ready for the day. I was preoccupied. I had a few tasks still to do. As the twins started their online schooling for the day, I took M outside to enjoy the fall weather. He usually explores the yard in his rainboots, collecting sticks and rocks and occasionally making sand angels in the sand box. But today, he seemed uninterested in these things. He asked to color so I put him in his chair next to me while I attempted to prepare for an upcoming training session. I was focused on the work task at hand and my goal was to keep him occupied in some manner.

A few moments later, the crayons flew across my laptop. The paper was thrown to the side. The snacks were pushed away. It happened fast and hard. I looked at my toddler’s frustration and unhappiness with things that usually bring him happiness and it hit me. Not the crayons…but the why behind this moment’s toddler frustration.

We hadn’t connected today.

Sure, we had been in the same room.

Sure, I had helped meet his needs for breakfast and a diaper change.

But the crayon throwing and the pushing all the things away was his attempt to tell me that he needed me.

In that moment, I had a task that needed finishing. And I had a kid that needed to be seen.

What is it that I say to everyone when I teach? Oh yeah. 10 minutes of connection. Sometimes that is all it takes.

I swooped M up and began running through the yard in a game of spontaneous tag. We ran in circles as he giggled in delight, trying to catch me. We stopped only to watch the garbage man drive by and the plane fly overhead.

Then, he started collecting sticks and rocks and making sand angels.

And I sat down at the table and finished my task.

Sometimes your kid’s behaviors show you that they’re tired and need to sleep. Sometimes, they’re hungry and need a snack. And sometimes they just need you.

10 minutes of connection.

I don’t know about you, but I often think that playing with my child means I’m committed to hours of an activity with them. And in my mind, that’s not always something I feel I “have the time for”. There is so much to do as a single mother of three boys.

But their behaviors often tell me that it’s the most important thing I need to be doing. And guess what I found out? Being connected and playful with your child does not take hours! It’s done as you go along your regular day. It often takes only 10 minutes of eye contact, touch, fun, and laughter to redirect your disconnection to connection again. And with that, comes less crayons being thrown at your laptop!

It’s so important to show our kids that we see them. The abuse and neglect they’ve experienced has left them with the wrong impression. That they are unloveable. Unwanted. Unseen.

As foster parents we get the privilege of showing up for our kids and giving them a new identity. Beloved children.

So, the next time one of your children seems to be stuck in a pattern of disrespect or frustration, ask yourself if you feel disconnected from them. If you feel it, they probably feel it. Give them a moment of connection and you may find you turn the whole morning around!

Wonder what connecting activities might be good for you and your kids? Consider this short list!

10 minutes with younger kids: blow bubbles, play tag, play hide and seek, push them on a swing, hit a beachball in the air back and forth, bounce a ball to each other, build a fort, go on a bug hunt!

10 minutes with older kids: play catch, give each other makeovers, paint nails, play handclapping games, play darts or pool or air hockey, bake cookies, shoot baskets, build something together, let them teach you about one of their hobbies!

Use this guide as you pray about your response:

8 Ways Your Family Can End the Foster Care Crisis

(…whether you become a foster family or not).

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