Goals of Misbehavior

MisbehaviorAccording to Alfred Adler all behavior is goal oriented. Nothing is random, all actions have purpose. Further, it is believed that children have a need to belong, and if that need is not fulfilled in a positive way then they will resort to MISBEHAVIOR. Dinkmeyer, et al., furthered Adler’s ideas and suggested that the goal of a child’s specific  misbehavior can be determined by the way it makes you (the parent) feel. And when you know the goal you are better equipped to manage it most effectively. For example, column one is your emotional response. Column two is your child’s goal.

ANNOYED       =        ATTENTION

ANGER            =        CONTROL

HURT              =        REVENGE


Scenario 1— You had a new baby 8 weeks ago and are planning to go back to work. While your  7 year old daughter initially seemed happy about having a little sister, her behavior has become troublesome recently. On your first day back to work while getting the baby ready your daughter has suddenly forgotten how to dress herself. She insists that she can’t put her socks on by herself because she “just caaaannnn’t.” You tell her not to whine and remind her that you have to get the baby dressed.

Your emotional response: Annoyed or Irritated

Remedy: Notice and comment on the positive ways she gets your attention.

Scenario 2— You always choose and lay out your daughter’s clothes in the morning before school. She sometimes complains about it but the end result is that every day she shows up at the breakfast table wearing the outfit you have chosen. However, on this day she arrives to the table wearing something completely different than what you had chosen. You engage in a heated debate about the inappropriateness of the clothes she is wearing.

Your emotional response: Anger

Remedy: Give limited choices where increased autonomy is developmentally appropriate.

Scenario 3— You have spent over an hour looking for your baby’s pacifier. You finally discover it in your 7 year old’s dresser drawer. She tells you she took it from the baby’s room and put it there because she was mad.

Your emotional response: Hurt

Remedy: Discover what has happened to hurt her feelings and help her to resolve that.

Scenario 4— Your daughter sits down to do her homework after school. She begins complaining about how she failed her math and spelling tests this week and that her teacher hates her. After 20 minutes, she has completed none of her assignments and tells you she doesn’t know how to do any of it.

Your emotional response: Helpless

Remedy: Encourage any and all positive effort. Show faith in her ability. Don’t pity or criticize.

Parenting is hard! We hope, though, that with kindness, understanding, and persistence you can cope with your emotional responses and help your child get through theirs, as well. If you would like additional counseling assistance for you or your child we’ll be glad to help.