|Parents always ask me, “Why does my child behave the way he does? Why does he nag/she swear in front of me/they fight all the time?”
In most cases this is the wrong question.
It’s better to ask, “What’s the purpose of my child’s behaviour?”
Kids rarely behave in a vacuum. There’s usually a good reason – although kids usually can’t verbalise it. They behave in ways that work in terms of getting a pay-off so someone takes notice. Someone will change their mind and go easy on them. Someone may favour them over others. This is known as purposeful or goal-oriented behaviour.
There are three main goals for children’s misbehaviour:
Often kids will misbehave as a way of keeping parents busy with them. You’ll know it’s attention-seeking as you’ll feel annoyed. (e.g nagging)
Some behaviour has the purpose of letting you know that you can’t make a child do anything they don’t want. Grrr! You’ll know it’s about power as you’ll feel angry. (e.g arguing)
Sometimes kids will behave in ways that make you feel hurt or even guilty. This can be a form of retaliation for comments said or deeds done, or even as a form of pestering you to comply to their wishes. You’ll recognise this as you’ll feel hurt or a sense of guilt. (e.g calling you names)
It’s easy to recognise these goals after the event. You can sit back and reflect on how their behaviour kept you busy; made you angry or hurt you. But it’s hard when you are under stress and/or duress to recognise these goals; and impossible if your first response is to react.
Emotionally-intelligent parenting requires that you a) avoid the first impulse when kids misbehave, and b) check in with how the behaviour makes you feel.
So next time your child misbehaves – nags, whines, tells a fib, ignores you or any number of poor behaviours – rather than react, step back and take a breath. Then conduct a self-check to see how you feel about the behaviour. This will guide you to how you should respond – hopefully rationally and in an adult manner.
‘Avoiding the first impulse’ is a technique along with ‘checking in on your emotions’ that I teach in the Mood Meter Program. It’s great for adults and terrific for kids too. Find out more
Want to learn more about emotionally smart parenting?
It’s not too late to join the wonderful community of parents who are currently learning how to parent more effectively with my Mood Meter program. The course began last Friday but you can still access all the material for this week as well as take part over the next two weeks. This course will close on Wednesday so it is your last chance. Find out more