Why are we always trying to fix the children’s behavior?

Boy at DeskWhy is it that so many discussions about children’s behavior and motivation focus on what children could do differently to make things better?

Take for example, a recent New York Times Op/Ed piece by David Brooks (September 28, 2012). Brooks seems to agree with the basic premise of Paul Tough’s newest book, (How children succeed: Grit, curiosity and the power of character, 2012). Both writers sugges tthat if children showed a little more grit, curiosity, and character they could overcomer the adversity in their lives.  With a change of attitude, they can beat the odds.

Taking a Second Look at the adult side of the equation.

Let’s step back and reverse this thinking. What’s the adult’s role in all of this? Children are victimized more often than any other group in our society.  Childhood trauma is a public health epidemic.  What will give adults the motivation they need to protect young children from chronic stress and trauma? How much grit will it take for caring adults to start talking out loud about the long-lasting, serious effects stress has on children’s neurological development?

How much curiosity do adults need to take a second look at all of the information available on line and in print about how chronic stress and trauma changes the structure and chemistry of children’s brains? Where’s the media campaign addressing how trauma changes children’s ability to self-regulate?  Who’s covering the relationship between childhood stress and language development?  When will educators realize that the “one in four” children traumatized by violence each year go to their schools and are in their classrooms? Who’s got the grit to tweet about that? How much character will it take for caring adults everywhere to join together to stop the violence and protect children?

Children’s success depends in large measure on adult behavior. Children are not programmed to make it on their own.  Every aspect of their development depends on safe, secure relationships with caring adults. Without this protective shelter, children grow up afraid of and for their lives. Fear and despair drive their behavior.  They are reluctant to see any caregiver as a source of comfort or support. Rather they are perceived as dangerous or threatening.

What did you do to prevent violence today?

So the next time you’re wondering about what children need to succeed, ask yourself what you did to prevent violence today? Did you speak up for someone who was being ridiculed or made fun of? Where you kinder than you had to be? Did you smile at a teenager you passed on the street? Did you find out more about childhood trauma at www.childhoodtraumaacademy.org?