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What to do When the Bad Behavior Isn't Your Fault


  “So how’s it going?” That was the single question that led to the sobbing. I was sitting in a pediatrician’s office for my son’s five-year physical when I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The tears began streaming down my face and our pediatrician froze as I struggled to speak. How did I get here? Why was I so emotional to a simple question? As I accepted the scratchy, cheap tissues from the physician’s hand I began to tell my story.

     I remember very clearly the excitement of being pregnant. I will never forget those first days in the hospital and at home staring at my newborn son. I was so thrilled with anticipation for the future and with the hope of what was to come. I had read the parenting books, I was a Registered Nurse-I was confident that I was prepared.

     Then, as my baby boy grew into a toddler. I began to notice some things like he would cry when we would laugh at something funny he would do. Or, he would cover his ears when the garbage truck passed our home. He really struggled with separation anxiety and would cling to me often. I presented the concerns to our pediatrician and was met with reassurance, and I was told that all of this behavior was age-appropriate.

     Then, at about 18 months he started a Mother’s Day Out program. It turns out my child was the biter in the class. Yep, I was mortified. He also would push and shove his classmates. Once again, my concerns were met with reassurance and support. Yet as he grew, our behavior struggles grew as well. He was three and still biting, still pushing others, still having meltdowns. It was affecting every area of our life and that isn’t counting how he was still waking up every night.

     I struggled with the guilt and embarrassment that would come with any playdate or park visit. Why couldn’t my child just play with other children? So, I did the logical thing, and I reached out to other mothers for suggestions…and boy did they have plenty of suggestions. So I did them all. I took multiple parenting courses, learning about positive discipline, implemented structure and routine, made certain his diet was just right. I even (once again) visited the pediatrician who again dismissed my concerns and assured me that “some toddlers are rougher than others”.

     While all of that advice and education helped me control my reactions-none of those were changing my child’s behavior. I was beginning to feel like a failure. When I shared struggles with other mothers they would again suggest parenting strategies. When I would discuss the subject with our pediatrician she would tell me it was typical behavior and the “phase” would pass. She was not concerned and would reiterate how well behaved he was for her.

     So finally, after years of frustration and (to be honest doubting my own sanity) I was here in a freezing cold doctor’s office crying my eyes out.

“Just go to Occupational Therapy”

That was it-that was all he said. I stared ahead. I thought occupational therapy was only for kids that had trouble with handwriting.

     Then he began to explain to me how the brain and the body were connected, and how movement builds the neurological system. If something interrupts that process, then the brain may need a little help. Using movement, we could help my child to calm down, manage his impulsivity, and improve his behavior.

    I walked out of that office more determined than ever to help my child. My son had an assessment and they ruled out underlying diagnoses. Fortunately, I found an incredible OT who shared my pediatrician’s belief that we needed to look at the brain from the inside out. Each area of the brain is responsible for different movements and behavior. This perspective has literally changed our lives. It has become a family thing, a way of life for all of us.

     Since incorporating a specific movement routine my child has blossomed. Is he perfect? Nope. However, he is much better at controlling his impulses, he has dramatically improved socially, he is thriving academically, and his anxiety has decreased.

     Instead of staying quiet, I make a point to openly share our struggles. I don’t want other mothers to feel lonely, guilty, or even worse- responsible for behavior. My advice is to keep pushing, keep asking for answers, and keep searching for things that can make your life better. It is okay to keep pushing forward, even if it feels like no one else is listening.

Interested in using your own at-home sensorimotor program? Visit to learn more.


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