All behaviour serves a purpose…..
All behaviour serves a purpose
I work with both children and adults and the above is very true in both.
No matter what someone wants to change because its holding them back or causing them a problem, I can pretty much guarantee that the issue they are struggling with is actually trying to serve a positive purpose for them.
Here’s an example.
A young lass aged 10 was bought to me because she was suffering from acute IBS. Now IBS can be associated with medical issues which had been checked out and given the all clear, and of course it is made worse by stress.
A little bit of a chat revealed that the IBS was particularly bad in the mornings.
A slighter deeper dig revealed it only affected her on week days not weekends. Well you don’t need to be Einstein to connect up a week day activity like going to school with the IBS.
Parents and teachers had also made this connection and were doing all they could to find out what the issue with school was that was causing her to be anxious. Nothing specific surfaced. All sorts of things were put in place to make being at school a good an experience as possible for her but the IBS did not decrease.
I could have spent months tracking down what it was about school, was she being bullied? Was she struggling with lessons?
But I know all behaviour serves a purpose.
So using the ‘Ollie’ concept, I talked her through how all our emotions are really little super powers and I asked her which super power did she think was making her tummy feel bad.
Was it Happy? No
Was it Brave? No
She decided it was her Scared superpower.
I then suggested that she and I asked her Scared super power what’s wrong, why is he scared?
An interesting thing happened, my little 10 year old began to tell me that Scared was being a baby because he was scared that while she was at school mummy would be having fun and doing things with her little sister and that mummy would love her little sister more.
Nothing to do with school. We talked around the sibling thing and my little 10 year old was reported by her parents to be fine with all that.
So her Scared super power was not making her anxious at the thought of school, it was giving her tummy ache so she could stay home with mummy.
This one was a fairly straight forward one as behaviour in children go, but it allows me to show you that all behaviour serves a purpose.
We got mum to make a special effort to do things with my 10 year old separate from her little sister so that she still had that special time with mum. And guess what? Her Scared super power was not scared anymore and the IBS stopped.
It’s very rarely one you first see when working with a child. They don’t have the language to explain what they are feeling. In this case a tummy ache meant ‘I am feeling insecure and a bit threatened by my mums relationship with my younger sister and I don’t know how to express that so I will have to do the only thing I know how to do and have tummy ache so I can make it go away’.
All behaviour serves a purpose. But making the behaviour about a part of the child (a super power) we make it manageable and we can make it visible so we can work with the child to make it feel ok again.