Discovering the Healthy Goals Underlying Your Children's Misbehavior

Kids don’t always know how to ask for what they need so sometimes they ask in inappropriate ways. For example, a child wanting attention may scream or push a sibling knowing that this always gets your attention. While this certainly gets attention, it’s not the positive attention that asking for a hug or asking to be held would have achieved.

Psychologist Alfred Adler taught that all behavior has a purpose. The trick with kids is figuring what the purpose is behind their misbehavior so that you can help them find healthier ways to achieve their goals.

One teacher found that asking kids about their behavior worked well. If she saw Kara pinch Anna she would comment, “I noticed you pinched Anna. What is it you are trying to tell her?” Most of the time kids like Kara would be able to give an explanation like “I want Anna to play with me.” The teacher then brainstormed with Kara other ways she could let Anna know this.

Next time your kids are misbehaving, try asking them what they really want. They may not know but just asking the question can help them start thinking about better ways to achieve their goals.

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