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  • Sarina Shirazee

Information evolves over time, and we need to evolve with it

This applies to so many different topics in life. When it comes to child behaviour, approaches have changed greatly over the years. These changes have been a reflection of prominent psychologists and their theories at the time, but more recently, a reflection of the scientific information available, with advances in neuroscience in particular contributing to the change in our understanding of child behaviour. So what’s changed? Here are a few examples of what we now know about child behaviour, contrary to prior beliefs:⠀ ⠀

• Young children’s brains have not developed enough to premeditate tantrums.

• Many behaviours are instinctive responses to overwhelming emotions, stress or trauma.⠀

• Fear-based parenting, such as spanking, is harmful and ineffective, and leads to an increased risk of negative behavioural, cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional outcomes.⠀

• Memories are stored implicitly, so even if a child can’t explicitly recall something happening to them in their early years, their mind and body do remember.⠀

• The "think about what you've done" approach has been discredited – young children do not usually have the capacity to do this.⠀

• Social exclusion and physical pain trigger similar patterns of brain activity – so leaving a child to deal with their behaviour/emotions on their own can be harmful.⠀

• Punitive “time outs” do not teach a child how to “behave better” – though a “time out” can work if used to empathise with and guide a child.⠀

• Children learn best through connection and strong relationships with adults.⠀

• Co-regulation needs to come before self-regulation.⠀

• Nurture and love create a different brain structure to shame and fear.⠀ ⠀

We now know more than ever about the emotional side of the brain, trauma, implicit memory, and stress, among other areas, and how they affect behaviour. These areas were not previously studied in relation to behaviour, so approaches focused on what was outwardly seen, rather than what lied beneath. Child behaviour is an area that provides a perfect example of how information changes over time, and how we need to step up and change with it.


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