Jun 18, 2013 02:37PM
● By tina
Why is my child acting this way?
Sponsored by Brain Balance Achievement Center
Written by K. Kendall and C. Powell
At Brain Balance, we have a saying: “Better brain, better behavior.” Yet this really doesn’t tell the whole story because even children who don’t have a functional disconnect (a right- or left-brain hemisphere that’s processing too slowly) can be ill-behaved at times. All children and parents struggle with behavioral issues, but what are the hidden messages that can be found in this behavior? Kids with a functional disconnect can pose more of a behavioral challenge than others.
Oppositional behavior happens when the higher region of the brain — the prefrontal cortex — is not strong enough to keep the lower brain regions from bubbling up. If it were not for our prefrontal cortex, we would all act like toddlers: running around, not sharing, jumping from one activity to another on a whim and having very little empathy. Behavior is all about brain function, and there is plenty you can do to ensure your child’s brain is functioning at peak performance. First, you need to understand why your child is acting this way, and second, you must put a plan of action in place. All children can benefit from surroundings designed to optimize brain development and function.
Think about that higher level functioning, or “good behavior,” as being the product of executive function of the brain. If this makes you think of a little CEO in your child’s brain, you are on the right track. The CEO decides the course of action and keeps his team on track. When this process goes awry, bad behavior rears its ugly head. Impulsive behavior, failing to consider the consequences of actions or even risky behavior are all examples of bad behavior your child can exhibit. These unwanted behaviors are due to your child’s executive function not keeping them on track. So you might be asking yourself: Why does this function take so long to develop, and what can I do to help speed up this process for my kid?
One simple answer is the frontal lobes are the last regions in the brain to mature. They continue to develop all the way through adulthood. Created in 1883, one of the oldest ways to measure the executive function of you or child is to perform a Stroop Test. When you are performing this test, you will have to suppress the impulse to read the words and instead name the colors.
How did you do? Difficulties with executive function are typical in children but are especially pronounced in children who are struggling with developmental disorders such as ADD or ADHD. Stroop tests your attention and executive function. The ability to sort out distracting information from meaningful information is an important part of our cognitive abilities because much of the information we perceive isn’t relevant to the tasks that demand our attention at any given moment.
Experiences shape the development of our brains, and appropriate stimulation can take many forms, but sitting in front of a screen is not one of them. Your child’s behavior will deteriorate proportionately to the time spent on the computer, playing video games or watching TV. The brain derives very little stimulation from passive activities. In fact, touching briefly on right- and left-brain behaviors, screen time generally uses pattern recognition skills, which are stimulating to the left brain, but much of our bad behavior control is a right brain skill.
Physical Activity and Human Interaction
Our brains develop, grow and stay strong through physical activity and human interaction. As a parent, being consistent is one of the best things you can do to help solve behavior problems at home. They arise from many different malfunctioning areas of executive function. Some examples of misbehavior include:
1. The failure to plan and anticipate the consequences of one’s own action. For instance, if your child hits another child and fails to realize this could provoke an all-out fight. This is also a failure to inhibit their actions despite the negative consequences.
2. The failure to understand how to evaluate the effects of their behavior and learn from what happens as a result.
3. The inability to follow rules. Some children understand the rules and can even repeat them but simply don’t follow them.
There is a considerable difference between these different behaviors; however, they all have their neurologic roots in the same underactive area of the brain. The good thing is once you know the source of the problem, it is easier to create a path to success for the child and thereby reduce the likelihood of problematic behaviors.
Some simple steps to help your child while their brain is still developing include being clear and specific about what you expect from them:
1. Give them commands in a single step, and praise them when they comply.
2. Warnings such as “if-then” statements will help them understand that you will follow through.
3. Provide external support for your children, and this will slowly transition into internal support skills they can utilize.
Executive function is one of the last brain regions to mature, but if you feel these steps are not working for your child, the issue might be larger than you are able to tackle at home. The Brain Balance Evaluation will give you insight into your child’s overall brain age and development and determine if additional help is needed to get your son or daughter on track. As part of a Brain Balance Program, we test each child to determine their needs and then coach parents on how to make sure their children’s brain’s needs are met.
A webinar will be broadcast June 26 from 12:00-1:00 p.m. and live lecture on June 27 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Brain Balance Southlake encourages parents and educators to tune into the webinar and learn more about behavior and why your child might act a certain way. Parents and educators can also find the latest research and most innovative approaches concerning learning and neurological disabilities at BrainBalanceDFW.WordPress.com. For a full lecture schedule, contact Katie Milam at 817-416-9828 or email BrainBalanceSouthlake@gmail.com.
Brain Balance Achievement Centers offer the Brain Balance Program ® in 54 nationwide locations. The Brain Balance Program® is an individualized and comprehensive approach to helping children with neurobehavioral and learning difficulties surmount their unique challenges.
This proprietary, non-medical program has been successful in helping thousands of kids reach their physical, social/behavioral health and academic potential. We work with children who suffer with ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette’s, Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorders.