This quote was given to me by a friend via a conversation on the ‘How to Speak Child’ Facebook page and it really struck a chord with me.
She wasn’t sure who it should be attributed to, and having conducted my own brief research (I googled it!) I couldn’t find any definitive answer to that query either. I did however find some contention around the issue.
Most of this seemed to be around the fact that when people, and especially those involved in education, talk about behaviour, they tend to mean challenging or poor behaviour. When read this way, there is an implication that when a child ‘acts up’ they are attempting to communicate non-verbally that for which they do not yet have the vocabulary or emotional maturity to convey with words. I expect this is true in some cases and not in others.
This is not how I instinctively interpreted the phrase.
Perhaps it is my background in theatre and performance that brings me to think that this quote is more about reading what is going on underneath any pattern of behaviour, whether experienced as good or bad. It’s the job of an actor to observe human behaviour meticulously, so as to be able to replicate it convincingly when playing a part. It is the job of teachers, parents and carers to hone their observational skills in order to interpret and respond to children, beyond what they are able to communicate with words
There are many pieces of research that tell us that the majority of what we convey to one another is done so non-verbally, so this is not news to anyone, but it’s so easy to forget in the sea of stimulus that is everyday life.
It can be helpful to remember that children struggle with their emotions, and that struggle can lead to behaviours we in turn find hard to process. We are the grown-ups and it’s up to us to step up, to stay present, strong and patient and to try and help them weather the storm. They could just be telling us they’re finding it hard to cope.
It was only a month or so after my publishers and I decided on the title for my book that I realised it pretty much summed up my entire working life. I am passionate about these three things, and most passionate of all about the places where they conjoin.
Okay, it is summer and it may not be the right time of year for this blog - but rain and boredom can strike at any time, so I’d like to embrace the un-trendy and give a shout out to board games.
It’s always easier to have a conversation with your children (or any other human for that matter) while you’re doing something else. Walking is good, because you’re side by side, breathing regularly and out of doors. Cooking is good for the same alignment reasons, and you’re both focused on a shared task. But games are great because the emotional odds are already ramped up, so you tend to get more honest responses.
Last week I wrote about encouraging children to flex their inventive muscles, and exercise their ability for creative and imaginative thought.
My point regarding the inherent fear in spontaneous action or communication has been echoed this week in news that our young people are developing anxiety around the mere act of talking to one another.