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The Real Meaning Behind 9 Crazy Kid Behaviors

Kids playing "chase" again? Here's what they might be trying to tell you.

If you went into a conference room and listened to the speaker’s words, you’d only catch about 10% of what’s actually going on. If you went into the same room and listened to other things, such as:

  • the speaker’s body language, tone, and paraverbal communication (e.g. angry, defeated, excited, warm);
  • the words behind the words (translation!: “finish by the deadline!” “teach to the test!” “sell sell sell!”);
  • how the audience reacts to the information (furiously jotting down notes and scribbling words, nodding heads in agreement, chuckling, yawning, cringing, texting, etc.);
  • the relationships, alliances, or conflicts within the room (For example, Joe sitting far from Bob and avoiding eye contact, Amy sitting next to her buddy Ann);
  • the hidden agendas (for example, vying for power, airing old baggage through subconscious jabs, or trying to inspire);

then you would be a little closer to the truth.

Source: vanell/DepositPhotos

We’re often able to get away with being lazy, with taking words at face value, with getting 10%. However, evolved listening goes beyond “face value” to comprehend complexities such as what people want you to understand, why it’s important to them, and what they want you to do – even if they don’t say it outright.

Parenting offers the opportunity to fine-tune listening skills so that instead of just hearing words or even seeing behaviors, we read between the lines to get the real message and do something about it.

9 Types of Crazy Kid Behaviors Translated

  • Running in circles, playing chase, hanging from things, gazing out the window, wrestling = I need to run, jump, and play outside.
  • Following you around, being your shadow, trying to push your computer buttons, grabbing the vacuum from you, dumping out the mail, trying to open a package = I want to help you.
  • Resisting routines, saying no!, refusing the yellow plate or the green cup, not eating breakfast, not cooperating with teeth brushing or putting pajamas on = I want some power and control.
  • Dumping out toys, fighting over toys, breaking toys, ignoring toys, playing aggressively with toys = I want to go for a walk, make music, do art, go somewhere, or cuddle on the couch. I need a break from toys.
  • Rubbing eyes, quietly slowing down, fussing, whining, acting out = I’m tired.
  • Throwing food on the floor, walking out of the room, coloring on a wall = I want some attention.
  • Sitting on your lap, hugging, snuggling, making you cards, being silly with you, trying to help you = I love you.
  • Lying around, acting crazy or not like themselves, zoning out, not eating, not doing much = I’m getting sick.
  • Not getting in car seat, not putting shoes on, not packing backpack, not going potty, laying on the couch = I need some quiet down time.

To listen, sometimes we may need to stop talking, teaching, and disciplining. Pausing helps us decipher messages hiding within children's actions and words.

Copyright Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD.

Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD, is the author of Joy Fixes for Weary Parents. She is a psychotherapist in Chicago's western suburbs

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