If you have a child with learning and attention issues, and she’s having a behavior problem, you may feel like there’s plenty on your plate already. So if someone who works with your child—like a doctor or a school counselor—suggests that you observe her and take notes, it may feel like one task too many in your already busy day.
But you are the expert of your child. You know her best. Outside school, you interact with her more than anyone else. And you get to see her in many different settings, where there are many different demands on her.
That’s why your child’s doctor or school counselor may ask you to observe your child and take notes on what you see. He’s not trying to get you to do his work for him. Your input can make a giant difference when it comes to helping him understand and improve your child’s behavior.
Here’s why observing your child and taking notes is so important.
What You Gain by Observing Your Child
It may seem like your child’s behavior is random and her actions come out of nowhere. Or it may look like there’s no reason that she struggles with certain tasks and not others. But observing your child closely over time may reveal patterns in her behavior that can help explain what’s going on.
Let’s say your grade-schooler has a meltdown every morning, and you think it’s because she hates what you made for breakfast. Then you watch her for a week, writing down what happens before, during and after her tantrums. Later, you review your notes. You may discover that what really sets her off is how dark her toast is. Once you adjust the toaster setting, she’s happy to eat her breakfast without a fuss.
Not every problem can be solved so simply. But learning what to look for and what to write down lets you create a record that can help you spot patterns in your child’s behavior. Examining those patterns can often help you discover the source of a behavior problem, even if your child herself doesn’t realize what it is. And that can make it easier to find effective strategies to help.
When you take the time to watch your child’s behavior carefully:
- You gather information about what happens before, during and after a meltdown or behavior problem. Examining that information can help you understand what your child is reacting to.
- You gain insight into when and how to intervene to prevent a situation with your child from escalating.
- You get a fuller understanding of your child’s learning and attention issues.
- You send your child the message, “I know this is tough for you. But together we can figure out how to make things easier, and we’re going to.”
What Professionals Gain From Your Observations
You’re uniquely positioned to watch and understand your child. And your notes and observations can help your child’s doctor and others better understand what your child is experiencing. They may even ask you to look for specific things.
For instance, a doctor or school counselor may ask you to observe and take notes on far more than just whether your child gets upset when you take her out for ice cream. Does she try to read the menu, or does she just rattle off her favorite flavors until the server has one she wants? How does she interact with the wait staff? What happens just before she starts yelling?
When you pay careful attention to all these details and write them down, you’re providing invaluable clues that can help you and others get a fuller sense of your child’s learning and attention issues. And that helps everyone.
Learn about steps you can take when observing your child and taking notes.