Behavior is purposeful and goal oriented. When children do not achieve self worth and a sense of belonging by following the rules and expectations of their parent(s), they choose other behaviors to attain these goals.
Dr. Rudolph Dreikurs describes four goals of misbehavior:
1. Attention2. Power3. Revenge4. Displays of Inadequacy
The child feels he or she only belongs when the parent(s) are paying attention to him/her, whether it’s negative or positive attention. Attention seekers dread being ignored.
Example: You have not been able to get a thing done all morning because 3-year-old Beth has constantly needed something, asked for help and stayed pretty well under your feet.
The child only feels worthwhile if she/he is being the boss and controlling everybody. This child feels, “I prove my importance by refusing to do anything you want.”
Example: Your 13 year old daughter has asked if she can dye her hair purple and you have told her no, that she is too young to be making those kind of decisions. The next day you notice she is wearing a hat and you can see purple hair peeking through.
The child feels that the only way of attaining a social position is to be disliked. He/she has been unsuccessful in gaining attention or demonstrating power and therefore tries to hurt others as he or she feels hurt. In order to be recognized he or she demonstrates hostility.
Example: You have just told your 10-year-old that he cannot go to his friend’s house for a sleepover because it’s a school night. He yells at you, “I hate you! You never let me do anything Iwant to do!”
Display of Inadequacy
Children displaying inadequacy see themselves as incompetent. They are deeply discouraged, with no hope for any success or attention. Their purpose is to avoid further hurt, humiliation or frustration. They hide behind “lack of ability” so that their real or imagined deficiency will not be obvious.
Example: You have encouraged 7-year-old Mike to join Little League. He isn’t very athletic but you have told him how much fun he will have with all of his friends and how great it is to be part of a team. He goes to one practice, but he refuses to play. He says he doesn’t like hitting or catching the ball.
These are the four goals of misbehavior. In the next few blog entries I will explain ways to help you identify what goal your child’s misbehavior is attempting to attain. Once you are able to identify the goal correctly, you can start to find more appropriate ways to assist your child with reaching that goal. I will also provide ways in which to do that. Correctly identifying the goal will also help you to correctly respond to the behavior.