Twice now, twice, my usually well-behaved dog has woken me far too early. To give her credit, she did come directly to me, she didn’t make a big fuss and wake the whole house, but she did get me up far too early - and on days when I had planned on having a lie in.
Oh my goodness, I hear some of you cry - my little one doesn’t just stop me having a lie in, they wake me several times in the night, and that’s if they have even gone to sleep in the first place!
Considering the challenges in our own contexts
Don’t worry, I have been there, just at a different stage in my life. The benefit of having just a dog to worry about right now is, that it allows me time to think, to reflect, on how the little things in life can help us consider the challenges we are facing in our own contexts, what is behind the behaviours for our own lovely littlies, whether that is at home, at school or in an early years setting.
The skills to seek out a solution
Firstly, reflect on the positives, that my dog had the skills to subtly ask for my help - a nose in my ear while I am snoozing is hardly a crisis. Reflect back to the child for whom behaviour has become challenging; do they have the skills to ask for help, either verbally or non-verbally? Do they have the skills to seek out a solution to their problem- and are we part of their solution at this point in their little lives?
Effective communication skills?
Sadly, many of our children, especially since lockdown, do not yet have appropriate skills to ask for help, and the less effective their communication skills, the more frustrated and anxious they will become. Take this to the next level and it will show through in their behaviours- which may begin to impact on others, not just us.
Think of the child who is demonstrating difficult behaviours at this time - are their behaviours challenging to you and to others? I wonder if this is because the child does not yet have the words that work for them- so their default method of communication, the one that has worked for them in the past – is to communicate through their behaviours.
A caring constant?
Secondly, reflect on the fact that my dog knew who to turn to, who her ‘special someone’ was. Everyone needs to know who they can turn to, who they can return to when they do not have the solutions at their fingertips- or their paws in this case. Sadly, some of our children do not have a caring constant in their lives. In my role as a SENCo in schools and as a consultant for schools and families I am beginning to work more and more with #cared-for children, children who are in foster families and refugee children who have been uprooted from their home country and are seeking stability.
The chances are , that if you are reading this, you are their stability - their constant, their certainty - or you know who is. Self- regulation is something we talk about a great deal as an aspirational attribute in our young children. How can we possibly hope for our children to have self- regulation when they do not have a special someone to turn to. Instead, the truth is, that until they have the complex collection of skills and strategies in place to be able to self-regulate, it is our role to co-regulate, whether that is through big actions, such as ensuring that they are in a place they need to be right now, or through subtle signals, letting them know you are there and that they can cope with the situation that is making them feel unsettled.
And that is where we began. My usually well-behaved spaniel Ottolie was feeling unsettled. She had a deep-seated need which woke her, told her that she needed support to be able to avoid an unwanted behaviour.
Whenever our children’s behaviour is out of character, it is wise for us to reflect on the context and if any change has happened - to try to tease out what is behind the behaviour.
We have been travelling, visiting our friends. They have made us most welcome, especially Ottolie. They gave their dog frequent treats, they did the same for Ottolie- and, at the time she loved them.
I had not considered the consequences and Ottolie, although she is a very clever dog, had not either. The consequences of Ottolie having treats was at the bottom of her behaviour - literally. Do you see where this is leading?
Avoiding unwanted behaviour!
And so, to avoid an unwanted behaviour, at 6 am this morning, Ottolie made it clear to me that she needed me to take her lead- literally. Ottolie needed to get out and so did…
I will leave the rest to your imagination!
What is my linked learning from this episode? What have I learned today that I can use to make a difference in the future. I know my doggy’s dietary needs, I know what works for her on a regular basis and, I will remember to help her stick to this in the future.
And for you, what have you learned that might be behind your child’s behaviour? Do they have a deep-seated need that is unsettling their self regulation- a change in diet, a need to move or, like me right now, a lack of sleep. There is pretty much always something behind the behaviour - our job is to get to the bottom of it!
Good luck with getting to the ‘bottom of their behaviours; do let me know what matters most to you and how we might be able to help,
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