Through his company Behaviour Reasoning, Simon Birch supports local children and their families who may be struggling to cope.
We spoke to him about some of the problems he encounters - and why taking an individual approach to each child is key to improving behaviour.
AT: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how Behaviour Reasoning came about?
SIMON BIRCH: I am a long-serving educator presently working as a School Improvement Provider and behaviour consultant. I’ve been a school leader in Trafford for many years and still work in Wellgreen Primary and Altrincham Prep School as well as serving as a governor at the Willows Primary in Timperley. I intend retiring from the school improvement end, which involves much time away, and concentrating on local behaviour work and serving on foster care panels.
AT: What in your view is driving the need to support families struggling to cope?
SB: The pandemic, not surprisingly, was a catalyst for some of the behaviour I encounter as the lack of socialisation and communication had a significant impact on many families.
Before the pandemic 95% of my referrals would be with boys… now it’s nearer 50:50 boys and girls. Multiple factors are at play and it’s not a clear or easy picture to explain.
AT: Can you describe what Behaviour Reasoning does?
SB: Behaviour Reasoning is a resource to support children and their families who may be struggling to cope for a multitude of reasons - but the crux is that parents are worried about their children.
It can be that they fear that they are failing socially or academically because of their behaviour or that they are unhappy, anxious or angry. There may be particular problems linked to friendships, computer games, non-compliance, morning or bedtimes, aggression toward parents or shutting themselves off.
AT: What are parents reporting and how do you practically support them?
SB: Parents may worry about specifics such as seemingly autistic traits, lack of empathy, anxiety, becoming side-lined, impulsivity or anger.
While they want to understand their children better, they want to help them settle, succeed and enjoy childhood. Here management of behaviour, strategies and advice are always appreciated by parents but ultimately I want the children to help themselves.
This means often post-incident learning, talking through how children should behave and filling their toolbox with self-regulation techniques to help with self-reflection, understanding and self-worth.
Parents may contact me and say their child has anger management problems and while I may use anger management toolkits I tend to veer away from using such terminology as children quickly excuse their own behaviour, saying things like ‘It wasn’t me, it was my anger problem’.
I want children to realise they can change their behaviour and also that some behaviours are unacceptable. Sometimes it may be an underlying driver such as ADHD or traits associated with children cusping the autistic spectrum, but I talk about all our brains and behaviour being different and my job is to help every individual child.
While I may see similarities, every child I work with has their own personality and indeed challenges. It can be temper tantrums in a four-year-old or surliness and aggression in a 14-year-old but no two children are the same. At present I work with a five-year-old girl weekly, a 24-year-old student, an eight-year-old boy running his parents ragged, a 13-year-old boy a strike away from trouble in school and twins whose idiosyncrasies are testing parents and school staff alike... and a whole plethora of great characters beyond. I have several teachers and doctors’ children, a nursery owner and even a comedian.
AT: What is your ambition for the business?
SB: Life is not always fun for children nor their parents and it is improving the quality of life for all that is my litmus test. Sometimes I may only need a light touch of advice and recommendations, for others a full assessment and for some ongoing individual or family support. Being local, available, quick to respond, friendly, practical, non-judgmental, supportive and affordable, as well as knowing local schools and services and indeed my own limitations, all assist when improving things for children and families.