We all feel a wide range of emotions; sad, happy, mad, excited, scared, lonely, frustrated, bored, anger, the list goes on. Children’s behavior (and misbehavior) is guided by their emotions and their brain states. Even for adults, these emotions can be overwhelming and can leave us muddled and confused about how we feel. For a child, this is even more confusing. Kids feel emotions very intensely, their brains are developing rapidly and the surges of emotions can be really hard for them to handle sometimes.
But, emotions don’t just come out of nowhere, they happen for a reason, and they help guide us through situations. Loneliness is telling us that we need to connect. Fear is telling us that we need to get back to safety. Frustration is telling us that we don’t know how to do something.
The child who refuses to turn off the TV might be feeling lonely and desperate for connection. The child who runs away and hides might be feeling scared and is trying to keep themselves safe from the unknown. And the child who throws their toys across the room might be feeling frustrated because the pieces didn’t fit together.
These behaviors might be frustrating to deal with, but if we can understand why they are happening, and what the behavior is trying to tell us, we can navigate the situation in a healthy and productive manner.
Brain States and Emotions Dictate Behavior
All of the emotions we feel are powerful and guide us through every situation. It is easier for children to handle their emotions if they know what is happening and why. Knowledge is power, and for a child, the knowledge that what they are feeling has a name and a reason gives them the power to figure out how to handle it.
When we understand how our brain works, and where misbehavior stems from, we can identify why they are acting a certain way. With this information, we can and navigate the situation quickly and effectively.
The Color Spectrum of Emotions describes how our 3 brain states relate to how we experience emotions. In summary, green is the rational state, yellow is the emotional state, and red is the survival state.
Misbehavior only happens when a child is in red or yellow.
We can only learn while we are using the rational part of our brains (green). If a child is in their emotional or survival state (yellow or red), they can’t learn or communicate clearly.
This means that if a child is misbehaving, we must bring them back into green so we can teach them what to do instead of misbehaving.
By using this knowledge and the 4 Steps, you can turn a tense and stressful situation with your child into a learning opportunity. The child who throws a puzzle piece across the room needs to learn how to deal with feelings of frustration so they can overcome the challenge and solve the puzzle, instead of giving up and throwing pieces.
The 4 steps to de-escalating any situation and resolving conflict with your child are:
1 Identify what emotion (or group of emotions) they are feeling
2 Validate the reason they are feeling that way and allow them the space to feel their emotions
3 Deep Breathe and re-center
4 Problem Solve
Read more at https://www.traumauntied.com/core-concepts/4steps