January 2009-Parent Tip On Children's Misbehavior
The parent tip this month is geared toward helping you as a parent figure out why a child is misbehaving.
There are 4 main "Mistaken Goals" of a child's behavior. In other words, children behave so that they can get certain needs met. This concept of goal directed behavior was founded by Dr. Alfred Adler. Here is a summary of the goals and how you as a parent can intervene and help meet the child's goal in a positive and productive way.
The first goal is UNDUE ATTENTION: What the child really needs is to be noticed and involved. If you as a parent are feeling annoyed, irritated, worried or guilty, and you may tend to react by reminding, coaxing, doing things for your child that he/she can easily do themselves-this may be a sign that what your child really needs is to be involved in a useful task. He or she is trying to tell you "I want your attention so I will keep you busy with me." You can also accomplish this goal by setting up routines, say direction only once then act on it. Avoid special service and set up non verbal signals with your child to do what is being asked of him/her. Spend one on one time with child and have child directed play time or hang out time (if they are older.).
The second goal is POWER: If you are finding yourself angry, challenged, threatened or defeated, and you tend to react to your child by fighting, giving in and thinking "You can't get away with it" or "I'll make you" or you are always wanting to be right, power may be what your child really needs. The belief behind the child's behavior is "I only belong when I am boss or in control", or believing that "You can't make me." What the child really needs is for you to acknowledge that you can't MAKE him/her do anything but you can offer choices. Try and be firm but kind and withdraw yourself from conflict. Act, don't talk. Solicite help from your child to set reasonable and few limits and practice following through. Redirect to positive power. In other words find positive ways to give your child the power he/she needs.
The third goal is REVENGE: If you are feeling hurt, disappointed, disbelieving or disgusted, and your child react to you by retaliating, getting even and you take his/her behavior personally-your child's mistaken goal is revenge. If your child is damaging property, hurting others, gets even with you, what they are really feeling is they they don't think they belong so they will hurt others when they feel hurt. He/she feels they can't be liked or loved. What they really need is to be heard. Your child is hurting and needs your help. As a parent say "Your behavior tells me your are hurt, can we talk about that?" Share your feelings and apoplogize. Show your care and encourage their strengths.
The fourth goal is ASSUMED INADEQUACY: If you are feeling hopeless, despair, helpless or inadequate, your child may be feeling alone and wants to give up. The belief they really have is that they don't believe they belong so they will convince others not to expect anything from them and assume helplessness. They may feel it is no use so why try. What they need is for you to not give up on them and show a small step that they can accomplish. Make tasks easier until they experience success. Encourage any positive attempts, no matter how small. Say to them "I don't give up on you."
Through exploring these goals, behaviors and feelings of you and your child, it is kind of like being a detective. Once you know what the mistaken goal is, you and your child can find a way for them to get their needs met in a more positive and healthy way.