Shouting, immediate ignition of temper, heightened complaining, and unmanageable behavior are all symptoms of the new phrase, “Hangry.” This word blends the words Hungry and Angry. Being hangry is a perfect example of exhibited attitude that does not represent the current phase of what a person is really feeling. The root of the behavior is caused from hunger. Yet, the person in that state cannot help but react the way its body is causing it to spill over in anger. It is a similar concept with children.

Children often do not understand the root of their emotions and get lost in their sensations. Their actions often get misinterpreted and the source of their emotion is not explored. Once the basis of the issue is addressed, a child’s composure will improve and their development will continue on in a healthy manner. It makes a big difference when parents take the time to unlock the concealed origin affecting a child’s emotions, thoughts, and performance. Tina Bryson and Janel Umfress did a thorough job in passionately explaining how essential it is to focus on the underlying cause of a child’s behavior to help them succeed; through a variation of points such as replacing assumptions with curiosity, teaching through play, and valuing the relationship.

Assuming is a dangerous path and should be replaced with curiosity. Tina and Janel delve into how parents and teachers should look for the purpose behind their student’s behavior. One way to do this is to not minimize what the child may be struggling with personally. Tina mentioned how parents often use “just” statements. It is easier to say, “he/she just does not care” or “he/she is just lazy.” These “just” statements end up blaming the child and do not benefit anyone. Instead, we can ask what the child is feeling, if anything happened at school, and help process what their reason is for their action. Tina pointed out, “Meaning often matters more than the behavior itself.”

Parents and teachers can also operate through play to have teachable moments with a child. Tina and Janel talked about how play is not compatible with fear. A child will not play if there is no safety. In other words, play creates a safe environment where the child feels comfortable and able to express thoughts or feelings without feeling threatened. Tina said, “Play creates more elasticity in the brain. Bringing play into whatever we are doing, allows us to expand more with the child.” For Real Connections, play is one of our greatest tools in working with children. We are able to challenge without offending and push without breaking.

The last and most important contrivance that can be applied to helping kids thrive is to focus on your relationship with them. Tina admitted to us that whenever she cannot come up with an intervention on the spot, she always falls back on relationship. Nothing beats a strong bond of attachment with a child. There are four “S” words that Tina used as examples of attachment: Safe, Secure, Seen, and Soothed. A child that feels all four of these sensations can let their walls go down and start opening up about their real struggle. Investing into our relationship with children not only affirms them but also creates a trust that expands their communication with us.

Consequently, the path of helping kids succeed can be explored in three of the many points Tina Bryson and Janel Umfress discussed at the ICC-LA Conference. We need to turn our assumptions into curiosity, take advantage of getting to play with the child, and devote energy into cultivating our relationships. At Real Connections Child Development Institute, we strive for all these aspects and more when interacting with our clients. With each session, the veil is being lifted just a tad more into discovering how to lead our children into succeeding at school, in family life, and in connecting with others.

Jessica Cheng

ICC-LA Conference at the Frostig Center

Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

Janel Umfress, M.S.