Behaviours of concern are behaviours that causes problems for others. Most of us are more understanding when younger children bite and fight when they get frustrated and angry. We can even see the behaviour as a natural part of their development. This is why it’s easy to keep calm, when a small child hits us. Since we don’t hold the small children responsible for their behaviour, we don’t punish them either. There is no point to it, since the behaviour is neither a planned nor premeditated behaviour.
As children grow, our expectations change. We make demands based on what most children in a certain age can be expected to live up to. For an example, we expect that children can solve problems without hitting, biting, lying or screaming. And when childrens behaviour doesn’t match our expectations, we interpret the behavior as premeditated, malicious or manipulative. Our interpretation of the child’s behaviour makes it difficult to keep calm and respond to the behaviour in an understanding way.
There are common traps when socializing with children. For example, as the child’s vocabulary and language develops, it’s easy to fool yourself into believing that you can make verbal agreements or solve problems by talking about the matter. From an early age many children know the difference between right and wrong, but still, when they get frustrated they’re unable to think the situation through before they hit, bite or scream. Talking and doing the right thing in a stressful situation demands different skills and coordination of the same, which are abilities that usually come quite late in development.
Similarly, there are other factors such as what time of the day it is, but also if the child has been eating or slept properly, which can increase the child’s ability to handle demands or, on the contrary, lessen the child’s ability to co-operate and solve problems. We see this all the time. Children who usually are able to tie their shoes may not be able to do it when they’re in a hurry in the morning and everyone is stressing out in the hallway. In these situations a bad word, or something else that annoys us, might easily slip out. Urgent situations usually lower the performance and ability to maintain self-control, for both children and adults, thus the risk of behaviours of concern increases. It’s also in situations when we adults are really stressed out that we forget to decrease the demands on our children and to be understanding. When we forget to take responsibility in a stressful situation, there will be clashes and conflicts that impair contact and communication and complicate cooperation.
Other factors that play a role in how we respond to our children are social norms and expectations. Most of us have, for example, easier to accept that children are smacking their lips and eating with their hands at home, than when at a dinner with friends. Then add another dimension; social control, which can affect how we deal with and solve problems. Norms and social codes suddenly become more important to us when we are with other people. And our desire to appear as good adults with well-behaved children tends to increase when we are together with others. Therefore, we comment on behaviours that we would otherwise ignore. When we correct the child, we often try to deal with a feeling of shame, but without thinking about it, we risk exposing the child to the shame that we want to avoid. For example, we might loudly comment on the child’s behaviour in front of others. When we want to teach our children something, it should be in a safe environment, where we do not risk humiliating the child. A good rule of thumb is that what we do not want to expose adults to, we should not expose children to either. Usually, we do not comment on other adult people’s table manners, because it’s considered improper and would make them feel uncomfortable.
Another aspect of behaviour of concern is that people react differently to the same behaviour. This could be explained by the fact that we have different backgrounds, frames of reference and experiences. Norms and language usage change over time and differ between cultures. Thus we are all children of our time. It’s easy to vilify a phenomenon that did not exist during one’s own upbringing and to see them as a problem just because you’re not used to it. This could, for example, be about the use of mobile phones and social media. Language usage is also changing, and as a result, our attitude differs regarding which words are considered bad. While some people use certain word without problems, others experience them as offensive. Our attitude towards words and language use, affects how we react when our children use certain words. As children grow, our expectation of their maturity grows as well. However, it’s easy to forget that children’s different abilities doesn’t develop at the same rate. It’s therefore easy to overestimate what a child is capable of, in a certain situation. It’s not always that children have reached the level of maturity that we think they have, based on their age and appearance, why we sometimes require too much of them and assume they are old enough to be able to behave.
Many behaviours of concern are a way to communicate. It’s a way to communicate frustration and regain self-control through creating space or try to escape demands and strong emotions. It’s extra frustrating when someone refuses to listen, for example say “shut up” or goes into his room and slams the door shut, in the middle of a discussion. It signals that you are not interested in what the other person has to say, and becomes a disruption of the communication, that annoys and provokes, because you are deprived of the opportunity to solve the conflict. In these cases, it’s important to remember that children who disrupt the communication, usually do so to protect themselves. It’s a way for them to communicate that they can’t handle more pressure and need to collect themselves. Some behaviours provoke us more than others. It’s not reasonable to believe that you’ll be able to keep calm in every situation. Therefore, try to distract yourself so that you’ll not act on the frustration and thus aggravate the situation further.
Adults sometimes need to look away from the immediate behaviour of concern and focus on the overall goals. Is it more important that the child packs the gym bag by itself or that it comes to school and is in a good mood? When we feel irritated and feel that the child behaves in an unruly manner, it’s important that we keep calm. Reprimands risks to be perceived as unfair by the child, cause shame and more trouble. Instead, try to divert the child or catch it’s attention. Learning is more suitable in situations where the adult and the child feels calm and safe.
In the new update of the app “Behaviour of concern”, you can choose to describe the behaviours you map. You can make your own notes or choose a behaviour from a list. These behaviours are found in a scroll list, just touch the pen in the bars of arousal. In the statistics section, you get a pie chart that shows which behaviours of concern you have mapped. Touch the different sections in the pie chart to get advice on how to approach each behaviour in a low-arousal manner.