Understanding Childrens' Negative Behavior

Understanding the Goals of Negative Behavior 
You can tell what the purpose of the someone's mischief is by the way it makes you FEEL when it is happening. Instead of reacting to the mischief, you can ask yourself, "How is this behavior making me feel right now? Which of the basic emotional needs is being sought?"

If you feel annoyed and irritated...

His or her purpose is to get your attention. The most basic and fundamental need of children is the need to belong -- to bond and feel connected to the parent and family. To be esteemed and valued as a human being. This makes attention one of the strongest motives underlying the child's misbehavior.

If you feel powerless and out of control...

His or her purpose is to gain power and control over YOU. Children also have the need to be able to influence and control their environment. They strive to control the outcome of the events going on around them in ways that are consistent with, and in service to, their own wishes and desires. When they feel inadequate to do this, they become rebellious and defiant.

If you feel hurt...

His or her purpose is revenge! Children also strive to protect themselves from their "perception" of an attack or threat to their sense of self, whether real or imaginary. They perceive every reversal, major or minor, as if they were being singled out by others (i.e. parents, teachers) for special torture and punishment. They feel victimized and seek relief from their hurt feelings through acts of revenge.

If you feel discouraged and helpless...

His or her purpose is to withdraw from the task/situation for which he feels inadequate to cope. Children withdraw from overwhelming situations in order to maintain their immature sense of ego and pride, to escape the reality of their own inadequacies.

The solution: Disengage from the mischief 
Disengage does not mean to ignore the emotional needs of our children. But now, you know exactly what is going on. You are disengaging from the child's mischief and misbehavior, not from them as a person. You are choosing to behave appropriately in the reality of the situation.

After you have disengaged from the child's mischief, you will feel relief from the tension, pressure and stress of the moment. You will feel in control, liberated, mature and secure within your own self. You will not take the child's behavior "personally" as if it was a true reflection of your own worth as a parent, and as a human being. You will feel appropriately responsible and competent to handle the situation. The more you practice disengaging from the child's mischief, the better you will become at it, the more the child will respect you -- and the more you will respect yourself!