As adults, we smile at customer service representatives to try and change the outcome of our request. We say hello to get another person's attention. We play with our kids to avoid washing dishes. We turn on a movie because it will make our children sit still. We write blog posts to get comments.
Babies cry so mom or dad will pick them up, they spit out food to let us know that pureed asparagus is disgustingly craptastic, and they lean in to give us slobbery kisses because it makes us squeal.
As parents and caregivers we often say things like, "He hit her for no reason!" or "I don't know why he keeps whining and clinging to me" or every time I tell him to complete a task, he flips out." There is always a reason. We don't act simply to act; we want to gain something from our actions.
Behavior is a form of communication. And when expressive language lags, non-verbal communication escalates. Behavior always serves a purpose, whether it be to escape or delay a task, to gain attention, or to get a reward.
For example, Punkin was a very cheery kid this afternoon. He played and worked with his respite worker and even asked her to stay when I came home. He continued to play until I told him it was time to eat dinner and turn off Handy Manny, at which point he turned into a raving lunatic. He never said, "I want the movie back." Instead, he shoved his plate away from him, ran into the living room, and sobbed while I ate dinner. After some time he calmed down and I let him know that he had to sit down. Then he smacked me, yelled no at me, and was generally unpleasant to be around. He continued to cry alligator tears for a while until he realized he WASN'T getting up. So he ate his fruit and vegetables, tried one bite of the casserole, and was set free.
Ultimately his crying DID delay having to sit at the table, but since he spent that time flipping out and without access to preferred items, I really didn't care. It's easy to let the meltdown suck me in, make me adapt TOO much. But I refuse to cook more than one meal at a time and I refuse to let a 4-year-old decide our ENTIRE schedule. Sure, I have to keep him in mind, but ultimately I am the boss. Also, I won.