When a child lashes out or has a meltdown, they have, without doubt, tipped the scales on anxiety and lost control of themselves. The unwanted behaviour is an attempt to regain control albeit a negative coping mechanism.
Tania Curtis, Behavioural Specialist, with whom I have trained in understanding behaviours and functional assessment, explains that when children are struggling with certain aspects of life, it tends to manifest in unwanted behaviours and they actually need our help to learn new skills to cope.
There is always a reason for a behaviour (although it is not always obvious). New skills need to be taught to better handle the situation.
Children can learn to be aware of their emotional state and the triggers that cause anxiety levels to escalate. The body sends signals and by paying attention to this information, they can take action to decrease anxiety which in turn decreases the use of unwanted behaviours.
Furthermore, children may be taught other options. Instead of using the same behaviour which is not working and creating unwanted outcomes, they can learn a repertoire of behaviours that can lead to wanted outcomes. When children choose their behaviour and realise they are responsible for their choices and thus the outcome they become empowered.
When my five year old daughter decided she wanted to learn the violin, I went about getting her a violin and finding her a teacher, but after a few lessons she refused to continue and I was dumbfounded. I'd spent a lot of money and didn't understand the sudden change in heart.
I discovered two main things that were occurring for my daughter that she couldn't articulate. Firstly the violin was awkward and uncomfortable to hold. She needed a shoulder rest to support the weight of the violin. Secondly, she has what many children experience and that is perfectionist tendencies. If she can't be good at something right away, is causes her stress. She didn't like making mistakes. Or her fingers getting sore when depressing the strings.
Learning an instrument takes time, practise, effort, commitment, practise, a lot of practise. And that is what we focussed on, some truths about learning an instrument. Also her teacher took another approach, making the lessons more fun and building her confidence in creating sounds and rhythms, not playing any particular song right away.
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