What is Causing this Behavior?
by Pam Leo

"Children do well if they can. If they can't,
we need to figure out why so we can help."

- Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., Author of "The Explosive Child"

Children do not always have the language to tell us what they need, so they must communicate their needs through their behavior. If we don't recognize behavior as a communication of need, we try to change the behavior instead of meeting the need being expressed by the behavior. When we address only the behavior we deal with the symptom instead of the cause. Though we may get temporary compliance by punishing negative behavior or rewarding positive behavior, if the need still exists, some form of "needy" behavior will persist. Every child wants, needs and deserves to feel accepted, liked, loved, valued and appreciated by parents, family, friends, caregivers, teachers, classmates and community. Every child wants to do well. When children are not doing well behaviorally, physically, socially or academically, they need our help.

Helping parents help their children to do well is what my work is all about. In my parenting workshops we focus on decoding needy behavior and meeting children's emotional needs. When negative behaviors are caused by unmet emotional needs, we help children do well by meeting their emotional needs. However, if the emotional needs are being well met and children are still not doing well, it is likely that the behavior has a physical basis.

For a variety of reasons, some children do not fully engage in the physical activities necessary to complete and integrate their visual, auditory and motor development. When the neurological connections between a child's brain and body are not integrated, it affects their physical coordination, impulse control, language and communication skills, their ability to sit still, to focus, to read, and to write. When a child's behavior is being caused by incomplete development or insufficient integration of brain/body connections, it is futile to try to change their behavior through discipline. These children are not refusing to do what we ask; they simply cannot do what we ask. They want to do well but they can't.

Just as all children want to do well, all parents want to help their children to do well. The first step in helping children do well is to believe that if they could do better they would. The second step is to ask, "what is causing this behavior?" The third step is to seek out resources so we can provide the child with the tools and support they need to do well. Connecting parents to resources that can help them help their children is one of the greatest joys of my work. Therefore, it is with great joy and enthusiasm that I tell you about Brain Gym®.

Brain Gym is a program of physical activities that help children and adults build the neurological connections necessary for information to flow freely between the different parts of the brain and the body. "Through work with learning-impaired school children, a powerful technology has been developed which is now used internationally by people of all ages to create definite, positive changes in their lives. This practical and dynamic system, called Educational Kinesiology or "Edu-K", uses simple body movements [Brain Gym] to integrate the functions of the brain."

Brain Gym is based on years of research by educational therapists and other developmental specialists and was developed by Paul Dennison, Ph.D., an expert in child motor development. "This program is distinctive in that it addresses the physical (rather than mental) components of learning." Brain Gym activities help any one who struggles with: reading, writing, hyperactivity, following instructions, concentrating, remembering things, stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, confusing left and right, maintaining hand/eye coordination, and being accident prone. Brain Gym activities assist those challenged with dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Cecilia K. Freeman, M.Ed., one of California's leading experts on Brain Gym, works with those who have special needs identified as: autism, deafness, blindness, speech impairment, Angelman's Syndrome, cerebral palsy, brain injuries, stroke and multichallenged. Ms. Freeman will be doing a workshop in Portland in May.

Brain Gym is not just for those people with overt learning difficulties. All of us can benefit from Brain Gym activities. Olympic athletes use Brain Gym activities to reduce stress and improve performance. Brain Gym movements are simple and can be done at home, in school, at work and in play. Brain Gym "may be combined with any work you may be doing with a consultant, chiropractor or educational specialist for chronic health or emotional problems, as well as for learning disabilities."

"Brain Gym requires little additional training for the classroom teacher, no testing, no technology, and it enhances (rather than replaces) current curriculum. Teachers typically report improvements in attitudes, attention, homework performance, discipline and the general behavior of the entire class. The program is used as effectively in business, sports and the arts, as in the classroom."

For parents seeking a resource to help their children with any of the conditions or challenges mentioned in this article, Brain Gym is a win-win-win. The children get the tools and support they need to get their body/brain connections working better, the parents get these same benefits from doing the activities and movements with their children and the parent/child relationship is strengthened by the time spent together doing the activities.

What excites me most about new information is that when we get new information our awareness changes. When our awareness changes, our attitude changes. Once we become aware that when our children aren't doing well, there is a reason, we have the most important tool there is to help them: a different attitude about their behavior. We can learn to decode behavior and respond to the need by seeking out the support and resources we need to help us help our children.

We are fortunate to have Beth Stoddard, a Certified Brain Gym Consultant, right here in Southern Maine. Beth sees clients in her offices in Portland and Yarmouth and is also bringing Brain Gym into area elementary schools. I extend my gratitude to Beth for patiently and generously spending hours on the phone answering my questions for this article and meeting with me to teach me some of the Brain Gym movements and activities. It is exciting to feel the difference the activities make and to learn how we can use simple body movements to complete development we missed and integrate the functions of our brains to reduce stress and create positive changes in our lives.

To learn more about Brain Gym, or for information on upcoming Brain Gym workshops or to schedule a consultation you may call Beth Stoddard at 207-761-4625 or Email: bethstod@maine.rr.com or visit www.braingym.org

Suggested Readings on this topic:

  • "Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head"
    by Carla Hannaford Ph.D.
  • "I am the Child: Using Brain Gym with Children with Special Needs"
    by Cecilia Freeman with Gail Dennison
  • "Stopping Hyperactivity: Unique and Proven Program of Crawling Exercises for Overcoming Hyperactivity"
    by Nancy O'Dell and Patricia Cook
  • "The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated and 'Chronically Inflexible' Children"
    by Ross W. Greene Ph.D.

Author's Note: Quotes used in this article are from Brain Gym informational literature. Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation, Ventura, CA

"What is Causing this Behavior?"  © 1989-2007 by Pam Leo and Connection Parenting (™)
For more information, articles and reprint permissions,
contact Pam at her web site: www.connectionparenting.com

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