Easy Tips for Understanding Children's Misbehaviour

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Michael Grose's Easy Tips for Understanding Children's Misbehaviour

Children misbehave around their mothers and fathers because parents are as predictable in their reactions as washing machine cycles. Improving or shaping children's behaviour is easy if you first can understand the purpose of their misbehaviour and then change your response. There are four types of misbehaviour that you need to know about.

Is most misbehaviour attention-seeking? asked a father at a parenting seminar

Good question!

Yes, I said. But it is not that simple, I added.

All misbehaviour by its very nature is attention-seeking it is hard to ignore and usually gains some measure of attention either from parents, siblings or adults.

There four common types of misbehaviour that achieves one of three goals.

Your gut reaction is the best guide to understand the goals of misbehaviour.

If you are unsure just respond as your feeling indicate and your childs response is a sure indicator.

Here goes:

The four types of misbehaviours are:

1. Notice Me behaviours

These behaviours include clowning, cuteness, some eating problems, interruptions, shyness, showing-off and whining. They are very common in young children who think that the world revolves around them.

2. Help Me behaviours

These behaviours include incompetence, laziness, forgetfulness and untidiness which are all great ways to keep parents in childrens service. When parents respond to help me behaviours by reminding, tidying and doing things for kids soon become helpless!

Both behaviour types achieve the goal of attention. You know you have attention-seeking behaviours if your feel annoyed or frustrated. And you tend to respond by scolding, correcting, reminding or doing tasks for kids, which is B-grade attention but good enough at any rate.

3. Make Me behaviours

These behaviours include defiance, arguing, dawdling, temper tantrums and stubbornness. These behaviours let parents know that they can't make them do anything they dont want to do. The goal is power and control. You know you have a power-seeker on your hands if you feel angry. You actually want to make your child do something. Its not pretty! If you respond by telling them what to do you often get an argument, more defiance or lack of cooperation. Theses kids dont mind a good scrap!

4. I'll hurt you behaviours

These hurtful behaviours include hit, stealing, refusal to cooperate and saying hurtful things. The behaviours vary but the goal is the same to retaliate or hurt others around them. When confronted with these retaliatory behaviours you feel hurt or even threatened. How could she say such awful things to me? is a typical reaction. You also feel that you want to get even with your children for wanting to hurt you. It can get nasty!!

Goal-related behaviour works because parents tend to be as predictable as a washing machine cycle. As difficult as it may seem you can change your childrens behaviours when you stop responding impulsively to childrens misbehaviours. Ignore notice me behaviours (and place your attention elsewhere), stop being a mule to help me kids, refuse to fight with power-seekers (and implement a consequence) and avoid overtly showing your hurt when confronted with retaliatory behaviours.

Sounds easy, often hard to do. But discipline and behaviour-change is primarily about parental behaviour change. Start by avoiding your first instinctive impulse when kids are less than perfect and identify the behaviours goal. Then change your usual reaction. See what happens. Experiment a little and expect childrens behaviour to get worse before it gets better. Hang in there and you will see results in terms of improved behaviour.

The following article was contributed by Michael Grose director of Parent Coaching Australia

Michael Grose is a popular parenting educator and parent coach. He is the director of Parent Coaching Australia, the author of six books for parents and a popular presenter who speaks to audiences in Australian Singapore and the USA. 


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