This chart gives some pointers that can be a quick reminder of some of the feelings that may be driving certain behaviours and furthermore some of the possible unmet needs that need to gain attention before the child can begin to feel better, hence act better. This can also be useful in helping a parent to re-frame a challenging situation when the parent becomes emotionally charged and has the urge to choose actions that escalate a situation. Also available in PDF format, click here.
When a child’s behaviour is:
Behaviour is erratic. Chaotic. Loud. Screaming. Demanding. Aggressive. Unpredictable. Extremely noisy or withdrawn. Anti-social. Rebellious. Defiant. Maybe dangerous. Attacking. Risky behaviour. Rude. Uncooperative. Lying. Destructive. Distrusting
The child’s likely to be feeling:
Insecure. Anxious. Afraid. Angry. Rage. Accused. Very frustrated. Threatened. Self-esteem very low. Lacking confidence. Vengeful. Overwhelmed. Confused. Disorientated. Sad. Lonely. Isolated. Unloved. Misunderstood. Judged as naughty & bad. Excluded. Powerless. Vulnerable. Lost.
Child has a backlog of unmet needs.
And likely to need:
Adult to stop & help child feel safe and secure. Adult to help child move from state of distress/high alert/fighting to a calmer state. Lots of reassurance of loving connection. EMPATHY! Messages of “I can help”. Keep child and others safe, physically if necessary, but non-aggressively. Needs to feel cared for by a calm, confident adult. To get sore feelings OUT in safe ways like crying or venting. Kindness. Hope.
|Distracted and distractible. Cautious. Disorientated. Frazzled. Sensitive. Easily upset. Resistant. Frequent conflicts with other children. Clingy. Whining voice. Nervous. Demanding of attention/ sugar/ entertainment/ distractions. Small problems result in big reactions.||Needy. Irritable. Confused. Frustrated. Stressed. Unsettled. Resistant. Unseen. Unheard. Judged. A lack of empathy. Uncomfortable emotions. Uncomfortable and squirmy in their body. Lost.Disconnected from self and others.
Child has some unmet needs.
|For adult to slow down and give their full attention. Warm connection. Reassurance, especially relating to limits. Positive guidance & encouragement. Pressure reduced. Threats reduced. Rhythm, routine & predictability increased. Emotional validation. Guidance & information that’s easy to understand. Release stress through laughter or crying.
|Child is focused on their play. Good at meeting their needs. Expresses clearly when seeking help. Confident. Friendly. Generous. Sociable. Seems alert. Energized but settled. Healthy curiosity. Listens well. Cooperative. Eating, sleeping and learning well.||Secure. Safe. Calm. Loved. Cared for. Warmly connected. Happy. Supported. Strong sense of belonging. Contributions valued. Good wellbeing. Settled. Satisfied. Seen. Heard. Acknowledged. Emotionally supported.
Child’s current needs are met.
|Attachment figure available. Awareness of how and where to access physical and emotional needs. Rhythm & routine. Predictability. Variety. Security. Fun. Friends. Opportunities to meet challenges & practice skills. Overall happy family. Encouragement.|
This chart is not intended to be diagnostic in any way or to replace seeking professional help when needed, especially when a child's behaviour fits with the behaviours described in the first box most of the time. Most children will display a whole array of behaviours and perhaps some from each box in the first column most weeks or even most days.
But if your child's behaviour is in the more extreme much of the time, I would recommend you seek professional help. You can book a consultation with me to talk it all through and gain some strategies to work with and if I feel that it could be helpful to have your child accessed with a child psychologist, I will let you know. You may also wish to look into environmental factors like diet and allergens.
Many parents and teachers find that adopting this lens helps them move from the very stuck approach of trying to make a child change their ways, to beginning to explore how the child may be feeling and what they may be needing. When a parent adopts this more compassionate and creative approach, it tends to lead them down a whole new way of relating and to many factors that are contributing to the problems that they may not have otherwise seen.
Genevieve is a certified parent education and counsellor, her emotional and practical support and teaching can help you to regain harmony in your home. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for twenty years, is an international speaker and a highly skilled teacher and group facilitator. Read more about the services and courses that Genevieve offers.
You might also like to read the article "Basic Emotional Needs Checklist"