If you haven’t noticed by now, I usually write on topics that I have experienced firsthand. In my lifetime and especially as a parent I have witnessed seeing a whole lot of behaviors. And when I say behaviors I mean those behaviors which cause frustration and concern for you as a parent and hinder your child’s ability to function and enjoy life. Behaviors which escalate to the point where your child may be in danger or pose a risk to others can be especially frightening. Some of these behaviors may include aggression as well as self injury.
One of the questions you may have when such behaviors crop up is, “What is causing this?” And then, “What do we do about it?”
I am sure you have all heard the story of the blind men and the elephant. Basically the story goes like this. A group of blind men touch a different part of an elephant to understand what an elephant is. When they describe these different parts to each other they argue over whose description is the most accurate. The moral of the story is that they don’t really know what an elephant is because they are only focused on a part of the whole. And so it is with behavioral problems. Depending upon who you ask, the answers will greatly vary.
If you ask a behavioral specialist about causes for behavior they will undoubtedly tell you that something in the child’s environment is the trigger. And by altering the environment you can thus, change behavior.
If you ask a psychologist or therapist about your child’s behavior they will most likely look for emotional or cognitive dysfunction as the cause.
If you ask an occupational therapist about your child’s behavior they may point out a sensory integration problem as the trigger for your child’s actions.
If you ask your child’s pediatrician or neurologist, they will investigate biological or medical reasons for your child’s behaviors.
The problem is that your child is a unique combination of physiology, biology, and brain chemicals. Your child is also an emotional and cognitive being who lives within a family unit and is constantly influenced by environmental factors. You cannot dissect your child and say that there is always one cause for behavior. It can be very hard to sort out. But here is some help.
Answering these questions may help you to identify what sort of behavior problem your child has and what may be the primary cause.
• Can you identify any consistent patterns of environmental triggers for the behavior? In a previous post I explained how to determine antecedents of behavior by using an ABC recording form. Does the physical setting, reactions of others, or other conditions affect the frequency or severity of the behavior? Is your child’s behavior a way of getting his needs met because he or she does not know the socially appropriate way?
If you can readily identify environmental triggers for your child’s behavior then implementing a behavior management program is your first step towards changing the target behavior.