Amazing Insight from a 10-Year-Old
On Saturday, I had one of the most disconcerting and satisfying days ever. A frantic Mom had emailed me a 15-page report back from her child’s psychologist, asking if we could meet. The report didn’t tell the parents anything new. The parents already knew that their child struggled with this, that and the other. Instead of providing a deep understanding of WHY her son struggled with about 12 behaviors, the report merely attached scary labels to these behaviors in an effort to categorize them:Your son is suffering from sensory processing disorder, attention deficit disorder, auditory processing disorder, opposition defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, dysgraphia and fine motor skills difficulties that impact writing.Many of you have felt the fear and dread that accompanies such a diagnosis-imaging a childhood lost to endless therapy, headaches in school and thousands of dollars in testing and treatment. Many have no diagnosis, but you recognize the behaviors.
Here is what is frustrating. No one ever provides the ONE critical piece of insight necessary to make lasting change academically, behaviorally and psychologically: understanding the root cause of these behaviors.
Why Traditional Behavior Management Doesn’t Work
Traditional behavior management and therapy is seriously flawed because it seeks to change outward behavior, not meet the child’s underlying root needs. These unmet needs are the cause of the outward behavior.
Did you know that the diagnoses above are all interrelated and have two common roots?
What Are the Common Root Causes of These Behaviors/Manifestations?
Disorganization, anxiety, forgetfulness, poor planning and follow through, being controlling and bossy, perceiving injustices, being defensive and lying, shutting down from negativity, not fitting in with peers, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, wearing the same clothes and eating the same food, and feeling overwhelmed can all be attributed to the same root cause: a brain chemistry resulting in a lack of internal order-hence the need for order and structure.
Procrastination, inattentiveness, distractibility, hyper-focusing on one activity, being argumentative and oppositional, depression, being bored, constant movement and fidgeting and always completing tasks the difficult way can all be attributed to an under-stimulated brain-hence the need for purposeful stimulation.
Why do teachers need to understand this? Because if we don’t understand the underlying needs, we will misinterpret just about everything our students do. We’ll spend countless hours telling Jimmy to “Stop tapping your pencil,” “Stop chewing on your eraser,” “Stop talking” and so on. Jimmy won’t change his behavior until we meet the brain’s need for stimulation. That’s what we teach educators on the Brain Boosters™ CD’s and curriculum–it’s powerful.
Why do parents need to understand this? Because we are racked with anxiety over behaviors we just cannot understand. Why is my child so bossy? Why does he wear the same exact clothes day after day and eat the same food? Why does she ask, “What’s the plan, what’s the plan?” Once we realize that our kids are trying to create consistency and order on the outside because they don’t have it inside, then the solutions become easier to implement. And it reinforces just how critical it is for our kids to experience consistency–from calm parents!
Why does your child need to know this? This is my greatest passion in life: helping kids understand that their brains are wired differently and that it’s a GOOD thing. The greatest surprise for us this past year is this: we now have over 2,700 kids listening to our CD’s. Why? It helps them feel validated-like they aren’t alone, that they are normal and someone else, perhaps even the guy invented the iPod, shares these same qualities. When our kids understand what makes them tick, this knowledge gives them power to overcome anxiety, frustration and difficulties. They understand the root of their issues and can be empowered to develop their own strategies. We have kids across the country explaining the way their brain works best-the brain boosters-to their teachers, effectively advocating for themselves based on their needs.
Here’s why this is important as well. We can now discuss our child without even mentioning disorders or labels or even behaviors-we talk instead about our child’s needs. When we talk to the teacher, the Tae Kwon Do leader or the in-laws, we help them understand how to meet our child’s two primary needs-not treat outward behavior. It’s really cool so try this if you haven’t already.
What a 10-Year-Old Told Me
On Saturday, I met with this amazing 10-year-old boy who everyone was so concerned about. I always begin conversations talking about kids’ gifts and passions.
“Hey, Tyler, I heard you’re a pretty amazing artist.”
“Uh, I’m okay.”
“You get in trouble for doing that in class?”
“Drawing on your arms.”
“I guess so.”
“I bet it helps you stay focused and awake in class.”
“Yeah,” he let on and sat up a bit. I could tell he was intrigued.
“Your brain starts going to sleep in class, and to keep it awake, you turn your imagination on and need to move your hands. So you begin drawing on your arm, and when you’re doing that, I bet you’re listening better.”
“That’s not what my teacher thinks.”
“Ever tell your teacher that?”
“Because I never thought of it like that. I just assumed I was doing something wrong.”
“Is that because since you were a little kid you’ve always been in trouble?”
“You’ve just been misunderstood, my friend!” He managed a smile, but still looked a little awkward, like who’s this guy telling me about my life. I noticed him rocking back in his chair.
“Get in trouble for that, too?”
He smiled sheepishly. “Drives my father crazy.”
“And you like the reaction, right? Gets the focus off of you and on to your Dad going freaky, right?”
He just smiled again.
“So you see a common pattern here? You sit like that because it’s more interesting and there’s a chance you could fall back and crack your head open, right? That’s why you do things the difficult way, different than your brother does. You’re not weird at all, so don’t ever think that. That’s just waking your brain up. And then you get into a little fight with your Dad, and I bet you secretly enjoy that. Here’s what’s happening, Tyler. You’ve got a really cool brain-all of that creativity and the way you look at the world differently is a great quality. It is. Your brain just doesn’t get as much bloodflow as other kids’ brains-and all that means is your brain is under-stimulated. That’s why you are always wanting to wake your brain up-moving, drawing, rocking on your chair, arguing, chewing.” (I could see him chewing gum)
“Yeah, I get that.”
“So when you go to school Monday, can you talk to your teacher about this? We’re not making excuses. We’re just saying, ‘Here’s how my brain works. And I’ll learn better if I can chew gum, stand in the back of the room and doodle on paper. Can we try it out and see if my grades improve?'”
“I guess I can try it.”
“You like losing all your privileges at home?”
“Sometimes I don’t mind.”
“You know why?”
“Sure you do. It’s a challenge. You get bored, you like the challenge. To see if you can push their buttons and then take whatever they dish out.”
Another sheepish smile.
“So here’s another challenge for ya, Tyler. Listen, it’s your life, not mine. If you enjoy being in trouble all the time, fine with me. But I know that’s not the real you. Instead of fighting with your parents all the time to get that stimulation, what else could you do instead?”
“Fight with my brother?”
“Funny. Okay, add that to your list of great qualities-quick wit. Let me guess something about you. Do you mind, because this is personal?”
“I know you have a really good heart. You don’t let on, but you’re a deep thinker and you feel stuff deeply. I know it. So think about this for a second. How do you want to help people?”
He thought a little bit and we talked about how the happiest people in life are people who are using their gifts, talents and passions to help others. Which, by the way, is the greatest form of purposeful stimulation.
Within 15 minutes, we came up with a few options to explore with his parents. Turns out Tyler has a knack for making money and always thought it would be cool to grant a wish for a Make-A-Wish child. We talked about ways to raise money. His grandmother lives in a retirement community where he hangs out sometimes-he likes talking to the older people. Could he cook a meal for them? And he mentioned tutoring younger kids and teaching them how to draw. Excellent.
In the end, did we address many of his issues and challenges? Yes but we did so from a position of strength. We gave Tyler something to look forward to, some purposeful missions that he could put his energy into. We helped him understand himself so that he can advocate for himself in school. We’ve given him practical tools to overcome some of his weaknesses.
I encourage you to take this approach with your students and children. They will surprise you once they understand how they are wired!
$200 Discount & Free CD’s
Want to give your child tools to write better, make friendships and build confidence? We provide these and other tools in our 10 E-Courses. See the outline below.
This special group of written E-Courses and Bonus Reports contains information above and beyond what we’ve ever offered before. The cost is usually $200, but we’re going to give you:
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(5) A form for completing a Family Agreement together.
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