The Need Behind the Behavior

January 13, 2023 | Author: Pamela Souza, M.

For children in foster care, life can feel out of control sometimes. Their histories have trained their brains expect uncertainty, irregular meals, or lack of comfort. This means that whenever a need occurs that needs to be met, they will do whatever they feel is necessary, which can sometimes come in the form of a negative behavior. As caregivers, it’s important to remember that there is always a need behind a behavior, and it’s your job to figure out what that need is so you can properly meet it. Remember, an outburst does mean he or she is a ‘difficult child,’ but rather a child that has been in difficult circumstances. There are four things to remember when trying to identify the need rather than focusing on the behavior:

Use the Trauma Lens. Using compassion and grace is so important because the intense trauma these children have been through affects their brain, body, emotions, and reactions. Be patient when trying to determine their needs.

Give Them A Voice. It’s very easy to jump to conclusions when a child is showing difficult behavior. Make sure you slow down to listen to the root of what they are saying and get curious. There could be a deeper need than what they are communicating, so making sure they have a free voice to express without time constraint or frustration is so important.

Tune in to Your Child. As adults, it’s easy to notice when a reaction is based on a larger issue because we know ourselves. For example, if we become short with people, it could be due to the fact that we are tired and need sleep. This is where you now need to know your child. Discover what causes tantrums and experiment to find what calms them down. Observe your child intentionally to be able to notice needs, and eventually anticipate them.

Look for the Real Child. Find the ‘core of highest potential inside a child.’ Many times, a child that comes from hard places covers up their emotions or personality because of the experiences they’ve had. They may be scared or anxious in situations that may not characteristically cause those feelings or reactions. Getting to know the ‘real child’ takes time, patience, perseverance, consistency, and love. Our goal is to help the children free up and experience their full potential as loving, connected, safe, and competent individuals.

Dig deep, be understanding, ask questions, and you can look through difficult reactions to find the need, which in turn allows trust and healing. God knew that the need behind our behaviors was grace through His love and sacrifice. Now, it is time for us to share the love that we received, and help these children understand that they are more than their histories and that they are loved beyond their behaviors.

“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” – Matthew 6:8