Behaviour Grows where Attention Goes

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As parents, we often find ourselves wearing many hats in a day. As the saying goes, “Parenting is probably the most challenging task as you are thrown into the deep end with no instruction manual”. From managing the household, our careers and ensuring the child is clothed and fed, we are also left to deal with developmental phases involving tantrums, defiance and an array of behaviours. Using a trial and error method of dealing with these behaviours can not only make things confusing for children, but also jeopardizes our relationships with them.

In this blog post, I will be discussing the big A – Attention, and its role in behaviour management.

Attention is a big underlying cause for almost all behaviours, positive or negative. As humans, we all thrive for attention and it often does not matter how we get it. When a child is misbehaving (remember, this is different to an emotional outburst if they are feeling hurt, sad, unsafe or angry) and testing the boundaries, removing attention to the negative behaviours and focusing instead on the positive ones can be extremely helpful.

Some ways in which this can be done is by ignoring the negative behaviours completely by:

  • Physically turning your body away from the child to send a strong message to the child that you are not going to get into a power struggle with them.
  • Redirecting your attention to another person i.e. praising another child who is complying to the rules
  • Redirecting your attention to a completely different topic instead of focusing on the reason of the argument / misbehaviour.
  • Refraining from engaging in negotiation of the rules and feeding into the negative behaviour (no arguing, shouting etc.).

Why?

Because behaviour grows where attention goes!

The bigger your reaction is to the tantrum, the longer it will last. Often when a boundary is placed and the child throws a tantrum because they are not allowed to have things their way, the crying shows that they have accepted the boundary and are upset by it. By giving in or reacting to their tantrum, we are sending out mixed signals and teaching our children that if they tried hard enough, the rules can be bent. Cutting out the ‘audience’ from the scene of tantrums can often reduce the length of the tantrum.

Focus less on the tantrum and more on positive behaviours.

Why?

Because once again, remember that behaviour grows where attention goes! By channeling your attention to a child’s strength and/or positive behaviours, you are encouraging the growth of positive behaviours. Your child will be more motivated to engage in behaviours that will gain your attention.

For tricky parenting issues such as toilet training or refusal to eat, try letting go of the issue and focusing on other aspects of the child that is going well. Channel your energy to look for positive things happening throughout the day. The intense focus on the ‘problem topic’ will only enhance the problem. By focusing on the many other strengths your child presents with, you are taking the stress of toileting/eating away from the child. By praising their other strengths,you are building up their confidence to be able to do well in those ‘problematic areas’ when the time is right for them. Avoid a power struggle as this often leads to a lose-lose situation and breaks down your relationship with your child. If the only time the child is getting any attention from you is during a meltdown or misbehaviour, then they will find every opportunity to have a meltdown or to misbehave.

If your child is young and unable to keep themself safe during a meltdown, stay close to them and comment on what you see happening in a neutral tone rather than react emotionally to the situation. For example you may say, “I can see that you are feeling really upset. It makes you want to cry.” Doing so will help your child understand their feelings better without suggesting that you are affected by their tantrum.

As soon as your child shows signs of being in control of their emotions again, turn towards them and shower them with positive attention (praising their effort, talking to them, eye contact, smile, cuddle etc,). This method will shape your child’s behaviour by teaching them a healthy boundary (where the rules remain followed) and helping them understand that the only way they are getting attention is in a positive way.

Some behaviours this technique will work with are:

  • Children who find it difficult to accept rules in the house/cannot take “No” for an answer
  • Disobeying instructions just to get a reaction, testing boundaries to see if you will give in
  • Arguing or name-calling behaviours
  • Whining behaviours
  • Engaging in behaviours of wanting to be in control (e.g. toileting refusal, refusal to eat, refusal to wear clothes, refusal to go to bed etc.)

This method should not be used for behaviours related to a distressed child or behaviours related to sensory integration as these behaviours are often not motivated by attention.

If being in control is an issue, ensure that you provide the child with many opportunities to make decisions and feel in control of their lives throughout the day. Through your choice of words when talking to the child and by offering the child opportunities to have a say in their daily routines (e.g. being able to choose their outfit for the day, having a responsibility such as feeding the pet or completing a household chore etc.), you will be able to build your child’s self-esteem.

Reversing the cycle

-ve A+ve

If your child has previously been successful at getting their way by crying and whining, it will take more effort to reverse the association. A child who has learned that they can get attention by engaging in negative behaviours will often rely on that technique due to predictability. The challenge is to turn the tables and help your child to understand that they will now receive attention only in a positive manner. When ignoring a child’s attempts to gain attention, we have to ensure everyone in the house reacts the same way to the behaviours because consistency is key!

Why Educational Remediation?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Child Development, Inclusive Education

Schools often put a huge amount of pressure on children. They are put in a class of 30 or 40; asked to learn, pay attention, not move, be interested and motivated to do work. While many children have the ability to cope with these pressures, there is also a group of children who find it difficult to cope. These children show subtle signs that may often go unnoticed. They may be the ones who score below average or sometimes even the ones who score above. They will sometimes exhibit disturbing behaviors or have drastic mood changes. They often are the ones who will do anything to get out doing school work that has been given to them.

Remediation for children with difficult in school

The signs are subtle but every now and then, a teacher or parent will notice that these children are missing out on something. At times, a teacher may make a recommendation for the child to be tested for any learning issues or cognitive differences. As I have seen from my experience, there are those parents who will take their child based on the recommendation, but there are also those who will find it difficult to accept. In certain instances, the children who’ve been tested may show certain cognitive differences and learning issues that may attribute to their negative behaviors in school. So what next?

Educational Remediation

Now these children may not specifically exhibit issues that fall under labels such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, Autism and so on but they have overlapping areas of concern that needs a different kind of approach. Educational remedial therapy is the next step for these children to support them in developing better learning strategies and providing them with the skills necessary to live in this social world. This type of therapy is for those kids who do not fall under a specific category but still need the kind of support that a therapist can offer.  

A therapist who has training in special education will be able to identify the specific areas of concern and work towards providing strategies to overcome those difficulties. This person will support the child in understanding academic concepts to make school life more manageable. A tutor will work on subject areas and the general curriculum which can be done by any person who is knowledgeable in that area. This kind of therapy is like any other where it needs time and patience for it to properly show some progress in the child. Consistency is another major factor for therapy to work. If the child does not attend sessions regularly then the level of progress will be very slow. Any kind of psychological therapy has a stigma attached to it but the more we talk about it, the more acceptance there will be. The first step is for parents to accept that even though their child may seem “normal”, they still require more than a tutor.

If you would like to know more about this kind of therapy, please email us at naomi@inclusived.org or message us on our Facebook page.

Acceptance in Therapy

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Child Development, Inclusive Education

Acceptance in therapy is two fold. Firstly, it is the endeavor to completely embrace one’s child for who they are and for any differences they may have. Secondly, it is understanding and being patient with the therapy that a child is undergoing. Acceptance is an easy enough notion to understand but is rather difficult to imbibe. We all face situations where we find it hard to accept the reality in front of us. Our expectations, hopes and desires make it arduous for us to adapt to what is in front of us.

Child accepted by parents is important to therapy.

Therefore, I am completely empathetic towards parents who find it difficult to accept that their child requires different coping mechanisms to go through life. All parents have certain desires and goals that they want their children to achieve and some find it tough to understand that it may not go their way. There’s one thing that I tell all my clients, the first step is acceptance and if you have taken that first step to come for therapy, you have already accomplished a lot.

Many parents tell me that they wish they would have come sooner and of course, that is definitely better for the child. But the fact that they have taken that step to get that extra support for their child is saying a lot. Once parents accept their child as he/she is, they will come to learn and love that person even more. All children, with additional needs or not, thrive when they are accepted for the people that they are and for the interests and desires they may have. Children learn that when they are accepted, they are respected.

The other aspect of acceptance is understanding and being patient with the therapy that your child is undergoing. Any psychological therapeutic process is just what it is, a process. It goes through ups and downs, has its own trials and errors and most importantly, takes time. Sometimes different therapies work differently for a variety of children. It is about being patient with that process and understanding that every child will progress at their own time. The therapeutic process can consist of a variety of techniques to enable the child to develop better coping mechanisms in order to live and work in the world around them.

Accepting your child completely is very important to their growth and their emotional well being. Take one small step each day in moving towards that goal of embracing your child with their strengths and weaknesses and you will see the difference.

At InclusivEd, our endeavour is to support children through an Inclusive approach to learning. Follow us on Facebook to know more. 

Play Years : Developmental Milestones

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A major step in the life of any child is the beginning of the school phase. Children as young as two years old are now being put into playschools where they start learning basic social skills as well as academic ones. Psychologists term the stage from two years to five years as preschool years or ‘play years’. In this stage, the concept of play is very important as it helps the child to understand the social structure of their peer group as well as develop their language skills. The neurological changes in the brain, during this time, greatly influence the processes of language. Children have the urge to talk continuously or communicate with the people around which helps them to develop better speaking skills, grammar structure as well as develop a wide range of vocabulary. Their cognitive and motor skills are also more developed which allows them to participate in as many play activities as they want. Children between the ages of 3 to 5, develop a concept called ‘theory of mind’. It is the understanding that other people may think differently from them and they can judge their thoughts. Emotional skills also develop during this phase where a child who is three years old may be prone to tantrums or uncontrollable anger but a child at five years old is able to control and better express his/her emotions.

Development Milestones in Play Years

Now going back to the assessment or observation of children at this stage for any areas of concern, we can look at certain developmental milestones. I would like to reiterate that the below checklist is only a guideline towards understanding if your child has an area of concern. I would urge you to consult a child psychologist or clinical psychologist if you have any concerns regarding your child’s mental and intellectual health. Please observe your child over a period of six months to see if the issues are still continuing and then you can consult your doctor. You can use the checklist below as an initial guideline to help you with your observations.

Developmental tasksExpected AgeCompleted
Walks up steps by stepping one foot on each.4 years
Picks up small objects easily4 years
Unbuttons4 years
Tells stories4 years
Speaks in completed sentences4 years
He/she knows his/her full name, age, gender4 years
Speech is intelligible 4 years
Dresses oneself4 years
Feeds self4 years
Toilet trained4 years
Gets along with other children4 years
Imitates adults doing simple tasks4 years
Build tower of ten blocks 4 years
Copies a circle4 years
Matches object to color4 years
Hops and skips on one foot5 years
Catches a ball with hands5 years
Brushes teeth5 years
Follows 3 step-commands4-5 years
Recognizes shapes5 years
Points to four colors5 years
Copies square, triangle, circle5 years

*Partially taken from the ‘Academic Problems in primary school children enrolled under SSA-Karnataka’

Speech and language milestones in Infants
Toddler Milestones
Areas of Development in Children

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Areas of Development in Children

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Child Development

Every living being goes through stages of development and we, humans, are no different. We are continuously changing and growing right from the time of conception till death.  Our physical, cognitive and emotional aspects are gradually evolving as we grow older. Sometimes, we notice these changes and at other points, it happens without us seeing them. The measurement or understanding of these changes is what helps us understand if there are any areas of concern we need to consider especially for children. Our successful development at an adult stage is dependent on how well we are supported at childhood. Therefore the appropriate kind of support that is given to a child right from infancy is extremely important. There are of course, aspects of the developing brain that we cannot control but the kind of support that is given to ensure that successful cognitive development is taking place, is definitely under one’s control.

With the right support childs development can be taken care

I would like to focus on a few areas of development that I believe are important for young children to develop appropriately:

Physical development

Refers to the growth of one’s bone structure, muscles and other parts of the body. The body naturally develops but is influenced by factors of nutrition, race, culture, parental health and economic background. Strong physical development is affected by the kind of food intake, the background of the child and his/her family, experiences of the parents, financial background of the family and the amount of stimuli in the environment.

Motor development

Refers to the development of gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills involve the use of larger muscles which help in performing activities like sitting, walking, running, climbing and so on. Fine motor skills involve the use of smaller muscle groups like picking objects, writing, buttoning and so on. The development of these skills ensure that the child will be able to perform the necessary functions at the appropriate ages. The under development of these skills may lead to certain issues in academics as well as the social environment.

Cognitive development

Looks at the development of the quality and quantity of mental activities like perception, thinking, judgment, reasoning, problem solving and so on. There are many psychological theories that explain the different stages of cognitive development which can be addressed specifically later. It is important to understand the stages of cognitive development to appropriately support the child in order for him/her to be successful in academics as well as social situations.

Emotional development

Refers to the changes in the child’s emotions expressed and managed in a variety of situations. Emotions mobilizes the organism’s resources and energizes it to meet emergency situations. A child may or may not be able to accurately express their emotions and most of the time; it is expressed in the form of behavior. This form of expression is what causes a rift between parent and child as neither is able to understand the other. Children can suffer from emotional challenges which affect their overall social skills and relationships with people.

Social development

Deals with the changes in behavior that a child may go through due to the influence and expectations of society. The child is ‘socialised’ into performing various functions appropriately like for example, the stereotyping of boys and girls in terms of their behavior, emotional expression, roles in situations and so on. This form of development helps the child understand what is appropriate behavior when in a social situation and helps him/her to develop various societal attitudes. Play is an important medium for social development in children. It is a voluntary activity that allows the child to engage in without thinking about the results. When you allow your child to engage in various play activities, it gives them a platform to use their imagination and also develop certain cognitive faculties.

Speech and language milestones in Infants
Toddler Milestones

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Children Develop in Similar but Different Ways

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Child Development

Development in humans happens slowly and progressively over different age groups. Development is a journey. It is not a competition. Development occurs in different areas – physical, motor, cognitive, emotional and social. As we develop most of these areas during our early years, it is far more important than adolescent or later development. 

Development in Children

While there are developmental milestones, children may develop differently and may not truly follow the same recommended stages. However, this is not to say that a child must be left to their own device. As a parent, it is important to look for any delays that you may feel warrant a closer look. There is never any harm in getting advice for your child’s physical and mental health. 

Developmental Tasks in Infants

Developmental Tasks

Now, let’s take a look at the overall developmental tasks and the specific speech and language milestones that infants are expected to perform. The below tasks are some of the expected behaviours that infants should be able to perform. However, it is always advisable to consult your pediatrician about any concerns you may have. 

You can use the below table to identify if you child has completed these developmental tasks. But, do not worry if they haven’t. Some children can develop slower than others. However, it is important to keep observing their developmental behaviours.  

Developmental tasks Expected age Completed
Rolls from stomach to back 0-6 months  
Reaches for a toy 0-6 months  
Transfers toy from one hand to another 0-6 months  
Looks for noises made near him/her 0-6 months  
Makes sounds for specific reasons like hunger or toilet 0-6 months  
Helps hold bottle after drinking 0-6 months  
Plays with toes 0-6 months  
Pats mirror image 0-6 months  
Puts everything into his/her mouth 0-6 months  
Follows toys when held in front of eyes and moved 0-6 months  
Sits without support 6-12 months  
Pulls to standing position 6-12 months  
Crawls on fours 6-12 months  
Feeds self a biscuit 6-12 months  
Turns pages off a book 6-12 months  

*Taken from Academic problems in primary school children enrolled under SSA-Karnataka (All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysore)

Speech and Language Milestones

Expected Age Receptive language Expressive language Completed
0-3 months Alerts to voice Cries; social smile; coos  
4-6 months Responds to voice; name Laughs out loud; Clicks tongue;
Begins babbling
 
7-9 months Turns head toward sound Says names for mother and father
indiscriminately
 
10-12 months Enjoys “peek a boo”;
Understand no;
Follows 1 step command
with gesture
Says ‘ma’ and ‘dada’ appropriately;
Waves bye-bye; Begins to gesture;
Shakes head no;
1st word other than ‘mama/dada’
 

The opinions expressed here are that of the Author

At InclusivEd, our endeavour is to support children through an Inclusive approach to learning. Follow us on Facebook to know more.

Myths about Children

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Child Development

When children are born, we believe that there needs to be an instinctual way of parenting them. Very often, we adopt the one-size-fits-all notion and group children as one type. Hence, applying the same techniques and strategies to parent them. We also tend to fall back on age old stereotypes and myths, that can be detrimental to a child’s development. Here are some of those myths busted: 

Myth 1 – Children do not experience stress or
depression like adults

Child Depressed

Truth – Every person goes through some form of stress.  The expression of that stress is also different. It may be hard to understand or observe depression in children, but it can happen. Depression can affect individuals as small as infants where it is recognized as ‘anaclitic depression’.

Anaclitic depression is a severe deterioration of the physical, social and psychological development of the infant when separated from the mother for a long period of time. Not all children who are sad, can be diagnosed as depressed. But parents should look out for drastic sudden mood changes, lack of appetite, a feeling of hopelessness, sudden outbursts of tantrums and anger. If you have noticed that your child is experiencing some of these changes and it is affecting his/her daily life, please consult a mental health doctor.

Myth 2 – Children have to be the ‘best’ in their field

Child reaching for the stars

Truth – It is natural to want your child to be the best. But you are also putting undue pressure on a child who will grow to believe that making mistakes or failing is the worst thing in the world. Children experience unspeakable amounts of psychological stress when they are subjected to high amounts of pressure. Encourage your child to improve themselves, have goals, accept their failures and most of all, just love themselves as they are.

Myth 3 – A slap never hurt anyone

Punished Child - Skao

Truth – Parents have a challenging task of disciplining their child with all the pressures from the outside world. So no one can blame you, if you in anger, raise your hand against your child to discipline him/her. But parents, it is never a good practice to start. What you are teaching your child, is that whenever he/she experiences anger or frustration, the way to solve the problem is to physically react. Children learn from the behavior of the adults around them and will replicate that behavior in front of their peers and other individuals around them. Discipline is good but it can be inculcated in better ways.

Myth 4 – Children who practice problem behaviors will eventually outgrow them

Angry Child - Misbehaviour

Truth – Misbehavior is not uncommon in children. We all want to break rules, play pranks, do things independently but the concern starts when some of these behaviors get worse or start physically and mentally hurting the people around us. Children with severe problem behaviors grow up to continue those behaviors if not treated. Parents, when you notice that your child has been acting out or misbehaving to a point of hurting someone else, either physically or mentally, please seek help immediately. Sometimes these behaviors can go unnoticed and therefore unresolved.

Myth 5 – Children who develop late can grow out of it later

Child Studying

Truth – In my experience, there are a few children who develop later than the appropriate age and have managed to catch up to their developmentally appropriate peers. But a majority of children who develop late need extra support in bridging that gap so that they are able to perform like their peers. More than three fourths of children with disabilities have a history of delay in their developmental milestones. Parents, if you observe that your child has not developed appropriately in terms of motor skills,speech, language expression, please consult a clinical psychologist today. There is nothing better than seeking the right kind of support for your child at the right time.

The opinions here are of the Author. 

At InclusivEd, our endeavour is to support children through an Inclusive approach to learning. Follow us on Facebook to know more.