I was revisiting some Child Development stuff annnddd...

by Xandria 1 Replies latest social family

  • Xandria

    Thought I would post it here.

    Yea yea, I hear you oh fudge here she goes again. But this applies to us too, we are just grown up KIDS at times.

    Four Goals of Misbehavior
    It's comforting for parents to realize that when a child misbehaves, it isn't because he has some terrible character defect or because the parent is a failure. A child who misbehaves is making a mistake, and the mistake is based on a belief that the child has about the world he lives in and how he fits into it. When you look at it this way, your child's mistakes can be less aggravating and you can do something about them besides getting furious or depressed.

    According to Adlerian psychology, the four goals of misbehavior are undue attention, power, revenge, and assumed disability. Since all behavior has a goal (although the child may not be aware of it), the way to cope with the misbehavior is to figure out the goal behind it. It doesn't work to ask your child what he hopes to get out of any particular misbehavior--he's probably focused on some specific "want" that has little to do with the real issue. To find out what the underlying goal is, look at your own feelings as an indicator:

    If you feel annoyed, your child is probably seeking undue attention.

    If you feel angry or challenged, you're probably involved in a power struggle.

    If you feel hurt by your child's actions, his or her goal is revenge.

    If you feel frustrated and want to give up, your child's goal is assumed disability.

    Kids (like adults) are always trying to find ways to count in the world, and if they can't count in a positive way, a negative way will do. The main thing is to have a role in life, a part in the play. As a parent, you can encourage them to take positive parts by dealing with their misbehavior in a way that doesn't encourage it. Here are some suggestions:

    When a child pesters you for undue attention (either actively, or passively by not doing something that needs to be done), the temptation is to scold, nag, or coax. When you remember that your child's goal is to get attention (any attention), it's easy to see that scolding, nagging, or otherwise interacting in response to the child's misbehavior only encourages more of it. Instead, try ignoring it (if possible), giving your child your full attention, surprising her by doing the unexpected, or regularly setting aside some special time to show your child she doesn't have to act up to share time with you. Power struggles are often an escalation of bids for undue attention. Your child is trying to find out how powerful he is, and his mistake is thinking that he only counts when he's running the show. Rather than join the struggle, take charge by acting instead of talking (he's heard it all before, that's the point), or by turning the mistake into a plus and giving him limited choices so he can have positive power: "Do you want to do homework before dinner or after dinner?" "Would you like to set the table or clear it after dinner?" Don't fight or argue--that just encourages the problem. If you must talk, ask for your child's help in coming up with a solution you can both accept: "I have a problem with (blank). Do you have any ideas to make it better for both of us?"
    Dealing with the mistaken goal of revenge takes patience. A child who hurts others feels that she's been hurt and that she has to even the score in order to count. But when she hurts others she established a painful cycle of relating to people through hurting and being hurt. To break the cycle, don't retaliate--try instead to build a friendship at other times and encourage her to have a better opinion of herself.

    Assumed disability is the refuge of a discouraged child. It's a lot easier to give up than to try and fail over and over again. As a parent, your job is the difficult one of simply having faith that you child can handle his problems and encouraging him by appreciating whatever successes he achieves (no matter how small). Let him know that mistakes are okay--they are part of the package of living, and we can use them if we don't let them scare us off from trying new things.

    A final word of encouragement--a child who makes mistakes is a child who is doing his job, since his job is to learn how he fits into the world. Your job as a parent is to help him count in a positive way and remember that misbehavior has specific goals that can help you strengthen your child's self-esteem.

    Marsha Calhoun is a writer
    Children's' Private Logic
    As Marriage and Family Counselors, we have come to appreciate that how you look at a problem, more than what the problem or challenging situation actually is, makes all the difference in the world as to how you go about solving it. At ParentingMatters we like the pragmatic, optimistic approach of Alfred Adler who was a contemporary of Freud. While Freud looked at a person's personality as being divided into segments (i.e. id, ego, superego, etc.), Alder saw the individual as whole, and that a person exhibits a pattern in their life based upon their own private logic. We begin to develop our own private logic at a very young age and the decisions that will run us for the rest of our lives are made some time between the ages of 3-7 years old.

    In the preschool years since these decisions are just being formed, they are easily changed. Even during the elementary school years, concepts may be altered by experience. In adolescence one learns to cover up feelings, to wear a mask, and even fool oneself. Convictions become more entrenched, and new experiences will be viewed as "accidents," rather than a challenge to one's already conceived convictions. By adulthood our private logic and the decisions we have made are fixed and actually run our lives unless we are willing to examine and question them through a process such as psychotherapy.

    An infant starts out organizing her world by trial and error. She reacts to people and situations making observations and interpretations. Because of her limited life experience she is a much better observer than she is an interpreter. You can imagine all the data that comes in and the infant has to sift, sort and make sense of it. We draw our own unique conclusions and begin to make up rules about "the way things are." Actions which bring us satisfaction or a "payoff" are continued and reinforced. Those which don't are usually dropped. From day one the infant's most important social goal is to belong and be significant. As a social being, she is trying to find her place AS SHE SEES IT. She often has faulty logic as to how to accomplish this and has mistaken goals which bring her discouragement. The "rules" she forms are based on limited information and absolutes, like "never," "always," and "only." When experience contradicts the rules, THE RULE, rather than the experience, prevails. Eventually this pattern, based on "private logic" rather than empirical evidence, becomes the guide for the individual's method of viewing herself, her world, and of dealing with all situations.

    All Behavior Has a Purpose
    According to Adler, all behavior is purposeful and designed to provide a general sense of "belonging." If that's the case, what purpose is served by a child being contrary or lazy, or forgetful? Offhand, the purpose would seem to be antisocial - it is totally useless, fosters rejection, and undermines belonging. But if adults look closely, they will discover that underlying these behaviors are emotional goals which are sought by children and paid off by adults. Dr. Rudolph Dreikurs described four categories of childhood misbehavior, which he called "mistaken goals" or mistaken beliefs about how to belong:

    1. I only belong when you're doing things for me or when you're paying attention to me.

    2. I only belong when either I'm the boss or I'm not allowing you to boss me.

    3. It's impossible to belong, but I can hurt others like others hurt me. I can get even.

    4. It's impossible to belong because I am inadequate so I'll just give up and not try at all.

    "Why," you might ask, "do children select uncooperative behavior rather than cooperative behavior?" That, however, is the wrong question. A more useful question is "What does the child GET OUT OF HER BEHAVIOR?" Remember, the primary emotional goal of the child is to belong and be significant in a way that MAKES SENSE TO HER.

    From the child's view the answer is pretty simple - children think these misbehaviors will satisfy their emotional goal to belong. They are half right. For example, the child thinks, "I belong if Mother is busy with me," and proceeds to interrupt Mom repeatedly while she is on the phone. Mom provides plenty of attention, but it's all negative: "I told you not to bother me while I'm on the phone! Go to your room." So paradoxically, the belonging sought by the child is lost. The rejection, discouragement and confusion, which are obvious to the child begin to have a cyclic discouraging effect.

    If children fail to acquire belonging through socially useful, cooperative, contributing actions, they settle for belonging at any price - belonging by being the best at being the worst. Discouraged children misbehave (either by attempts to get attention, power, revenge, or by giving up), because they have lost the courage to find their place by doing the useful thing. Unfortunately, they choose a useless behavior - that is, children do things which they think will achieve their goal (getting attention, for example) - which does get attention but does not achieve their deeper emotional objective of belonging.

    Similarly, once children realize that power will give them leverage over other family members, they seek power as an attempt to gain belonging. For example, children learn quickly that doing poorly in school can have a powerful and controlling effect on the family - "You can't make me learn!" Over the short term the child feels, as do the parents, like she has "won." It's true, parents can't force the child to learn. Because the child's power is acquired through obstinance and stubbornness, the child is often emotionally or physically rejected instead of validated and loses any sense of belonging. She feels in control - but alone. Thus, the useless goal of power wins the battle (not doing school work) but loses the objective, the need to belong.

    Parents' Role

    Why, you may wonder, do children think like that? Probably because they are discouraged, that is, they have lost the courage to find their place by doing the useful thing. A misbehaving child is a discouraged child. A child with courage can ask for what she wants. For example, when an encouraged child feels upset, she can go to her mother and ask for a hug. A child who is discouraged might bite her brother to get Mom's attention. In both scenarios the child gets mom's attention. The latter method, however, is not only useless, but robs the child of a sense of belonging.

    We, as parents, do not cause our children to make the decisions they do; however, we certainly are influential. We can provide an atmosphere for our children which is encouraging and which invites them to belong by being cooperative and useful. First of all we can acknowledge their effort as well as their accomplishments, and show appreciation for both. Secondly, we can provide opportunities to contribute in useful and meaningful ways. Additionally, it's important to give children the opportunity to overcome adversity and thus see themselves as competent. A good "rule of thumb" is to never do for a child what a child can do for himself.

    Perhaps most important of all, is for you as a parent, to look at yourself and your own private logic - to examine your own decisions about who you are as a person, a male or a female, a parent, a role model, a provider, a career person, about how children are supposed to be, how life is supposed to be, and so on. Remember, the decisions that are running YOUR life were made when you were between 3-7 years old. Without on effort to reveal to yourself what those decisions are, you will be parenting your children with the logic and emotions of a 3-7 year old child!

    Now there are always exceptions to the rules. I always say if you don't know ask. There is nothing wrong with feeling at a loss for an answer. God I have been there myself and I was only 15! I was surrogate mom many times, baby sitter etc, and I did not know what to do myself at that age. Even though you are older when you have children it is never easy. What do you think ?

    Perhaps that is why I don't want a child just yet.


  • Francois

    Given the drug culture current now, I'd never have a child. Not until the threat was significantly reduced. As it was, my son got involved via his girlfriend with heroin and God knows where that would have wound up if he hadn't gotten arrested for theft (supporting his addiction) and neither his mother nor I would bail him out of jail. Thus he went through withdrawal in the pokey. That was bad enough that I think he'd done with opiates or other mainline drugs.

    His girlfriend was way further down the addiction line, and she was thrown into a medical lockup in the middle of the night. There was no staff that late. And the next morning she was dead, found hanging by her own clothing from a pipe or something. That had a galvanizing effect on my son as well.

    Nope. I wouldn't want any children as long as almost pure heroin is ten dollars a hit.


Share this