So, I was thinking about past pets yesterday, specifically, Juan Pablo.  Chameleons are interesting creatures.  They are able to blend in to their environment entirely, can completely change their colors in less than 20 seconds, and when feeling threatened, they puff up like blowfish with survival behaviors on full display.  Sound like any kids you know?

Our brains are wired for survival, and when we feel stressed, feelings are manifested through our behaviors.  We react to situations rather than respond to them, act irrationally, and say or do things we shouldn’t.  We cope. 

As an adult, I’ve had a lot of practice coping over the years.  For the most part, my survival behaviors have tempered and I’ve learned how to deal with them.  Unfortunately the same can’t be said for kids. We need to remember this when dealing with their inappropriate behaviors. Specifically…

  • Adjust your perspective. Children and teens cope the only way they know how.  This doesn’t excuse their behaviors, but it helps us better understand them.
  • Talk to kids privately about behavior concerns. Audiences usually escalate behaviors. This is why I tried to get my boys away from their brothers before talking with them about their choices.
  • Be patient. Adults make mistakes all the time, despite the fact we have had more years to learn how to behave than the children with whom we work. Developmentally, our kiddos are still trying to figure out how to get their needs met appropriately and this process takes time – around age 25, if the maturation of our prefrontal cortex is any indication.

I never talked with Juan Pablo about his behaviors, even though he did puff up and hiss at me on several occasions when I startled him.  However, I discovered if I just left him alone for a while, he usually calmed down, at which time we were able to once again share a bonding moment.  No matter the animal, I’ve found this last strategy to be particularly effective in soothing the beast within.