The "B" Word

"Behavior" is a term that has received a negative connotation in many settings. It reflects an assumption that there are children for whom the observable behaviors we see are indicative of willful non-compliance or defiance on the part of the child, or that the child is somehow manipulative in their intent. While this can be true in some cases, it has been my observation and experience, and the field of neuroscience and study of early childhood adverse experiences and developmental trauma have revealed that, for a vast majority of children, this is a damaging misperception. If we fail to understand what is happening in a child's brain, body, relationships, and environments that are contributing to their struggles, we risk doing more harm than good in our attempts to affect change in those behaviors we have deemed maladaptive. Here at Anchor & Arrow Therapy, I prefer to view behavior using the iceberg model, or goldfish shark analogy. With the iceberg, I view behaviors as the tip of the iceberg. They are the observable manifestations that give us clues about what is happening in the child's internal and external environments. From the perspective of the goldfish shark analogy, the behaviors we see are represented by the shark fin, visible above the water line, and frequently appearing to be scary, dangerous, or threatening to those around them. However, when you look beneath the surface of the water, you consistently find a non-threatening and often scared child in distress due to any number of factors. The depth and breadth of all the potential contributors to that distress is what the base of the iceberg depicts. It is my hope to be able to help families find those contributors, address them, and help the child to ultimately feel safe in their bodies, relationships, and environments, because when a child feels safe, they are able to start to take risks. With each risk, a child starts to naturally make progress and produce more adaptive responses. This gentler approach has been found to result in increased resiliency, or improved ability to manage and recover from stressors.