Thursday, April 19, 2018

When Siblings Develop Learned Behaviors

A child who lives in a trauma family will develop learned behavior as coping mechanism in order to survive in a chaotic situation.

We know that a traumatized child exhibits negative behavior due to his experiences, and as a result, we are more prone to show them grace. Grace becomes a little harder to dish out when previously healthy siblings begin using their siblings trauma behavior to cope with the daily rages, destruction, and verbal/physical abuse dished out by these children.

It is uncanny how younger siblings will take on the same body language and voice inflections, as well as using the same wording that their older siblings use when they are melting down or raging.

Things get complicated when you don't discipline your older child for acting in such a way, because you know he is acting in such a manner due to the pain/trauma he experienced; while the the other child is acting out because he see's his siblings doing so and in his eyes, getting away with it. This of course, seems very unfair to the younger child.

To complicate things, the older child will naturally egg the younger child on until he acts out, then step back and watch the fall out, which is typical trauma behavior. The younger child feels as if he is being treated unfairly because he gets consequences for an action when his sibling doesn't.

This phenomenon was causing no end of friction in our family. Sibling relationships were falling apart, child/parent relationships were suffering, and I hated going away because others could easily see what was happening, but since they weren't aware of the dynamics behind it all, opinions were being formed and things were getting sticky. 

I did what I usually do when I get in over my head, I emailed my friend and said, "HELP, what do we do? How do we handle this situation so that the trauma child cannot continue to manipulate relationships, and our other children do not feel as though they being are picked on when they receive consequences for the same actions their sibling, "gets away with?" As usual she had excellent advice, "First our children have to realize that their traumatized sibling has a much smaller world, meaning fewer privileges." For safety reasons some children need to be in line of sight all the time, some need to ask permission before participating in certain activities, some may not use a scissors....there are a multitude of things where a trauma child needs supervision whereas a healthy child has the ability to make choices for himself.  She continued, "Remind your children that while _______________ may not get a consequence for certain behaviors, while you do, they live in a small world. Which would you rather have?" This was brilliant because I knew all our children would agree that following the rules and having freedom is much more appealing than "getting away with" acting out and having a small world!

This can be hard to remember in the heat of the moment when your child throws a fit in public, using the same words and actions as his traumatized sibling or stomps off in a huff, slamming the door and destroying things as he goes. As a parent, I get so weary of dealing with this sort of thing. Sometimes I want to lash out at my trauma child, other times I am angry with the child who is using all the learned behaviors in his arsenal. I want to cry, "God it is hard enough dealing with these behaviors in my severely traumatized child, now I also have to deal with this learned behavior, which is even more frustrating!!!!"

So if learned behavior is pushing you to the edge of your sanity, know one thing, you aren't the only one!

Follow me on FB @ Tales From Our House Blog

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting. I love hearing from my readers!