StoryTelling, Kids and Behavior
Updated: Oct 24, 2018
Raising children is the hardest "job" there is. This is not simply a cliche...this is absolute truth! Every day they grow and change, and just when you think you've figured them out, things are new all over again! With each developmental stage, children may act different, and face new challenges. As if that isn't hard enough, kids typically can't tell you what's going on with them--its new for them too!, and they often don't yet have the words. So they act out their struggles--and that's what we see as undesired behaviors.
Whether its the "terrible twos" and the constant "Mine!"s, or the "terrible threes" and the regular "No!"s or the elementary school children's school refusal, homework avoidance, extreme disorganization ("Where are your shoes?!?) or difficulties with their peers, it's always going to be something! Of course, those "somethings" will continue on as children get older, as we all have struggles throughout our lives. Hopefully though, as we get older we can put our feelings and experiences to words, rather than acting them out.
Caregivers as Storytellers:
What Kinds of Stories are You Telling??
When young children are regularly showing you unwanted behaviors, it's so easy to get caught up in a negative story..."She is so bossy", "School isn't really his thing", "She's just lazy when it comes to homework", "He's just being oppositional" etc.
The thing about stories, is that children can come to identify with them. And the problem with that, is these kinds of stories are generally known as "thin" stories--they are often created out of emotionality (what caregiver doesn't sometimes feel exasperated?!?) AND these stories don't include all the other thousands of things that are true about the child. But these negative, thin stories are often what the child hears--and feels--the most.
This is true for all children, but especially those who are struggling with anxiety, anger, ADHD, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorders, etc. The feelings that the child experiences and the behaviors that come along with them are often so present, so impactfully felt, that children and their families can come to believe that they ARE these problems. That they ARE these stories.
Become an Intentional StoryTeller
So how do we help our kids who struggle with unwanted behaviors? That's too complex of a question for just one post. BUT I can offer a good way to start:
Take lots of deep, centering breaths
Identify any unwanted, thin stories you may have told about your child--not to judge or punish, but to create a sense of mindfulness.
Remind yourself of your goal to understand your child's behavior, rather than simply reacting Does your child need a "time in" as opposed to a "time out"?
Create a visual schedule and/or behavior plan.
Be sure to point out ANY and ALL positive behaviors that you see.
Let your child know that everyone has difficulties, challenges, but that these don't define them.
Tell your child all the wonderful things about themselves. (Write them in their lunch box or decorate their door for Valentine's Day)
Read stories that are both doors to your child's own internal world as well as windows to different possibilities.
Maintain your relationship with your child! There will always be times when you wish you reacted differently, but you can always repair! Practicing that with your child builds a trusting space for them to talk about their challenges, and also teaches them important relationship life skills.
Take care of what kinds of stories you tell about your self and others. Make sure your own stories are as layered as you would want them to be about your own children!