Survival Behaviors

Aug 27, 2023

So, I was thinking about past pets yesterday, specifically, my chameleon, Juan Pablo. Chameleons are interesting creatures. They can change their colors in less than 20 seconds, blend into their environment entirely, and when feeling threatened, puff up like blowfish with survival behaviors on full display. Sound like any kids you know?

Our brains are wired for survival, and when we get stressed, feelings are manifested through our behaviors. We are prone to reacting to situations rather than responding to them, acting irrationally, and saying or doing things we shouldn’t. We cope.

As an adult, I’ve had a lot of practice coping over the years. Mostly I’ve learned how to deal with my survival behaviors, and accordingly, they have tempered. Sadly, the same can’t be said for all kids. We need to remember this when dealing with their inappropriate behaviors, and

• Adjust our perspectives. Children and teens cope the only way they know how. This doesn’t excuse their behaviors, but it helps us better understand them and not take things personally.

• Talk with kids privately about behaviors because audiences usually escalate problems. This is why I tried to get my boys away from their brothers before discussing concerns.

• Be patient. Adults make mistakes all the time, despite the fact we have had more years to learn how to behave than the children with whom we work. Developmentally, our kiddos are still trying to figure out how to get their needs met appropriately, and this process takes time – around age 25, if the maturation of our prefrontal cortex is any indication.

I never talked to Juan Pablo about his behaviors, though he often gave me reason, puffing up and hissing at me on several occasions when I startled him. However, I discovered if I just left him alone for a while, he calmed down and was accepting of my approach. No matter the animal, I’ve found this last strategy to be particularly effective in soothing the beast within.

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