IMG_3300Our children’s behavior is a message, Are we listening?

I have weekly conversations with a parent who is always sharing with me the educational lectures she gives her child about his lack of concentration and idiosyncratic behaviors
and mannerisms. This parent is very big on techniques she thinks work but don’t. She parents by Logic, Lecturing, Educating, Explaining, Convincing, Proving and Pointing out.
All which are perceived by kids as criticism and pressure.


 I can see she feels satisfied with how she handled things without ever really accomplishing a change or  improvement in her child’s behavior. In the past I  would try gently to suggest alternatives techniques  but quickly stopped  because she wasn’t in a place that was receptive to hearing new ideas. I also knew the school would eventually get involved in the child’s odd behavior. The child is now in weekly therapy at 500.00  a week and medicated for ADD.


Recently the moms short stories have started to change and she was questioning some of the things she was doing as a parent.
What made her start thinking differently, besides all the money she was spending was that, while her child got cured of His ADD, he was now starting to show some repetitive phobic behaviors.
When she asked me what I thought, I said “well now that they medicated him out of his lack of focus, without changing  the parenting techniques used at home, he is  developing alternative  symptoms to express what’s not working for him.”
This time the mom was more open to hearing new techniques.


  I suggested instead of telling him in explicit detail that a book isn’t toxic,or touching things or not touching things is safe, I suggested she should perceive his behavior as a unconscious message to her. A message the family  is unaware of.
The message is about hidden feelings that are hard to cope with and parenting style-techniques that are not working for him.
 The first few steps for every parent to  make is:
One: a connection between parenting  actions and a child’s  behavior
Two: the connection between hidden feelings and a child’s behavior.
Three: Expert  psychological help can really improve a family-child’s emotional health. (We wouldn’t hire a lawyer without a law degree yet  the most important job in the world “parenting” is done without any degree’s )


If parents  look at their child’s behavior as a message of hidden feelings plus emotional needs that aren’t being met, a parent can begin to solve the problems. I suggested explaining to her son “that germs and  touching things  or odd behaviors are a way of speaking up about things he didn’t like that his parents were  doing.  Or a message of concepts that need to be taught and learned in a helpful way. Behaviors are ways of expressing feelings one is unaware of that are hard!  
Behaviors  tell us  what words cannot.
As Parents it’s important to learn from a child therapist how to translate odd behaviors into words and feelings, before you get to the diagnoses and medication place!  Viewing odd behavior as a message gives parents a way out of the maze of symptoms, instead of going from one problem to the next.


Alternatives to Parenting by Logic,Yelling, Lecturing, Educating, Pressuring are:
Listening: repeating back!  “love that you made  new friend.”
 Empathy: I am sorry that happened, that is  hard.
 Wondering:  What can I do differently as a parent? Do I pressure my child too much to behave?
Do I spend enough emotional time with them ? Do I argue and disagree with what they tell me all the time.
Do I always tell them  to do better?
Example ( You worked hard to make new friends! You can be proud of yourself!)  Adding dont forget to keep it up is  too much pressure and a criticism)
Teach Emotional Skills:  spend 10 min a day with Feeling Town Map uncovering and talking about  hidden feelings.
You will see a big change in your child’s behavior.
For the child 
Name the symptom as a friend i.e. Tova Touch or  Germy Germ etc
Tell child to bully the symptom say “no to it” ” leave me alone” start with once a day to say no leading to getting rid of it.
Create a time at night 15 minutes that they can do the ritual instead of during the day.
For  more help on the topic please email me for a consult.
There are also many great books on the topic, I especially like the techniques in Tamar Chansky’s book.
The only issue I have with any of these books is they don’t get to the source of the problem.


There are  great techniques to get rid of the problem but the books don’t give the parents the real solution that started the problem .
In the last two decades I have seen that without uncovering the underlying  problem real solution will not be found.
 Your child will just develop alternative symptoms after you cure one.
The idea is  that behaviors  are a  message about your parenting: A message about  your child’s emotional needs that are not being met and a message about hidden feelings that need decoding.
As always if we change our parenting our children will change!
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5 Responses to Our children’s Misbehavior is a Message, Are we Listening?

  1. Dr. Sally says:

    Your logically written article presents a new and needed point of view. It is an exciting one because once parents learn how to “listen and learn,” they will know exactly what to do to solve many of their problems with their child. The best part is that once they start giving more appropriate input, they will pretty quickly be able to see more appropriate child output.

    Good behavior is directly related to insightful printing.

    Great insight! Thank you so very much.

    • Ava says:

      Thanks Sally I really appreciate your feedback! I keep trying to find different ways to help parents solve the problems without medicating their kids or blaming their kids:)!

  2. Rosalind Sedacca says:
    October 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm
    This is such a powerful message to grasp and put into place. It’s also especially important for divorced parents who must be particularly diligent in looking for negative behavior changes. They are a message that your child is struggling and needs your help in accepting the changes in his/her life following divorce. So heed this advice and nip behavior problems in the bud with your own Listening, Empathy and Wondering skills. Thanks for this valuable information!
    ava says:
    October 25, 2013 at 10:29 pm
    Thanks Rosalind for your support!!
    And yes it is just as important in divorce.
    I know one parent wants to medicate her child instead of helping them with the fall out from the divorce:(
    Dr. Sally says:
    October 25, 2013 at 6:11 pm
    Thank you both for your insightful comments. How’s this for an easy way to keep this advice handy?
    What can parents do “in lieu” of yelling, criticizing, and lecturing?
    Listen (L)
    Empathize (E)
    Wonder (W)
    The new Lew!
    ava says:
    October 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm
    cool, thats awesome:)
    I love it…LEW
    I have one I made up too
    Parenting with
    Praise Empathy Talking Appreciation and Listening !
    now we have Petal and LEW
    So good to dialogue with colleagues!!!
    Rosalind Sedacca says:
    October 25, 2013 at 6:33 pm
    Listening is one of the hardest skills to implement as parents since we always want to lecture and butt in too soon. Repeat what your child is saying, paraphrase their meaning and ask if you have it right. It’ll open the doors to more authentic communication. Then you can ask more probing questions and get important feedback in return. This will build trust and greater rapport.
    ava says:
    October 25, 2013 at 10:34 pm
    yes perfect
    “Repeat what your child is saying, paraphrase their meaning and ask if you have it right.”
    Now that mine is a tween I find the more listening and the less said the better..
    she can more easily come to her own conclusion without me confusing her with mine:)
    Not always easy to be quiet(lol)

  3. I think it is so important to look at what we are doing as well as seeing how our children are responding to use and keep asking ourselves these questions. It is all about observation and checking in.

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