We understand behavior as a form of communication

The HP Way: We understand behavior as communication

Through observation and dialogue we work with each child, along with the parents, to understand how emotions and concerns are connected to the way he or she feels, and expressed in the way he or she behaves.

Feelings in children are just as intense and varied as in adults. But attaching a feeling to its cause is a skill that needs to be learned; until then, feelings are expressed through the way a person acts.

When a child is attentive, interested and helpful, that behavior communicates comfort in his/her surroundings; it indicates the child isn’t being distracted by angry, worrisome or other disruptive feelings.

A child who is pushing on the playground, forgets to use the bathroom, has trouble sitting still, or is otherwise “misbehaving” (a word you’ll probably never hear us use) is revealing the presence of strong feelings or worries.

Simply punishing disruptive behavior treats these inner thoughts as if they aren’t important – setting up the child to feel ashamed for feeling them so acutely.

The HP Way means working with the child to discover the cause of distress, and to help understand how the worry, the feeling and the behavior are all connected. This capability is a foundation of self-control, and self-control is an essential component of self-esteem.

A teacher relays a story from the classroom:

During the school day, story time is scheduled to happen after outside time. Joshua had managed to never stay for story time.

He had a difficult time keeping himself safe at outside time. He kept playing on the ice, sliding back and forth making himself fall. He climbed on the climber and then jumped down from the top bar. He kept falling off the climber and getting his feet tangled in the bars.

I wondered with him if he was worried about story time. He didn’t disagree, and was eventually able to help me understand that he thought he would have to read – which he couldn’t yet do. I told him that reading was my job, and that if he was interested in staying for story time, his mother could be in the room and he could visit with her if he wanted.

Joshua did stay for story time that day, and every day thereafter. He also began to behave more safely at outside time.