“Courtney is just plain sneaky,” her mother explains to me. “She looks like an angel, but don’t let that fool you!” As I listen to mom’s long litany of Courtney’s most recent transgressions, I have a hard time imagining that this tiny little girl of five, could possibly be capable of such shenanigans. As her mother talks, Courtney smiles at me sheepishly, slowly shaking her head, as if to convince me that the stories really aren’t true. I find myself wondering if these events could really have taken place. I decide to withhold judgment until I become better acquainted with this family. It wasn’t until a few minutes later, when I was straightening my office after they left, that I noticed a couple of items missing. I searched high and low, only to receive a phone call the next day letting me know that the missing rock and the dragon were all found in Courtney’s possession upon arriving home.
Over time I discovered that Courtney’s sneaky and lying behaviors were a strategy that she used to keep mom connected and attentive. As long as Courtney was in trouble, mom paid attention. Carl, a thirteen-year old, lies in order to stay out of trouble. Early on, he discovered that the consequences for minor infractions were so severe and overwhelming, that the only way he could cope was to lie and deny all charges. Maxine exaggerates and tells stories because she is shy and uncomfortable with friends. Her life seems dull and dismal. She is certain that the only way anyone could possibly like her is if she embellishes a bit. I often hear from parents who are upset by a child’s behavior. Focusing on the behavior rarely does much good. Searching for the underlying cause is always beneficial.
If my car quits working I know that I need to find the source of the problem. Complaining about my car, hitting it, yelling at it in front of the neighbors or threatening to quit driving altogether won’t fix the problem. I may need someone else’s help. There are a lot of systems that need checking out. It could be a mechanical, structural issue (physiology) or it could be a problem with the fueling, battery systems (energetic). I may need to take into consideration the age and stage of my car and treat it a little differently than I did at first (i.e. take it in for more frequent servicing, give it more time to warm up, etc.) Honoring your child’s physiology, their energetic and developmental stage will ensure success, for you be will addressing your child’s needs, not just their behaviors.