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Quick reference medical handouts used by Pediatric offices


Causes of Misbehavior


Primary Causes of Misbehavior

see also: Dealing with Behavior

The well-behaved child behaves well for a reason. Likewise, the child who acts up is doing it for a reason. The fact is that all behavior has purpose. This is the main reason we can’t lump all discipline problems under one label and deal with them the same way. It won’t work. “The Bully” doesn’t have the same reasons for misbehaving as “The Class Clown” does. The child who talks non-stop is different from the child who talks back.

One of the toughest—but most important—things we can do when we’re trying to help a child behave in a better manner is discovering the purpose of the misbehavior. We cannot treat any misbehavior effectively until we know the reasons for it. It isn’t always easy to keep our cool and really think about why the child is misbehaving, but it will certainly pay off when we do it.

 

IDENTIFYING THE CAUSE OF YOUR CHILD'S MISBEHAVIOR


When your child misbehaves, you feel............ Your child is seeking..................

Annoyed

Attention

Threatened Power
Feeling hurt or Angry Revenge
Frustrated Lack of Confidence

 

To say that there are only four reasons for misbehavior would be untrue. As the parent, you will understand your child and what causes him or her to have behavior problems better than anyone else can. However, the vast majority of misbehavior arises from four causes: lack of attention, lack of power, revenge, and lack of self-confidence. For this reason, these four receive special attention in this resource.

Attention

Most children gain attention in school or at home in normal, positive ways. However, some children feel that misbehaving is their best way to get attention.

These children are the ones who constantly speak out without permission in school or make strange noises at the dinner table that force everyone to stop their conversation and pay attention. Some children will even tell us about all the bad things they have done that day.

They are misbehaving in an attempt to gain attention.

You can identify Attention as the cause for inappropriate behavior by the feeling the behavior generates within you. When Attention is the reason for the misbehavior, you will generally feel Annoyed.

Power

The need for power also causes misbehavior. Children with this need argue a lot and refuse to follow rules.

Remember, these children usually feel defeated if they do as they are told. They think they are losing if they do what their parents want them to do.

Most commonly, we know these children as the defiant ones, the rule-breakers, and the bullies.

They truly feel that lack of power lies behind all their troubles, and that more power would be the answer to all their problems. If they had more power, they believe, they would be telling parents what to do rather than vice versa and that they’d be happier that way.

You can identify Power as the cause for inappropriate behavior by the feelings the behavior generates within you. When Power is the reason for the misbehavior, you will generally feel Threatened.

Revenge

Some children find their places by being hated.

Failure has made them give up trying for attention and power. Unfortunately, they find personal satisfaction in being mean, vicious, and violent. They will seek revenge against parents and other children or siblings in any way they can.

They are the children who write on desks in school, beat up other children or siblings, threaten younger children, and vandalize. They are out to get even.

You can identify Revenge as the cause of inappropriate behavior by the feeling the behavior generates within you. When Revenge is the cause of the misbehavior, you will generally feel fearful or Angry.

Self-Confidence

Lack of self-confidence is also a cause of misbehavior. Children who lack self-confidence honestly expect failure.

They don’t feel they have the ability to function in the classroom—but may feel completely adequate outside school or when they’re supposed to be doing something connected with school. They frustrate us as parents because they are often capable of handling their schoolwork successfully—but they don’t. We are angered because we feel their behavior is a cop-out. It is—except they really think they can’t win in school.

These children use inability—real or assumed—to escape participation. When they are supposed to be doing their homework, they play and look for distractions instead. Then they make excuses like “I couldn’t do it” or “I’m dumb.” No amount of parental encouragement seems to make difference to them.

You can identify Lack of Self-Confidence as the cause of the inappropriate behavior by the feeling the behavior generates within you. When Lack of Self-Confidence is the cause of the misbehavior, you will generally feel Frustrated

 

As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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