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Rethinking behaviour with Mona Delahooke

Your Wonderfully Wired child might have a diagnosis like ADHD or dyslexia or you just know he is DIFFERENT: he doesn't behave like other kids and poor report cards don’t indicate the bright child you know.

Sometimes it’s the behaviour that is harder for us to get our heads around than the performance in school. Why do our children seem so reactive? Why do small things result in such big (understatement) reactions?

Parents like you and me, need some extra help understanding the behaviour we see and knowing how to lovingly and effectively respond.

In her book, “Brain-Body Parenting”, neuroscience expert Dr Mona Delahooke has much helpful, interesting research.

Delahooke says that we tend to think of a child as being good or bad, stubbornly choosing to misbehave. Sometimes, however, he can’t help his behaviour when external factors cause his body to send stress signals to his brain.The misbehaviour stems from a stressed nervous system not a disobedient character.

Think of it like a bank account in the red, a child’s body account can become overdrawn with too many of these stress signals.

These behaviours are driven by the body and stem from a stressed nervous system not from a disobedient brain.

When he feels calm and safe his brain is able to make good choices; but when the body account is overdrawn he acts out with a need to move, shout, or fight.

Even as adults, we react to situations with less patience when we are tired, hungry or anxious – when more withdrawals have been made than deposits into our body accounts.

This is so much worse, and happens so much more quickly, for your Wonderfully Wired child because he is a super responder. The same sounds, lights or discomfort that another child can block out are urgent and distracting to him.

So what do we do?

We need to help our children balance their body accounts and ensure that withdrawals don’t exceed deposits.

We first need to understand what constitutes either a deposit or a withdrawal for each individual child.

Some possible deposits:

a nap

a hug

some movement

a healthy snack

a quiet voice and tone

a good night’s rest

quiet time

time with a special interest

Some possible withdrawals:


too much sugar

loud sounds

too much fun

sitting still


screen time


uncomfortable clothing

When your child does act out; avoid making more withdrawals

Lectures, time outs and consequences don’t work when a body account is in the red.

Remind yourself the behaviour isn’t wilful or personal. Take a deep breath and choose to respond in a reassuring manner.

A calm tone is more important than what you say.

Tell your child you understand they are upset, your understanding is a deposit when a child feels out of control.

Change the environment and move to making deposits into the body account.

An interview with Mona Delahooke is the exciting start to the Second Season of the Wonderfully Wired Podcast available from the 1st of June. What does Mona really recommend we do in response to baffling behaviour in children of all ages? You don’t want to miss this one.

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