Could children’s behavior reflect their needs?
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself if children’s negative behavior could in fact reflect a need they are trying to express? For example, when a child throws a toy, could he in fact be expressing his need to be more active? When a child hits one of his peers who has grabbed a toy out of his hands, could he simply be trying to express a need? Trying to associate an unfulfilled need with each type of negative behavior can help change the way we see children and foster positive discipline.
That is exactly what I want to encourage you to think about with this article. Young children do not have the same capacities as adults. They can lack the ability to express their needs appropriately. Very young children may not have the language skills required to express what they are feeling. What’s more, they may not even understand what they are experiencing and therefore not know how to put their feelings into words. That is precisely why they tend to use what they are familiar with: actions, reactions, screams, tantrums…
Taking the time to think about the need children are trying to fulfill when analyzing their behavior is in fact a great way to show respect for these little beings. By fulfilling their needs, you can indirectly intervene and impact their behavior and therefore limit the chances of seeing them repeat it, reducing the need for negative interventions and consequences.
I believe that this approach should be applied to all behaviors when working with children. It greatly increases the occurrence of positive interventions while increasing your chances of seeing negative behaviors disappear or, at the very least, lead to a reduction in their frequency.
To adequately analyze a behavior in terms of an unfulfilled need, you may have to take a step back from the situation. You will have to reflect on the behavior itself, the context (what happened immediately before and after), the child’s words, and your interventions. Once you have identified the unfulfilled need, you will be able to work on preventing a reoccurrence of the behavior. If, for example, a child in your group tends to throw toys, invite him to toss a ball in a basket instead of having to put him in time-out. If another child is constantly climbing on top of a table and jumping up and down, create an obstacle course that will provide him with many opportunities to jump and climb. Another child is constantly screaming? Make a point of spending a few minutes one-on-one with him to ensure his need for attention is fulfilled. I am sure that these simple examples have helped you understand what I am getting at.
I strongly suggest you explore this avenue, this new way to see children’s behaviors over the course of the next few weeks. I am convinced you will quickly adopt it and see a positive change in the overall atmosphere within your daycare. Without a doubt, children will feel respected and I am sure you will agree, that’s a clear advantage for all!
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator