Friday, March 18, 2011

Understanding Predatory Behavior

This week under the post Walking on Eggshells, Bugs Mom, a follower and fellow blogger shared a link to an article written by Janice Papolos and Demitri F. Papolos, M.D., to help us understand the predatory behavior we see in our kids that quickly turns a fun family day into a day of chaos. I really appreciated what they had to share and highly recommend you take the time to read this article.

Often times, we get frustrated with our kids when they’re provoking others. Over the years, we’ve seen our son complain of being bored, then moments later walk into his brother’s room and hit him or break his stuff for no reason. I’ve actually seen him smile with glazed eyes as he throws stuff at me because he’s bored. In the heat of the moment, I feel mad at my son for being so mean, but this article is a great reminder that this is something that isn’t done on purpose, even if they do it with a grin, they’re really suffering inside.

The article pointed out that a lot of this provoking behavior is the child’s way of coping with their inability to manage boredom. Unlike typical kids, these kids have depression that zaps out any enjoyment they would normally get from their favorite pass times, by acting out, this gives them a way to feel in control and connect with others, even if the results are negative. (Papolos & Papolos, 2004)

Other times this boredom may be a result of their executive function deficits.

“Many of these children have deficits in the frontal lobes--regions that govern the processes known as executive functions. The frontal lobes coordinate many things, including reasoning, problem solving, strategizing, working memory, attention, self-control, motor sequencing, intention, and flexibility of thought.”(Papolos & Papolos, 2002)

They explained that these executive function deficits may put our children in a zone where they can’t get a charge from their environment, so they’ll provoke others to force their environment to respond to them, even at the cost of getting in trouble. They explained that our child’s behavior is a “coping mechanism” for escaping what is intolerable to them. (Papolos & Papolos, 2004)

This was a big eye opener for me! I know that my son can’t help it, but to read about the deficits that may be causing the behavior helps me understand how much my son is suffering in a way that I didn’t know before. Now, when he’s provoking others, I can train myself to respond in a way to help him, rather than just stop him.

You should really read the whole article, they touch on so many more things, as well as practical steps to help our children.

Check it out:

* * *

Boredom and the Provocative Behavior of Children With Bipolar Disorder
The Bipolar Child Newsletter, February 2004, Vol. 16 
Janice Papolos and Demitri F. Papolos, M.D.
Consulted: March 18, 2011

The Irrepressible Agendas of Children With Bipolar Disorder
The Bipolar Child Newsletter, October 2002, Vol. 12
Janice Papolos and Demitri F. Papolos, M.D. 


  1. I found this to be very a very helpful reading. My son was dx last oct with BP so I am still in process of understanding and learning. Thanks.. Camie

  2. Camie- I’m so glad this was helpful. Ever since I read it, I try to look at situations differently then I did before.