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Why do our children misbehave and what can we do about it?

June 5, 2015

Topic 8: Why do our children misbehave?

We all may ask ourselves this question several times a day: Why DO our children misbehave? It is not because they are “bad kids” but research shows that there is a method to their madness—they have a goal. Now, the child may not be aware of their goal, because remember their brain is not fully developed, but they do have a goal for their misbehavior.

You also may be asking yourself. But when they are punished (time-out, things taken away, etc.) they should not do that misbehavior again because that is a negative reaction. Well…. Yes, to adults that is a negative reaction to loose things or to be yelled at, but to children that is attention. Whether the attention is negative or positive it is attention, and many times children just want attention.

But, now to understanding why our children misbehave. In general there are four goal of children’s misbehavior: belonging, power, protection, and withdrawal (Popkin, 2014). However, in order for parents to understand the goal they first must be in touch with themselves. The child’s goal is often linked to the parent’s feelings about the situation. Do you feel annoyed at your child when they misbehave? Do you feel angry? Do you feel helpless? Do you feel hurt? Those four feelings link to a type of misbehavior our children display. And, when we as parents can pinpoint our own emotion regarding the situation we are more likely able to address the misbehavior with logical consequences, communication, encouragement, etc. It is important to be aware of our emotions so we can pinpoint what to do so we are not “paying off” the behavior and it only increases the misbehavior rather that decreases the misbehavior.

(Table summarized from Popkin, 2014).

If you (parent) feel: Your child’s goal is: What parents can do in order to NOT “pay off” the situation:
Annoyed Belonging Ignore behavior

Use logical and natural consequences

Angry Power Cool off and talk about it

Set boundaries**

Hurt Protection Refuse to be hurt*

Show love and build your relationship

Helpless Withdrawal Respect wishes to be alone

Be patient


*Your child does not fully understand the consequences of their actions—they are for the most part not trying to hurt you.

**When your child makes you angry to the point of being disrespectful they are getting the negative “paid off” behavior of having control of your emotions. Make sure you have control of your own emotions and know when you need to take time to cool off!

So, when your child begins to misbehave think to yourself how it makes you feel—what is their goal—what can you do to make sure you are not paying off their negative behavior? And most importantly, stay calm and control your emotions as your child’s role model!

*Most of this information is taken from the curriculum Active Parenting. However, I have also done my own research and added it in when necessary. I am not marketing Active Parenting nor do I get anything from the sales of Active Parenting. (Michael Popkin, Ph.D., 2014)


From → Education

One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on free education .

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