Written by: Michael Jennings
As mental health professionals, we often experience many exasperated parents who don’t know what to do with their “misbehaving” children. Many parents often ask why? Why is my child doing this? Why isn’t what I am doing working?
According to John Yeaman, pastor and social worker, children misbehave for one of the following reasons:
- Your child is seeking attention.
- Your child is seeking power.
- Your child is seeking excitement.
- Your child is seeking revenge.
How do I differentiate which one my child is seeking?
Often times, your own personal feelings hint to which reason they are misbehaving
- If you feel annoyed by your child’s words or actions, they are probably seeking attention.
- If you feel provoked, your child is probably seeking power.
- If you feel hurt by your child’s words of actions, they are probably seeking revenge.
- If your child seems to dream, plan, and ask to do many things they are probably seeking excitement.
How should I respond to the different ways my child is “misbehaving”?
1) Try to identify why your child is seeking attention. They may have a need that is being unmet. There are more than physical needs. Kids have spiritual, creative, and intellectual needs as well. If your child is seeking attention just for attention, direct them toward more positive ways to receive recognition and attention.
2) Kids often feel powerless. We are constantly making choices for them. Try listening and offering choices. Small choices for small kids, and bigger choices for big kids.
3) Don’t accept or play revenge. Step away from the situation if necessary. Try to figure out what led the child to seek revenge and speak with them about it. Show them this is not a way to cope with one’s negative feelings.
4) Channel your kid’s excitement into a positive avenue. Punishing their excitement can be crushing. Appreciate their energy and give them outlets to release it.
Often times, “no” is the response our children hear the most from us. While “no” is often times an acceptable answer, the answer “no” does not get rid of the energy, reason, or feelings that precipitated the request, question, or behavior before it. Give your child an alternative route or option. Use statements like, “I know you are bored, but we can’t go to the zoo today, instead let’s color.” Or “I know you are angry because you feel that it is not fair, but we don’t hit others, instead, you can scream into the pillow if you would like”.
Parenting kids can be a difficult time. Knowing the reasons for misbehavior and ways to deal with it can make parenting a little easier.