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How Do I Know When My Child's Difficult Behaviour Comes From Dyslexia?

How can we as parents tell when our child's behaviour stems from having dyslexia rather than from just being a child and what should we do about it?

As a parent of a dyslexic child, one of the most common thoughts I had when dealing with behaviour was whether or not that behaviour was typical child like behaviour or behaviour as a result of dyslexia.  Then came the question of how I should deal with that behaviour.  My goodness, it caused confusion and often I felt like I made mistakes in the approaches I took.

When a child has dyslexia, you may well experience your child using avoidance tactics with regards to school and homework.  Maybe the they seem really untidy especially in their bedrooms.  Perhaps it seems common for your child to forget things for school. Perhaps they seem like they never listen to what you tell them or forget important requests? 
Then when you feel you need to deal with these (and other) aspects of behaviour, you find that you experience a whole range of behaviour back as you try to help.  Maybe your child seems nonchalant about what they have or haven't done.  Maybe they use humour to avoid talking about what you feel is important, perhaps you experience anger and frustration directed at you.  Then it feels difficult to talk about stuff that seems really important and it feels like there is a communication gap between you and your child.  Emotionally the distance feels hard and all you want to do is help your child and it worries you that you feel like your child doesn't see that you are just trying to help them.

Does that sound familiar?

So now my daughter is at university and perhaps I have some space to think about this and share some thoughts with you.

Your child is your child.

Over the years I came to one conclusion that really helped me and that was...

Dyslexia or not, my child is my child and whilst with dyslexia there may be a need for support, they are still that really important person that came into my life and I must accept who they are regardless of whatever challenges come up within my relationship with them.  

That is not to say that they don't need guidance and support but sometimes we need to be pragmatic and deal with what really is important and not just deal with things simply because they clash with us.
Let me give you an example.  Untidy bedrooms.  This drives me mad!  If you as a parent start to describe the storage area of your child's clothes as the 'floordrobe' then it is possible that your child's room is really untidy.  Personally I can't stand having an untidy bedroom, but whilst being tidy is a good thing, just because I'm tidy and need to function in that way, why should I impose that on my child?
In the case of my daughter, I realised that she knew where everything was and if I tried to get her to change then I was simply trying to get her to think like me, but that's the problem;  our children are different people to us.
We need to help them to grow personally, nurture them, not enforce our way of thinking on them.  This happens a lot to people that are dyslexic, 'neurodiverse', they think differently and too often people try to get them to think like them, especially in school.  It is stressful and tiring and whilst sometimes that diversity is hard to manage in earlier years and in school, by allowing that diversity to grow and flourish, your child will have so much to contribute back to society.  So often it is dyslexic thinkers that are the influencers of the world.

How much of my concerns are really rooted in my own emotional baggage?

If you are a parent and especially if you are dyslexic, your child will do things that press emotional buttons for you.  They might remind you of past experiences good and bad and that will have an emotional influence on you.
So when you are addressing behaviour, how much of your motivation is about your own emotional 'stuff'?  Are you addressing the behaviour of now from strategies that your parents used in the past for different circumstances?  Do we need to take a step back, cool down and see the reality of the situation before we risk adding anxiety to our children?

That is not to say that we as parents should not deal with behaviour that is unacceptable, but we should try and do that from a grounded 'big picture' perspective rather than from a snap reaction perspective.  So often I would snap and then realise later that I needed to think before I spoke.  If we do this then it doesn't matter whether your child is dyslexic or not, you are giving yourself space to watch, listen and give your child what they need to grow.

Focus on the roots of behaviour not the behaviour itself.

This is really important and will help immensely when considering the title of this blog.  All behaviour happens for a reason.  A child doesn't do bad behaviour because they are bad kids, there will be a reason behind it.  A good example is children focusing in class.  If a child doesn't have breakfast before going to school and they are hungry in class then they are going to be more concerned about food than studying.  The resultant behaviour will be about how they manage themselves, find the root cause and something can be done to help the child and potentially the behaviour goes away.

As a child myself, I found it difficult to concentrate in class and I would become chatty or I would use my 'unique' sense of humour to cover up my struggle.  The teacher would punish me for my behaviour.  I would then go home and my mother would ask me if I had been naughty, my reply was 'yes' (because I had got punished by the teacher) and then I got punished by my mum.  It's a common problem and all parents make that mistake.  My educational outcomes may have been different if someone had stopped to ask why I was chatty in class.  Why couldn't I focus?  Something could have been done and I may have been more engaged as a result.

I will be honest, I still get stressed when my daughter comes home and her bedroom looks a mess.  I still moan but I am more aware of that and why I moan and I hope that the impact of my actions improve over time as I become more aware of what is happening for me and for my daughter.  
As parents we are intuitive people, lets use our gut feeling to guide how we behave when dealing with behaviour and back off when we need to and be supportive when it is really required, when it is going to make a huge positive difference to our children, dyslexic or not.

If the above resonates strongly with you and you feel that you would benefit from exploring these issues on a one to one basis then I can help you.  Please get in touch with me via my contact page and lets set up a free consultation which will give you space to explore these issues further and build strategies for change.

Thanks for listening!


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  1. Wow this makes sense. My LG who is 7 is dyslexic and her room always looks like a cyclone has hit no matter how much I tidy it.
    We are new on this journey and there is so mich I need to learn her and guide her but mostly it feels like the blind leading the blind!

    1. Thanks for your comment. I am glad that the article helps.


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