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15 Mar '21

Behaviour is Communication - What is the child or young person trying to tell you?

Posted by Carolyn in News

About 60% of all communication is nonverbal. Even when we are not saying anything our body language, our facial expressions, our gestures and so on are all communicating for us every minute of the day.

As such, it is important to understand the signs where a child or young person may be communicating nonverbally. Here are five of the main indicators:

1. Movement and actions

Children’s gestures are a type of nonverbal communication and may indicate the child is trying to express a negative feeling or emotion. The child may throw their hands in the air or in more subtle terms, have their head face down on a classroom desk. As you spend more time with them, you will be able to identify and understand certain physical reactions better.

2. Tone of voice

When speaking to a child or young person, they may verbally portray their feelings in a way that is not actually true. A child may say he or she is feeling happy, but a sign this may not be the case is their tone of voice. It may sound unconvincing. It is important to learn that non-verbal communication and verbal communication usually go hand in hand. If they do not, it is best to talk further with the child or young person.

3. Facial indicators

It is normally easy to spot how a child or young person is feeling through their facial expressions. If their facial expression is positive, they are most likely feeling happy. If it appears to be negative, it is important to investigate further and discuss with the child if there is a reason for appearing down or angry.

4. Spatial awareness

You may be able to identify how affectionately a child has been raised by their parents, guardian, or wider family through their willingness to socially interact with others. Children without a physically loving relationship with their family will find it harder to be around their peers in a close-knit environment, while you will see the opposite in children with much more physical affection in their upbringing. Spotting these differences in children will help you understand the best way to communicate with them positively

What can we do to help?

When a child/teen is anxious and stressed their behaviour will be communicating something to you, always respond to the need and not to the behaviour, allow a child or young person to feel more in control and demonstrate empathy and care.

Useful resource
Dr Karen Treisman discusses some common survival, protective, and coping tools, skills, and resources: -

If you want to learn more about behaviour as communication, Dr Karen Treisman will delivering a half day online live training course on “Behaviour is communication: If the behaviour could talk what is the child or young person trying to say?“19th May 21, 2.00pm. Karen will be offering lots of practical advice and will convey some of the theory behind behaviour of children and young people and how to respond and support them.

Awesome CPD Events for teachers, social care workers and health professionals.

Book now