The 2nd in a 5 part series about how we can discipline our kids in a more positive and effective way.
As parents we are often searching for the best response to misbehavior. However, whining, badgering, arguing, sassing, fighting, lying, and even bigger problems like bullying, stealing and self-destructive behaviors can be addressed with a much more effective question: “Why is my kid engaging in this behavior?”
Alfred Adler was a psychiatrist at the beginning of the 19th century. He believed that we all have a basic desire to belong and to feel significant, and that all of our behavior has those basic goals in mind. When children aren’t getting these needs met, even the most well attached child in the highest functioning family will act out.
Adler argued that children have a strong need to know how they fit in with their family, to understand their role, and to feel special and unique. He coined this term “belonging”. When kids interrupt, cling, whine or act helpless, they are simply using a misguided approach to getting their need for belonging met.
Adler also argued that all individuals (including children) have a strong need for personal power: the ability to make choices and to be self-directed, and if children don’t get this need met in a positive way, they will resort to negative means. This may look like obstinance, badgering, back-talk, tantrums, negotiating or any other behavior which invites a power struggle.
With this lens, misbehavior isn’t the problem; it’s simply a symptom of an unmet need. If we can meet this need in a more positive way, the misbehavior will disappear. So how do we do this?
In our fast paced modern day lives where many of us are regularly multi-tasking and moving at high speeds from one thing to the next, it can feel next to impossible to give each child the attention they need to feel special and unique. And the role of Mom-as-CEO barking out directives (“brush your teeth”, “get your shoes on”, “don’t bug your brother”) does little to help our kids to feel empowered.
In my upcoming post, “Techniques Which Will Vanquish Your Kid's Inner Monster” I will begin to outline quick and effective steps you can take to diagnose and address your chilren’s most frustrating behaviors.
What are your kids most frustrating behaviors?