While many things cause children to act out, some solutions are right in hand’s reach.
Some children simply feel lost for no apparent reason; while others are dealing with situations at home or school that we are not aware of. Bullying, loss of a family member, abuse, inadequacy, low self-esteem, getting in with the wrong crowd, trouble focusing on tasks and schoolwork…the list goes on and on.
Whatever the reason, sometimes a simple touch can make more of an impact than any consequence you hand out for bad behavior. This is especially true when a child is acting out…reaching out…for help.
A child may be trying to tell you something with their actions; especially, younger children who may not know the art of communication yet. Even with older children (even adults), if they haven’t learned how to best communicate conflict, they will reach for the tools that are familiar; lashing out, screaming, hitting, or walking away. In other words, the result is a display of bad behavior.
Sometimes, a child has experienced trauma or distress; either at home or away. The trauma may be so painful that they can’t even begin to tell you about it. Even years later, as an adult, the pain may be with them; buried and eating at them internally.
These are the times when bad behavior is not acceptable, but understandable. Their actions must be dealt with, but in a different way. For instance, boundaries for their safety (and yours) is a must; respect is also a must; and talking about their behavior, attitude, and eventually trauma needs to be on the ‘to do’ list as well. Still, there is something missing.
Touch. That may be the hardest part for both parties to handle; those who aren’t touchy-feely and even more so for those who have locked those feelings away. Pushing love away is the easiest choice for anyone who has been shunned in life. When a person feels rejected, unloved, or loved incorrectly, the idea of being touched isn’t anywhere on their radar.
Being able to show simple displays of affection to a child is so important. People need touch to survive. Without out, a person drops that portion of their true self from daily life. And since they don’t offer touch to anyone, they eventually forget how to show affection to others in their lives. Does that set well with you? If you knew a simple touch to a child could make a big difference, wouldn’t you do it?
While touch is crucial to us as human beings, communication is also important. If you have a child, you have to talk to them about their feelings. They need to learn the skills to be successful in life. If they don’t learn to talk about their feelings, nothing is resolved. Communication is a must or the child will just continue on, using the skills they have, with no end in sight of their aggressions.
Touch and talking goes well with the child who is simply behaving badly, too. Yes, there may be consequences (in all situations), but teaching a child how to be loving through touch and how to communicate well are never-ending gifts.
Teaching these skills is a talent that can begin with the first intentional conversation. Intentional, in that, you are making this all about them and the resolution of their feelings and behaviors. This is where touch can play a major part in the conversation. Placing your hand on their shoulder to ask them to sit down and talk, to holding their hand or patting their knee while speaking can make them feel closer to you; more vulnerable to you and your intention.
What happens when you touch a child? The same thing that happens as an adult! The person receiving affection will start to feel better…someday. This could take a minute or lots of time depending on the person’s trauma. You can’t expect anyone to warm up immediately if they’ve dealt with abuse or some other deep dark secret for years. Take your time.
Reaching out to someone in pain is not an easy task, but it is doable.
And sometimes it begins with a simple touch.
Take time to learn why a child is behaving the way they are, and in the meantime, give them something to hold onto…your touch. Let them know they are part of your team, and you’ll get through this together.