What is this child’s behaviour trying to tell me?

What do you do if you feel upset, worried or have just had a bad day? As adults we have the ability to use language to express our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and our experiences. Children do not have the same language skills as adults and are therefore unable to communicate in the same way. They often express their thoughts, feelings and experiences through their behaviour. For example, if an adult is late for work due to the bus being delayed or their car not working they are able to talk about this and ask for support if they need it. If a child is late for school due to external circumstances it can be more difficult for them to translate this experience into words, but they may show us by their behaviour. The task of all adults is to try and work out what children may be communicating to us by their behaviour and then to respond accordingly. This is especially important for school staff who may be faced with a variety of behaviours throughout the school day.

Certain behaviour such as tantrums can be more easily understood, and may convey that a child is experiencing anger or frustration. However, behaviour such as hiding under a table or running out of school may be more difficult to understand and the feelings behind the behaviour less obvious to identify. Some children may be living with challenging external experiences that can have a profound impact on their behaviour and ability to access learning and succeed at school. If a child is living with inconsistent and unpredictable parenting, domestic violence, abuse or neglect, these can all affect their behaviour and ability to feel safe and secure in the world. Feelings such as fear, worry and anxiety can all be triggered by these external circumstances and manifest in children’s behaviour. When children do not have clear and consistent boundaries and experiences outside of school, it can result in them displaying challenging and concerning behaviour in school. It can be useful to look at the possible reasons and feelings behind children’s behaviour as this can be crucial in being able to respond to their needs appropriately.

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