Dr. Karyn Purvis discusses how to identify and understand behaviors in children whom have not developed the skills to express their needs appropriately. These behaviors may become diagnosed as ADHD, depression and others throughout their lifetime. Tools are explored to help encourage parents and caregivers how to teach children self-regulation and different words to communicate their needs. If many of these strategies are utilized, not only will behavior be more likely to change, but children’s sense of self-efficacy and self-worth may be improved. This is a highly recommended free online training for foster parents.
In this video, Dr. Karyn Purvis explains the importance of understanding behaviors in children and how to respond effectively. Some behaviors that may show up when a child is trying to express a need and doesn’t know how to use their words appropriately includes being controlling, manipulative and aggressive. Dr. Purvis reviews the attachment cycle and the notion that a child’s need is expressed by their voice. For example, when a child cries and someone comes right away versus someone not responded, this impacts their attachment behavior. By responding to the child’s voice, trust, self-worth and self-efficacy are impacted in a positive way.
Dr. Purvis discusses how a child’s sympathetic nervous system is impacted depending on the environment they are in. If a child is in a loving environment, when a parent responds to their needs, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and brings down blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. The child learns if a parent is responding that although they may be in danger, they are safe. This begins the child’s behavioral regulation and the child learns that certain needs are going to be met over time.
In terms of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, these can be off-balance for some children. A child will experience a flood of excitatory neurotransmitters when they are hungry, cold, lonely, or afraid. However, when a loving caregiver responds to the child consistently, the child experiences a flood of inhibitory neurotransmitters. Inhibitory neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, can come to children via nutrient-rich foods, healthy and affectionate loving touch, and trusting they are safe. Negative behaviors are more apparent in children who have serotonin deficits.
As a child grows up, the issues they experience with their behaviors may result in various diagnoses. At the age of two to three, children may have a behavioral dysregulation diagnosis. At four to six years old, children typically are diagnosed with ADHD due to too much excitatory transmission and not enough inhibitory transmission. At eight to ten years of age, they experience “anxiety withdrawn depression” or agitated depression. At twelve or older, some children will receive a diagnosis of bipolar because of this imbalance. Dr. Purvis explains that children in foster care have twice the rate of PTSD than veterans who’ve been in war.
Dr. Purvis emphasizes the need of parents to give their child a voice. This can be done various ways including using play dough, writing letters, journaling, etc. She provides examples of children expressing a need through behaviors instead of words, and how this can be addressed appropriately. Dr. Purvis discusses a child who would run away, and she requested that instead of the child running, that he come to her and let her know he needs to run. At that point she would take the time to take the child on a run. This way, the child is getting their needs met, and able to connect on their own by using their words. Creating an environment to allow for healing and learning self-regulation skills and using words helps a child learn to connect, trust, learn they are safe, and that they have a voice. In addition, they learn self-worth and self-efficacy.
At the end of the lesson, Dr. Purvis explains the best way to understand children’s behavior is to give them a voice to express their needs. This includes not tolerating disrespect and showing mutual respect with the child. Correction is born out of understanding behavior and also having mutual respect with the child. By giving a child undivided attention and utilizing actions that are consistent with what the child is saying, behaviors can be better corrected.
For a full transcript of the video this course was based on, click here.