All children have behaviours. That is life. Some of those behaviours are desirable and productive for those children and the people around them. Some of those behaviours are experimental – in other words they are trying them out for size and effectiveness.
Of course some of those experimental behaviours are attempts to push the boundaries of what they may be able to get away with before they get into trouble.
In some cases children have become unware of the boundaries or what behaviours they have that are permissible and they become labelled as difficult children.
What are labelled undesirable behaviours, or behavioural problems, are the ones that used to be experimental, did not work, but hung around anyway because the children’s little brains forget to extinguish those behaviours.
It is just like when someone forgets to take out the trash on dustbin day.
I do not like to pathologise children unnecessarily because they are just little people trying to get along the best they can, learning the rules of the road.
When you begin to pathologise children you run the danger that they may then begin to be involved in a self-fulfilling prophecy around that diagnosis.
So we come to what you might like for your child. I guess you want to help them extinguish those unwanted behaviours and experiment with some new, desirable behaviours.
While you may want the child to have specific desirable behaviours, all those little people want is to have behaviours that give them rewards. If the new behaviour gives them rewards they are generally happy to keep them.
So in therapy we always design new behaviours that will give the child an obvious reward, which is why I also see the parents at the same time, as I see the child, so the parents can learn how the child can learn.
It is a system of good behaviours equal good rewards through positive reinforcement. It is called Token Economy.
Children just get it because it is like pocket money: if you are good, you get it; if not, you do not get the reward. Those rewards also have to be attractive to the child not just the parent or carer.
As well as psychotherapy, I also use hypnotherapy with behavioural problems in children because it accelerates the modification of the behavioural process.
Those little brains are hungry for new thoughts and my job as a therapist and you as a parent or carer are to give them the opportunity to learn new, good thoughts.
Children are great in hypnotherapy as they have such wonderful and active imaginations and really enjoy finding ways to be in control of themselves.
They love trying new things and exploring their imagination, which is what they do naturally as they are playing.
What children also like doing is rehearsing things that they might need to do when they are older which is why they play house, school, nurses or racing car driver.
In hypnotherapy we help them rehearse good experiences inside their minds and that helps set down new neural pathways in the brain and new behaviours.
There are no naughty children – just carers and children with opportunities to learn and experience new behaviours and rewards.
Book your hypnotherapy appointment with Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH by calling 02 8021 6429.