Curiosity puts the C in PACE! It’s an attitude of not knowing & involves nothing more than a genuine desire to understand what might be going on for the child. It can involve making best guesses about what is happening. We convey our curiosity in a gentle, accepting tone & by tentatively wondering aloud about what the child’s experience might be.
Curiosity helps to increase our empathy for the child & our emotional connection with them. When we take time to explore what is going on behind the behaviour, it reduces the danger of us jumping too quickly to negative conclusions or responding from a place of anger or impatience.
Curiosity about why a child might be thinking or feeling the way that they do does not need to involve passing judgment. With curiosity, we can help figure out how their thoughts or feelings might have influenced their behaviour. This can be helpful for a child who genuinely doesn’t know why they behaved in a certain way, or who feels too ashamed to say why. The more they can articulate their thoughts & feelings, the less likely they are to act out behaviourally.
Curiosity creates psychological safety & leads to understanding. When we are curious, we communicate that we don’t think that there is something intrinsically wrong or ‘bad’ about the child, even if they have behaved inappropriately. We know the behaviour is a communication to us of their inner world – a feeling or thought that was stressful, saddening frightening or overwhelming for them. Our curiosity can be catching & when the child becomes more curious about their motivations, they also become less defensive about their behaviour & more open to thinking about how to do things differently next time.
Using curiosity, we communicate our desire to understand & assist & not to lecture or evaluate. This approach deepens the child’s confidence that we love & accept them & in turn helps them to develop self-understanding. This support is far more likely to lead to a reduction in challenging behaviour than anger or punishment.