Physiological Behavior Triggers
Sometimes behavior can be attributed to what children consume or don't consume. Sugar does not make children hyperactive. A 1994 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology clearly refuted this common belief. In a study of 5 to 7-year-old boys, parents were told they would receive large doses of sugar, and were then asked to rate their behavior. The majority of the parents rated their children as being more hyperactive, despite the fact that half of them didn't have any sugar! But based on parent expectations, they perceived their boy's behavior accordingly. However, the converse may affect behavior: low blood-glucose levels leads to an increased release of compensatory adrenaline, known as hypoglycemia. Children are hungry and angry, due to the change in glucose and adrenaline levels. In addition, artificial additives--found in cereals, chips and juices--are linked to hyperactivity. Lastly, a study in 2013, based on nearly 500 children between 7 and 9-years-old indicated that low levels of omega-3, long-chain polyunsaturated fats, were correlated with increased behavior issues, a lower reading level, and poorer memory.
Lack of Sleep
Nowadays with increased sports and activities, and a multitude of screens, children may not be getting the requisite amount of sleep necessary to feel refreshed for a school day. The recommended amount of sleep for children between the age of 6 and 13 is from 9 to 11 hours. For kids under 11, a good bedtime is around eight or nine o'clock. For teenagers, starting at ages 13 or 14, there is a phase delay, so they often sleep around eleven o'clock, despite the fact they still need at least 9 hours of sleep. The other major issue is lighting, in particular blue light, or short-wave; these light sources trick children believing it's still daytime, which inhibits the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin. Therefore, screens should be shut down completely at least one to two hours before sleep.
Many settings in a child's life can be overstimulating and overwhelming at times. This goes for a classroom and school as well. Among the bright lights, loud sounds and voices, smells, visual distractions, and technology, a classroom can be a very busy and challenging environment to successfully navigate around in. Research shows that 1 in 6 children experience auditory and tactile sensory symptoms that negatively impact their everyday life. One in 20 suffer from sensory processing disorder (SPD), a disorganization of sensory signals and responses in the brain. Children with SPD find it harder to process auditory or tactile stimuli. Some struggle with touching certain fabrics, others find lighting and sounds disturbing, and still others may not process certain sensations, such as cold and hot properly, leading to dangerous situations. Sensory objects have been known to help, but occupational therapy may be necessary.
Immature Verbal Communication Skills
These critical skills can be delayed or absent due to several reasons, such as the discouragement of outward displays of feelings and emotions. However, Ockwell-Smith believes "all behavior is communication." Therefore, instead of ignoring bad behavior, she recommends giving them attention, in order to get to the root of the problem and correct it.
Psychological Behavior Triggers
Lack of Control
There needs to be a fine balance between control and boundaries. Children need to have some sense of control over their lives (food, clothes, use of time), related to their respective ages and personal development. If they feel oppressed and resentful, they may counter with their perceived limited power: shouting, whining, violence, or tantrums. On the other hand, without boundaries and limits from a permissive parent, children will feel unsafe and insecure.
Undesirable Behavior in Others
Children model and imitate behavior around them at an early age. The famous Bobo Doll experiment in the 1960s by psychologist Albert Bandura clearly showed the powerful effects of mirroring (social learning) on children. The results showed that children were more aggressive if they witnessed an adult being aggressive. Also, boys were three times more aggressive than girls, and all children were more aggressive if they observed an adult of the same sex.
Lack of Connection
Children demand, crave and need attention, especially when they are younger. Younger kids may hit or kick if they feel you are ignoring them. Older children may not listen or stay away from home, as a subconscious way to get adult attention. Parents or other adults getting angry and giving punishments may compound the problem by weakening or even severing the connection they desire. A regular, daily check-in at least once a day is recommended to maintain a healthy connection and relationship. When a child feels loved, valued and heard, they gain a strong sense of security and belonging.
Source: Gentle Discipline, Sarah Ockwell-Smith, 2017
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Children with ADHD make up 3 to 5 percent of the school population. There are three forms: predominately inattentive; predominantly hyperactive/impulsive; and the combined type. Inattention includes the inability to sustain attention in tasks or play, great difficulty getting organized or does not follow through on instructions or finish schoolwork or chores. Hyperactivity includes fidgeting and squirming, leaving one's seat in the classroom or talking excessively. Impulsivity includes blurting out answers, trouble taking turns or intruding on others.
Boys and girls are both equally likely to be affected, but girls tend to be less aggressive and disruptive, so are often less diagnosed than boys. Students struggle with attention and disruptive behavior, which leads to academic struggles. When they can't manage their emotions with peers, their social lives begin to suffer, often being left out of playdates and parties. Even at home, children with ADHD can strain the relationship between parent and child, because of their stubbornness or embarrassing behavior. If left unaddressed, these children often end up becoming teens that indulge in more thrill-seeking behavior, more drug and alcohol abuse, and are at risk for mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Ultimately, unchecked, their chances for completing school, pursuing higher education and finding satisfying jobs are reduced.
First, determine whether it is indeed ADHD and other factors, such as allergies, hearing or vision problems, stress, diet, inappropriate placement, and maturity level. Generally, students with ADHD require more time and guidance to master information. They may need reinforcing lessons and methods to monitor their own attention, to bring them back on task. Assistive technology can also be a benefit. Parent support and education, as well as family counselling, may be helpful. By their teens, many children show improvement though they remain energetic. Medication may be necessary for some with an extreme condition of ADHD.
Source: Learning Disabilities: A to Z; Corinne Smith and Lisa Strick, 2010
People with ADHD suffer from impulsivity, which means acting without thinking beforehand.
Generally, until people are in their early twenties, their decision making and responses take place in the limbic area--the "emotional brain." There is less inhibition and evaluation of consequences, but as they mature, they begin to respond with the frontal cortex--the "rational brain."
However, individuals with ADHD respond primarily with their limbic area instead of their frontal cortex. So they act or react immediately, without thinking of the potential consequences.
People with ADHD can work on skills and strategies of delaying gratification and evaluating consequences, as well as medication if necessary.
Source: The Disorganized Mind, Nancy A. Ratey, 2008
Erratic working memory and a faulty attention system (impaired executive functions) leads to procrastination. Think of working memory like RAM in a computer; without enough RAM, the brain forgets what it was working on, and moves onto the next task at hand.
People with ADHD also have the uncanny propensity to forget or suppress their goals or important activities they need to complete and instead spend time on trivial tasks, even when they know the consequences of failure in these more critical tasks.
Yet, people with ADHD also "benefit" from procrastination, though probably in somewhat unhealthy ways. When they reach a point of "do-or-die," then a couple of things happen: cortisol (stress response and stress hormone) and dopamine (neurotransmitter of attention system) activate in the body. Suddenly, the frontal cortex is "turned on" and RAM and executive functions begin to work normally. Then these individuals are able to focus their effort and attention on the task at hand.
Therefore, as painful as procrastination can be, people with ADHD still feel they are able to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute, which continues this cycle of procrastination.
Source: The Disorganized Mind, Nancy A. Ratey, 2008
Executive functioning is defined as the "administrator and manager of a complex an busy system"--the brain. It helps students manage all types of tasks, such as organizing a trip, doing a project, or writing a report. It covers neurologically-based skills dealing with mental control and self-regulation.
It is a symptom of many larger issues: attention-deficit/hyperactivity (AD/HD), learning disability (LD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), neurodevelopmental, psychiatric and medical disorders.
Here are different types of executive function:
Source: Late, Lost, and Unprepared, Joyce Cooper-Kahn (Ph.D) & Laurie Dietzel (Ph.D), 2008
Daniel H. Lee
This blog will be dedicated to sharing in three areas: happenings in my classroom and school; analysis and distillation of other educators' wealth of knowledge in various texts; insights from other disciplines and areas of expertise that relate and connect with educational practices.