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Why can’t they just listen and behave?

Frustration, powerlessness and a sense of hopelessness are common themes echoed from teachers who work with younger children. They’ve worked earnestly to earn their degrees, professional credentials and expertise. Yet in the classroom, their preparation is challenged by children who display inattentiveness, aggression and defiance. Often, teachers are made to feel inadequate and with mounting pressures on standardized achievement, it’s not hard to imagine the stress they feel.

In the past few years, therapists from The Center for Child Development, have launched an attempt to provide opportunities for child care professionals to increase understanding of why some children display challenging behaviors. We’ve found that by increasing their understanding of behavioral and emotional disorders, educators and child care providers are better equipped to manage and mitigating disruptive behavior.
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University coined the term–toxic stress and has pioneered research on this condition as well as strategies to lessen the negative consequences of this risk factor.

Exposure to toxic or chronic stress is often the cause of many childhood disorders and can be brought about by any of the following circumstances:

exposure to violence in home or community
abuse of any type
mental illness or drug abuse of caretakers
lack of adequate protection from parents or other caregivers

Constant exposure to any of the above conditions (and others) changes the brain in significant ways. Even prenatal exposure to prolonged stress experienced by the mother, has been shown to negatively impact brain development in children. If you consider that often times parents are suffering from untreated toxic stress, it’s not hard to see how complicated life becomes for these children.

Why does an understanding of chronic stress matter? Well, it can explain behaviors and emotional regulation difficulties in children. Additionally, understanding this condition, can help to decrease disparities in learning, physical and emotional health.

Teachers and child care professionals are in the position of positively influencing children and decreasing the effects of chronic and prolonged stress. Studies have shown that positive, responsive, nurturing relationships provide protective factors that ultimately help the child in many ways. Studies have shown that positive adult relationships can help to decrease aggressive behavior and improve ability to self-regulate.

Teachers who understand this condition, can identify children who might benefit from simple interventions to decrease this risk factor. Additionally, those who work with children can moderate their responses to unacceptable behaviors and interact in different and helpful ways.

Please join us for a very important online learning opportunity to better understand and increase your ability to be responsive to children who struggle with consequences from prolonged stress. Click this link to register now.


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